OK. I was born in Jamaica, Queens but moved to North Woodmere, Long Island when I was five. Devastating (See: RHAPSODY IN SETH). Regardless, my first big role was the Cowardly Lion when I was at Hillell summer day camp in the summer of third grade.
Then, in the Spring of Fourth grade, I got the role of Rufus in ALL THE WAY HOME in a High School production. That’s right, I said High School! I was the coolest! I, however, did NOT get the role of the male baby (Mel Brooks on the recording) in our class’s production of FREE TO BE YOU AND ME. That honor went to Michael Lager. Still angry. Instead, I got to sing "William’s Doll" about a little boy who loves dolls. Even then, I was being typecast. Rude. The next summer I played the role of Ko-Ko in my camp’s production of THE MIKADO, despite having a high fever. Even then, I was old-school. And yes, my Jewish Summer Day Camp did an operetta. And we were all 10 years old. Appropriate? You decide. In fifth grade I got a minor role in "How A Bill Becomes A Law", a show that was written by the class. Let’s forget that devastation especially because the OTHER fifth grade class got to do GREASE. Son of a-. THEN in sixth grade, our teacher Mr. Harper, decided we weren’t well-behaved enough to get to do a show. YAY.
In Junior High, the seventh graders didn’t get to be in the musical, so instead I was the assistant music director for my first time. The show: ONCE UPON A MATRESS. The cast: The ninth graders. That’s the way Junior High School North worked; only the ninth graders go to do a musical. Well, I was supposed to be a ninth grader in said Junior High the year it became a middle school (Sixth to eight grade) so I never got to be a ninth grader and do the show! Son of a-!!! So yet again, I didn’t get to be in a musical. Come on, already! The cool thing was though, while I was in seventh grade I got cast in a professional production of OLIVER at the Northstage Dinner Theater starring Shani Wallis, who was Nancy in the movie. It was AMAZING! I was one of the orphans in "Food Glorious Food" and had a solo in "Who Will Buy" playing the milkmaid which we changed to milkboy. And, PS, the knife grinder in that number was future Phantom .Davis Gaines!
Even though I was devastated that I was graduating Junior High School without ever having done a musical, the summer after Junior High School was THE BEST. My Mom sent me to Usdan, an amazing summer camp for the arts. I majored in Musical Theater and the campers were divided into two groups. Mine did the show JACQUE BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS. Yes, it’s an obscure musical highlighting a Belgian song writer. Yes, it’s supposed to star four middle-aged singers. Yes, we were 12-16 but I must say, I loved singing "The old folks never die they just put down their heads and go to sleep one day " . It sounds devastating and inapprorpiate and it was but I loved it! The other group did THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM and that’s where I met Richie Jackson who recently produced A CATERED AFFAIR and became my first agent! And by "agent", I mean he never signed me, but he sent me out on auditions which I booked! The following year, USDAN did a Broadway review called BROADWAY RAINBOW and one day I’ll do a dramatic reading of the script which I still have. Suffice it to say, MEDEA, it wasn’t. Still, I loved that camp!
In Ninth Grade, I auditioned for the school production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and got what my theater teacher calimed was the "comic lead". It was, in actuality, the role of the Rabbi and I had up to but not exceeding six lines. Still, I loved it! Then I auditioned and got cast in a kids cabaret in New York City called "Beginings" that then became "Youngstars". It was at a place called "Something Different" on First Avenue in the East Seventies. The show was an hour long and feautred kids who were in or had done Broadway shows (PETER PAN, EVITA, ANNIE, I REMEMBER MAMA) and also kids with minimal credits who could sing (like me). The kids who performed there whose names you’d probably know are Gordon Greenberg, Ricki Lake, Kerry Butler, Ty Taylor, Alison Smith and Sarah Jessica Parker. We even got a feature in Dynamite! The rest of Freshman year I got cast in no (zero) plays. Then Sophmore year came and we got an amazing theater teacher (Mary Hall) who opted to do COMPANY for the Fall musical. I got the role of Harry and knew nothing (zero) about what I was singing. "Sorry/Grateful"? What? I just knew it was a pretty song that I could vibrato on the last note. In the Spring, we did THE FANTASTICKS and I got the small but pivotal role of Mortimer, the Man Who Dies. In the show, the Old Actor and Mortimer come out of the trunk that’s onstage and normally there’s a hole in the back so they can sneak into it, right before their entrance. But for some reason, they couldn’t make a hole in the trunk, so the old actor (Eric Ronis) and I had to wait in the trunk for half of the first act until our entrance. AND because there was no curtain, we had to get in the trunk before the audience got there so we were literally in a two foot by two foot sauna for half the first act plus a half an hour before the show. It’s fun to have heatstroke.
