Did you ever want to snorkel in the Caribbean with Beth Leavel? Sail from Bermuda to Newport lounging on deck with LaChanze? Maybe you desire to cruise the Adriatic Sea with Santino Fontana? Or dine in the luxury of the Queen Mary2 with the likes of Faith Prince, Victoria Clark and Scott Heller? Well, grab your sunblock and your hat, and don’t forget your tap shoes, because it’s “Seth Rudetsky’s Big Fat Broadway Vacation,” and you’re a co-star.
SiriusXM Broadway host Seth Rudetsky, dubbed The Mayor of Broadway by Audra McDonald, has teamed up with cruise travel expert Judy Perl to create “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway Vacations” a new line of Broadway-themed cruises. The vacations include itineraries on luxury cruise lines including Regent Seven Seas, Cunard and Celebrity. The partnership’s first 2020 offering will be in February to the Caribbean on Celebrity, bringing together a Broadway insider with a VIP travel expert.
Seth, who began on Broadway as a musician for Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables and The Producers¸ is known worldwide for his irreverent and in-depth takes on everything Broadway. His solo shows have garnered five-star reviews in London, and his Broadway musical Disaster! was a New York Times critics’ pick. Said Ms. Perl, “We are excited to offer our clients the finest curated travel experiences in the world. Our staff’s extensive land and cruise travel knowledge translates into the creation of trips that offer perfection and distinction to every detail. Joining together with Seth is the perfect Broadway blend of expertise, entertainment and fun.”
SPLASH MAGAZINES got to sit down with Seth to hear more about it:
SPLASH: Before we go any further, can I just say you’re awesome! You sing and act, you’re a fantastic musician and host, you write books and plays and musicals, you have a radio show, you’re an activist and you’re incredibly funny. When did you know you wanted to perform? Do you recall when the theater bug bit? What’s your favorite moment onstage?
SR: Thanks so much! My parents took me to see Broadway shows when I was really young (I saw HAIR in the 70s when I was 4) and I immediately became hooked. They had lots of Broadway shows albums and I loved sitting in our den and listening to them, ever since elementary school. What’s amazing to me is that I’ve been able to work with the people I’ve been obsessed with ever since I was a kid. I mean, I listened to the ANNIE album relentlessly all day and night and dreamed of meeting Andrea McArdle (the original Annie) one day. And now she’s coming with me on my Broadway to the Greek and Adriatic Islands! My 10-year-old self would have passed out if he knew that would happen one day! As for favorite moment onstage, that’s really hard. I have one that stands and that’s from a concert I did on Broadway in 2001. It was the show DREAMGIRLS and I put it together to benefit The Actors Fund. It starred Audra McDonald, Heather Headley and Lillias White. I remember one moment in Act Two when Lillias, who played Effie, finished singing “I Am Changing” and the audience went wild. I was supposed to wait a few seconds and then start conducting the orchestra for the next song, but I decided not to move. I didn’t pick up my baton. I held off the next song Lillias could keep receiving all that amazing applause. It was so thrilling to see an entire theater go crazy while she stood there. I was so happy for her!
SPLASH: I had the best time at Town Hall the other night, seeing you host the marvelous Patina Miller in your own “Seth Rudetsky’s Broadway.” What a fun and fabulous format. Tell me more about how that came to be?
SR: I was a comedy writer on The Rosie O’Donnell Show in the late 90s and, around that time, I started doing my own talk show in NY. Not on TV. I did it live at Don’t Tell Mama to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. I would interview Broadway stars and at the end, they’d sing a song. I had always been frustrated watching Broadway stars on TV interview shows because they only got a few minutes to talk and the host would usually not know anything about Broadway. I wanted to do a show where people could hear those great stories we’d all tell each other when we’d go out to a diner after a show: horrible auditions, mishaps onstage, wigs falling off, what it’s like winning a Tony Award etc. Anyhoo I kept it up for years and then…around ten years ago, I started doing a show like it in Provincetown…but with more music. I would interview stars (not planning what we’d talk about it), and every few minutes, I’d run to the piano and they’d perform some big number. My friend Mark Cortale produced this series at The Art House in Ptown and soon he started getting us booked everywhere! Now we have the series in NY, Ft Lauderdale, New Orleans, Scottsdale, L.A., London and more! People always tell me after the show that it was like sitting in my living room. That makes me so happy! It’s really free form and the artist winds up revealing things they’ve never said before…and often singing songs they’ve never sung before!
