Everything That Went Wrong in the High School Production of Dracula, Starring Tina Fey as Van Helsing

Seth Rudetsky   Everything That Went Wrong in the High School Production of Dracula, Starring Tina Fey as Van Helsing
 
This week, Seth chats with Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue, plus #AAPIBroadway comes together.
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Tina Fey Marc J. Franklin

Happy Spring! I’m sitting on our deck in the warm sun with one of our doggies on the couch next to me. Of course, James told me that the temperature is going to plummet to 20 degrees soon, but I’m enjoying it while I can.

This week on Seth Speaks, I interviewed TV legends (and married couple) Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue. They have a new podcast called Double Date where they interview other long-time married couples to get some insight. It was so fun talking to them and I informed Phil of the brilliant insight that he sounds like he does on TV. He really does! I also told him I’ve obsessively watched this episode where he has the Chorus Line originals numerous times.

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Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas Christopher Ernst

Speaking of “obsessive,” Marlo admitted to being the neat freak in the couple. She, however, doesn’t see that much of a problem with it. She thinks instead of “obsessive compulsive disorder” it should be called “obsessive compulsive order.” She told me that Phil basically never knew what the word “hamper” meant. He would leave underwear, socks, etc. all over the floor. Finally, she got him to start using the hamper, but he often wouldn’t open the lid so the clothes would be lying on top of it. Finally, she wised up and got a hamper without a lid. It’s so fun to hear about these of these two TV icons dealing with such basic issues. You can listen to all the podcast episodes here.

Speaking of podcasts, it’s the one-year anniversary of Seth Rudetsky’s Back to School, the podcast where I talk to celebrities about their high school years. My first guest was Tina Fey and she had so many great stories about her high school antics, including a production of Dracula where they made the forward-thinking decision to cast her as vampire hunter Van Helsing. When I expressed confusion that she played the role, she told me that Van Helsing didn’t have to be played by a man and I needed to “get woke!” Hilariously, there were many disasters that happened during the performance. There was part of the set with rocks made out of foam core boards. Early in the show, a flashbulb went off as planned, but it caused a little fire, which they noticed and were on the way to put out. Right away, though, her dad—a fireman—stood up in the audience and yelled “FIRE!”

Tina Fey in high school
Tina Fey in high school

The minuscule fire was put out and the show continued. Then the bat that was supposed to fly terrifyingly across the stage got caught on its rope and just dangled there for the rest of the show. Then, Dracula was supposed to throw something and shatter a mirror, but he missed so nothing shattered, but Tina’s performance was “frozen” so she still reacted as if it had shattered. But then, to fix it, a crew guy walked up behind the mirror after the fact and smashed it, in full view of the audience (Yes, getting laughs). Tina also remembered that one of the actors had the line “Doctor, what is a vampire?” cueing Tina to give a long speech about the ins and outs of vampires. She finally finished and he couldn’t remember his next line, so he hauled out the only one he could remember: “Doctor, what is a vampire?”

Finally, at the end of the show, she was doing the dramatic final scene in the crypt which is on the same level as the audience. Tina was dramatically hammering the stake into Dracula’s heart, acting up a storm. Soon, she began to hear laughter. Resigned, Tina turned around to see what the latest comedic bit was and she saw a little girl from the audience onstage, just wandering around. She told me, “That’s how not scary the production was. A toddler came towards it.” You can listen to all my episodes here. ‪

On Stars in the House, we were raising money for the Actors Fund as usual, but we had a representative from the National Immigration Law Center for several episodes last week. You can get involved and get updates on how to help DACA and other immigration issues by visiting NILC.org/action.

We themed each show with NILC about immigration. Wednesday featured people associated with Fiddler on The Roof. We had Joel Grey, who directed the all-Yiddish version, Danny Burstein who played Tevye on Broadway in 2016, Andy Nyman who played Tevye in the Trevor Nunn 2019 West End production, and Judy Kuhn who played Golde opposite Burstein in NYC and Nyman in London. I asked Andy how his Jewish grandparents got to England to settle (I told him that my great-grandmother was heading to America while pregnant. She gave birth to my grandmother in Liverpool and then they both sailed to America. That’s why my Grandma Bertha had dual citizenship). Andy told us a crazy story: His grandparents were emigrating from Eastern Europe to America and paid for the trip. When they got to Hull, a port city in Northern England, the people that they'd paid told them to get off because it was New York!

James pointed out that the same thing is happening now. People from regions like Central America pay smugglers thousands of dollars just to be scammed. The good part about Andy’s grandparents staying in England is that we got to see Andy play Tevye in Fiddler and we were thrilled when he was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2020. He told us he was going to perform “If I Were A Rich Man” at the ceremony but it was canceled due to COVID (a virtual edition was later live streamed). UGH! However, here he is playing Tevye at the fabulous outdoor West End Live stage.

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On Thursday, the theme was #AAPI Broadway (Asian American, Pacific Islander Broadway) and we had Jose Llana, Ann Harada, David Henry Hwang, Pearl Sun, and Ruthie Ann Miles. Everyone began by talking about how their parents came to this country and the stories of bravery were so incredible. Pearl’s mom arrived in San Francisco from China, not being able to speak English. Her mom was one of two people who graduated from her university in Taiwan, but that education didn’t help in the US with the language barrier. While wandering around looking for a job, she saw a Chinese-language sign that said “Help Wanted” and got a job sweeping floors in a salon. Eventually, it led to her learning salon skills and she wound up opening her own salon in L.A.!

Ruthie Ann spent her early years in Korea and moved to Hawaii when she was five with her single mom. Her mother had multiple jobs to try to support her Ruthie and her brother, but they didn’t have much money. Ruthie recounted the time she was a little girl and they waited in line for government assistance with food and remembered her sadness when what they received was two cans of pork and beans, which Ruthie couldn't eat because she is allergic to pork.

In addition, everyone had an amazing story about how meaningful it was to see representation in the arts when they were younger. Seeing a performer who looked like them gave them the encouragement to think they could do it.

And finally, coming up on The Seth Concert Series is Matt Doyle on April 4. He was starring in Company as Jamie (the gender-swapped version of Amy, who sings “Getting Married Today”) when the pandemic hit. I’m sure he’ll be singing Sondheim and lots of other Broadway tunes. I love his voice so much! Here he is singing a gorgeous Bob Dylan song. Watch and then get tix to see us at TheSethConcertSeries.com.

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