What Happened When Patti LuPone Was Out of Evita For a Night?

Seth Rudetsky   What Happened When Patti LuPone Was Out of Evita For a Night?
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth shares how to tune in to tonight’s Concert for America, a hilarious story from the original production of Evita, and some little known history about The Pajama Game.
Bob Gunton and Patti LuPone in Evita.
Bob Gunton and Patti LuPone in Evita.

Tonight is the night! Concert for America is at 7:30PM ET and you can watch the livestream by clicking here.

So excited for Maurice Hines’ amazing dancing, Beth Malone’s belting, Holly Near’s beautiful and haunting folk songs, Todrick Hall’s sassafrass, Capathia Jenkins hilarious “Let a Big Black Lady Stop The Show,” Jenna Ushkowitz’s Alanis song and a highlight for me: Kuhn recreating her stunning “Someone Else’s Story” from Chess (original key!).

Speaking of Judy Kuhn in Chess, have you seen these amazing clips from the original production? Click here to watch.

Then, this Thursday, I’m in San Francisco with Jessie Mueller and this coming Sunday I have the Humane Society Benefit at Feinstein’s/54 Below! All info at SethRudetsky.com.

I had the hilarious Nancy Opel from Curvy Widow on my SiriusXM show Seth Speaks. She was regaling us with hilarious stories about her time as Patti LuPone’s understudy in Evita. One night she was doing the scene in Act 2 where Eva and Peron are in their separate bedrooms. Well, there was a door that divided their rooms and it was supposed to represent an entire wall with a door in the middle. But,of course, it was just a door with nothing around it. Anyhoo, in the middle of the song, she’s supposed to be annoyed at him and go into his bedroom. She crossed her room, approached the “wall,” and went to open the door. Jiggle jiggle. Nothing. Jiggle jiggle. Yes, the door had somehow locked. She knew she had to get in that room, so she just stepped around the door, “walked through the wall” as it were, and entered. There was a slight titter form the audience, but they went with it. Later on in the song, she then had to go back into her room. She knew not to try the door from the other side so she simply walked around it. This time there was no titter from the audience because they knew what she was doing and why. Finally, the moment came when Peron had to come into her bedroom. She thought, “Surley, he saw me walk around the door both times and heard the jiggle, jiggle. He has to know the door is locked.” Just in case, she then gave him eye acting from the other room trying to convey, Norma Desmond style, “Do not try to open the door. IT IS LOCKED!’ He then walked across his room and approached the door.
Jiggle jiggle. Jiggle jiggle.

Well, this time, there wasn’t silence from the audience like the second time she walked around it or the initial titter when she first tried the door. This time Nancy told us that the audience “collectively wet their pants.” Wonderful!

Speaking of Evita, I had the amazing privilege of interviewing Hal Prince for Seth Speaks. There were so many things he told me about, but I’m fascinated with how he first began producing. He was stage-managing for George Abbott and Bobby Griffith, with whom George worked, called him because he saw a review of a book called Seven and a half cents. He told Hal he thought it could be a musical. Hal read the review AND the book before lunch and then called the rights holder. He told him that he and Bobby wanted to produce it as a musical on Broadway. The guy wanted to know why he should give the rights to two young producers who have never done it before. Hal told him because he could get George Abbott to direct. Well, even though another big producer was interested, the guy gave Hal the rights to what would become The Pajama Game.

Buzz Miller, Carol Haney and Peter Gennaro in <i>The Pajama Game</i>
Buzz Miller, Carol Haney and Peter Gennaro in The Pajama Game Friedman-Abeles

Then Hal had to convince George Abbott to direct. George at first said no, but finally said yes…. but told Hal to get the composer, lyricist, set person, lighting designer, etc. So, Hal and Bobby approached Frank Loesser to write the score (great choice!) but he said no. But he recommended a young composing team…Adler and Ross. Hal then asked Jerome Robbins to choreograph, but Jerome told them that he wanted to start directing and would only do it if he could co-direct. They knew Abbott wouldn’t go for it and soon their friend Joan McCraken recommended her husband, an up and coming choreographer: Bob Fosse (!). Abbott asked what had happened to Robbins and Hal told him to forget about it. Abbott pressed and finally Hal told him that Robbins wanted to co-direct. Abbot told him to say yes! He said, “Give it to him. Everyone will know who really directed it!” So Robbins signed on as co-director and helped a little with some of Fosse’s dances.

There is so much more to tell but take in this fact: Hal Prince was responsible for getting Jerome Robbins to direct his first musical and Fosse to choreograph his first Broadway show! He is at the center for shaping Broadway as we know it! Don’t forget, get thee to his musical Prince Of Broadway which is a limited run!

P.S. If you don’t know The Pajama Game, you should! It was the first show I became obsessed with at the age of seven. Here is John Raitt singing “Hey There” on the 1971 Tony Awards and naturally he’s added one of his signature high notes to the song…listen at 1:00 for his “Won’t you take this advice I hand you liiiiiike a brother…” Watch here.

AND I just uploaded Episode 2 of Seth’s Reality, the reality videos I filmed a few years ago. Take a gander and peace out!

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