Seth RudetskyThe Joke That Won Patti LuPone the Part in Anything Goes
February 26, 2018
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth tells tales from his gig with Patti LuPone and reveals on-set secrets of Will & Grace from Sean Hayes.
Well, this week is a double whammy column week! I was so behind last week that I never got my column published so I’ll be giving you two columns this week for the price of one! Let me go back to Valentine’s week: I flew to L.A. last Tuesday to do two (sold out!) shows with Patti LuPone at the Wallis. Let it be known that her voice is made of solid steel. It’s shocking that she was able to do two shows in a row featuring non-stop belting including Evita songs in the original key. Speaking of which, I wanted her to sing “Eva And Magaldi” (which leads into “Buenos Aires”) and needed someone to sing Magaldi. I emailed my friend Adam Hunter, who I met in the late ’90s when I was subbing in the orchestra for Ragtime and he was covering Younger Brother. I became a big fan of his voice and used him in my Actors Fund Chess concert. After joining the tenth anniversary cast of Les Miz and touring in The Lion King, he moved to L.A. and is now a super successful interior designer.
He ain’t singing anymore! But I knew he still had his voice. I asked him if would learn the role of Magaldi to sing with Patti, he flipped out, said “yes” and, boy, were they were amazing together.
What I didn’t know is that when he graduated Michigan in the late ’90s, Patti saw him perform with his musical theatre class, asked if she could help him get started in the business and wound up being responsible for Adam having his first agent! Full circle! Here they are back then and here they are today.
And here’s a clip of them together!
As usual, the show featured amazing singing and I got some delicious scoop out of Patti. She mentioned that back in the ’80s, someone had randomly given her a copy of Ethel Merman’s headshot. When Patti was asked to audition for the Lincoln Center production of Anything Goes, she was asked to do the first scene. The bartender tells Billy that a lady was asking for him, and Reno Sweeney’s entrance line is “He’s wrong, Billy. It was only me!” Well, she started her first line with her back to Jerry Zaks, who was the director, and she turned around on the word “me” with Merman’s headshot in front of her face! She got the gig! If you’ve never heard the brilliance of that cast album, watch this deconstruction ASAP:
I’ll be back at the Wallis in L.A. on March 29 for two shows with Chita Rivera! The first one is already sold out so get thee to the ticket website.
While I was in L.A., I stayed with Sean Hayes and his husband, Scotty Icenogle, and had a great time. Sean and I were talking about Will & Grace coming back and how the whole thing happened so organically. The cast of Will & Grace came together last year just to do a video to get people to vote in the 2016 election. The cast and crew didn’t get paid, they did it to get the message out that people should register and vote. So fantastic!
Well, as everyone now knows, it got such an overwhelming response of views and fan letters that it led to the show coming back to NBC and the delicious part is there was no pressure wondering whether or not it would work. They already had a “proof of concept” because the reunion video proved they all still had a huge following. What I love is, they didn’t do the video to see if a reboot would work, they did the video for a higher purpose and it led to the reboot. And now a second season is on the way!
Sean has a theatre background and loves doing Will & Grace because it’s shot in front of a live audience so he’s able to get that audience connection. He said they usually shoot two takes that are as scripted/rehearsed and then they have a third take where they’re allowed to do whatever they want. Often times those third takes will make it to air! I asked him for an example and he said there was a recent take on the episode with Molly Shannon where he was with Debra Messing (as Grace) in the hallway of their building and Grace is telling him a story. He cuts her off because he’s bored and tells her it’s now his turn. On the third take when he told he told her it was his turn, he added a literal 360 degree turn. And that added pencil turn is in the take that was used!
Sean is also a TV producer and his company has had hit shows like Grimm and the current Hollywood Game Night and History of Comedy on CNN. I praised him for being the real thing and not like those celebrities who claim they’re writers by putting out a so-called children’s book. He then told me that he and his husband are indeed putting out a children’s book! Busted! However, he then explained the plot of the book to me and it’s nothing like the celebrity books my friend Jackie Hoffman always makes fun of. In her act she’ll stand center stage and say:
Can you make a funny face? This way and that way? That way and this way? By Jamie Lee Curtis.
I asked Sean for an example of one of his shows getting on the air and he said that he and Todd Milliner, his producing partner, had a meeting with TVLand about producing some reality shows. At the very end, Sean and Todd mentioned off-the-cuff that they were also developing a show with a writer friend of Sean’s from Frasier named Suzanne Martin (who now writes on Will & Grace) about three women who don’t attract any attention in L.A. because of age discrimination, but when their plane crash lands in Cleveland, they’re suddenly considered super-hot. Sean said it was then like a Hollywood movie: He and Todd left the meeting, went to valet parking, and when they got in the car, their agent called and said TVLand wanted to buy Hot In Cleveland! How great is that?! I asked how long the show ran and he said more than 100 episodes. I ecstatically said “OMG! That means it went into syndication, right?!” and he dryly said “Yes, but it does not mean what it meant in the ’80s, dear.” He was referring to the crazy amount of money syndication used to guarantee in the heyday of network television. I was so happy he made his point by hauling out “dear” because it’s what our mutual friend Andrea Martin always uses for hilarious emphasis. She’d often tag a sentence with it while aggressively decorating our apartment:
ME: Andrea, can I display this painting I just bought? ANDREA: No, dear.
Sean and I are both obsessed with certain reality shows like Amazing Race and turns out, he and Scotty were asked to be on it! Sean immediately said no for the same reason I know I could never do be on it: We both get irritable very fast. We decided if we teamed up together we would be known as #TeamA-holes. I flat-out admitted I’d be much more obsessed with getting good coffee than actually getting any of the tasks done. He agreed and said the entire show would be a lot of me looking for Starbucks and waving him on while saying, “Go ahead. I’ll catch up.”
I haven’t finished watching this season yet, so traps shut, but (SPOILTER ALERT) I’m devastated that my friends Trevor and Chris from the singing string quartet “Well Strung” were ixnayed. They were such good players!!! Here they in one of my “Obsessed” videos. So talented!
OK, I’m about to land and head to my show with Megan Hilty in Scottsdale. Part two coming up soon!