Why Bob Fosse Told Chita Rivera She Had to Nail Her Sweet Charity Dance Moves Every Time | Playbill

Seth Rudetsky Why Bob Fosse Told Chita Rivera She Had to Nail Her Sweet Charity Dance Moves Every Time

Plus, all the drama that followed Seth and James on their latest cruise—from disastrous doggie digestion to performer passport panic!

Bob Fosse and Chita Rivera

Lately, I've been doing so much traveling! 

I’m writing this from Las Vegas, where I’m presenting upcoming musicals at the Smith Center, and then performing my deconstruction of '70s variety shows (Seth's Big Fat '70s Variety Show). Then on February 20, I’m going to do a big Dreamgirls celebration at the Café Carlyle! Joining me will be Sharon Catherine Brown as Effie, Darius de Haas as C.C./Jimmy Early, and Natalie Wachen and Lilli Cooper, switching off as Deena and Lorrell.

I am freaking out that I have the chance to celebrate Dreamgirls with Sharon Catherine Brown. Fun fast fact about Sharon! Her nickname at Caroline, Or Change, where she covered for Sharon D Clarke on Broadway, was “Shaycat." 

Okay, so I first heard Sharon sing Effie when my friend Evan Pappas gave me a recording of the show. He had recently played Dave, who sings the nerdy version of “Cadillac Car,” on the national tour. Sharon is an amazing Effie! Watch this video of her performing “Move!”

James and I have been a-travelin’ all over! 

First, we went down to Ft. Lauderdale for my concert with Chita Rivera at the Parker Playhouse. Chita performed up a storm, singing songs and medleys from Kiss Of The Spiderwoman, Chicago, The Rink, West Side Story and more! She ended the whole show with the song and dance “Nowadays” from Chicago. I wound up finding all these amazing videos of her performing throughout the years and surprised her throughout the show with the clips. That was so much fun. I would ask her about a certain show or event and she would tell a story about it, without knowing there was a clip coming. 

At one point, I asked her about filming “There’s Got To Be Something Better Than This” for the Sweet Charity film. She played Nikki, Paula Kelly was Helene, and Shirley MacLaine was Charity. Chita and Shirley knew each other from before they were famous because they took ballet together as teens. During the filming, Bob Fosse, who was directing the film, told Chita and Paula to make sure they nailed the dances every time. Why? Well, Shirley was a huge movie star and Fosse told her he was always going to use the take when Shirley looked best, so Chita and Paula always had to look best! 

At the end of the this particular number, there was a moment when all of them did a jump a la seconde, meaning their legs were almost in a split as they were jumping sideways. They were in a line, and Paula had the farthest to travel while Chita, on the left, had the shortest distance. Chita is so athletic. She loves jumping because, to her, it feels like flying. She was so into the flying aspect that she wound up leaping too far. Well, after they finished that take, Chita looked disappointed, which Shirley noticed. Shirley asked Chita what was wrong, and Chita admitted she had made a mistake during a key moment in the dance. Chita knew she couldn’t ask Fosse for another take, so she was going to just suck it up. 

Well, Shirley got Fosse’s attention, kindly telling him that she really didn’t like her last take and asking if she could get another chance. Of course, Shirley knew that was what Chita wanted, so she got it for her! After Chita told that story, I showed the number from the film. Check out 5:28. You'll notice that’s take two, when Chita does her leap and keeps her formation!

Chita and I will be performing together again at NJPAC on March 25 so come!

Chita Rivera and Seth Rudetsky Courtesy of Seth Rudetsky

Oh, on the way down to Florida, James kindly offered the neck pillow he had brought for me. I looked at it, and thought it was kind of small for my neck. I then noticed it was covered in. . . dog fur? Okay, odd. Soon realized that while it was indeed a neck pillow, it wasn’t quite designed to make me comfortable enough to sleep. It's original intention was to prevent me licking my back paw. Yep! James had brought Bagel’s doggie pillow. Thanks? 

We got on our cruise on Wednesday and, holy cow, there was drama

Here's the backstory! We love to visit animal shelters when we go to other countries. On one of our cruises to Puerto Rico, we visited All Sato Shelter in San Juan. While we were there, we fell in love with a doggie named Mateo who had been found in a Walmart parking lot. We adopted him, had him flown to NYC, and he’s been living with us for around four years. 

Well, right when we got on the ship, James’ mom called us extremely upset. It turns out, Mateo had been throwing up all day. When the vet did an ultrasound, they saw a huge mass inside him. Ugh... We’ve had doggies with cancer before, and couldn’t believe that Mateo, who was only six, looked like he had cancer that had already spread. The vet advised that we get him a specialist who could perform a much more thorough exam. We knew Mateo had to be seen right away, but what vet could see him this quickly? It was already 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and James' mom can’t see well enough to drive at night. On top of that, the ship had started sailing so the wifi was going to be iffy! 

