ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Only Make Believe! Disneyland! The Book of Mormon in L.A.!
By Seth Rudetsky
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.
Why isn't my column coming out during its regular Monday time? OK, here we go. First of all, my devastating travel stories usually involve me almost missing my plane and it's often because I'm late or I've gone to the wrong airport or some other "I Love Lucy"-type plot. This time, I got a cab with plenty of time to spare. Delish! However, halfway to JFK, my driver suddenly pulled over to the side of the road. He got out and told me that he suspected the engine needed anti-freeze. I then saw why he was slightly concerned; there was smoke pouring out from underneath the hood! I don't know much about cars, but I assumed that more smoke than Act Two of Wicked wasn't a sign of a healthy engine. After he poured in anti-freeze he told me he wanted to stop at a gas station and buy some more. Why? Because there was still smoke pouring out.
He stopped at a station, poured more in and I assumed everything was fine…until a car pull up alongside us and I saw the driver pointing frantically at the cab with a horrified expression. I don't understand sign language but I do understand the universal sign for "There is something crazy going on with your cab!" I told the driver and he said that the anti-freeze was probably dripping out of the car. He put on the hazards…and then promptly got on the Van Wyck Expressway! It was "fun" to be on a fast highway and not know what it means to have no anti-freeze; were we suddenly going to stop in the middle of a lane? Were we about to blow up?
I tried to think back to the Drivers Ed course that I took senior year but not only did it take place in 1984, it was also at 7 AM in the morning. I was constantly half-asleep. The only thing I retained back then was water from my high sodium diet.
I sat in the back of the cab and didn't know if anti-freeze leakage was something to be terrified about or something that simply looked bad but didn't really mean anything. While I was worrying whether I should be worrying, my cab pulled over and hailed another cab to finish my ride to JFK. I paid the first cab driver and he gave some cash to the second driver. I arrived at the airport on time but frazzled from my near-fatal or not-at-all-a big-deal experience. I went into a guilt panic because I didn't know if I needed to pay the new cab driver even though he got paid by the first one. I got out of the cab, thanked him and he drove off without complaining. Delicious! The deliciousness faded away quickly when I then realized I left my backpack in his cab. Which contained my CD and the DVD for the show I was flying to California to do. It also, sadly, contained my laptop. And because I didn't pay the second cab driver, I had no (zero) receipt. Yay! I got out of paying extra cash for the second cab and because of that lost a $1,500 computer. What a fair trade-off!
Last week began much better with the annual Only Make Believe benefit on Broadway. Only Make Believe brings theatre to hospitalized kids. The benefit performances played the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater, an exciting location because the Tony Award-winning Once is playing there. However, the set of Once is not ideal for a benefit. Who wants to do a splashy joyous benefit in a dark, hasn't-been-cleaned-for-years Irish pub? It all wound up being fine, however, and the show had some fantastic acts. I sat in the audience before I went on with Ashley Brown and Kerry Butler. Right before it started, an adorable four-year-old boy came up to me and said, "Excuse me, sir… I love listening to your radio show!" I said, "Thank you so much!," and asked, "Are you an actor?" He looked serious and responded, "I'm not an actor or an actress." Obsessed! I then saw my friend Lee Armitage (whom I met on the rFamily Cruises) and she told me that Ian is her (and Euan Morton's) son. And, P.S., Ian is an actor. I had recently seen a video of him in a cabaret singing a song that most four-year-olds know by heart: "Stars" from Les Miz. Watch! And just to show our similarities, here's me at age 3 singing from The Most Happy Fella.
Matthew Broderick started the Only Make Believe show, and before he went on I asked him how he fared during Hurricane Sandy. He told me that his house lost power and I asked how Sarah Jessica Parker's "beautiful, beautiful hair" was. Matthew said that they got a hotel on the Upper East Side, so her hair held out. We talked about the lack of audiences right after the hurricane and he told me there were about 200 people in the house when Nice Work If You Can Get It started up again. Matthew looked through the curtain and begged the ushers to tell everybody to move down because they were all "dutifully staying in their assigned seats" and the entire front of the theatre was empty! (I once did The Fantasticks at the Sullivan Street Playhouse and we had more people in the cast than in the audience! And we didn't have a hurricane to blame it on.)
Speaking of the hurricane, Jen Cody and Hunter Foster have started a Facebook page where they organize clean-up relief and collect money. "Like" it!
Julia Murney (who went with Hunter and Jen on one of their many Staten Island clean-ups) came on SiriusXM's "Seth Speaks" and told me that it's especially hard for Off-Broadway post-hurricane. Right now Julia is starring in Falling at the Minetta Lane Theatre and she got amazing reviews. Get thee ASAP. Apparently, her belting is amazing! I'm kidding. Falling is a serious play about a family touched by autism, there is no belting in it. But her belting beyond that show is always amazing. Here is evidence in a past Playbill "Obsessed!" video.
After my depressing JFK laptop loss, I flew to L.A. to do my show and spent the weekend with my friend Jack Plotnick. My show was sponsored by a group called Broadway Knights and they hooked me and Jack up with a day at Disneyland! Before you visualize me riding "Space Mountain" 20 times in a row, you should know that the entire day was us walking around, eating, and me refusing to go on any rides because everything gets me nauseated.
Well, that's not entirely true. I went on two rides: It's a Small World and The Little Mermaid. I am essentially a four-year-old girl. On Sunday, Broadway Knights got us two second-row seats to The Book of Mormon and it was great! I know so many people in the cast and was so excited to see Gavin Creel! He was fabulous as Elder Price and so was Jared Gertner who plays Elder Cunningham.
However, I was most impressed with Jared's Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS speech at the end. He was so funny: "I'm told that these Book of Mormon tote bags can be used as a stocking stuffer but I'm Jewish so I don't know what that means." And so sassy: "This is a fundraising competition. All the touring shows are trying to raise the most money, and if those bitches from Wicked win over us…it will not be cool. I'm just kidding. I know those ladies from Wicked and only one is a bitch." Pause. "The other is a slut." Yes, it's borscht belt but it's funny!
This weekend I'm heading to Las Vegas for the ALAN conference. "Alan" stands for Assembly on Literature for Adolescents, and I was invited because one of the ALAN bigwigs likes young adult book ("My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan")! The conference has educators from all over the country and I'm excited to enjoy the Vegas heat while talking about my book and then possibly seeing a strip show/doing a slow striptease. Speaking of my book, you can get autographed copies. They make great stocking stuffers! P.S. What is that?
(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.)
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