Deconstructing Broadway: Seth Rudetsky at the Leicester Square Theatre

Deconstructing Broadway
An evening of musical knowledge and anecdotes with illustrations, presented by the actor, writer, musician, radio-show-host and raconteur Seth Rudetsky

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Reviewed by: Tom Vallance

Reviewed: 22 June, 2013
Venue: Leicester Square Theatre, London

Seth Rudetsky was not well known in the UK until his debut in London accompanying Patti LuPone at this address (review link below), but word had certainly spread by the time he performed this solo show, for the Leicester Square Theatre was packed with cheering fans. Such enthusiasm was more than justified. Rudetsky has put together a programme that he calls Deconstructing Broadway and which is like no other: the outrageous, audaciously conceived hour of mirth that he presented proved rib-achingly funny.

Much of it involved playing extracts, sometimes little more than a few seconds, from disc and video recordings made by various performers. With a remarkably perceptive ear and eye, he exposes them in moments of embarrassment or error – I have over the years listened to Janis Paige on the original cast recording of The Pajama Game, without realising that she is resolutely flat. Rudetsky even comes up with a defence, saying such a voice can have qualities that justify wobbly vibratos or ‘off’ notes.

Rudetsky has been nominated for three Emmy awards (for his work as a writer on the Rosie O’Donnell Show), and his radio show (in the States) is entitled Seth’s Big Fat Broadway. He also acts (he was in the cast of a recent revival of Torch Song Trilogy) and is an accomplished musician and raconteur – from the moment he appears, he holds the audience spellbound with his rapid-fire timing, his ceaseless prancing and personal charisma (although his speedy New York-flavoured delivery was sometimes a little too fast).

Rudetsky’s musical knowledge in particular was aired, as he told us (with potent illustrations) the difference between sharp and flat, and what is meant by ‘head voice’ and ‘chest voice’. He has his own lingo for his enthusiasms – prime moments are considered ‘amm-ahh-ah-zing’. But he is at his best when dissecting performances by some of Broadway’s greatest divas, including LuPone, Bea Arthur and Liza Minnelli. One of them is to be heard yelling “What the hell’s going on?” in the middle of a chorus section, and for those who like to see legends in their early days, there is an extract from the original production of Fiddler on the Roof which features up-coming Bette Midler as one of the daughters, singing ‘Matchmaker, matchmaker’.

Perhaps the funniest revelation is Barbra Streisand’s recording of ‘Any place I hang my hat is home’ (from the second Streisand album). When she reaches the line, “Your world just falls apart”, she mysteriously changes the ‘t’ of “apart” to a ‘d’. Rudetsky isolates such instances with pinpoint editing for priceless moments from a hilariously individual entertainment.

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