Junior Year saw the return of my old theater teacher who decided to begin the Fall semester with a review highlighting the great composing teams of Broadway entitled BROADWAY BROADWAY (Broadway Rainbow redux? PS, I came up with the amazing concept and title. Anybody? Nobody). I sang "I could Write a Book" and "If Ever I would Leave You". After I woke up, I played the Dick Van Dyke part in "All Amercan Boy" and danced "Steam Heat" in amazing leg warmers. In January, I hit the pinnacle of my teenaged dramatic career by starring in WHOSE LIFE IS IT ANYWAY? My relationship with the theater teacher after that resulted in me being banned from the theater department and failing theater. It was great to boycotted from the one thing in school I liked the best. But let me just say it also gave me a lot of delicious material for RHAPSODY IN SETH, so "it’s all good"!
I graduated and went to Oberlin Conservatory and majored in Piano Performance. I was a classical pianist, but essentially spent all of my free time doing Broadway stuff. Freshman year I conducted my first orchestra with WONDERFUL TOWN. Such a great show!!!!! I still love it! I played violin for the Gilbert and Sullivan productions (oft times a half step flat..I suck!) , played Hysterium in FORUM and conducted COMPANY and A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. When I was 19 I sort of forshadowed the way I’ve run my career by getting a full orchestra together and playing and conducting RHAPSODY IN BLUE. It was SO MUCH FUN! I will upload parts of that video soon.
Throughout college, I spent every summer working at SURFLIGHT SUMMER THEATER. First, as an assistant music director to Jeff Caldwell and then as the music director. It was one-week-stock, meaning you rehearse one show during the day for a week, and do another one at night. That’s also where I met my two good friends Jason Little (AKA Tits Fisher) and Peter Flynn (who directed many Actors Fund concerts, RHAPSODY IN SETH and BROADWAY 101!)
After graduation, I moved in with my Mom. Let’s skip that. Then I moved to Brooklyn and worked at Musical Theater Works as an assistant musical director (for no money) for KISS ME QUICK BEFORE THE LAVA REACHES THE VILLAGE. That show was fun-nee, especially Donna English and Adinah Alexander. I got a job at the Darien Dinner Theater and was promptly fired when I didn’t show up on New Years Eve even though the music director told me it was OK (still raging about that).
While I was doing KISS ME QUICK I met Maria Bostick and we wrote a show/act together called DIAL M FOR MARJORIE about a woman named Marjorie Pain who pronounces her last name like the French word for bread. The whole show is about her trying to
a. perfect her cabaret act,
b. pay her phone bill and
c. get married before she turns thirty in 5 days.
My favorite part was when she was trying out for the musical version of LOLITA called OH, LO.
CASTING DIRECTOR: OK, let me get a few preliminary things out of the way.
CASTING DIRECTOR: Are you willing to go out of town?
MARJORIE: Yes, I am.
CASTING DIRECTOR: Can you operate a tractor trailer?
MARJORIE: Yes, I can.
I worked two summers at the Candlewood Playhouse where I became great friends with Eric Woodall who now works for Tara Rubin as a casting director. Speaking of casting, that summer also included Ron LaRosa as Doody in GREASE directed by Beth Leavel!
Then I worked for a few months playing for the great audition classes led by Sara Lazarus and suddenly got a job playing piano for the European tour of A CHORUS LINE. I got it on a Monday and left on a Saturday. We went to Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris. And got paid in cash!
When I got back, the brilliant music director/vocal arranger (FOREVER PLAID) James Raitt asked me to start subbing for PAGEANT, one of the best show I’ve ever done. Hilarious. I then became the music director. That’s where I met Jack Plotnick who became one of my best friends and comedy partners. We first wrote the comedy show AN EVENING WITH JOYCE DEWITT for Don’t Tell Mama and since then we’ve performed at The HBO Workspace and Comedy Central Space in L.A., Ars Nova, Rose’s Turn, two Rosie Cruises and had a long-running monthly show at Caroline’s.
After PAGEANT, I took over as music director for FOREVER PLAID, also one of the best show I’ve ever done. I wound up doing PLAID in Baltimore, San Diego, Vancouver, Toronto and many other cities.
