How Do You Cover Up Falling Asleep on a Broadway Stage While Holding an Accordion?

Seth Rudetsky   How Do You Cover Up Falling Asleep on a Broadway Stage While Holding an Accordion?
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth shares some classic onstage mishaps and antics from Anne L. Nathan and Harvey Fierstein.
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My out-of-town Disaster! run is over and it was so fantastic! Such a great cast and wonderful theatre. Right now, Connecticut Repertory Theater is about to open Sweeney Todd with Terrence Mann as Sweeney, Liz Larson as Mrs. Lovett, Ed Dixon as the Judge and Andrea Burns as the Beggar Woman.

I first saw Sweeney Todd for my 13th birthday when my sister Beth bought me tix and brunch. Then I begged my Dad to take me again and we saw George Hearn and Dorothy Loudon. I remember that Dorothy messed up a few lyrics from “Worst Pies In London” (which I had memorized) and I thought it was so cool that I could tell the lyrics were incorrect. Go see this new production watch Liz belt the whole thing!

Speaking of Disaster! in Connecticut, during the song “Three Times A Lady” a character gives his best friend a burial at sea. It’s staged with him standing at the edge of the stage and (hilariously) throwing a dummy overboard which lands in the front row on the floor. Well, on Saturday, right after that scene, someone sitting in the front row did us the courtesy (?) of putting the dummy back on the stage! It was awkwardly lying there for the next scene between the Nun and Shirley and then, finally during the next scene, Nick Nudler, who played the ship owner, picked up the dummy and carried it off stage. It made me crazy! Dumping the body on the floor of the first row was obviously part of the show and not a mistake! Who asked you to pick it up!?

It reminded me of something Michael Urie just told me recently about Torch Song Trilogy (which he’s about to star in on Broadway). When Harvey Fierstein was doing the show during it’s original run, someone in the front row put their Playbill onstage. Harvey casually walked over and, annoyed, nudged it off the stage with his foot. The show continued and suddenly Harvey saw the Playbill back! This time he walked over and kicked it off the stage! Finally, it got to the point in the show where his character has to pick up a book by Oscar Wilde that his son is reading in school. Uh-oh! Where was it!?!? Turns out, the book had fallen in the audience and the person in the front row kept trying to return it to the stage. Yes, it wasn’t a Playbill. Harvey had kicked his own prop angrily off the stage! That story combines the need for impulse control and lasik surgery.


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This week I interviewed my Disaster! co-stars, Anne L. Nathan and Angie Schworer, for Seth Speaks on SiriusXM. I was talking to Anne about doing the type of musical where you have to sit onstage throughout the show. Turns out, she’s done two of them. During Once, where she played Cristin Milioti’s mother, she’d be sitting onstage for so long in the same position that she’d literally start getting drowsy. Well, it’s one thing to tip your body to one side by accident when you’re getting sleepy, it’s another to do it while you’re holding an accordion. Yes, as soon as she would begin to slightly nod off, the accordion would loudly play a cacophonous chord! She would (sort of) cover it up by looking around with a facial expression of “Who made that noise?”

During Chicago, she was learning the role of Mama Morton and walking around backstage in her rehearsal outfit, which included slippers. She was happy to see her friend Dan LuBuono sitting around back stage so she walked over and started chatting. She didn’t realize that he was “sitting around” onstage! Yes, the backstage area segues so smoothly to onstage that she had no idea she walked on the stage of the Ambassador Theater during the show wearing her slippers. Casual Friday?

Anne told me that back in the late 90s she was about to quit the business when her friend Steve Sutcliffe (who played Mother’s Younger Brother in Ragtime) told her that there was a part for her in Ragtime. She got an audition and wound up doing the show for years, playing one of the immigrants and covering Emma Goldman.

Anyhoo, we were reminiscing about how great the show was but she remembered something horrifying that happened (thankfully) when I wasn’t in the theatre. At one point, she was off stage and the character of Booker T. Washington was supposed to be making a speech. For some reason, there was silence. Suddenly, there was a commotion. Well, Booker T. wound up getting sick and knew he had to projectile vomit. And because his speech was performed on a balcony on the side/front of the stage, he had to make the horrible choice of whether to do it on the audience or the cast. He chose the cast. Anne said everyone onstage was covered in it as well as the crew! UGH! Why don’t we cleanse the palate by watching their Tony Awards performance. Anne is the immigrant at 2 minutes in, right in back of Peter Friedman and Lea Michelle who slowly kisses her ticket to NY. She knew she was going to be on camera for that whole period and filled it.

PS, in last week’s column, I wrote about how she knew the lighting in Les Miz was so dark that she could do the final scene in full drag any night she had a hot date for after the show. Here’s a pic of the t-shirt I got her for opening night depicting her makeup scheme.

Angie, like Anne, also got a Broadway show through a friend. She was doing shows at Disney and pretty much thought that would be her career. One day her friend DJ Salisbury, who was working on Will Rogers Follies, told her that they were looking for a swing for the tall women in the show and that she was right for the gig. Instead of flying up right away, she sent some photos for Tommy Tune and company to look at. One was a shot of her in her Disney show, holding a microphone with Pluto right behind her. Bizarre, but it worked. Her pose made her look like an amazing singer. Anyhoo, they wanted to see her, she flew up and got the gig. Then, they reneged! She found out later on that Cy Coleman (the composer) wanted a stronger singer, so the offer was rescinded. But Tommy Tune, who loved her dancing, couldn’t find anyone better and a few days later Angie got a message from the casting person on her machine that said “He giveth, then taketh away…then giveth again.” She got the show and soon started going from Broadway show to Broadway show. Check her out in Fosse here.Check out a clip from our run here!

Years later, she ran into Tommy Tune at the Will Rogers Follies anniversary party. He remembered that photo of her with the mic and told her that it made her look like a great singer.
She laughed and said, “I’m not.”
He replied, “We found that out.”
Happy anniversary?

Angie is about to co-star on Broadway in the new comedy musical The Prom about a bunch of fading actors who are looking to do something socially conscious to perk up their careers. She plays a dancer who’s been in Chicago for 20 years—and speaking of dancing Fosse, here’s a little clip Anne Nathan took of the Disaster! megamix where I sing “Sky High” and Angie and I come downstage with a little “Hot Honey Rag” action. Check out a clip from our run here!

I’m back from Disaster! but I am still traveling. This Thursday I’ll be at the River Center in Columbus, Georgia, introducing their new season and all summer I’ll be doing shows with some amazing Broadway stars in Provincetown, Nantucket and Cotuit. Go to sethrudetsky.com/appearances/ for details and peace out!

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