SPLASH: As well, you host and produce “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway Vacations,” where people get the once in a lifetime opportunity to cruise exotic destinations with Broadway stars. What types of people are attracted to this trip? About how many go on each? Do the stars and the travelers really all hang-out together on the ship? Tell me more?!
SR: Theater lovers go on my cruises! People that love Broadway, love music, love comedy and love the arts. I’d say the average size of my group is 80 people and yes, we hang out! We have a section of the dining room reserved for us every night so we can all eat and chat. Plus I always try to plan an excursion we can all go on as a group that has some kind of social justice component: in Alaska we visited a sanctuary that saved orphaned bears and coming up on my next cruise, we’re all visiting an animal shelter in San Juan. As a matter of fact, my last two doggies came from these trips. Mateo is from Puerto Rico and Chrissy is from Aruba!
SPLASH: I heard that “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway Vacations” recently partnered with Judy Perl Worldwide Travel? Congratulations! That’s huge. How has that changed things for you?
SR: Judy and her team are like personal concierges. They’re available to take care of your every need. Passengers write or call them about everything and they always know the answer! What to wear, where to eat, the best excursions, how to get the perfect cabin on the ship, what car service is the most professional etc. Before Judy, it felt like my husband and I had to handle every aspect of the cruise. Now, James and I handle all the artistic stuff and Judy and her team handle everything else!
SPLASH: Tell me about the shows on the boat – they must be so amazing. Do you write them all? And play piano for everyone? Do you perform in any of the numbers? Do any people on the cruise get up and perform?
SR: The shows are like the one you saw at The Town Hall with Patina Miller. Each one unique because we never fully plan what we’re going to talk about or sing! Each star performs with me playing the piano and hosting. I find songs that really sum of their careers: biggest hit songs on Broadway, roles they did in high school, shows they tried out for but got rejected from etc. And then between songs, I interview them and get them to dish up a storm and tell hilarious stories! Plus, the end of the week is our big variety show. Not only do the stars perform together…doing duets and trios (like on my first Alaska cruise, Faith Prince, Kerry Butler and Rebecca Luker sang “You Gotta Get A Gimmick” as the strippers from GYPSY), but the stars all perform with the passengers! Each star does a production number alonside the passengers whom I’ve rehearsed all week. It’s so much fun and the passengers literally get to perform side-by-side with icons. On our last cruise to the Norwegian Fjords, we had the fabulous Chita Rivera as one of our stars. During the final show, the passengers sang the “Tonight Quinet” from WEST SIDE STORY and they played the Sharks and Jets and Chita recreated her original performance as Anita! For real! And then, the passengers sang (and danced) “All That Jazz” with Chita recreating her original role of Velma from Chicago. It was incredible! We also have so many other super fun events every day like Broadway Bingo, Broadway Video Night and I even hold a master class where passengers bring songs to sing and I perfect their performances!
SPLASH: You seem to have another exceptional talent where you’ve been able to use all your passions to create a glorious career, getting to work alongside James, your husband. Something most people can only dream of doing. What’s your magic?
SR: What a nice thing to say. Well, firstly, my parents always encouraged me to do what I loved doing. And that’s how I’ve formed my career! I’ve always loved hearing theater stories, so now I do concerts where stars tell me their best stories. I’ve always loved playing records for my friends and now I get to host Broadway music on my SiriusXM radio show every day. As for my husband James, we not only love each other, we work really well together. We have similar tastes and I think we have a knack for knowing what an audience wants. Before we started this cruise business, we had done a lot of cruises together and figured out what we loved about each one. We then combined all the good parts into our cruise. So, in terms of ‘magic’ I really think it’s this: do what you love and trust other people will love it, too!
Upcoming Big Fat Broadway Cruises include:
- Eastern Caribbean on Celebrity Equinox: February 15 – 22, 2020
- Adriatic and Greek Isles on Regent’s Seven Seas Voyager: June 14 – 20, 2020
- Bermuda and Newport on Celebrity Summit: July 12 – 19, 2020
- Transatlantic Broadway on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2: October 22 – 30, 2020
- Western Caribbean on Celebrity Apex: February 13 – 20, 2021
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