Want to know the ins and outs of the Broadway musical? Just ask Seth Rudetsky.
What show to take to your kids to see? Why some musicals make it and others don't? What was amazing or startling or bizarre about a particular show tune by Streisand or Stritch or Betty Buckley that you might have missed?
Rudetsky had spoken out on such topics — and many others — in a variety of formats: from his classes and coaching, to the Sirius/XM radio's "Seth's Big Fat Broadway," to his popular blog for Playbill. (Those pieces are collected in a book out this week, "Seth's Broadway Diary.") He even hosts Broadway cruises where guys and dolls who love the musical sail away to the sounds of music and dancing.
He also does a solo comedy-lecture-Broadway dish show — "Deconstructing Broadway" — which will be presented at Hartford's Charter Oak Cultural Center 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25. "It's like America's Funniest Home Videos — but with audio tape," he says about one of the centerpieces of his act: deconstructing iconic songs from an original Broadway cast recording or Tony telecasts with razor-sharp analysis and humor.
"I'm pointing out things that have gone wrong that you wouldn't necessarily notice," he says in a recent interview in a cafe not far from his Manhattan home that he shares with husband James Wesley and his teenage daughter Juli. "But I also point out what's amazing about them as well."
One of his famous "de-constructs" is a rendition — presented during the Tony Awards in 1977 — of Bea Arthur singing "Don't Rain on My Parade" from "Funny Girl."
"I'm obsessed with that performance," he says, using a verb that he is obsessed with as well.
The notion of the actress known for her deeper-than-deep voice performing the iconic Streisand show-stopper in such a high-profile nationwide telecast "is a crazy idea to begin with."
Instead of belting the ending and singing the big-note finish, he says, "she does her angry/sassy 'Maude' line-reading and it's so bizarre. So I re-enact that rendition — with subtext."
Other Broadway opinions? He has lots.
Things that drive Seth Rudetsky crazy:
1. Shows that are just stupid. "A lot of new shows feel that because it's a musical it doesn't have to make sense and then at the end there's a quick 'whatever' resolution, smile, smile, followed by a song about 'Be Yourself!' Bows. Curtain. Whaaat? It's so children's theater-y. It makes me crazy.''
2. The diminution of the orchestra. "[Producers] think with a new sound design we can get rid of strings and all the rest. But there's a tinniness, as garage-band feel to it all. Producers say they can't afford a decent-sized orchestra. That's a complete lie. If you can afford to have custom made shoes for the actors, you can afford full orchestras. Get rid of the shoes that no one is interested in looking at and get a full-size orchestra because it's actually a musical and music should be the most important thing about the show.''
3. Thinking that if it was a successful movie it will be a successful stage show. "You also have to write a good show. You cant go, 'The title alone will make up for it.' No, it won't. The show also has to be good.''
4. It has to be a "family" show to bring kids to see. "When I was a kid we just saw Broadway shows. They didn't have to be a kid theme. I saw 'Pajama Game' and loved it. My daughter was more obsessed with 'Xanadu" than she was with 'Mary Poppins.' Shows don't have to be geared to a child for kids to love."
5. The lost art of turning around a show. Rudetsky longs for the days of the out-of-town tryouts (at places like the Shubert Theater in New Haven) when a Michael Bennett, Gower Champion or Tommy Tune could turn around a show that was "in trouble'' like "Hello, Dolly!" or "Fiddler on the Roof." "Fixing shows is a skill that has been lost in many ways."
Lastly, five productions Rudetsky is looking forward to seeing this season on Broadway:
>>The play, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night." "I loved the book."
>> The revival of "On the Town," "because of the size of its large orchestra."
>> "Side Show" "to see why it didn't work the first time. Was it the marketing?"
>> Jason Robert Brown's musical "Honeymoon in Vegas" "He's a great composer."
>> "And if people want to see 'The Phantom of the Opera' again, see it now with Norm Lewis who is giving an amazing performance.
"SETH RUDETSKY'S "DECONSTRUCTING BROADWAY" plays 7 p.m, Saturday, Oct. 25, at Charter Oak Cultural Center, 21 Charter Oak Ave., Hartford. Tickets are $20; $15 for Charter Oak and Let's Go members, seniors and students. Information at 860.310.2580 and charteroakcenter.org.