By Richard Schultz, February 2017 Issue.
He’s charming and witty. He’s irreverent and insightful at the same time. He excels at clever banter and possesses a keen eye for satire. His name is Seth Rudetsky (pictured) and he’s returning to the Valley with six-time Tony Award-winning Broadway legend Audra McDonald and her husband, Tony-nominated Broadway star Will Swenson.
Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway DJ and host of “On Broadway” and “Seth Speaks” on SiriusXM Radio. As a pianist, he’s played for more than a dozen Broadway shows including Ragtime, Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. He was the artistic producer/music director for the first five annual Actors Fund Fall Concerts, including Dreamgirls with Audra MacDonald and Hair with Jennifer Hudson.
In 2007, he made his Broadway acting debut playing Sheldon in The Ritz, directed by Joe Mantello for The Roundabout Theater. As a comedy writer, he has three Emmy nominations for “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.” Recently, he co-wrote and starred in Disaster! and currently writes a weekly column on Playbill.com.
Ahead of his return to the Valley for a Jan. 28 performance at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Echo caught up with Rudetsky to find out more about his latest project and what he has in store for 2017.
Echo: What should we expect when you share the stage with Audra MacDonald and Will Swenson?
Rudetsky: This is a show that’s a combination of stunning music and hilarious inside show biz scoop. Audra and Will sing up a storm and, instead of boring patter between songs, I interview them. I do these types of shows all over the country, as well as London. They’re never the same because the questions and answers are always different. Each audience sees a completely unique show. If you know me from SiriusXM, you know that there is a lot of comedy throughout the night.
Echo: What’s favorite part of the show?
Rudetsky: I love asking about onstage mistakes. Every big star I work with has hilarious stories about things going wrong because that’s what happens during live theater. Audra and I did Ragtime together on Broadway and I’m going to make her ¬– I mean, ask her – to tell the story about her wig falling off onstage.
Echo: What’s your role in creating this unique performance?
Rudetsky: I look at all the songs the singer has and pick the ones I think will appeal most to that particular audience. I then put them in an order that I think will have the best flow. I always make sure we have a sassy encore in case the crowd goes wild!
Echo: Your Broadway musical Disaster! garnered praise as a parody of the genre of 1970s disaster films showcasing songs from that decade. Any plans for future productions?
Rudetsky: The show just got licensed by MTI so there are productions happening all over the place including high schools. So fun! I love the CD so much and use it at the gym, specifically “Sky High” and “Hot Stuff” and I’m constantly rewinding Adam Pascal’s amazing high B. I just got back from London where we put the show up as a benefit for a wonderful theater charity and it was so much fun. It was amazing to hear so many laughs. It turns out that London audiences have the same sense of humor as Broadway audiences. They just spell it “humour.”
Echo: What new projects are you working on now?
Rudetsky: I have a series of books called Seth’s Broadway Diary which is a collection of my Playbill columns where I write about all my celebrity interviews and my various interactions with Broadway stars and divas. Volume one and two came out over the last two years and I’m in the middle of editing volume three,
Echo: What’s on your wish list for 2017?
Rudetsky: I really hope there’s a great rise in activism for social justice.
Echo: Any resolutions for the New Year?
Rudetsky: Stop biting my nails!
Echo: How will the Scottsdale performance appeal to your fans from the LGBTQ community?
Rudetsky: LGBT[Q] audiences seem to have an affinity for the Broadway diva. This show is extra fun because there are the diva singing moments, but then you get to see the mask come off. The audience will find out how hilarious Audra is. She has a mortifying story about being at a lunch at Oprah’s house and being busted accidentally by Chaka Khan. Just hearing all those names onstage should be enough to make LGBT people come out in droves! And if you want one more reason for the LGBT audience to come, forget his fabulous singing! Just Google a picture of Will Swenson. Hubba hubba!
Echo: Since you were last in the Valley for a local fundraiser in 2015 and previously performed at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts in 2011 with Betty Buckley, what’s your take on Arizona audiences?
Rudetsky: Arizona may be far from Broadway, but the people sure do love it! The motto of the state must be sun, sand and show tunes!
Audra McDonald with special guest
Will Swenson feat. Seth Rudetsky
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
7380 E. Second St., Scottsdale
Tickets: $55-$89; 480-499-8587