By: Joel Benjamin
August 24, 2014
Only Seth Rudetsky, delightfully hyper-active, colorful and connected, could have assembled such a panoply of Broadway stars for his Not Since High School gala benefiting the music program of Middle School 245 which his daughter Juli attends. All that talent in one room: LaChanze, Keala Settle, Jose Llana, Emily Skinner, Mario Cantone, Julia Murney, Christine Ebersole, James Monroe Iglehart, James Snyder, Sierra Boggess, Norm Lewis, Jessie Mueller, Jerry Dixon…wow!
The cavernous 42West was jam-packed with supporters of the MS music program and fans of Mr. Rudetsky and his roster of artists. As these performers chit-chatted with Mr. Rudetsky, one running theme emerged: each had some training and/or performance experience in school, from Mario Cantone’s Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Guys and Dolls) to Jose Llana’s slightly “off” Tony (West Side Story) to the weird, color blind casting of Mr. Dixon—in a ludicrous blonde wig—as the young, very white Nazi in The Sound of Music, singing “Your Are Sixteen…” with a game, coy Emily Skinner. Ms. Skinner reprised her childhood role of Rosie with “Such Sufferin’” in front of a darling photograph of herself as a child in the role. The gorgeously sensual LaChanze repeated her high school triumph role, Lola from Damn Yankees complete with slithery movements and come-hither glances. Native New Yorker Julia Murney actually sang Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here” in high school when she was 17. Still too young to sing this survivor anthem, her rendition at the benefit, nevertheless, had heft and sexiness.
On the other end of the sophistication spectrum was James Monroe Iglehart who found his inner child with the sweet “The Kite” from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Seeing this giant of a man gamboling about the stage whetted everyone’s interest to see him as the Genie in Aladdin.
Sierra Boggess was joined by her Phantom co-star Norm Lewis in a delightfully ditzy “If I Were a Bell,” from Guys and Dolls, which somehow hilariously morphed into a soaring soprano moment from Phantom. Christine Ebersole, who began her music career as a second violinist in the school orchestra, sang a wistful “How Are Things in Glocca Morra” while In/Out’s James Snyder strode about the stage in “Trouble” from The Music Man with the help of a marvelously animated, impromptu chorus recruited from the audience. Keala Settle from Les Miz reprised “Worse Things” from Grease which, she admitted, was a bit raunchy for a young, naïve Hawaiian girl. However, as an adult she found all the sexy, winking humor on the lyrics.
Beautiful’s Jessie Mueller ended the program on perhaps a too quiet note with “Happily Ever After” from Once Upon a Mattress.
Mr. Rudetsky accompanied all the singers with energy, humor and style and hosted the show in his inimitable way. never letting the pace slow down.
Not Since High School
516 West 42nd St.
New York, NY