Hi, everyone. I will be dedicating an entire column very soon to the brilliant Chita Rivera. Please check back! But first, here is my regularly scheduled column.
I am back from cold Aspen and from colder Lafayette, Louisiana. Yep, you read that correctly. I was actually colder in Lafayette. This could have been because I thought the temperature in Louisiana would be deep-fried and my body wasn’t expecting the chill. Or maybe because it actually was cold. I mean, not below zero, but cold. What did it for me was, instead of taking an Uber, I walked in the cold from my hotel all the way to the Starbucks because I was told by the front desk person that it was “right over there.” Right over there in NYC terms would be a half block away. In Louisiana terms, it means “right over there” as the crow flies, a crow who is in superb physical condition. Now I know what it’s like to do a 5K.
Anyhoo, before I was in Lafayette, I was in Aspen to start their new Winter Series produced by Jed Bernstein. I loved everything about it! Not only is it beautiful there, but I also performed two concerts, one with Jessie Mueller and one with Ana Gasteyer. The only annoying part was that my luggage didn’t arrive in time for my Jessie concert. The amazing part is that James, Jessie, and I went shopping together in a local thrift and got my entire outfit for the concert for under $50. I wound up not wearing the pants because, well, let’s just say I bought them at the waist size I was before New Year’s Day. You see, we had a cereal bar at our New Year’s party and our guests didn’t finish all the boxes. I therefore had no choice but to have three bowls of cereal every night since then.
During our concert, Jessie told everyone about the time Carole King came to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Carole hadn’t wanted to come because she thought it would be too difficult to sit in an audience and relive the parts of her life that were painful. In fact, Carole didn’t even want the show to happen! When her daughter became her official manager, the first item on her to-do list was “Kill the Carole King musical.” For real. Once the show was in development and began having readings, it got back to Carole that the show was great. She wound up giving it her blessing, but that didn’t mean she wanted to watch it in person. As a matter of fact, Carole didn’t come to the out-of-town tryout in San Francisco or to Broadway previews or to opening night on Broadway. It wasn’t until months after the opening that she finally came to see it. She did not want people in the audience to be watching her reactions the entire night, so she went in disguise! I’m dying to know what look she used. I remember the hilarious story Barbara Walsh told me about Elaine Stritch not wanting to make the revival cast of Company nervous when she came, so she didn’t tell them when it would be. However, when she did come, she kept a “low profile” by wearing an entirely white outfit. I’m sure no one onstage immediately saw the audience member looking like a lighthouse sitting in row D.
Back to Beautiful. Carole’s disguise worked. Nobody noticed Carole in the audience. Jessie told us that after the performance the cast stayed on stage, and Jared Spector started giving a speech to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Jessie noticed the audience was being very vocal, which she took as them affirming that Jared was killing the speech. The audience was obviously loving it! Turns out, they were reacting to the fact that Carole King was walking on stage. And this time, she was dressed as Carole King! Everyone in the cast noticed she was there and flipped out. Then, because it was fundraising time, Carole agreed to sing if people donated a ton to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. And they did.
The whole thing was captured on film. Watch!
When James came up with the idea to record “What the World Needs Now Is Love” after the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Jessie was one of the first people we called. She in turn asked Carole King! It was so amazing to have her on the recording. Watch!
Ana’s show was a few days later, coinciding with the start of Gay Ski Week. I loved the “Gay” and the “Week” part but avoided the skiing. No joke: James, Juli, and I were in Vermont a long time ago, and I went sledding. Not skiing. Sledding. Something toddlers do. At the end of the hill, I lightly crashed. End of story. My thumb still hurts. And it was fifteen years ago. I am not getting on skis and proving what my mother has always told me: exercise is bad.
In terms of our performance, Ana sounded fantastic as usual. Her voice sits so high! It’s so easy for her to sing Elphaba (which she played when she joined the company of Wicked both in Chicago and on Broadway). She told the audience that the hardest thing about the role is not the non-stop singing, it’s actually handling the props and costumes! The Act Two dress weighs forty pounds. And the broom, the suitcase, and the spell book are also so crazy heavy. She wants to know why no one in the original production had ever heard of balsa wood.
P.S. If you want to hear how great she was in the show, watch this!
In terms of Broadway today, I am very disappointed that two shows James and I loved are closing, How To Dance in Ohio and Harmony. You can read here about my involvement with Harmony, dating back to 1997. Go see it!
There are so many reasons to love How To Dance In Ohio, so get thee there as well! One of my favorite things was seeing my pal Haven Burton, who starred as Marianne in our Off-Broadway production of Disaster! I recreated her very creative audition for that production in an Obsessed video. Watch!
Haven told me the craziest marriage story that is now one of my favorites. Her husband is performer Denny Paschall and they have three adorable kids. Not too long ago, they were changing their health insurance. To do so, they needed to provide information about their marriage license. They had gotten married in California where they were living before they decided to return to New York because Denny was going back into Chicago on Broadway.
Anyhoo, when Denny inquired about the license, he was told by the town where they had gotten married that there had been a problem with their marriage license from all those years ago. Turns out, Denny and Haven were sent a letter about the problem, but they had already moved back to New York by the time it was sent, so they never received it. Was it important to fix that problem, you ask? I guess because the problem was…they weren’t legally married! That’s right. Even though they had a wedding, and soon thereafter had three children, there was a legal mishap they didn’t know about and, therefore, their marriage was never made official. Can you imagine? Even though Haven thought she was a Barbra Streisand-style “Sadie, Sadie, Married Lady,” she was actually a Beyoncé-style “Single Lady.”
Well, the good news is, after a very long phone call with some official in California, Denny found out the problem could be rectified, for thousands and thousands of dollars. Seriously! Who the hell wants to spend that money to be married if it’s not being spent on wedding itself? So, they did what any couple who wanted to be married would do...yep! They had another wedding and got married to each other a second time. Not since Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had I heard of such a thing. And, just so they wouldn’t have to celebrate two different dates, they had their second wedding on the same date as their first wedding. #Synergy
Ok, everyone. Another column is coming up soon, and I have lots of performances on the horizon as well! I’ll be in Las Vegas, Raleigh, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Hartford, and on my Broadway cruise to Bermuda. Visit SethRudetsky.com for tickets.
In preparation for my Chita column, let me close with this incredible video of Chita sounding so fantastic during The Rink. Holy cow. The talent.