Why Did Deborah Cox Basically Rewrite Elton John’s Score to Aida One Night?

Seth Rudetsky   Why Did Deborah Cox Basically Rewrite Elton John’s Score to Aida One Night?
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth reveals how the Grammy nominee and co-star Eric LaJuan Summers’ onstage singing competition led to disaster, plus a Chanukah deconstruction.
Deborah Cox
Deborah Cox Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Sunday night’s A Christmas Story Live! merits me telling this amazing story of kindness again about Jeff Marx who co-wrote the score to Avenue Q. He told me about his connection with Pasek and Paul and I asked him to write it to me in an email so I could put it in my column. Here ‘tis!

“I met them both eight years ago when they were freshmen in college. Benj emailed me through Friendster, saying he was in the same college acting program I had attended, and asked if he could be my assistant for the summer. I said sure, he worked for me that summer, and we became great friends. He never played me his songs until the end of the summer because he was afraid I wouldn’t like them. They were fantastic and I told him he and his writing partner could really do this and have shows on Broadway. He didn’t believe it yet (they were only 21 years old!), but I did.

He went back to school and completed his sophomore year. At the end of the school year, he wanted to come back out to NYC for the summer and I encouraged him to encourage his collaborator, Justin, to come, too, so they could write songs all summer, get better at it, and start writing a show.

Justin said he couldn’t come to NY for the summer because he had to work. His deal with his parents was that they would pay for college but during the summers, he had to work and make his own spending money.

I asked him how much he would realistically earn over the summer, ‘Seriously—give me a number,’ and he said he would ideally probably make $7,000.

I told him I would give him the $7,000 so he could come work with his collaborator in New York for the summer, but he didn’t feel right about accepting such a gift. I said, ‘OK, we’ll call it a loan. You can pay me back when you have your first show open on Broadway. I really believe you’re going to do it and my money is safe. And just to make it interesting and give you a deadline, let’s say you’ll pay me back only if you have a show open on Broadway before you’re 30. Otherwise, you’ll just keep the money.’

He accepted the loan and they continued writing.

Seven years later, their show opened on Broadway and, on opening night, he gave me a check for $7,000.

They beat the deadline by three years... they were only 27 years old.”

Isn’t that fantastic? Speaking of which, how amazing was Ana Gasteyer on the brand new Chanukah song? The comedy plus belting was a brava!

Of course, it was appropriate she was in A Christmas Story because she first hit it big on Saturday Night Live by celebrating Christmas. Watch here!

I had Christina Connors on Seth Speaks last week and I loved the story of her new CD. Back in 2008, she was a backup singer for me in my special Actors Fund spectacular called Broadway 101 where I “deconstruct” Broadway using live actors! Here’s the segment on vocal arrangements: First, I deconstructed the back-up harmony for “Morning Glow” from Pippin using a bunch of amazing singers (Christina is in the front in the sleeveless black), and then we performed that harmony with the lead vocal by Jonathan Groff! Watch here!

So, Christina talked about her obsession with David Friedman, the fantastic composer-lyricist who now has the hit show Desperate Measures running at the York Theatre. Christina has always loved his songs and, when she did her own at Don’t Tell Mama, she hoped that somehow he would come see her. Not that she had ever met him. She just hoped! People told her that he was too busy/famous and it would never happen. Still, she was in NYC, maybe she’d meet him at some fabulous theatre event. Well, it never happened. She eventually got sick of the NYC grind and moved to Connecticut to focus on her side job of massage. She decided she needed some spirituality in her life and went to a service at Unity. Well, who was at that same service, you ask? David Friedman! That’s right! She never met him in New York City, she met him in a town in the middle of Connecticut! It was so “Ring Them Bells.” Going to Dubrovnik to meet the boy next store.

Anyhoo, they started talking, she wound up singing a song of his at a benefit for the church..and now he’s collaborated with her on her CD!! Watch this great video of them and get the CD for the holidays!!! Her dream came true!

By the way, speaking of the holidays and David Friedman, he wrote the hilariously brilliant song “My Simple Christmas Wish” which is a song that consistently brings down the house whenever I play it for a singer. Here’s my deconstruction of the original, the unparalleled Alix Korey:

And finally, I interviewed Eric LaJuan Summers on Seth Speaks because he’s on Michael Mott’s newest CD signing “Complicated.”

I asked him about onstage mishaps and he made me laugh so hard! He told me that when he was in Aida with Deborah Cox, she told him she’d introduce him to all of the fabulous famous people who came to see the show…but not Arista Record president Clive Davis. Why? Because she knew he’d be desperate for a record contract and would act cray cray! Cut to: One night they’re onstage, and she adds an extra sassy riff. AHA! This was the night. Eric knew Clive was there. He decided that he didn’t need an introduction, Clive would hear him onstage and sign him after the show. So, Eric added his own extra sassy riff. He then said that Deborah looked at him with the subtext of “Really? Now I must show you how I won my Grammy award.” She then sassed it way up. He then sassed it way up. She then took it way further. He then took it the furthest…and cracked like you wouldn’t believe. CRACK! It was horrific. Well, who cares right? Just one crack but 99 percent amazing singing. Yes, he didn’t sing the score Elton John wrote, he riffed every note instead, but Clive got to hear it! Eric frantically waited to hear what Clive thought.

He then found out Clive wasn’t there. That’s right. It was a complete self-induced assumption in his own head that led to an entire re-writing of the score and an enormous vocal mortification onstage. Wonderful!

And finally, Happy Chanukah! Enjoy the brilliance of Shoshana Bean, Jackie Hoffman, Harvey Fierstein, Chester Gregory, and more in this celebratory video! And get this CD and so many more at BroadwayCares.org.

Click Here to Shop for Theatre Merchandise
 
Recommended Reading: