The Time Ana Gasteyer Pretended to Be Celine Dion at Madison Square Garden | Playbill

Seth Rudetsky The Time Ana Gasteyer Pretended to Be Celine Dion at Madison Square Garden

This week, Seth visits Las Vegas and recounts how “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” was almost cut from Grease.

Ana Gasteyer

Hello from beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona! I’m here doing a concert with Jeremy Jordan, and I’m very glad to escape the cold temperatures of NYC. And I’m going to be in Vegas next weekend, so let the sun damage continue. Speaking of Vegas, I was recently remembering my very first time there in the mid-1990s. I finished working as the assistant music director on the very first reading of Side Show and immediately hopped on a plane to music supervise the first production of Forever Plaid in Vegas. My friend Jack Plotnick came to visit, and I told him about an episode of The Simpsons where the family gets robbed. Bart laments that the robbers stole his stamp collection, and the rest of his family relentlessly mock him for having a stamp collection. The phone rings and Bart picks up and hears Nelson Muntz say, “Stamp collection? Ha Ha!” I thought it was so funny. So, later that day, Jack and I go to a casino, and we’re watching a woman play blackjack. She is dealt 12 and says, “Hit me.” The dealer puts down a 2. “Hit me.” He puts down a 3, so now she has 17. She considers and then: “Hit me.” He puts down a 10. She was way 21. I immediately thought “Ha Ha” a la Nelson Muntz . . . and suddenly realized I didn’t think it, I said it out loud. I literally laughed at a woman who might have bet and lost hundreds of dollars. I was mortified. She turned around, looked at me, (Uh-oh!) and said, “Stamp collection? Ha Ha!” Seriously. It was hilarious. She must have just seen the same episode.

Anyhoo, I’m going to Vegas again, but this time to do my Seth’s Big Fat Broadway Show the afternoon of Sunday, February 27. I’ll be at The Smith Center, and I can’t wait for the nice weather. Come see me! 

My show is chock-full of me deconstructing Broadway, and if you’re wondering what that is, take a gander:

Speaking of the wonderful Liz Callaway, she has an all-Sondheim show coming up at Feinstein’s/54 Below from March 23 to 26. She is a fantastic Sondheim interpreter. Don’t forget, she made her Broadway debut in Merrily We Roll Along. Get tickets here

I’m excited about Vegas, but disappointed Celine Dion isn’t performing there anymore. I’ve never seen her perform live; I’ve only seen Ana Gasteyer perform as her. Do you remember the brilliant Saturday Night Live sketches Ana would do as Celine hosting a talk show? It was basically Celine belting nonstop and then passive-aggressively belittling every other guest for being untalented. I’m good friends with Ana, and I’ll never forget when we talked about the time she played Celine at an actual Celine Dion Madison Square Garden concert. Because Ana was literally pretending to be Celine, she had to wear exactly what Celine was wearing for the concert, which Ana described as a "ladies tuxedo with an extended cummerbund." It was the year of the Titanic song. Ana said she walked onto the stage at Madison Square Garden and launched into it. Of course, the audience at first went crazy, hearing their favorite song . . . and then began to realize it wasn’t Celine, it was Ana. Then Celine "surprised" her onstage and the audience flipped out. Ana said those kind of sketches are called sneaker uppers. Description: someone is imitating someone famous, and then the actual famous person “catches” them in the act. Like this fantastic Weekend Update with Vanessa Bayer as Jennifer Aniston:

On SNL, Ana would play Celine as incredible narcissistic and would constantly repeat, in her French Canadian accent, “I ’ave the best voice . . . in the world!” Celine, though, didn't understand what the joke was and actually thought people laughed at the sketch because Ana didn't sing well. PS, that’s crazy because Ana sings great. Well, I’m not saying art imitated life, but I’ll let the description of their rehearsal speak for itself: Celine gave Ana the rundown of how the scene in her concert would work and ended with, "Ana, it will be ’ilarious because you will come out singing and everyone will laugh because you sound so orrible.” I found a clip where you see Ana and Celine at that actual concert. #ExtendedCummerbund 

Depending on when you read this, you might have the opportunity to see two of my livestream concerts this week. On Monday, February 21 at 8 PM ET, I have Caitlin Kinnunen from The Prom. Remember this amazing performance? This kiss happened on national television and I say Brava!

And on Thursday, February 24, I have Rob McClure. I’m so excited they just announced that Mrs. Doubtfire is officially coming back. I was so obsessed with his Conductor Cam videos. Here’s one of my favorites. I so identify with his glaring.

Get tickets for all my live concerts at

And finally, I got an advance copy of We Go Together, which is the story of Grease. It is so fascinating. Grease was a little show in Chicago that producers Ken Waissman and Maxine Fox thought could be expanded into a musical in NYC. The book includes interviews with the original cast, producers, director, and creative team, as well as future cast members like John Travolta. Travolta auditioned to be Danny Zuko in the national tour, but got the role of Doody because they thought he was too young. Travolta says he thought the fact he was the actual age of a high school senior would pay off in his favor (he was literally 18), but he looked too young to lead Jerry Zaks (Kenickie), Michael Lembeck (Sonny), and the other Burger Palace Boys.

The whole book shows the incredible skill it takes to create an original musical. No show is written perfectly. It takes skill to figure out what works and what doesn’t and how to fix it. One of the most interesting stories in the book is about “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.” It’s now one of the show’s best-known songs, but it was almost cut. And I mean it was extremely close to being cut. After original Rizzo Adrienne Barbeau would sing/belt her heart out, the audience would barely applaud. Now, people who take things literally would think, “I guess the song is not good.” But what’s fascinating about theatre is that it’s a combination of things that makes something work or not work. Maybe the lights aren't bright enough to see an actor’s face, or the key might not be right and the actor isn’t singing in the best part of their voice, or the song is in the wrong part of the show. Ken Waissman writes that he was standing next to their music publisher, Sylvia Herscher, watching the show, and again, the song barely got any applause. He told her they were probably going to cut it, even though they all loved the song. She told him the song was great and wasn’t the issue . . . it was the scene leading up to it. The gang didn’t care when they found out Rizzo was pregnant. So when she sang the song, the audience didn’t care either. At the next performance, Rizzo’s pals all acted concerned. They added lines where Sonny tells Rizzo that she can always talk to him about anything and Roger offers her money if she needs it. Suddenly, the exact same song got tons of applause. Here she is on the original recording sounding great:

Listen, then peace out!

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