Hello from Boston! Tonight starts my Seth Rudetsky Series at Emerson’s Colonial Theater with the great Jessie Mueller! Get tix for tonight and/or come see my next concert with Cheyenne Jackson and/or the next one with Kelli O’Hara! More info here!
Jessie arrived last night and I thought I wouldn’t see her until the show, but walking from the hotel to the Starbucks (#addicted) I heard a loud, “Seth!” I suddenly saw Jessie sitting on a stone chair (?), FaceTiming with her Carousel pal Lindsay Mendez! Is it like a wedding and bad luck to see the star before the concert? Hopefully not!
But speaking of bad luck: Last weekend, I was doing three amazing shows in Provincetown at the Art House with Gavin Creel and in the middle of the show, we were talking about accidents onstage. He mentioned Stephanie J. Block falling down a hole during The Pirate Queen. I corrected him and told him that Pirate Queen was the show where she lost her voice on the night The New York Times was there and had to leave the show halfway through. We both insisted we were right, so we sent Stephanie an emergency video from the stage during the show. Within minutes, she sent back a video….even though it was around 15 minutes before The Cher Show began. I feel bad she had to take time from her prep to answer us…but it also meant that her makeup in the video is on point! Here’s where she reveals the (shocking) answer to our question:
As for singing, my sister Nancy is obsessed with Gavin and sent a list of songs she wanted him to sing. He learned “And So It Goes” by Billy Joel and it wound up being one of the hits of the concert! As a matter of fact, Gavin always chooses one song for people to use their phones and call a loved one (FaceTiming or speakerphone or videotaping) and he chose “And So It Goes,” so I have the video. Watch!
Gavin sang up a storm in every song, including accompanying himself on “She Used To Be Mine” (aka upstaging me) and, because it was James’ birthday, Gavin granted James his request: performing his rendition of “As If We Never Said Goodbye” with the inappropriate yet phenomenal ending of “Meadowlark” I added!
Of course, we know that Gavin starred with Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly! (and they both won Tony Awards) and he really loved working with her. He had so many fun stories. For instance, he told us that halfway through the run, he got a record player and was excited to get his parents’ albums, which they were giving away. Turns out, his sister took them all before he could nab them. But she found an album of Bette performing with The Muppets and told Gavin that if he could get it autographed by Bette, she’d give him the other records. He never wanted to ask Bette to autograph anything, but he really wanted those records! So, he brought the album to Bette’s dressing room and asked her. She remembered recording it but told him she had never actually seen the album before or listened to it…or made any money on it!
Nevertheless, she signed it and he told her how excited he was to play records on his new player. He came back after their day off and saw that Bette had left some gifts for him on his dressing room table: four albums from her personal stash featuring a variety of artists with a note saying that they should be a good start for his collection! He was so thankful and told her… and then segued into small talk by asking her how her day off was. She responded: “I was in the f-ing attic finding albums for you!”
And lastly, Martin Charnin passed away a few days ago. I recently had him on Seth Speaks to talk about West Side Story. (Before his career as a brilliant lyricist and director, he was West Side’s original Big Deal on Broadway.)
I first asked Martin how he got the gig and turns out, in the late ’50s, he was supposed to go to Italy to study art. He had just graduated Cooper Union, but before he left, he saw a little article in The New York Times saying the Jerome Robbins was looking to cast the last two “juvenile delinquents” in an upcoming musical. Martin went to the Broadway theatre wearing blue jeans with his hair greased and joined around 1,000 other guys.
Ruth Mitchell, who worked with Hal Prince, looked over each guy and cut around 500 people. Then Martin was asked to come onstage and do an intricate ballet dance with major jazz inflections. Actually, Peter Genarro, who was working with Jerome Robbins, simply asked everyone to walk across the stage. Really! But the hard part was….they had to snap their fingers while they did it. Martin remembers he was the only who could do it without wetting his fingers. P.S. I wasn’t impressed until I just tried to do a snap dry. Silence . Wowza.
I cannot make a sound at all without major moisture being applied. I hope after that audition Martin immediately amended the “special skills” section of his résumé and added snapping next to driver’s license and “good with children.”
Anyhoo, his naturally moist fingers were enough to get him into the next cut where there was now only 50 people. He went downstairs and a young man in a shirt and tie asked him to sing eight bars. Martin only knew one song, “I Wish I Were In Love Again” and he did it. The guy asked him to do it again, but faster. Then one more time, faster. Then once again faster! Turns out, it was Sondheim wanting to hear how quickly Martin could sing while maintaining his diction. Apparently, he nailed it because he was then one of 25 other guys and he was asked to read the line “Ooh! It hurts! It hurts!”
He did it with a New York accent and got a laugh…from Arthur Laurents. That got him to the next cut where he had to do the walk with his non pre-moistened snapping fingers for Jerome Robbins. He passed that cut and now it was just him and a couple of other guys who had to sing “Maria.” Not the whole song, literally just the three notes at the beginning. Why? Because the role required him to sing it solo offstage after Tony starts the song. Martin got the role and you can hear him do just that on the recording!
TONY: The most beautiful sound I ever heard…Maria.
OFFSTAGE VOICE: Maria,
MARTIN CHARNIN: Maria,
OFFSTAGE VOICE: Maria!
Marty wrote the book and lyrics to Annie and directed it as well. Most people know I was obsessed with that show and I wanted to end the column with my deconstruction.