How to See Stephanie J. Block, Sierra Boggess, Brenda Braxton, and More in a Private Concert

Seth Rudetsky   How to See Stephanie J. Block, Sierra Boggess, Brenda Braxton, and More in a Private Concert
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth will hold an intimate concert salon October 9—plus stories from his concerts with Ramin Karimloo.
Seth October 9 Salon

I’m basically writing this column on a Commodore 64. James is away for two days and accidentally took both of our laptop chargers. I had almost finished this column on my laptop and when he texted me in a panic that he had my charger my laptop went from 6 percent to 1 percent to a blank screen in minutes.

I went searching through our guest room to find my old laptop and then through the garage to find a charger for it. It’s really only a few years old but I feel like I’m using Wordperfect and finding the video clips to post by using a soupcon of Netscape and AskJeeves.

Any to the hoo, October 9 we’re hosting one of our politic salons. That’s when we go to a fancy apartment, get a bunch of stars to perform and people get to watch and mingle and donate to a candidate. We’re supporting Gina Ortiz Jones, who is a lesbian Iraq War vet running in San Antonio who could flip that city blue! We did a salon for her in the primary and she won (!) so now we’re hoping this will help her win in November! It’s at 6PM and features me, Sierra Boggess, Brenda Braxton, Judy Gold, Sharon Gless, Jose Llana, Andrea Martin, and Stephanie J. Block, who is coming right after the rehearsal (as Cher!) from The Cher Show.

These salons are really special because there’s a such a great vibe in the room and people flip out from seeing stars perform from up close! If you’re interested in joining, please email Sydney at Sydney@GinaOrtizJones.com.

So, last week we saw The Girl From The North Country, which was a huge hit in London and just opened at the Public Theater. So many great things about it, but I was especially impressed with the music arrangements of the Bob Dylan score. Who knew I liked Bob Dylan songs? Before this, there’s only one Dylan song I was obsessed with and I assumed that was because of the stunning performance of Ann Hampton Callaway. Watch my deconstruction:

Well, turns out I loved the score and I was most impressed by Luba Mason. We first met when I was a sub piano player on How To Succeed and she was Heddy LaRue. Right after that show she took over the Linda Eder role in Jekyl and Hyde. Watch her sing “Someone Like Me” here.

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Company Joan Marcus

Well, Luba acts/sings up a storm in the show, but she’s also the drummer. Seriously! She’s constantly sitting downstage left and playing up a storm. After the show, I asked her how long she had been playing. Turns out, she learned to play for the show! When she auditioned they asked if she could play drums and she said no but she could keep rhythm. She got the part, started taking lessons, and she’s now a female Ringo Starr. I loved how blank-faced and calm she looked the whole time. And I was super impressed that she sings a whole song while playing at the same time! Not since Karen Carpenter!

Next, James and I saw Frances Ruffelle’s act at The Green Room 42, which is in the very hip Yotel on 42nd Street. It was all music with no dialogue and yet, she’s such a great actress, that she was able to convey a full narrative. So many cool songs and so many fancy people in the audience! Five-time Tony nominee Michael John LaChiusa (who had two songs featured in the show), Armistead Maupin (Tales of the City author), Richard King, and British star Sally Ann Triplett and super-cutie/Mensa Member Craig Bierko, both of whom guest starred.

At the very end of the show, Frances (who won the Tony Award for playing Eponine in Les Misérables) sang “On My Own” while walking through the audience, but would periodically stop signing and put her mic in front of people. Everybody knew the lyrics! It must be so amazing to know that a song you originated is part of the canon of classic Broadway songs. It reminded me of the Saturday Night Live sketch where a couple assumes everyone knows a certain song and it does not work out:

Speaking of Brits, James and I then hightailed it to London so I could do three shows with Ramin Karimloo. I had one night off so we saw the new production of Company. If you haven’t heard, this one stars Rosalie Craig as Bobbi. Yes, a female Bobbi! We’d never seen her before but she is so charming and has such a great, sweet voice. Brava!

I don’t want too give much away, but I will say that there is now a gay couple amongst Bobbi’s friends, as well as three boyfriends instead of girlfriends and the whole show takes place today, not in the ’70s. There are lots of line/lyric changes because of things like “Poor Baby” now being sung by the husbands! And, yes, there’s a new lyric to replace “Look I’ll call you in the morning or my service will explain.” Seeing the show was like being at a rock concert. The audience went crazy! And, P.S., my only reference to actually being in the audience of a rock concert was when I was saw “Men At Work” in the mid-80s…however, from the screaming/cheering/applauding happening around me, I can safely assume most rock concerts are similar. And, P.P.S., Patti LuPone was fantastic as Joanne! She got all the laughs and the audience flipped for “Ladies Who Lunch.” Get tix if you can!

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Ramin Karimloo Bruce Glikas/GettyImages

My shows with Ramin were really fantastic. Wowza. He has such a powerhouse voice and sang up a storm. And he is really funny. Plus, he had special guests come to every show that made each one extra fun. Emma Kingston did all three shows and her voice is crazily amazing! She sang the full high soprano Christine Daae duet with Ramin, but was also able to belt her face off with Evita. She just starred in the international tour and Ramin was Ché on the Japanese leg of it.

Here she is doing “A New Argentina”….amazing belted E’s!

Earl Carpenter also guest-starred and told us hilarious stories about working with Ramin. While they were doing the Toronto production of Les Misérables, Earl was Javert and made a slight mistake that took a long while from which to recover. He was supposed to sing:
“I have known this thief forever, tracked him down through thick and thin and to make the matter certain there’s the mark upon his skin.”

Well, he sang it correctly but, for some reason, panicked at the end and changed it to “…there’s the mark upon his chin.” Right after that obvious mistake was the confrontation between Javert and Valjean and Ramin knew to avoid eye contact but eventually couldn’t. Every time they looked at each other they would laugh. So, while they were singing they both extended their downstage arm towards each other and hid their faces behind it.

After a while, even that didn’t work. For the last eight bars they simply stopped singing. Earl told us that as they exited the stage, (after laughing, covering their faces awkwardly and then going silent on a well-known song), Ramin innocently asked “Do you think anyone noticed?” You’ll notice that production is no longer running.

Regardless, Earl, Ramin, and Emma closed the show with “Fantine’s Death” into ‘“The Confrontation” and it was fantastic! Come see me and Ramin in San Francisco on November 8 at the Herbst! Get tickets here.

And finally, I met two young theatre composers who I’ll write about next week, but they both told me how obsessed they were with my Playbill Obsessed! video featuring Ramin and Keala Settle. I’ll end this column with it and give details next week.

Peace out!

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