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Contralto Rudinoff plays Hildy strong and sassy

Matt Owen and Sarah Rudinoff in On The Town.
Photo: Chris Bennion, courtesy of the 5th
Sarah Rudinoff returns to the 5th Avenue Theatre this month in a musical with “Town” in the title. “And then I tell people that Billie [Wildrick] is in it too, and they say ‘wait, didn’t we see you in this?’ I told Billie that we need to do Our Town the Musical next,” said Rudinoff.

To set the record straight, Rudinoff and Wildrick co-starred in the 5th’s fabulous remount of Wonderful Town in 2006. Four years later, the two very funny ladies are back for Bernstein’s On The Town at the same theater.

Rudinoff plays Hildy, a rather lonely female cabdriver. Luckily, she gives a lift to an appealing sailor on the town for the day. For Rudinoff, it’s a chance to play another one of the “strong and sassy” ladies created by writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

With the action of On The Town taking place in New York during World War II, Comden and Green’s wisecracking Hildy becomes a composite of the women who stepped into “the men’s jobs” during the war.

“The minute I started rehearsing, it brought Ruth [her character in Wonderful Town] back into my mind. You totally like these women and you want them to succeed,” said Rudinoff. Unlike the Midwestern transplant Ruth, however, Hildy is a tougher character, a true New Yorker.

“During the first week of rehearsal, Bill [Berry, the director] said don’t use any of the soft tricks. Believe that she is this super aggressive,” said Rudinoff, who gave her Hildy a Brooklyn edge.
Both Ruth and Hildy are rare big Broadway musical roles for the low-voiced Rudinoff. “I’m a true contralto. When Nick Garrison and I did Hedwig and the Angry Inch, we had exactly the same range,” she said. “There’s just not a lot of roles in my key. I’m a huge Guys and Dolls fan but I can’t get up there for Adelaide’s songs.”

As for why that most composers write the leading lady roles for sopranos, Rudinoff joked: “I guess if you have a low voice, you can’t have love!”

But at least in this show, Rudinoff can get both the guy and the cab. “I love my cab. I have a big duet in it with my love interest Matt Owen (who plays the sailor Chip). It’s a cab that you can fully stand up in. Incredibly bold colors. In rehearsal, we rocked it so much getting in and out, that they had to put sandbags around it to hold it in place. We are putting miles on that cab,” she laughed.

After the show closes, Rudinoff returns to singing with her band We Are Golden as well as looking at developing a new solo show.