ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: I Love It When We're Cruising Together

By Seth Rudetsky
31 Mar 2014

Lillias White

It also featured lesser-known Coleman songs, including a fantastic one he wrote called "Those Hands" that ended with her belting an Eb! I loved the song but the title refers to the amazing hands of a pianist and I therefore had to play virtuostic piano solos throughout it. I was very relieved when it was over because it was a monster to play. The next night was Howard McGillin's show and Richard, his husband who's so funny, asked me in passing: "Did Howard tell you that his encore is "Those Hands"?" Hi-lar. It reminded me of when I was doing The Ritz at the Roundabout. There was an enormous chase scene at the beginning of Act Two. It was up and down the stairs of our enormous set and Brooks Ashmanskas and I would sit backstage and watch the various actors run past us, looking exhausted. One night, Rosie Perez ran by, panting in her high heels, and Brooks yelled, "We're extending!"

Right after Lillias' show, I did a Chatterbox with Brian Stokes Mitchell and, of course, we talked about Ragtime. He mentioned that Stephen Flaherty really wanted to write the score to Ragtime when he first heard about it, but he assumed Kander and Ebb would be offered the job. Then Stephen found out that the producer (Garth Drabinsky) would be having auditions for the composing team by asking different teams to submit four songs on spec. Steve was so excited and immediately started listening to Scott Joplin rags to get in the mood, especially his favorite one: A not well-known one called "Solace." Well, after he and Lynn wrote their songs they had to meet with Garth. There were lots of things that went wrong that day, including Steve going to the wrong locale. He thought for sure that he had blown getting the gig. When he finally got to the right building, he got into the elevator to go up to Garth's office, feeling defeated. Then he heard that song playing in the elevator. What was it? "Solace!" He knew it was a sign that he got the job. And he did! Watch their amazing opening number featuring Stokes (and a young Lea Michele): 

The next day was Christine Pedi's show and, boy, did the crowd love her! She did the brilliant song parody Gerard Allesandrini wrote for Forbidden Broadway when there was a musical version of "Anna Karenina" playing on Broadway. It's supposed to be the finale (when Anna throws herself underneath a train) and it's sung to "The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" and starts with a Judy Garland-like Anna singing:

"Do you hear that train coming 'round the bend?
It means the tale of Anna is about to end.
As I'm ground into a bloody mess,
'neath the Ashkabland, Tblisi and Kiev express!"

Christine Pedi

So great! Then Christine talked about the opening of Les Miz which happened while we were on the cruise and she sang her amazing medley which consists of different celebs starring in the show. That 9:45 show that night featured the aforementioned Howard McGillin's and he did tons of beautiful songs, including a gorgeous one from the short-lived High Fidelity called "Laura, Laura." It's so pretty, and he sounded so good! Naturally, he ended the show with "Music of the Night" and everyone loved it. Especially, because he began it by telling of his bizarre Donald Trump experience featured here.

Right after his show, we did a "Chatterbox" together where he revealed that he was one of Hollywood's last contract players! Who was the last, you ask? Sharon Gless. He also talked about having to choose between two amazing roles: Billy Lawlor opposite Patti LuPone in Anything Goes (which he wound up taking) and one of the two princes in Into the Woods. He wound up never originating a Sondheim but I found this amazing video of him singing Sondheim where he looks so handsome and sounds amazing. It was filmed back in the '80's and he has his hair cut for the character he was playing at that time in The Mystery of Edwin Drood… yet it can also double as a mullet. 

There is so much more for me to write about, but I shall save it for my part two column mid-week!

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)