I only have a few weekends left in Provincetown for this summer. This weekend is Lillias White whom I’ve been obsessed with for years. I was so excited about the recent news of Funny Girl revival because it’s renewed interest in Lillias’ show-stopping performance from 2003. Here’s my deconstruction.
I had the best time in Provincetown last week. First, Liz Callaway and I did two concerts where she sang up a storm. Liz talked with me about her early days as a singing waitress in NYC when she was around 19 years old. She loved singing “Meadowlark” but could only do it on Tuesdays because that was the only day there was a pianist good enough to play it. One of her fondest memories was when Michele Lee came to her restaurant and asked if anyone knew the song “Old Friend.” Liz did and sang it for her and when Michele left, she left Liz a $50 tip! This was in the late ‘70s and that was a ton of money for Liz. She and I had never done that song in concert, but I asked Liz to recreate it and it went so well. When Stars in the House had a Knots Landing reunion, we had Liz come on as a surprise guest, tell that story and then sing to Michele. Watch it here.
Liz also talked about her audition for Miss Saigon and the sign she had beforehand that she probably would get it. While she was driving to the audition, she saw a helicopter landing right next to the expressway. And she didn’t have to pay $100 see it! (Miss Saigon was the first show to charge $100 for a ticket. It was for front mezzanine seats because that was the best view of the helicopter). Here’s some original footage of her as Ellen…you can see her at the 1:30 mark.
Liz wound up staying in Provincetown to see Kelli O'Hara’s concert and we all went out to dinner (with Liz’s husband Dan Foster and our producer, Mark Cortale) and laughed so hard, regaling each other with inappropriate comments that some well-meaning fans have made. Kelli told us she has an extended family member who comes to all of her Broadway shows and, when he sees her afterwards, doesn’t say the show was good, or that she was good, or make any positive, declarative statement. Instead, he cocks his head and asks her, “Didja have fun?” Huh? Kelli is always so thrown. She thinks, “Wait, what? Did you hate it? Was I bad? Quite frankly, shouldn’t the question be did you have fun? What’s happening!?”
Liz remembered the time she was about to do the Burt Bacharach and Hal David review called The Look Of Love on Broadway. A fan told her he was so happy that she was doing the show. Liz thanked him very much and then he added “because it’s been so long since you’ve been on Broadway. I mean it’s been so long!” She thanked him again and left. A few months later, he came to see the show and, at the stage door, he told her how good she was in the show—and repeated the “so long” spiel all over again. I was talking about these comments on the SiriusXM radio show I co-host with Christine Pedi on Saturdays and she recalled her first cabaret act; her “friend” came backstage after and told her “It was a great show!” Oops. Sorry. That’s what she should have said. Instead, she told Christine, “It was a great effort, dear.”
This weekend, I split my time between my old stalwart, the beautiful Anchor Inn and the lovely Brasswood Inn, which happens to be right across the street. Provincetown is having its yearly carnival and the theme this year is “Over The Rainbow.”
Speaking of the Wicked Witch of the East, Kelli O’Hara was talking about auditions for jobs she didn’t get and, turns out, she went in ten times to play Nessarose in the original production of Wicked. She did not get it, but it worked out because Michelle Federer who did get it, wound up meeting the actor who played Fiyero and marrying him… aka Norbert Leo Butz. Speaking of Wicked, when I found out Liz was staying Ptown to see Kelli’s concert, I immediately asked them if they’d sing a duet. They both said an enthusiastic “yes!” so here’s a clip of how stunning they sounded together.
While at dinner, Liz’s husband Dan regaled us with a “you can’t make this stuff up” story from across the pond. Dan and their son Nicholas (who was very young at the time) were in London. Well, they went shopping one afternoon and took a cab back to their hotel. The traffic got really bad, so Dan decided they’d get out and walk back to the hotel. Once they got to their hotel room, Dan realized he had left their bag in the cab with their passports. The hotel told him they’d watch Nicholas because he’d have to register it lost at Scotland Yard. He told the authorities what happened and they said the cab driver would hopefully report it and it would get on a list of lost and found. Dan then found out that he probably wouldn’t be allowed to travel to Paris with Nicholas the next day. Turns out, the UK has strict child trafficking laws and men cannot travel with children unless they can show proof of their relationship. Many hours had passed when he finally got back to his hotel and he realized that he and Nicholas had tickets to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. They left the hotel for the theater and decided to splurge and take a cab.
They hailed one and, crazily, it was the same cab. And yes, their bag was still there. Nicholas, who was six, immediately said, “Dad! Give him whatever he wants!” Dan found out that right after the cab driver dropped them off that afternoon, he got a fare that took him all the way out of the city. The passenger told the driver there was a bag in the back and the driver drove back to London where he was planning to leave it at lost and found. However, before he did, he decided to drive through the neighborhood where he had dropped off Dan and Nicholas on the off chance he would randomly see them. And he did. And, Dan found out, if he had dropped it off at lost and found, it probably would have taken weeks to process.
Anyhoo, let me end by saying season three of my podcast Seth Rudetsky’s Back to School drops this week. The whole podcast is dedicated to celebrities talking about when they were in high school: driver’s ed, SATs, prom, play practice, detention, etc. I will leave you with my high school graduation photo (it looks like I’m sporting a combover and a large swath of Bonne Belle lip gloss) and tell you that you can binge my first two seasons with people like Tina Fey, Vanessa Williams, Bowen Yang, Patrick Wilson, Allison Janney, Martin Short, Wayne Brady, Maureen McCormick, and more here.