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SCOTTISH PLAY SCOTT Seth Rudetsky deconstructs Broadway
by Scott C. Morgan
2010-10-06

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Seth Rudetsky can seemingly do it all.

He sings. He acts. He writes. He plays the piano. He hosts a chat show called Seth's Big Fat Broadway on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio. He constantly and obsessively uploads videos of himself deconstructing Broadway singers and all their intricate vocal stylizations at www.sethrudetsky.com .

And Rudetsky also travels across North America doing vocal master classes and his hilarious one-man show Deconstructing Broadway, which finally comes to the Chicago-area with performances on Oct. 8-9 in Highland Park. ( Note that I didn't say Seth Rudetsky dances. Since I've never seen him dance, I'll have to go on what he himself has written about his failure to get cast in the 2006 Broadway revival of A Chorus Line in one of his weekly Onstage and Backstage columns for www.playbill.com ) .

"I always say I'm the most famous un-famous person there is," Rudetsky said during a telephone interview ( where he certainly lived up to his self-described chatterbox and comedian reputation ) .

"My fan base really gets me and when I meet them they're so thrilled and excited," Rudetsky said. "And standing next to them is someone who always says ( in a gruff tone ) , 'Who is he?' And they go, 'You know, Sirius Radio,' and there's always someone who says ( in a gruff tone ) , 'What's that?'"

Indeed, if you're a die-hard Broadway fan, then it has almost impossible to miss this former Broadway pit musician and former longtime writer for The Rosie O'Donnell Show ( whose title host was also a big Broadway booster ) . From benefits to books and live chat shows at the Times Square Visitors Center with stage celebrities, Rudetsky definitely gets around by boosting all things Broadway.

"I certainly have what I'm sure is this annoying ubiquitous presence," Rudetsky said, noting how at one of Broadway's many benefits, Broadway star Jen Cody ribbed him in a sketch for being in danger of overexposure. "I love Jen Cody, but she's still mad at me because I mistook her for ( Broadway performer ) Andrea Burns' 6-year-old son. I mean, they're both literally like 4-foot-1?"

And it's not just New York that Rudetsky haunts. Rudetsky has brought his Deconstructing Broadway show to far flung places ranging from Toronto to Waco, Texas. And no matter where he plays, Rudetsky says his show kills audiences with laughter while simultaneously educating audiences about the rigors and art of Broadway singing.

"The whole show is really what I've been doing my whole life, which is inviting my friends over and playing them clips of songs and showing them videos and we'd be like, 'Oh my God! Let's rewind this and pause that,'" Rudetsky said. "I remember in college playing this Barbra Streisand clip for my friend in my dorm room and that's literally how I start my show with that clip."

Indeed, Rudetsky is full of praise for singers, but he's also not afraid to call them out for mistakes and sloppiness—even on Streisand. ( Rudetsky famously chides her on a YouTube clip when she changes consonants and whole words around like in the original cast recording of Funny Girl where she switches the word "mule" in place of the correct word "mute" in the song "Coronet Man" ) .

"I don't think I really make fun of anybody," Rudetsky said, even when asked about his habit of pointing out an errant stage action by Patti LuPone as Evita on the 1980 TV broadcast of the Tony Awards. "I mean that Patti LuPone clip I actually did at the Tony Awards ( for the live audience during commercial breaks ) when she was nominated ( for Gypsy in 2008 ) . It's more just like war stories. It's not that I'm really mean to anybody—except Madonna, but I don't think she's particularly concerned that I think her performance of Evita was devastating—it's not going to hurt her bank account."

Indeed, many Broadway performers have to come to value Rudetsky's critiques when they're in the recording studio and think, 'I had better fix that otherwise I'll hear about it from Seth.'"

"It's not like I think they're bad, but they know they can't get away with it," Rudetsky said, noting that many Broadway performers tell him they feel like they've arrived once he's deconstructed their audio performances online. "I've spread my opinion of what is great singing to great singers on Broadway."

But Rudetsky always makes it point to say he's not a critic, but more of a Broadway cheerleader. Rudetsky says he always finds something good in every show he sees, and accentuates the positive aspects in his columns and on his radio show.

"I'm not a big mouth about what Broadway shows are better or bad because everything has something in it that's good," Rudetsky said. "I've never seen a show that is 100 percent bad. If I see a show, I will write about the stuff I like."

Another aspect of Seth's life that frequently finds its way into his writing and radio show is his family life. Rudetsky is very open about his life as gay man living with his partner, James, and helping to raise their 10-year-old daughter, Juli.

"I like the fact that I feel I'm showing my personality and that I'm a gay person," Rudetsky said. "I'm always happy when I get letters, particularly from gay parents who say how nice it is how I talk about family life—or even from straight parents. I'm very happy that I'm able to have a voice in our nation talking about what it's like to be a gay parent."

Though of course, James and Juli do get slightly annoyed sometimes when Seth does talk about them.

"Once in a while I will say something about James and Juli and I don't think they're listening at home," Rudetsky said. "And I will come home and Juli will be like, 'Whatever,' or one of the two of them will be like, 'I can't believe you said that!' I'm always surprised because they're usually listening to '70s music on Sirius/XM instead of my show."

Seth Rudetsky's Deconstructing Broadway plays 8 p.m. Oct. 8-9 at The Music Theatre Company Space, 1850 Green Bay, Highland Park. Tickets are $40 plus a handling fee. Rudetsky also conducts a vocal master class from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 9. Participation fee is $100. Visit www.theatermania.com/content/show.cfm/show/169780 for more information.


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