By Richard Schultz, November 2015 Issue.
In an effort to redefine the “gala fundraiser,” Desert Foothills Theater is bringing Sirius/XM radio’s Broadway host and veteran New York performer Seth Rudetsky and his Seth’s Big Fat Broadway show to the Valley Oct. 25.
“We were looking for something different from the traditional gala so we thought presenting someone who would be popular with our audiences would be a great alternative,” said DFT managing director Meribeth Reeves, explaining the theater’s move to reformat their annual gala.
According to Reeves, her personal connection to Rudetsky inspired the idea.
“I attended Oberlin College where Seth and I were both involved in the Conservatory and theater,” she recalled. “He was such a fun and creative person. When I heard him on Sirius XMs channel, I was so excited to see the innovative way he has created a career for himself in the world he loves – the world of Broadway.”
A native Long Islander, Rudetsky has been an accompanist to the stars, a pianist on dozens of Broadway shows and concerts, a radio host and columnist. Rudetsky’s 90-minute tour-de-force features his trademark “deconstructions,” in which he uses his audio/video collection to break down brilliant performances from beloved Broadway divas such as Patti LuPone and Betty Buckley, as well as showcase mind-boggling videos like The Osmonds singing a medley from Fiddler On The Roof or Cher performing all of West Side Story.
“I grew up obsessed with Broadway and comedy,” Rudetsky said, explaining how he created this unique show. “I was constantly playing records for my friends and pointing out amazing high notes or a singer with phlegm. When I started doing stand-up comedy, I would always end with a classic bit of “Don’t Rain On My Parade” being sung barely by Bea Arthur. I wound up doing it during a Broadway Cares/Equity Fight AIDS fundraiser on Broadway. Rosie O’Donnell saw it and told me I should do an entire show of just that kind of stuff. And that’s how I put together the show!”
According to Rudetsky, music is the key ingredient in his recipe for success.
“I think people identify with being obsessed with music,” he said. “Everyone has had at least one song they’ve listened to over and over again. So, when I tell them I’ve been obsessed with one particular tune since I was a toddler and then I play a recording of myself singing it when I actually was two years old, they identify.
“I love that people leave and tell me ‘I’ve heard that Barbra Streisand song my whole life, or I’ve watched that video from Evita so many times but I never noticed what you pointed out.’ I love making people realize why Whitney Houston sounds so amazing on “I Will Always Love You” or why Melba Moore should never wear that outfit again.”
One of his favorite memories involved Barbra Streisand.
“I’ve always loved deconstructing Barbra Streisand because I’m so obsessed with her,” he said. “And now whenever I do it, it means so much more to me because she actually came to see my show in Los Angeles. Every time I do it, I think of how exciting and terrifying it was to make fun of her in front of her, and have her laugh!”
Additionally, Rudetsky said he’s received great feedback from the performers he’s spotlighted in his show.
“Idina Menzel was so excited I deconstructed her,” he said. “Patti LuPone watched me point out her mistake during the Tony Awards and sassily said, ‘I meant to do that!’ Barbra Streisand came backstage and tried to figure out with me why she changed the “T” at the end of the word “Apart” to a “D”. ‘Maybe’, she offered, ‘the recording engineer took the D from the end of “Don’t Rain on my ParaDDDE” and put that at the end of the word ‘Apart.’”
In the midst of juggling a busy career, Rudetsky and his husband, James Wesley, are raising their daughter, Juli Wesley.
“Whenever I travel, I try really hard to bring them along. As a matter of fact, I got booked on a Playbill cruise to Vietnam and we’re taking Juli out of school for a week to come. It’s educational … sort of!”
For more information on Seth Rudetsky, visit sethtv.com.
Seth’s Big Fat Broadway Show
Desert Foothills Theater
Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center
33606 N. 60th St., Scottsdale
Tickets: $45-$60; 480-488-1981