I’m back from sunny Scottsdale, Arizona, and, boy, I wish I had been there two days earlier. Those of you who are New Yorkers know that we had a snowstorm on Thursday. Well, now James and I live out of the city in a house. So, when it snows, we can’t call the landlord and tell him he better shovel ASAP because we’re the landlords! Basically, if we call anyone to shovel it’s the same thing as When A Stranger Calls…a.k.a. the calls are coming from inside the house. Hm. That metaphor didn’t quite make sense. How about: the calls are coming from inside the house to inside the house. My point is: We have to shovel.
Well, this time was too much! James did an hour-and-a-half and the snow kept falling and piling up. So, we have finally become surburbanites; we bought a snowblower. I’m actually crazily excited about it! I reminds me of the I Love Lucy episode where Fred is going to get an Ethel a toaster and Lucy is outraged at such a boring/everyday gift insists that he buy her hostess pants instead. Watch the hilariousness.
I so enjoyed the Evita challenge, which I put into the show because Audra always insists that we met each other at an audition for Bucks County Playhouse (we did not). I do remember that season, however, because my friend Noelle Player Laufer was playing Evita and Audra was her understudy. Anyhoo, I decided that since Audra insists I was connected to that Evita production, then I would “punish” her with a songfest: I brought the entire Evita score onstage and picked random things for her to sing so she could “relive” the time we supposedly spent together. We started with “Eva, Beware of the City” which she remembered 40 percent of but... Then I segued to “High Flying, Adored” and it was great! I totally want to put it in our next show. Turns out, her punishment got us a new material!
There was definitely some sassing going back and forth throughout the night. At one point, she was talking about her audition for Juilliard and she was telling us that got so busted at her audition: I was waiting for a “I fell down the stairs” or “My music got set on fire” but instead it was something about telling them she was a soprano—meaning a lyric soprano—but the next thing they knew, she was singing an aria that was much more appropriate for a spinto soprano. This was all told as she was laughing hysterically. Once I was able to move my completely blank face, I had to explain to her that her “joke” was conservatory humor and there were 5–7 people maximum in the audience who got her “hilarious” mishap. Regardless, she sounded amazing throughout the show and I was so nervous she’d be vocally fried by the end because she had taken the red eye that morning from Craig Zadan’s memorial.
As we walked on for the encore—which she did with no microphone—I gave her the option of doing “Summertime” down a half step, but she wanted it in the original key. She’s #stillgotit! Come to my next Town Hall with Kelli O’Hara and then Jeremy Jordan!
In Scottsdale, I did a concert with Jessie Mueller, and boy, her voice is flexible. She is so great at pop (we did Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Sara Bareilles) but also high soprano (“Ice Cream” and a medley from Carousel), jazz (On a Clear Day) and old-school Broadway (Once Upon A Mattress)!
We were talking about live theatre and what can go wrong and she told us about doing the scene in Carousel right after (Spoiler Alert!) Billy Bigelow (Joshua Henry) dies. Jessie said that she’s crouched over the body and there’s incredible stillness and silence. She quietly says something about how she’s never told him something but is now going to say it. Well, one night, right after she said that someone in the audience said very loudly and slowly “E-MER-GEN-CY!” She didn’t know what to do…stop the show? Run into the house to help? She waited and she heard murmuring, but it seemed like whatever it was had been resolved. So...she went on. She quietly told Billy’s dead body beneath her what she had never said: she loved him. Right after that line came another slow and affect-less “E-MER-GEN-CY.” Turns out someone wasn’t well and needed assistance so the stage manager stopped the show. That meant everyone had to leave the stage. Everyone including the dead body. Yes, poor Josh Henry had to stand up after being “dead” and walk off the stage. Well, the good news is, the emergency was handled and everyone was fine. But then the scene had to resume. And since the curtain wasn’t down, Josh had to walk out…and then lay down in front of everyone and pretend to be dead. Jessie said that, for some reason, the scene that night lacked some emotional punch.
She also talked about doing Waitress and how hard it was handling the sugar, butter, flour as well the bowls, trays, forks, knives, napkins, salt shakers, etc. that were featured in so many songs. And having to wheel those carts across the stage feigning they were light but they were super heavy. She claims the cast would often call it Props, The Musical . They would joke that if you accidentally moved someone else’s fork during a number, the entire show would come to a screeching halt and be completely ruined. Watch this props-filled number!
I asked her how much of a hassle it was to wear the big pregnancy belly and have to sing in Waitress. She actually enjoyed it because it was so part of the character, but she said that sometimes the theatre would get super-hot and wearing that extra padding made it really stifling! So…her dresser made a hole in it and rigged it with…ice cubes! Yes! She had ice cubes inside her pregnancy belly! The temperature in the theatre would fluctuate so it got to the point where her dresser would ask before she entered, “Ice cubes or no ice cubes?” and then fill accordingly.
We talked about “She Used To Be Mine” and how people are obsessed that song (James recently played it 14 times in a row!). She said that it was the first song Sara Bareilles wrote for Waitress! She joked and did an amazing imitation of Sara saying “Hm…I think I’m going to try to get into the head of this Jenna character… let’s see…” and that’s all it took to write the song. Here she is singing it with Sara. (Note: The Tony Awards theatre was cold so Jessie’s pregnancy pad is “no cubes”).
Come see me and Jessie at the Park Playhouse in Ft. Lauderdale! https://www.parkerplayhouse.com/events/detail/jessie-mueller-broadway-concert-series
On December 10, I’m going to put on a big fundraiser for Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST), widely recognized as New York City’s first LGBTQ synagogue, serving Jews of all sexual orientations and gender identities, their families, and allies. Every synagogue I know charges for the high holiday services, but CBST does not. As soon as I saw the hundreds and hundreds of people there (many are straight!) during Rosh Hashana in the ’90s, I decided I had to raise them money! I've done benefits for them before and the first one I did led to my Dreamgirls concert because Lillias White was so amazing. Watch! (Fast forward to 54:20)
I honored gay Jewish composers and my sister Beth sang David Friedman’s “Help Is On The Way.” Her name was on the poster and more than one person thought I put “Beth Rudetsky” on the poster because it was my drag name. I recently posted the video of her singing it and more than one person wrote that they watched the video thinking they were going to see me in drag. Don’t people think I would think of a more creative drag name!?! Do they really think I would only change one (1) letter and call it a day? Anyhoo…listen how great she is!
Happy Thanksgiving and peace out!