I finally got to Broadway after begging Joe Thalken to let me sub for him in his first Broadway show, MY FAVORITE YEAR. That show lasted a short while, but it led to me getting lots of other sub work. All in all, I’ve subbed for LES MIZ, KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD, HOW TO SUCCEED, AN INSPECTOR CALLS, GREASE, VICTOR/VICTORIA, SEUSSICAL, PATTI LUPONE ON BROADWAY, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, WICKED, THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, RAGTIME and THE PRODUCERS which, of course, led to my book BROADWAY NIGHTS originally titled, SUBBING.
I began working on the EASTER BONNETT COMPETITION as a rehearsal pianist in 1992 and then Paul Castree and I wrote the GREASE sketch in 1994 where I first played Fran Weissler. The number was about casting a new Rizzo to replace Rosie O’Donnell.
SUNG TO THE TUNE OF "You’re The One That I Want".
FRAN: We got bills they’re multiplying
And we need .to find a Rizzo!
BARRY: I’m suggesting Bonnie Franklin.
FRAN: It’s mortifying (echo: mortifying, mortifying )
In 1998, BC/EFA asked me to create the opening number with Chris Gatelli and we wound up doing them for seven years.
In the first one, I busted the cast of CABARET for playing their own instruments and essentially being the crew as well
This was sung to part in the song "Cabaret" that goes:
Come blow your horn start celebrating
Right this way, your table’s waiting
Though every night we play a nazi
All of us have joined Iatse
I also wrote the opening numbers for a few GYPSY OF THE YEAR competitions, including the CHORUS LINE reunion one!
Because of those numbers, Rosie O’Donnell called me in November of 1997 and asked me to write numbers like that for her on her TV show. She had casts of Broadway shows come on and sing a song from their show with lyrics about the ROSIE show.
SMOKEY JOE’S sang "Cause I’m a woman "
She can sing all the lyrics to GYPSY, TITANIC and MISS SAIGON
She can by a brand new treadmill and never turn it on!
I wrote nine of them and then became a full time comedy writer on her show. While I was there, the writing team was nominated for three Emmy Awards. I also got to write two opening numbers for the Tony Awards for Rosie. The first was the 1998 "Diva" number with Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley and Jennifer Holliday and the second was the 2000 Broadway stars to TV stars one with Jane Krakowski, Jesse L. Martin and Megan Mullally.
My favorite lyric was from the DIVA one where Rosie sings about wanting to sing better.
This is from the part in ROXIE that goes "I wanna be a celebrity that means somebody everyone knows "
I wanna be a Diva
I wish there was some way I could learn-
I try to sing like Patti LuPone but sound like Rhoda Morgenstern!
I started doing stand-up in 1996 and first performed at Surf Reality (crazy performance art place) and the Duplex’ "Stars of Tomorrow" contest where I won the Grand Prize. Then I entered the "Funniest Gay Male in NY" contest at Stand-up NY and won! Then I did a contest at Danny’s Skylight Room and lost. Not cool. In 1997, I started a show called "Saturday at Rose’s Turn", with the hilarious Kristine Zbornik, which then morphed into "The Seth Rudetsky Show".
Here’s a favorite moment-
KRISTINE: Hey, Seth! We got a song request. Someone faxed it to me.
SETH: Wow! They must really wanna hear it.
KRISTINE: Yeah! I don’t even have a fax machine. It came in on my curling iron.
I had some amazing guest stars in that show including Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley right after SIDE SHOW closed. I brought the score with me and it was an all request night! Also, Lucy Lawless (Xena!) came and sang up a storm. That’s also when I started working with the brilliant Varla Jean Merman. She and Kristine would sing the first duet from CARRIE ("Eve Was Weak") and it was amazing.
Around that same time, I got to music direct Andrea Martin’s show, "Nude, Nude, Totally Nude" at the Public Theater. I grew up OBESSED with her on SCTV so it was a dream come true. Especially because she did some bits from the TV show I had memorized Ethel Merman’s Romantic Album, "Wake Up and Love Me".
While I was at Rosie, my then-agent Richie Jackson (Remember? whom I met at Usdan) gave me the idea to do a weekly live talk show. I started SETH’S BROADWAY CHATTERBOX in December of 1999. The first week had Orfeh, Paige Price and Paul Castree from SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and the second week was Norm Lewis and Krisin Chenoweth. All the money (except the room charge) goes to BC/EFA as well as the sales of the DVD’s.
Richie also gave me the idea to write a show about being an outcast kid who then uses what made him an outcast to succeed later on in life. That turned into RHAPSODY IN SETH, which I developed with Paul Castree as the director and then Peter Flynn. I played the show at HERE, ARS NOVA and then did a four-show-a-week, six-month run at The Actors’ Playhouse, produced by Peter Breger. The show was nominated for a GLAAD award, voted one of the years best by HX magazine and Backstage and I was one of the ten winners of the Playbill "Leading Man" Awards.