James, ever one to take action, got on the horn and called lots of vets until he reached one who agreed to see and treat him right away. As we were trying to figure out who could drive James' mom, we remembered something that happened a few weeks ago. Bagel, whose pillow I had been trying to shove around my neck on the plane ride down, had been getting radiation treatment on his leg in December. On our way to and from his appointments, we saw a Pet Taxi parked. We asked the driver, Lenny, for a ride back to our apartment and we officially fell in love with the service. Lenny is so nice and his pet taxi service is amazing. There is so much room in the back for pets of any size. He has harnesses, doggie seat belts, water bowls, and anything else your favorite family member could need to ride safely and comfortably. 

James called Lenny, who immediately drove an hour upstate to get James’ mom and Mateo. Lenny not only escorted them to the vet, but he also waited the entire length of the appointment for them. As if Lenny couldn't get any more wonderful, he also installed WhatsApp onto James' mom’s phone so they could text photo and video updates throughout the night while we were on the ship. 

After a few hours passed, Lenny drove James’ mom home. Why just his Mom? What about Mateo?! Don’t worry. This story has a happy ending. 

I truly thought Mateo had some kind of advanced cancer, and I have never been more thankful to be wrong. It turns out, Mateo had a hernia. Although he looks like a dog, he is actually a bit of a copycat. My hernia surgery only just happened on November 22 last year. Mateo's hernia was pretty wide and his organs had started going up into his tummy. That was the mass they saw! Mateo had surgery on Saturday, and he’s been home doing amazingly ever since!

Speaking of amazing, because we have Trupanion pet insurance, we hardly had to pay anything for the $10,000 surgery! It was such an amazing progression of events. Look how great Mateo is doing!

Mateo Courtesy of Seth Rudetsky

While we had our fill of doggie drama on the first day of the cruise, we soon found ourselves in the middle of some performer drama! 

On the way to the pier, Judy Kuhn was gabbing with Rachel Bay Jones and Lilli Cooper. Judy was regaling her fellow singers with the story of how she showed up at the airport for a Playbill Cruise through the Caribbean without realizing she had mistakenly grabbed her husband’s passport! 

Judy panicked until she realized that she was flying to Puerto Rico first. As Puerto Rico is part of the United States and the cruise wasn’t leaving from there for another day, she had time to get her own documentation. Judy's story wrapped up nicely, as she had a friend on a later flight to Puetro Rico who was able to go grab her passport from her apartment. All good for Judy and a great story to tell on a new journey.

Rachel and Lilli loved the story. Of course, they each did a quick check of their passports just in case they too had mistaken theirs for someone else's. Rachel had her own passport. Phew! However, when Lilli looked, she saw she had her son’s passport. 

Ahh! The cruise was leaving in a few hours, first stop Honduras. There was no way they would let her on the cruise. What was she going to do?

We all joined forces and helped Lilli get a hotel in Miami. Her mom was able to Fedex her passport such that it would arrive the first thing the next morning, a Thursday. We helped Lilli get a flight to Honduras for Friday at noon. We thought then she could easily meet us on the cruise. Yay! Problem solved. Or so we thought . . .

If you remember, there were crazy ice storms, storms so crazy, that FedEx was delayed. Lilli's passport didn’t arrive on Thursday morning as scheduled. Nor did it arrive Thursday afternoon, Thursday night, or even Friday morning. Lilli's passport arrived Friday at 12:30 PM! The noon flight we helped her get on left without her.

In the end, it actually would have been easier for her to fly back to New York, get her passport, and fly directly to Honduras. Lilli was able to join the cruise in Cozumel, Mexico. The worst part is, flight times didn’t coincide with the cruise's route, so she didn't get on board until the second to last day of the cruise. Thankfully, Lilli still wound up having an amazing time. We all went out to dinner at an amazing place called Pancho’s Backyard. When we asked Lilli to come with us she said, “I’m only here for around 24 hours. I’m going to enjoy every minute!”

Seth Rudetsky, Rachel Bay Jones, Darren, Judy Kuhn, and Paul Courtesy of Seth Rudetsky

I could not be more excited that Lilli is going to be with me at the Café Carlyle this coming Monday for my Dreamgirls spectacular. While the vast majority of the show will focus on Dreamgirls, we’re going to feature some songs from other shows as well. I'll give you a preview with this clip of Lilli singing from The Life.

There is so much more that happened on our travels. Stay tuned this week to find out what happened next!

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