ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Catching Up With Christine Ebersole and Backstage Stories With Rachel Bay Jones

By Seth Rudetsky
20 Aug 2013

Christine's first show was Saturday at 7 PM and at 5:15, I decided to get some exercise by taking a scenic bike ride out to the ocean. There's a long bike path in Provincetown that's through a wooded area and goes up and down hills. Well, I rode all the way out to the airport and at 6 PM, I decided to turn back. I noticed my bike felt weird. I had a flat tire! And the show was at 7! I started the walk the bike and realized that at my current speed, I'd arrive at the show after it began. I decided to ride it with the flat until I got to the parking lot by the beach, and try to hitch a ride to town from there.

I finally arrived and approached various cars, asking for a lift. Finally, two men agreed to drive me to town and I couldn't decide how to thank them. Free to tickets to Christine Ebersole's show? Guest DJ'ing on my SiriusXM radio show? Hm…would having a Broadway personality in their car be payment enough? I mulled this over as I got the bike hoisted in the their van and sat in the back seat. I decided to lead gradually to the reward I was going to give them so I could really build it up. I leaned forward in my seat and asked with a big smile, "Are you Broadway fans?" They responded, "No." Silence.

Rachel Bay Jones

I did an "Obsessed" recently with Rachel Bay Jones, who is fantastic in Pippin. She told me that her last Broadway show was Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown as the understudy to Patti LuPone (!). When she got the job, she was warned by a friend to make sure Patti never saw her looking at her. So, Rachel was at all the show's rehearsals and spent the entire time trying to learn the blocking and songs without ever looking directly at Patti. For six weeks!

Since Patti had concert dates coming, Rachel knew she'd be going on and needed to watch the show from the wings. But when Patti would come offstage, Rachel would flee so Patti wouldn't see her. One night, Patti came into the wings after a scene and Rachel fled and forced her body into a corner to hide. She suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder. Uh-oh. Rachel turned around and there was Patti. Patti immediately told Rachel to make sure she watched the show every night from the wings and then told Rachel they should meet in Patti's dressing so she could give her tips on the show and tell her what sections were tricky, etc. In other words, Patti couldn't have been friendlier and more helpful. Rachel was so relieved but completely irritated she spent weeks watching rehearsal with her head turned at a three quarter angle and her eyes shifted all the way to one side for no reason!

 Continued...