In 1998, I started doing a fundraiser for the gay/lesbian synagogue (BETH SIMCHAT TORAH) and the first year I saluted two gay and Jewish composers: David Friedman and Henry Krieger. Hearing Lillias White sing Effie convinced me that I had to do a concert version of DREAMGIRLS with her playing Effie that had a full orchestra. The Actors Fund said yes and I got Audra MacDonald to play Deena and they suggested Heather Headley for Lorrell. The concert was directed/choreographed by Danny Herman and Brenda Braxton and played on Sept. 21 2001 raising almost $1,000,000! It was also recorded on Nonsuch records. The following year I put up FUNNY GIRL, directed by Peter Flynn, choregraphed by Dev Janki and starring a multitude of Fanny Brices: Whoopi Goldberg, Sutton Foster, Spencer Kayden, Ricki Lake, Idina Menzel, La Chanze, Kristin Chenoweth, Julia Murney, Ana Gasteyer, Lillias White, Jane Krakowski, Alice Playten, Bebe Neuwirth, Andrea Martin, Judy Kuhn and Carolee Carmello! The fantastic Peter Gallagher was Nicky Arnstein and Kaye Ballard was Mrs. Brice.
2003 was CHESS starring Julia Murney, Adam Pascal, Norm Lewis, Jonothan Dokutchitz, Sutton Foster and Josh Groban. 2004 was HAIR with everyone whose voice I was ever obsessed with: Raul Esparza, Lillias White, Jennifer Hudson, Gavin Creel, Orfeh, Shayna Steele, and a TON of other amazing singers. The CD is on Ghostlight and was nominated for a Grammy award. Then came ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY starring Douglas Sills and Marin Mazzie with Joanne Worley, Chris Sieber, Brooks Ashmanskas and Brad Oscar. And 2006 was THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS with Emily Skinner, Terrence Mann, Jennifer Hudson and Bob Martin.
I started hosting on SIRIUS radio in December of 2003 on Broadway’s Best. Then I added five shifts a week on THE BEAT. Right now my weekday schedule is 2-8 on Broadway’s Best and 8PM to 2AM on the Beat. Saturdays is 9AM to 4PM and Sundays Noon to 6PM. Try to guess if it’s pre-recorded.
In 2006 my first short story entitled "MY FIRST STORY" (too on the nose???) was published in a collection called FRESH MEN 2. Then my first book was published by Alyson entitled THE Q GUIDE TO BROADWAY. The following year my novel BROADWAY NIGHTS cam eout and was recently nominated for a Lamda award. The audio version was recorded in June of 2008 and featured myself and Kristin Chenoweth, Jonathan Groff, Andrea Martin, Emily Skinner, Andy Karl, Mary Birdsong, Richard Kind, Hunter/Jeff/Susan from TITLE OF SHOW, Ann Harada, Anika Larsen, Sally Rudetsky (!) and James and Juli Wesley.
In December of 2007 I played Arnold Becoff in TORCH SONG TRILOGY at the Gallery Players in Brooklyn and I’m completely obsessed with playing it again. That show is BRILLIANT. In Septemeber of 2007 I made my Broadway debut playing Sheldon Farenthold in THE RITZ. Essentially, my character’s name was longer than the amount of lines I had, but I got to sing "Magic to Do" in a unitard holding umbrellas with white-gloved hands all over them. On TV, I played Rudy in ALL MY CHILDREN for five episodes. He was a choreographer who sees Erica Kane in Vegas (she’s using the pseudonym Desiree DuBois) and makes her a star! I also got to do LAW AND ORDER: CI playing the friend of a food critic who was poisoned. On cable, I did a GREAT pilot for BRAVO called "Dishin’" that didn’t get picked up and I was also a coach on MTV’s MADE. It was the episode where a girl named Nadia tried to win her school’s singing competition called CENTRAL IDOL. Recently, I was the music director/coach on MTV’s LEGALLY BLONDE: THE SEARCH FOR ELLE WOODS. My deconstructions of each episode are on this site!
SETH’S BROADWAY 101 was done as an Actors Fund Benefit in the Spring of 2007 and 2008 and is moving towards a Broadway run. Because of that show, I was hired to write a TV sitcom based on my childhood. I’m going to focus on the laughs and leave out the devastation.
This bio has now officially given me a headache, so peace out!