What Advice Did Liza Minnelli Give Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer After Her Performance in Funny Girl? | Playbill

Seth Rudetsky What Advice Did Liza Minnelli Give Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer After Her Performance in Funny Girl?
 
This week, Seth conducts the Chelsea Symphony and prepares for a concert with Jessica Vosk.
Liza Minnelli
Liza Minnelli

Happy mid-December and end of Chanukkah! I have two more weeks of Seth’s Broadway Breakdown and I’ve just added Saturday matinees. You can get tix here. Speaking of, here is my breakdown of my fave Chanukkah song led by the amazing Shoshana Bean (who’s about to be in concert December 13th at the Apollo in NYC).

I’ve been doing my live concert series every Sunday night and I keep forgetting to post the fun stories from the stars that I hear during the concerts. Here are some of the recent ones: I had the amazing Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer do my concert two weeks ago and we talked about her stint as Fanny Brice at the Papermill Playhouse which she got not long after she graduated CCM. Well, one night she heard Liza Minnelli might come to the show, but she didn’t believe it. Then, during Act 2, she looked and saw her. Leslie flipped out—she’s a major Liza and Judy fan. Well, right after the show, Liza came backstage and her first comment to Leslie about her performance was “I’ve never seen anyone work so hard!” Huh? I guess that’s a compliment?

Then she asked Leslie if she wanted to go out and get a “Coca-Cola.” Leslie and I both love that she used the full product name. While they sat at the table, Liza gave Leslie the good advice to stop singing her songs in full profile when there was someone else onstage. She was basically teaching Leslie to “cheat out,” meaning find moments to turn full front so the audience can see your entire face. Well, finally Leslie inhaled and got ready to ask Liza a slew of questions about her career—and Judy Garland’s—and, right at that moment, Liza suddenly asked, “Do you know how to get back on the Jersey turnpike?” Yep. Meeting adjourned. Right before she got any inside stories. Regardless, she assumed that was the beginning of a long and fruitful friendship. End of story: That was 2001 and the last time she saw Liza.

Leslie Kritzer and Faith Prince in A Catered Affair.
Leslie Kritzer and Faith Prince in A Catered Affair. Jim Cox

Leslie also talked about casting heartbreak; she was in final callbacks to play Maria in the 2009 revival of West Side Story. She found out she did not get it and immediately went to Amy’s Bread on 9th Avenue and got a bunch of baked goods. She ate her feelings, as they say, and that night performed on Broadway in A Catered Affair. Well, she played a bride and when she got to the scene where she puts on her wedding gown, it didn’t fit. Yep, all those carbs had an immediate effect, and she literally could not zip the back of her gown. She had to enter the stage walking sideways or else the audience would see it. Of course, the whole scene was about how gorgeous she looked. Leslie remembers Faith Prince, who played her Mom, standing behind her, seeing the unzipped-ness, and trying her best not to laugh. You know what they say: “Once on the lips, forever on the… back?” The amazing part is, once she didn’t get Maria, she asked to be seen for Anita and made it to final callbacks for that as well. Brava on the dancing ability!

You can see Leslie in action with me, joined by Santino Fontana, Andréa Burns, and Darius de Haas when we do a December 13 fundraiser for Beit Simchat Torah, the LGBTQIA+ synagogue of NY. You can watch the show in person or online. Details here.

Last Friday, James and I joined our friends, Paul Castree and Stephen Spadaro, to see the Chelsea Symphony in concert. Our friend, Aaron Dai, wrote a piece for the narrator and orchestra, based on the poem “’Twas The Night Before Christmas,” which was part of their annual holiday concert. One of the fun aspects of their holiday concert is that the orchestra plays “Sleigh Ride” and the conductor for that piece is someone who won an auction from the year before. This year, our friend Hudson Flynn (son of Andréa Burns and Peter Flynn) was slated to conduct and we were really looking forward to that. Well, when we got to the concert, we found out that, at the last minute, Hudson couldn’t make it. The leader of the orchestra announced that they were going to find a conductor right then by selling raffle tickets. Whoever won could conduct. Well, James, Stephen, and Paul all said they wanted me to win so I could conduct an orchestra again. I thought that was very sweet, but I was also nervous in case I won; I don’t really know the piece and didn’t want to look like a clunk. Stephen bought a ticket for me and James also gave Paul $20 to buy two tickets.

Well, Paul misheard and only got one ticket. James told him to go back and get a second one. The place was packed. It was the biggest audience the Chelsea Symphony ever had. James told me the raffle numbers were 58, 59 and 63. Well, the first ticket to be called would win a year’s worth of tickets to the symphony. They called a number and a woman a few rows ahead of us won. Then… they called the number of the winner who would conduct. I suddenly heard 63 and James yelled “Right here!” It happened. We won. Or should I say, I won? James, Stephen, and Paul pushed me down the aisle and I went up to the podium. Of course, I had heard the song before but I didn’t really know it.

The conductor asked me if I had ever conducted before and I said yes. Then he informed me that whole piece was in 2/4 to which I replied “Yes, dear.” I mean, that I knew. I asked for a score hoping for either a delicious reduced score where just the main melody is printed, or an orchestral score with each important entrance highlighted. Instead, I got a full score with every single instrument in a straight line down and no way for me to know what part was important. Ugh! I wanted to be perfect. Yes, I know I was treating this like an audition for America’s Next Top Conductor but that’s my charm (right?). Long story short, I held the score as close to my face as possible so I could follow along as best I could, which also resulted in me sporting a full body hunch throughout the entire piece. I was reminded of the Simpsons episode where Mr. Burns is mentoring Bart and says “Soon he’ll have a mighty hump.”

Afterwards, we realized that if Paul had bought both tickets with James’ $20, I wouldn’t have won. It’s because he is, as he claims, “Midwest frugal” and only bought one (number 59) and then had to go back and get another (number 63) that I won. Yay cheapness! I had such a great time and they sounded amazing. Paul caught the whole thing on video. Watch it here.

Next week, I have the amazing Jessica Vosk on The Seth Concert Series. She just sold out Carnegie Hall and I’m so excited to do a concert with her with all of her new material plus requests plus our old chestnuts. Here she is at Carnegie Hall. Watch, then get tix for our concert at TheSethConcertSeries.com for our Sunday LIVE concert at 8 PM ET. Peace out!

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