Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Filming Reality Show Competition Grease: You’re the One That I Want Revealed 13 Years Later! | Playbill

Seth Rudetsky Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Filming Reality Show Competition Grease: You’re the One That I Want Revealed 13 Years Later! This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth finds out how the contestants worked together to “insult each other”—plus backstage and on set secrets from Bebe Neuwirth and Cheers, Ken Jennings and the original Sweeney Todd, and more.
Laura Osnes and Max Crumm in the finale of "Grease: You're the One That I Want!" NBC

We’ve been having some great reunions on Stars In The House! Last week we had the cast of Frasier reunite and it was a lovefest. Boy, do they get along great! James found a clip of Bebe Neuwirth’s very first appearance as Lillith on Cheers. Check it out!

Bebe remembered showing up that week for the table read, looking like Lillith (a.k.a. hair pulled back and conservative outfit). That afternoon, she came back as herself….hair flowing and leather pants. She recalls Ted Danson approaching her and introducing himself, as if she were just showing up for the first time. She was like “Um…I was here this morning.” I guess a tight bun and a man’s suit doesn’t register to him.

In terms of other reunions, two Fridays ago we had stars from Mean Girls. Kate Rockwell originated the role of Karen, “the hot one.” I told her I loved how awkward she was with her body…like, she was given all the accoutrements to make her sexy but she has no awareness of how to actually be sexy. She agreed and told me that when she was in character, she tried to disassociate below her neck. Watch her in this great number by Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin

Kate was actually on the reality show You’re The One That I Want where they were looking for the Sandy and Danny for the Broadway revival of Grease. They always try to make the stakes way beyond what they are for these reality shows. Kate said they would always try to make it like this show was the last chance any of them had for a job. They would ask dramatically “What will you do…if you…are not cast….as Sandy!?!?!” They wanted dramatic responses like weeping and “I will quit the business!” But instead, Kate would shrug and say, “Um…audition for another show?” Not the answer they wanted.

Basically, the producers were like the first part of this scene and Kate was the last moment.

Kate also said they wanted to pin everyone against each and tried to make them say bad things about the other contestants. They wanted to figure out a way to trick the producers, but there were always cameras around. However, even though they lived in a house where they could be filmed all the time, the cameras couldn’t go into the bathroom. And once you entered the bathroom, there was an alcove where they all meet without cameras and that’s where they would gather and decide what “mean” thing they would say about each other. You see, they would each have private interviews where they were supposed to tell the camera why other cast members weren’t right for the roles of Danny and Sandy. At night, they all would confer and agree to what they would be OK being said about them (Like Laura Osnes was “too nice” to play Sandy).

Here is this crazy number they did where they all “fight” each other for the role. #FightClub?

We also had a reunion of stars from Sweeney Todd. Ken Jennings, who originated Tobias, told us that he wasn’t given the script to read before the first day of rehearsal. He showed up for the table read and was reading it cold. He soon saw that, in the middle of Act 1, people started being killed. He was like “I’m sure I’m next…”. Well, he made it through Act 1. Then he survived Act 2 Scene 1…then more ….and still he wasn’t killed! Finally, he couldn’t believe that (spoiler alert) not only did he live…but he killed Sweeney Todd! He remembers thinking, “This is a great role!” And, P.S., I saw him when I was a kid and he was great!

The show came out in 1978, when body mics were still new and he was the only lead who didn’t wear one. Listen how big his voice is!

Ken Jennings and Angela Lansbury Martha Swope

Len talked about asking Stephen Sondheim to change a word at the end of “My Friends.” Sweeney holds up a razor blade and Sondheim wrote the line “At last! My right arm is complete again!” Well, Len is a lefty so he asked Sondheim if it could be “At Last! My left arm is complete again.” Sondheim’s answer: No. So, it was changed to “At last! My (ellipse) arm is complete again!”

The latest episode of my podcast Seth Rudetsky’s Back To School, which is all about celebrities in high school, just “dropped” with guest BD Wong! (Last week was Patrick Wilson and next week is Bowen Yang from Saturday Night Live). At one point, BD was remembering what a perfectionist he was in high school. He was cast as Harold Hill in The Music Man and in the scene with the song “Marian the Librarian,” Professor Hill threatens to drop a bag of marbles on the floor…which turn out to be marshmallows.

Well, right before the scene began, BD couldn’t find the marshmallows! So, he secretly got word to Marian onstage and they were able to improv an ending that still made sense. Just kidding: Instead, BD opted out of entering the scene and ran around his school trying to find the marshmallows. For at least five minutes!! Yes, there was just that bassoon vamp playing while Marian was onstage, desperately trying to cover. BD felt the scene would not be perfect without the marshmallows, so he searched and searched. Finally, when he couldn’t find them, he wound up tearing up pieces of white paper to be the understudy marshmallows. He is now mortifed, but back then he said he was “too arrogant to be mortified.” He explains, “I didn't want to be the guy who didn't have the marshmallows.” Apparently, he would rather have been the guy that made the leading lady wait for seven minutes for him to come onstage. You can listen to all the Seth Rudetsky’s Back To School podcast episodes here.

Last night, I had my concert with Beth Leavel. These concerts are LIVE! I’m play piano up a storm in my place and the Bway star is a-singing in their place. To make it very spontaneous, I always wind up surprising them with some new song plus we take questions from people watching. Beth will be singing from shows she’s starred in like 42nd Street, The Drowsy Chaperone, and The Prom as well as singing from shows she should be starring in like Gypsy! And she’ll give us scoop on the upcoming musical she’s slated to star in: The Devil Wears Prada. Catch the replay today at 3pm ET; get your tickets at and if you’ve never seen us together, here’s a sample of her sass! Peace out!

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