Seth Rudetsky, 'The Deal' on CHESS
Craig: Thanks for taking some time out from your crazy schedule. First off, how did you and the other people involved with the upcoming Actors' Fund Benefit decide on CHESS?
Seth: The Annual concert has to be a show with a lot of music since it primarily is a concert...there aren't that many shows that fill that bill. We knew it was going to behard to do Funny Girl with all those book scenes (and no real scenery/costumes, etc) and not bore the audience... What made that event interesting was Tim Pinckney's revised book and the fact that we had a different Fanny each scene, so even if you weren't that interested in the scenes, every five minutes you were seeing a new celeb.
Craig: And what is that (choosing which show) process like?
Seth: The week after the cocnert we get together and make an ENORMOUS list and keep cutting.
Craig: Can you tell us what other shows were being "bounced around" this year?
Seth: No! But I will say certain shows we've been interested in doing have been ixnayed by the rights holders because they're planning a revival... Of course, my theory is that if they let us have the rights, they will get a revival because of the buzz around the show will make people want to bring it back... i.e. DREAMGIRLS!
Craig: Absolutely! So, really...no hints at all? OK, Nevermind... What is your casting process like for an event like this?
Seth: For Dreamgirls, it was that I always wanted to do Dreamgirls with a full orchestra and Lillias so I approached the Actors Fund with the idea. I knew Audra wanted to be Deena and they suggested Heather. I knew I had to have Norm, Darius and Billy as well. For Funny Girl, the idea was to let women play Fanny who wouldn't neccesarily be cast as Fanny. What Peter Flynn (the Director) and I did was to try to find the scene/song that fit each performer perfectly. I knew I wanted Lillias, but at first thought she shuold do "People", then "Music That Makes Me Dance" and finally Peter convince me to let her do "Parade" which I fought vigorously! I thought it was too fast to fully show her off. Turns out she BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN and it was one fo the most memorable performances of a song I've ever heard! Peter was completely right and turns out I have no taste. For Chess, we knew we needed a star to sell it, because a lot of people aren't familiar with the show because they were busy the month it ran on Broadway (HA HA!) Andrew Kato, our line producer thought of Josh Groban and we knew if we had him, we could sell the show.
Craig: Interesting.. although I would say that you might be surprised at the "cult" following Chess has. So, are there any performers you have yet to work with that you are just dying to put in one of these benefits?
Seth: Betty/Patti Patti/Betty! My friend Michael wants them to do SIDESHOW together and I would LOVE IT!
Craig: Ahhh, another show with a "cult" following. Ok.. dish the dirt, Seth - give us a backstage story from last years concert...
Seth: Weel, we were very close to having Barbra appear! We were going to do the reprise of "Parade" the way it is, and then at the end have all the ladies sing, "...is gonna rain on my-"
and have Barbra come on singing "...Para-a-aade!!!!!!!!!!" But she had to do a Democratic fundraiser that night.
Craig: That would have been quite a moment! Ok, so getting back to Chess, we just learned that Sutton is taking over for one of the roles in the concert - what was it like having to recast a role so close to the concert date? How did you decide on Sutton? And can you recap THAT conversation with her for us?
Seth: I knew Lara's touring schedule could conflict with the concert so in the back of my mind, I kept thinking of who could also sing it fiercly enough. I was subbing over at Modern Millie and was/am consistently blown away by how amazing Sutton sounds every night... I've been a fan ever since I subbed Grease in Willmingtown, DE for one night and heard her go on for Sandy. Amazing E Flats! Anyway, as soon as my fears about Lara's schedule were confirmed, I called Sutton who got the 22nd off and was so thrilled. It wasn't that big of a deal to me because in the back of my mind, I had prepared for it.
Craig: So can you tell us what rehearsals are like?
Seth: First of all, Julia Murney has CHORDS OF STEEL! She sounds amazing no matter what time of day. I flew to LA to work with Josh and he is on his gig! He knew everything and was belting B Flats! He said he'd go up to a C when he turns 23!