SETH RUDETSKY & PATINA MILLER AT THE TOWN HALL

Patina Miller

 

By Ron Fassler

 

If you aren’t already familiar with the format that musical director, satellite radio host and hilarious entertainer Seth Rudetsky has adopted for his continuing series of story and song at The Town Hall these past two years, then allow me to fill in the blanks.

With just a Steinway and two comfortable leather chairs (more on that later), Rudetsky brings along a musical theatre star (most often a friend) for an evening that is both laid back and totally extemporaneous. Yes, the songs that get sung are known to the invited guest but the order, as well as which ones Rudetsky will pluck from their personal songbooks, are a surprise, lending an air of spontaneity to what ordinarily would be just a cabaret act. Of course, when you have someone as talented as Patina Miller (Tony Award winner for her amazing turn as the Leading Player in the 2013 revival of Pippin), all is right with the world. Even on a stage as large as the one at Town Hall, a warm and convivial atmosphere was created, even in front of hundreds of people, making for an intimate and sublime time.

 

Patina Miller

 

Though I saw Miller in Pippin and thought she was wonderful, that’s the extent of my experience of her live on stage. Her first New York triumph was starring in 2011’s Sister Act (also Tony nominated), which I didn’t get to see having only caught it in Pasadena back in 2006 when someone else was starring in it. Miller was hired as the understudy for that production—went on for one performance—and the rest is history. That Rudetsky got her to tell that story served as delicious icing on a cake, especially since it allowed her to launch into a big number from that show (“Fabulous, Baby!”) which was only one of the sensational renditions Miller offered.

What fascinated me most was how many different personas Miller was able to project. To name just the first three songs alone, she offered a poignant rendtion of “Corner of the Sky” (a song Miller did not get to sing in Pippin); a rousing and wild “Miss Celie’s Blues” (or “Sister”) from the film of The Color Purple, and a world-weary, yet passionate “Maybe This Time” from the film of Cabaret. She also excelled in songs from Hair, Pippin and sang a “Last Midnight” from Into the Woods that set the hairs on the back of my neck on end. Miller recently performed the Witch in a three-night Hollywood Bowl production this past summer in Los Angeles that is rumored to possibly come to Broadway which, if they retain her, is going to be a must-see.

Praise must be allotted to the always-entertaining Seth Rudetsky, who was in rare form . Even though he retained his usual hyper-fun persona, he felt more relaxed to me than usual and truly comfortable on stage with Miller, who he confessed early on is not someone he knows as well as those with whom he’s done this show previously, such as Audra McDonald and Kelli O’Hara, who are very old friends. You wouldn’t have known it at all from their easy back-and-forth for two solid hours.

Mention should also be made of producer Mark Cortale who, with Rudetsky, is producing these one-of-a-kind concerts with the proceeds going to SandyHookPromise.org, which funds programs and practices that protect children from gun violence.

Oh, and about those chairs… the low-cut skirt Miller wore (though attractive as all get-out) turned out to be something of a fashion error as the chairs were particularly low to the ground. This made for Rudetsky to call out into the audience “Anybody have a scarf?” that yielded one tossed onstage that was sheer! Calamity was avoided when a black one was procured and the evening commenced without further fashion mishaps.

Photos: Courtesy of Strathmore and Margot Schulman Photography

 

The next event is April 13th and will bring Seth one-on-one with the great Brian Stokes Mitchell. For more information, go to http://thetownhall.org/seth-rudetskys-broadway.

Share