Watch Alan Cumming, Keala Settle, Todrick Hall and More In This Week’s NIGHTLY Concerts for America

Seth Rudetsky   Watch Alan Cumming, Keala Settle, Todrick Hall and More In This Week’s NIGHTLY Concerts for America
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth reveals the Broadway voices who will join him in the week of livestreamed concerts every night through November 5.
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Hello from many, many feet in the air! James and I are on our way to Los Angeles because we each have fancy “pitch meetings” and because it’s the birthday of my writing partner/old-time friend Jack Plotnick’s on October 30! The size of Jack’s present will depend on if James and I have any of our shows picked up. I’m sure production companies say yes during the actual meeting and hand you your first check at that point, right? Yay!

The first big exciting news is that we’re going to do an encore showing of a different Concert For America every night from now through November 5! Tune in to ConcertsForAmerica.com every night at 9PM ET/6PM PT to see stars like Chita Rivera, Helen Reddy, Melissa Manchester, Barry Manilow, Vanessa Williams, Lisa Lampanelli, Michael Urie, Carrie Manolakos, Megan Hilty, Sierra Boggess, Maureen McGovern, Lillias White, Keala Settle, Kevin Chamberlin, Alan Cumming, Faith Prince, Hal Sparks, Jessie Mueller, LaChanze, Andrea McArdle, Todrick Hall, Judy Kuhn, Beth Malone, original stars from Hairspray and SO MANY MORE! Watch, share and donate.

All the money is divided between Sierra Club Foundation, NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and National Immigration Law Center.

Seth Rudetsky 10.29.18

Here’s a great performance from the Atlanta concert featuring Jessie Mueller, Lillias White, and Keala Settle singing “Natural Woman.” SO many more will be broadcast over the next week!

Since the election is coming up, I did a politically-themed Seth Speaks on SiriusXM. I had Broadway belter Anastasia Barzee on the show to chat about Broadway and her sister, political candidate Mary Barzee Flores. Mary was nominated by Obama to be a federal judge but was blocked by Marco Rubio. Wonderful. Now she’s running for congress in Florida’s 25th district (including the beautiful Naples area where I’ve performed.) Read how cool Mary is right here.

Mary does not have Anastasia’s high notes and that’s why she wasn’t cast in the original Broadway Sunset Boulevard, but Anastasia was! Anastasia took over the role of Betty from the wonderful Judy Kuhn (who left the show when she got pregnant). She was very excited because it was a great role in a big, fat hit. Well, if you don’t know, the story goes that the Sunset powers-that-be heard Faye Dunaway sing a little something at a party. A cappella. They knew she was a brilliant actress and hearing her sing something at a party was apparently enough to offer her the leading role of Norma Desmond (replacing Glenn Close). Rumor has it that rehearsals did not go well, music-wise. But they continued nonetheless.

Finally, they did her “put-in” rehearsal. (That’s when the whole cast shows up to do a run-through and the person going into the show wears all their costumes and wigs.) Anastasia had been performing her role for around two weeks at the point and was gearing up for a nice, long run in L.A. Well, the run-through happened and afterwards, she got a call from a Sunset head honcho. He asked if she was sitting down. She was not. He asked her to sit down. She did. He then told her the show was canceled. Ended. Yes, the long run she had planned on was ending before it began! That run-through was enough to put the kibosh on going forward and Faye never played the role. UGH! A few days later, however, the late great casting director Vinnie Liff called Anastasia and asked her to come in for Miss Saigon.

Seth Rudetsky 10.29.18

Within weeks, she was touring the country as Ellen and then played the role on Broadway! I asked her what it was like to finally have a great role in a Broadway show. Anastasia said that doing shows around the country is wonderful and feels the same as doing a show on Broadway. But after the show is when she feels the wonderful difference. She said it’s walking out of the stage door and being in the middle of New York City that makes her feel she’s performing on Broadway…even though it’s after she’s actually performing on Broadway! She loves opening a stage door and seeing the NYC streets and stores. That’s Broadway to her! If you want to hear a string of belted E flats, someone put together a compilation of Ellen’s from Miss Saigon singing the middle section of “I Still Believe.” Anastasia is eight women in!

I also had Francine Wheeler on the show. I met Francine when I was working at Surflight Summer Theater in Beach Haven, New Jersey. That’s a one-week summer stock (rehearse one show during the day, do another one at night…12 shows in 12 weeks!). Francine worked right next door at the ice cream restaurant, Showplace, where she was a singing waitress with future Broadway belter Mary Birdsong. At the end of the summer, we needed a young soprano for Follies and we cast Francine, even though she didn’t officially work at Surflight. I remember loving her stunning tone when she’d sing the Act 2 quartet. Now she works in a fabulous children’s music group called Dream Jam Band. (Here’s a nice New York Times piece on her!)

Seth Rudetsky 10.29.18

I also have to share a sad piece of Francine’s story. Horrifically, her six-year-old son Ben son was murdered in the Sandy Hook massacre in Newton, Connecticut. Since then, she has kept up her singing career as well as become an advocate for gun violence prevention. She feels very honored that she was the first private citizen to give President Obama’s weekly radio address.

Shockingly, she and her husband are part of conspiracy theories that propagate the lie that the massacre never happened. The fact that Francine and David have had acting careers just feeds the lies. Francine told me that she was talking to a woman who was a victim of gun violence and Francine sympathized and told her that Ben had been murdered in his classroom at Sandy Hook. The woman shook her head and told Francine it couldn’t be because that never happened. Seriously. Francine had to explain calmly that it did happen and she saw the woman begin to realize that she had been tricked by the conspiracy theories she had heard.

I asked how she is able to go on and not wallow in depression and she told me she gains strength from her community. That’s why she formed Ben’s Lighthouse, a non-profit that has a multitude of programs for bringing communities together, like volunteer programs for kids and teens and a program for older children to mentor younger ones. You can find out more and listen to some of Francine’s great songs from her show (and puppet show) The Isle Of Skoo at BensLighthouse.org.

Before the election, she implores everyone to look at every candidate’s stance and voting record on gun violence. Here’s a list of candidates that have been endorsed by The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence.

Francine’s voice is so pretty, so I asked her to end her interview by singing what she had been a part of in our first Concert For America:”What The World Needs Now Is Love.”

To end on a light note, James and I are staying in Los Angeles with the hilarious Sean Hayes, who is not only a brilliant actor but spent years as a pianist/music director where he grew up in the Midwest. He was regaling us with audition stories and he remembers playing an audition for a ten-year-old girl who told him she’d be singing “Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens.” He nodded and replied “Oh! You’ll be singing ‘My Favorite Things.’” She glared and slowly replied, through gritted teeth “NO. I’ll be singing ‘Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens.’” She then proceeded to sing “My Favorite Things.”

Peace out!

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