When Susan Egan Auditioned for Hercules, Cynthia Nixon Was a Faker on To Tell the Truth, and Michael Cerveris Stayed in Character for Fame

Seth Rudetsky   When Susan Egan Auditioned for Hercules, Cynthia Nixon Was a Faker on To Tell the Truth, and Michael Cerveris Stayed in Character for Fame
Plus more celebrity tales from this week in the life of Seth Rudetsky.

First a warning.

It all began with me eating non-stop since March. I’ve been relentlessly tracking my weight gain and, not surprising, my scale ran out of batteries. I therefore immediately borrowed Juli’s fancy new all-glass scale. Now, it started to get cold upstate where we live, so we put a little heater in the bathroom. James kept saying I shouldn’t run it all the time, but I, however, didn’t want to go inside the freezing bathroom to take a shower, wait for the room to finally heat up, and then feel comfortable enough to be nude for the two seconds it takes for me to run into the shower. So I insisted we run the heater all the time. Cut to: We’re watching Season 7 of Scandal (we’re OBSESSED) and it’s midnight. James runs into the bathroom for a quick break and I suddenly hear shatter! The scale had completely broken into a million pieces. What happened, you ask? Have you ever cooked something in glassware and then put it into the sink and it completely shatters? Well, that’s what happened in our bathroom. I had apparently heated up the bathroom and everything in it, including the glass scale. James merely tapped it with his foot, and that’s all it took for glass shards to be strewn everywhere. My first thought was: Can I somehow blame this on him so he has to clean it up? But it basically was a combo of my issues: weight obsession and refusal to not have creature comforts at all times. Takeaway: Use a scale made of material that won’t blind you when it shatters.

Seth Rudetsky breaks the bathroom scale

I had Cynthia Nixon on Seth Speaks, my SiriusXM talk show, and she was promoting her new Netwflix series Ratched, which is a prequel to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s basically all about Nurse Ratched before she met Jack Nicholson. I’ve always been obsessed with that character.

(On a related note, I have a podcast called Seth Rudetsky’s Back To School, all about celebrities in their teenaged years. Whenever I ask them what roles they play in high school, I usually get standard roles in musicals. BD Wong was Professor Harold Hill or Vanessa Williams was the ingenue in Two Gentleman of Verona. The only times I was surprised was when Tina Fey told me she did Dracula but played Van Helsing. I started to question her and she immediately asked, “Why? Because Van Helsing should be a man? Get woke, Seth!” Obsessed with that! The other role that was surprising but also totally foreshadowing was Bebe Neuwirth, as a teenager, playing Nurse Ratched! Foreshadowing because years later she played the comedic version of that blank-faced, cold medical professional; Lillith on Cheers! And speaking of which, we’re going to have another Frasier reunion on Stars In The House October 3! Here’s one of my favorite Lillith/Frasier moments from Cheers.

Juli Wesley sketches Cynthia Nixon
When Juli spent the summer working for Playbill, she sketched Tony Award winners like Cynthia Nixon

Anyhoo…back to Cynthia: She told me a story from her early career: Turns out, her mom was a coach on To Tell The Truth! If you don’t know that show, it begins with three unfamiliar looking people walking out and one of them has some kind of interesting aspect to their lives (like, “He was Winston’s Churchill’s bodyguard”). Three celebrity judges grill them to find out who is telling the truth. Cynthia’s mother was the coach that taught them how to act like they’re not lying and worked with them on facts they might be asked! And yes, during one episode, Cynthia was a faker! When she was eight, she was one of the contestants who claimed to be a horseback riding champion. Cynthia had gone to the studio with her Mom often and was a nervous wreck that Kitty Carlisle Hart (who was often there) would recognize her. Now, she realizes Kitty probably didn’t take that much interest in the kids walking around the studio …but at that time, she kept trying to keep her head down so Kitty wouldn’t know. At the end, she was so happy that one of the celebs voted for her…but, years later, found out that whenever they had kid contestants, they made sure that each kid got at least one vote. Watch here and note Cynthia’s eye-contact avoidance.

We had a reunion of the TV show Fame on Stars In The House last Saturday night. Turns out Erica Gimpel, who played Coco, was only 16 when she got the gig. And, amazingly, she was actually going to the High School of the Performing Arts at the time. By her third episode, she had to dance side-by-side with Debbie Allen…whom she had seen as Anita in the West Side Story revival a few years before. She was intimidated, but practiced up a storm and this was the result!

Future Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris auditioned for the TV show late in its run, and had been not been doing well at previous TV auditions. He would go in as himself and then become the character when he read, but he thought that was why he wasn’t booking. The people behind the desk wanted to believe he really was the character. So for Fame, he went in as the character…AKA British. He used an English accent as soon as he stepped in the room. What he now realizes is bizarre was that when he wasn’t reading the scene, they were asking him questions about himself. He was answering truthfully…but continued with the accent. So he was telling them about going to school in America and being born in America…but sounding completely not American. Didn’t they wonder: “Wait... if you’ve spent your entire life in the U.S., why do you sound like Queen Elizabeth”? Regardless, it worked! He booked it and wound up becoming friends with the late Carrie Hamilton (Carol Burnett’s daughter). He said that she made him feel welcome (the show had been on the air for years when he finally joined). Here’s a super sweet duet they performed together.

We also had a reunion of the Disney film Hercules, and it was so fun! Susan Egan talked about how she was playing Belle in the Broadway Beauty and the Beast and they wouldn’t let her audition for the role of Meg. Belle is super sweet, and Meg is a devious dame with a 1940s lilt to her lines. Susan finally got an audition and they did the signature thing that happens during an audition for an animated film; everyone behind the table put their heads down (so they could just hear her voice). After she read for a bit, they looked up to check it was really her. They were shocked at how she sounded…so unlike Belle. She was like, “I told you! When I’m Belle, I’m acting. This is really me!” She got the gig and the only hard part was the end of her song “I Won’t Say I’m In Love.” They asked to make up a riff and she froze. She was so intimidated because the “muses” in the film were all amazing singers who could riff up a storm. She explained that she never had to riff in roles she had played like Belle and Kim in Bye Bye Birdie. So, Alan Menken (the composer) plunked out specific notes for a riff and that’s what she does at 2:31.

It was great seeing my old pal Roger Bart, who is the singing voice of Hercules. He told us that there was a different song at first for Hercules that got cut because it was a little somber and didn’t have enough drive for the character. I actually found it online! Here is Alan Menken talking about replacing "Shooting Star" with "Go the Distance," and actually performing “Shooting Star”!

And speaking of “Go The Distance,” here’s me playing for Roger (in the original key). When we were doing Disaster! on Broadway together, James and I wanted a creative way to raise money for Broadway Cares during the fundraising period before the Easter Bonnet Competition. The cast and I wound up auctioning off a song after the curtain call from our amazing cast during those weeks…like Faith Prince singing “Adelaide’s Lament” or Cheyenne Jackson joining Kerry Butler to sing from Xanadu. One night we did Disney songs, and we auctioned off Vanessa Williams (who was in the audience that night) singing “Colors of the Wind” and Roger sang “Go The Distance.” He sounds great…but we look crazy because we’re still in our costumes (after an earthquake, tidal wave, etc).

And finally, October 4 I’m doing a concert with Orfeh and Andy Karl. Real life married couple and real life super talented people. Get tix at TheSethConcertSeries.com.

Here’s Orfeh sounding amazing! Peace out!

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