The Seth Rudetsky Broadway Concert Series presented by Mark Cortale returns to The Parker in this month. The series, co-presented by the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, delivers three intimate evenings of incredible music and hilarious conversations hosted and music directed by Sirius XM Radio star Seth Rudetsky, whom the New York Times dubbed “The Mayor of Broadway.” The series features three Tony Award winners and critically-acclaimed powerhouse talents: Stephanie J. Block (The Cher Show) appeared in the beginning of January; Santino Fontana (Tootsie) will be on February 5; and Laura Benanti (Gypsy) on March 26.
It was a pleasure to sit down with the talented Santino Fontana for this interview right before his concert Saturday, February 5.
Were you always a performer even as a child or when did it begin?
I fell in love with movies when I was a little kid, and it kinda grew out of that. I did force my friends and family to be in a Thanksgiving play in my garage when I was in preschool…yeah…I was the turkey.
What was your first professional role?
I spent a summer after my freshman year of college at this great place called Chautauqua in upstate New York. I did an Eric Overmeyer play called “On The Verge” where I played everything from a Yeti to Marlon Brando to a fortune teller…It was my first gig where I was paid and acting alongside actors in the union.
When did you know entertaining would be your career?
Oh God…I still question it. Hahahahaha. It’s funny…I still feel like I’m in the headspace of, I love doing this, I’m gonna keep trying to do it until literally no one will let me.
How did you get cast in “Tootsie”?
I had been commissioned by the Roundabout Theater Company to write a new script to an old Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse musical called “The Roar Of The Greasepaint, The Smell Of The Crowd.” They partnered me with the director Scott Ellis, and we workshopped it up in Poughkeepsie at New York Stage and Film, and he and I just hit it off. We finished that workshop and I think not even two weeks later he called me with a script he wanted me to read, and it was for Tootsie. He asked me to just do one reading, and if I hated it or he hated it, we’d move on. I met the writers Robert Horn and David Yazbeck and loved them…and that was that.
How exciting was it to win the Tony?
Exciting is just one of the words. Surreal is another one. I was also super sick that week, and was on a bunch of drugs to try and get through it, so I was kind of out of it? My wife was six months pregnant…there was a lot going on. Add eight shows a week on top of that, and that night was our day off. I think my goal was to just to get through the night standing. We had a show the next day. People don’t tell you but going to the Tony’s when you’re nominated is a lot like going to a wedding where you may end up the groom. You’re dressed up and excited to be there, but the bride may want nothing to do with you. I grew up in a small town where my only outlet to professional theater was watching the Tony Awards…so there’s all this buildup from your childhood of this fancy, exotic thing, ya know? And then once you’re there, you look around, and your brain splits because amazingly…you know the people you’re sitting next to. It’s not exotic…these are your colleagues and friends. The Tony’s is that show I watched on TV with people there that I’d never know. And then bam.
Other than the Michael Dorsey role in “Tootsie,” what was your favorite role to play?
Hamlet. I got to play it at the Guthrie when I was 23 and was so lucky for that opportunity and still think about that part constantly. That and I did a great play written by Stephen Karam called “Sons Of The Prophet,” off Broadway which I LOVED.
What is your fantasy role?
I’ve tried to give up on dream roles because so much of being an actor is having your heart broken. You don’t get a part you want? Heartbreak. You get a gig you wanted, and it turns out to be a nightmare? Heartbreak. You get this great part and have an amazing experience and then it has to end? Heartbreak. So instead of saying, this is my fantasy role, I try to just respond to what’s going on and how what I want can be found…if that makes sense.
Do you think it’s easier or harder being married to an actor (Santino is married to actress Jessica Fontana)?
Both. Ha! I don’t know how it works with actors and non-actors because there’s so much we don’t have to say or explain about show business or the ups and downs and unstable insanity of it all. Then again, I will tell you when I go to see Jess in stuff I am 10 times more nervous than I ever am in the wings…not because I think she won’t be great, she always is…I think when I actually think about what people are risking when they’re performing is just so terrifying…and yet I don’t think like that when I’m doing it. I don’t think I’m letting my daughter near a stage.
Describe yourself in three words?
Loyal, determined and curious.
What do you do for fun?
Play with my two year old daughter.
How did you meet Seth?
Which one is Seth?
What did you do during the quarantine part of the pandemic?
What did I do? What didn’t I do? At this point it’s going on over two years…I think I did what everyone did…I grew out my hair, grew a beard, gained weight, cut my hair, shaved, lost weight, was optimistic about the future, determined there’s no point to anything, thought about taking the LSATS, lived with my parents for five months, rented an RV, bought a house outside the city, called friends, discovered cooking, recorded audiobooks, recorded demos for composer friends, made audition tapes, shot a few things, read a few things, and decided to grow my hair out again.
What should our readers expect from your performance at the Seth Rudetsky Broadway Concert Series?
Seth will give me shit in a sassy, yet loving way and I will undoubtedly dish it back.
Tickets are $37-$67 with $123 VIP tickets. The VIP ticket includes a premium seat and post show experience with the artists. For tickets and information, please visit ParkerPlayhouse.com; by phone at 954.462.0222; in person at The Parker box office at 707 N.E. Eighth Street in Fort Lauderdale.