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!
Speaking of C's, Adam Pascal feigns he has the gravelly/rock voice but he sang "Pity The Child" today and belted and held both High C's! The ensemble broke into spontaneous applause. Also, everyone is really nice and accomodating. I met Raul during his lunch break hour for Taboo and Sutton hightailed it up to my apartment to learn her music as soon as she heard she was cast.
We're also peppering the concert with some full out production numbers choreogrpahed by my Easter Bonnett opening number choreographer (for seven years!), Chris Gatelli. Plus, the set is FANTASTIC - the audience is not giong to believe how the Lion King Theatre will be transformed..if it actually works! (ha!) They have to load it all in in one night... I'm glad I get to sleep through that!
Craig: Who do you admire most in this business and who are your influences?
Seth: I love amazing singers. Patti, Betty, Lillias, Judy Kuhn, Susan Johnson... In the "new" crop, I think Norm Lewis is one of the best singers that there ever was. I'm OBSESSED with Gavin Creel's "A" at the then of "Falling in Love with Somebody" on the CD. His placement is amazing! Anika Larsen, Shoshana Bean... and I think Kelly Clarkson is amazing and can't WAIT to bring her ass to broadway!
Craig: Well if anyone can, you can... Now on a more personal level, what are your favorite roles/musicals and why?
Seth: Dreamgirls... The music is so amazing and there are so many ways to sing it. I could listen to 1,000 bootlegs and hear 1,000 different versions. There's no topping the end of Act 1 for drama/fierce singing! Also, A Chorus Line (another Bennett show!) - Brilliantly constructed...so moving! Evita - 16 straight E's! in a ROW!!!! Recently I loved Zanna Don't! and Bat Boy: The Musical. Saw them both three times!
Craig: So what shows are you looking forward to most this season?
Seth: Wicked. I think Idina belts an F at the end of Act One, and I think Kristin is a comic genius! She added 10 more comedy moments the night of the Funny Girl concert on the spot.
Craig: Totally agree...What's currently in your cd player?
Seth: CHESS! Also Eva Cassidy - she could sing anything!
Craig: Can you tell us what next years event will be? Come on Seth, not even a hint?
Seth: No hints...but I will say at SOME point I'm planning on doing a concert of Most Happy Fella with Audra as Rosabella and Norm Lewis as Joe...
Craig: Wow.. well thanks for at least giving that tidbit away. Oh, I've been meaning to ask, is there any chance Rhapsody in Seth will be "revived" anytime soon?
Seth: With Marissa Tomei? Seriously, thanks for asking about it. I got so much support from the online community during the run which I really appreciated. I got an offer to do it in Provincetown, which I'd love, and a producer is working on bringing it to colleges which should be really cool. I've spoken to some people about bringing it back to NY one day, because it never ran a real 8 show week. Of course, I would love it!
Craig: Finally - are there still (good) seats available for CHESS?
Seth: Good, Yes! Cheap, No! Don't forget it's all for the Actors' Fund! Splurge!
Craig: Yeah people, SPLURGE! I know I said last question, but before you go, what's next in store for Seth Rudetsky?
Seth: Who's Seth Rudetsky? Oh..Me! Well, I'm doing the vocal arrangements for the Barry Manilow musical Harmony, which are due right after Chess..Oy! And I'm working with a producer to get Chatterbox on TV. America NEEDS to hear Betty Buckley talk about Carrie's opening night and Linda Eder 'fess up about lipsyncing Emily Skinner's voice during Jekyll and Hyde!