What Changes Does Betty Buckley Make for Her Dolly Levi?

Seth Rudetsky   What Changes Does Betty Buckley Make for Her Dolly Levi?
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Sean Hayes and Sarah Silverman see Seth’s new show, stories from Hello, Dolly! on the road, and Jason Danieley’s new undertaking.
Seth Rudetsky 2.20.19
Emery Major/York Theatre Company

Hello from sunny L.A.! Sunny and chilly L.A. Regardless, we’re here for two weeks for a few things, the first of which was doing my show Rhapsody In Seth at Largo. Wowza, it went so well. It’s my story of growing up on Long Island and the dichotomy of kids praising me because I was a really good pianist, but also hating me for being gay.

What was amazing is that there were people in the audience in L.A. who experienced some of it with me!

Seth Rudetsky 2.20.19

I do a whole section on going to USDAN Summer Camp for the Arts (which I loved) and the inappropriateness of doing Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Basically, they took a musical revue that’s supposed to star four early-to-middle-aged singers and did it with 30 teens and tweens…and yet we all loved performing it. My friend Robin Budd, who was there for that summer, came to the show and not only was it great to see her (and not be singing about “The Whores of Amsterdam”) but it reminded me how great that score it!


My friend Howard Skora, who played the hospital orderly in my infamous high school production of Whose Life Is It Anyway? that I wrote about last week (where the audience would see me paralyzed for all of Act 1 and then, right before intermission, see me get out of bed and walk offstage), and my old performing buddy, Stefanie Ann Levy (who did the national tour of Annie) was there as well. Stefanie sang with me at “Beginnings” which was a children’s nightclub in the early ’80s that featured all children who were in Broadway shows…and me and Kerry Butler (zero credits). Here’s a video Kerry and I did reliving our childhood singing opposite Sarah Jessica Parker:

I also had some of my comedy idols there as well: Matt Lucas, Sean Hayes, Caroline Rhea, and Sarah Silverman all came to see the show. It was such an incredible night!

Seth Rudetsky 2.20.19

Seth Rudetsky 2.20.19

Speaking of incredible, James and I saw the national tour of Hello, Dolly! starring Betty Buckley and she was fantastic. So funny, so moving and I loved the sassy little melody changes she made to the songs. So subtle, but so satisfying! And we were blown away by Nic Rouleau who plays Cornelius. His voice is incredible. Turns out, Betty is singing “Sunday Clothes” in a higher key than Bette so they brought up Nic’s key as well. Wow! Is it thrilling! Everyone has to see this show!

Seth Rudetsky 2.20.19
Emery Major/York Theatre Company

It was so amazing to see a Broadway star of Betty’s caliber in the role. What a master performer. I kept thinking “This is her 50th year of starring in musicals!” because she made her debut in 1776 in 1969.

If you don’t know, back in the ’60s, her father made her participate in the Miss Texas pageant to see if she could win Miss America, but she lost to a young woman who won did a monologue from Gone With The Wind and ate a turnip. Even though she lost, they invited Betty to sing during the televised Miss America Pageant (she claims it was to represent all the losers). A talent agent saw her performance and signed her, telling her to move to NYC whenever she could. The day she got to New York, she had an audition and got cast in her first Broadway show, 1776. Literally on the day she got to New York!

This is a perfect song for President’s Day week:

I just had the wonderful Jason Danieley on Seth Speaks, my SiriusXM talk show. One of my favorite performances I did with Jason was when I cast him as the high Ziegfeld tenor in the Actors Fund Concert of Funny Girl that I put together in 2002. His high B flat at the end is so incredible! And then I told Kristin Chenoweth (who was playing Fanny Brice in the number) to try to top him by going to a high F. It’s hilarious and amazing! Watch here!

If you don’t know, Jason was married to the late, great Marin Mazzie, who passed away a few months ago from ovarian cancer. Jason is now dedicated to helping the cancer community in many different ways. He’s so outraged that Marin was extremely careful with her health, yet she wasn’t diagnosed until she was at stage four cancer. Right now, there is no clear way test for early detection of ovarian cancer the way that a colonoscopy is an early indicator of colon cancer. He and his old pal, Brian d’Arcy James are running a half marathon to help the Cancer Support Community, which is like Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS in that they dole out money to various organizations across the country (including the wonderful Gilda’s Club, which helped my family when my mother-in-law had cancer). If you want to donate, please go to CancerSupportCommunity.org; they're running as Team Marin. And make sure you follow Jason on Twitter @JasonDaniely and Instagram @JDanieley to follow their training and more.

The first time I played on Broadway with Jason was when he was starring in The Full Monty in 2001. If you don’t know, at the end of the show, all the guys do a strip show and right on the final beat of the finale, they stand totally nude onstage. Well, even though they were nude, you couldn’t really see any action from the audience because there was a blinding light that would shine into your eyes from right behind them at the exact moment that they took off their final piece of clothing. Anyhoo, that show had a big, fat mishap I must write about:

During one performance, while everyone was dancing the finale song (“Let It Go”), the guys began to notice the lights seemed out of sync. They soon realized that somehow the computerized lighting system was one cue ahead. They continued doing the number but soon it began to dawn on all of them: if all the light cues were one ahead, that meant that during the final beat of the number, the lights would be on the next cue…the curtain call. What was the lighting for that particular moment? Well, it certainly wasn’t a light to blind the audience, instead it was a light to make sure the entire stage was completely lit so every actor could be seen. Yes, for the final moment of nudity in the show, they would all be in the light cue for the bows: Total illumination.

Marcus Neville, André De Shields, John Ellison Conlee, Patrick Wilson, Romain Fruge, and Jason Danieley in The Full Monty
Marcus Neville, André De Shields, John Ellison Conlee, Patrick Wilson, Romain Fruge, and Jason Danieley in The Full Monty Craig Schwartz

They were all giving each other silent movie acting eye language of “Should we go through with it?” and they all silently agreed they would do the number as is. Well, Patrick Wilson told me that he was getting anxious but finally committed to getting nude and right before he took off his undies, he happened to lock eyes with someone in the front of the audience; horrifyingly, an 11-year-old girl. He was traumatized! First, completely devastated at what was happening and then, because he couldn’t handle the crippling emotion, he turned that feeling to full parental blame and rage: “Why are you bringing your daughter to this show?” In conclusion, it was a perfect confluence of tech malfunction and innocence lost.

Peace out and enjoy the number when the lights worked!

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