ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: More Midtown March Medley Madness, Plus Megan Hilty

By Seth Rudetsky
March 18, 2013

A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.



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Hello from my flight from El Paso (through Chicago) to NYC! I was just at New Mexico State University's brand new Center for the Arts where I did a master class and two performances of Seth's Big Fat Broadway (AKA Deconstructing Broadway, AKA What I've Been Doing in my Living Room for Friends since 1979). The Las Cruces community is so great and I had a ton of junior high/high school kids at my first show. They were an amazing audience. They actually got all my jokes and references! They laughed so hard at my Bea Arthur deconstruction, which is from the late '70's! After the show, I realized that would have been like me seeing a comedian when I was in junior high and loving his deconstruction of Mary Pickford. Anyhoo, I'm hauling out my show again in Naples, FL, next Wednesday.

However, before I leave I have more performances of The Daring Duo in the Midtown March Medley. Kerry Butler tweeted a photo of her small Off-Broadway dressing room and wrote that there's no room for modesty at her show. Well, let me add that there's no room period at my show! Look at the photo I tweeted to trump her cramped space. Yay! We won!...a contest that's completely un-fun to win.

At this point, the three plays of the Medley have all opened, and the last one to start performances is my comedy act with Kristine Zbornik. We filmed some of the rehearsal in which we worked on "Show Tune," the hi-larious song Jason Robert Brown wrote for her years ago — about her being comforted by Broadway music. My fave lyric: "Oh, yes the grime's still here…the crime's still here…but all I need's a verse or two of 'I'm Still Here'!" Watch it here

Unbroken Circle was the first to open and the feedback has been so amazing! We were too nervous to have reviewers come, since it's the first outing ever of the show, but check out this email from an editor at Random House: "We were all just thrilled with the play and the production. The performances were all so terrific. The woman who played Ruby was riveting, her emotional complexity was present in every line. Eve Plumb was terrific, and I was worried that she'd just be a stunt-casting coup. But the level of naturalness was awesome…especially in that small space. I'm a big fan of Anika Larsen, and seeing her in this role, which was so different from Xanadu and Avenue Q, was a pleasure. James, you did an amazing job of the man whose life has been stunted by his past…and I loved how your character hid your hinted-at issues so beautifully, until the family began to unravel and his insecurities were revealed. But even stronger than the performances was the writing. We all commented on how real the dialogue was, and how believable the characters were as they transitioned from 'normalcy' to 'reality.' Thank you for a really enjoyable evening of theater…on all fronts."

David Turner
photo by Monica Simoes

Now, let me tell you about The Daring Duo. This is the comedy caper I wrote about two classical musicians (David Turner and I) who agree to do a concert in the home of a gangster. Soon, David and I are on the run and forced to solve a series of classical music clues a la "The Da Vinci Code." I scheduled rehearsals to begin right after my Australian trip and assumed two weeks would be ample time to get the show into great shape because we put up Disaster! in the same amount of time and that was a musical. James told me how much rehearsal he was planning for his play (Unbroken Circle) and I kept thinking/muttering/commenting-out-loud about how neurotic he was and how he was over-scheduling. Well, cut to a week into Daring Duo rehearsal, I began to think I was really falling behind. I had a total panic attack. For reals! On my birthday(Feb. 28) I woke up in the middle of the night and could not sleep. It was like being in a runaway car that was heading for a brick wall. The brick wall being me not knowing any lines. I told James that I had made a big, fat mistake and I wanted to cancel the first few performances so the cast (AKA me) would have time to memorize the script. He told me that he thought we could do it… if we added some more rehearsal time (I had only scheduled around four hours a day, hubris-style). I added some hours each day and didn't tell the cast I wanted to postpone because I didn't want them to think it was a possibility but I was strongly considering it. Well, the opening got closer and closer and, even though I kept thinking about it, I didn't cancel. Suddenly, it was the day of the show and it was actually happening.

John Tartaglia and Tony Sheldon
Photo by Monica Simoes
Once David and I go onstage, we pretty much never leave til the end of the show. Well, cut to: it went great. It was one of those "we've never run this without stopping, how are we going to get through it?" shows that all came together. It was very inspiring to me in terms of the ol' "Don't Give Up" motto that's been bandied about forever. I'm so happy I didn't postpone because once we did the show once, we knew we could get through it and then it was easy! I'm also so happy because the show didn't need to be revised after we opened. We never had any invited dress before the first performance so I didn't know if we'd all be laying non-stop eggs in front of a crowd. It was so thrilling that all of the jokes worked so well. AND the scary/shocking parts of the shows got gasps (and/or we had several well-placed asthmatics in the audience. Either way, brava!)

Medley's Art and Science also opened this week but I was in New Mexico on opening night so I couldn't see it. On Sunday I had a 5 PM and a 9 PM showing of The Daring Duo and I told James I would see the 7 PM performance of Art and Science. Of course, I was dreading it because I wanted to rest between shows and act out with food. Regardless, I saw his show and I'm so so happy I did. John Tartaglia and Tony Sheldon were so effing good. And, I reminded myself of Betty Buckley while sitting in the audience. Not the high belt and the Tony Award part, but I remembered the time she saw Wicked. She told me that during the show she was thinking, "How does she do that? Sing so much and run around and change costumes?" I was like, "Betty! You've done it a million times!" but it's easy to understand how you do it when you're doing it…but watching people perform in a show makes you appreciate the magic of it. So as I watching John and Tony I thought, "How did they learn this whole show in two weeks?," forgetting that I had just done the same thing. Beyond being impressed with their acting/comedy/line-memorization, I thought the show was so beautiful. So funny and so moving. I had only read the script. This was the first time I had ever seen it fully staged. The audience and I were weeping at the end. I'm so proud of James. OK…I have The Daring Duo tonight at 8 PM and tomorrow at 2 PM and 7 PM, Unbroken Circle is Wednesday at 7 PM and Art and Science's next show is Thursday at 8 PM. Tix are only $18 for all shows. For into/tix/photos/videos go to MidtownMarchMedley.com.

Hilty on "Seth Speaks."
photo by Robb Johnston

Megan Hilty was my guest on SiriusXM's "Seth Speaks," and, I'm happy to say, her career is skyrocketing! First of all, she had been booked to be the special guest in Seth McFarlane's Carnegie Hall concert but then he got the Oscars gig. Instead of finding someone to replace him and keeping Megan as the special guest, the asked her to become the headliner! At Carnegie Hall! How amazing is that! Also, she just finished filming the second season of "Smash" and her CD just "dropped" as the kids say. I asked her about playing Glinda in Wicked and any onstage mishaps. She told me that during "Popular" she decided to add a very deep squat. At the same time, she blew her bangs out of her eyes. Well, when she blew out of her mouth to clear her bangs, the air aimed upwards. Right into her microphone. In other words, the sound blared out like a car horn. Add that particular sound to her deep, deep squat and you can imagine what the audience thought it looked/sounded like. Megan did what any pretty girl should and immediately glared at Elphaba and said, "Excuse you!" Brava diversionary technique!

All right, I'm off to therapy for the first time in three weeks. I need it! (Maybe she'll run lines with me?) Peace out, Playbill!

(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.)