Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving, and the beginning of MDQ 2.0!!

Hello all! I hope everyone had a great start to their holiday season! We spent Thanksgiving together as a cast in Greenville, SC. And it was a pretty eventful week for a holiday! Here are some of the highlights.

We arrived in Greenville to find the weather a bit cooler than Ft. Lauderdale. However, we were pleased to find that Greenville was a beautiful, inviting little town. Eateries, coffee shops and bars dotting the street outside our hotel.....which, though "nice", was under massive construction, which made things a bit weird. Construction going on at all hours, and the sidewalks around the hotel were blocked off. But, we made the most of it.

Tuesday night started off strong with a great opening night performance. Me and the rest of the Thunderstudies went out to watch and support all of our new boys, and it was great to see the audience react so strongly, and enthusiastically to them! I think the felt the love that night, and knew that above all else, that they were now part of our family.

On Tuesday morning, David Sonneborn, the Jam and I ventured out around town. Aside from all of the awesome shops around, there was a gorgeous river walk that we stopped at for quite a bit. Following that, we made our way to Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive....single A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Which, was great for me to see! Not sure if the boys cared that much....but we also stopped at the Shoeless Joe Jackson museum. I have been a big fan of his since I was a kid, so I was very excited to find out not only was Greenville Joe's hometown, but the museum was there! Unfortunately, it was closed that day....but I made it back on Saturday to take the tour. Though small, it was a great tribute to one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball, and a man who was unfortunately banned from baseball after the 1919 World Series when his team, the Chicago White Sox threw the series. For more info on that, I suggest two of my favorite movies of all time: Field Of Dreams and Eight Men Out. I talked to the staff for quite a while, and even posed for a picture that they posted on their Facebook page! (See above)

Wednesday was spent walking around a bit, but also working an upcoming project of mine....more about that later. For Thanksgiving, our company manager's set up a family dinner at a local restaurant called Soby's. It's crazy to think that we were doing very much the same a full year ago in Charlotte, NC. More than a full year on the road; things have changed so much around us, but in essence we are still the family we were then.

Friday, I went out by my lonesome around town. I did a bit more work on my project, played a bit of guitar, and even hit an independent record store. Saturday was my day to go to Shoeless Joe's house, as I said, and also to take a bunch a pictures of the river walk and some of the old advertisements painted on the age old brick buildings around town.

Sunday, as usual was busy with two shows and load out. Monday morning brought an early travel day to the Charm City, Baltimore. So, I hope you enjoyed this week's blog, and stay tuned for news from Maryland next week!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Trails, dear friends

Hello all!  I hope this new blog finds you all well!  It has been a busy couple of weeks.  Very eventful, and a lot of mixed emotions flying around.  The boys have been in rehearsal quite a bit these last two weeks, so they have had a lot more busy days than I have....but more on that later.  Before I get tot the more maudlin part of the blog, I'll tell you all that I have been up to.
It was pretty cool in Ft. Lauderdale, and as I am not that big of a beach person, I really didn't get out to the beach; I know that's most people's priority when being in a place like that, but other than busy and, honestly, very stressed, I had a lot going on, and the beach was not my first priority.  The first week in Ft. Lauderdale, we did a good amount of press for the first few days.  Our tv commercials and intereviews were of course eclipsed by the Presidential election, but we made the most of it and did our best to get the good word out about MDQ.  Above you'll see some pictures of me and the boys on tv.  We had an interesting adventure after our tv Benihana.  Always a good place to take a vegan, a person who is staying gluten free, a guy who is allergic to EVERYTHING, and an omnivore like me.  Let's just say, it was an experience.  After election night, the audiences started filling up, which brightened our experience immesely.  I ate most of my meals in the Mexican restaurant at the hotel (as did pretty much everyone else) and Chipotle.  Cody just loves that Chipotle. 
The second week started out pretty busy with a visit from my parents, and my lady Amy, who came to visit from Cocoa Beach.  It was great to be able to spend time with her and my family, and to really get to know her.  She is extremely supportive and sweet, and certainly helped me through my stressful week by just being there to listen.  The four of us took a wonderful cruise on Veteran's Day around the canals of Ft. Lauderdale.  Known as the "Venice of Florida", there are a series of canals dotted with multi million dollar and yachts.  We even got to see Stephen Spielberg's $300 million yacht.  WOW.  Just immense and beautiful.  I think I'll get one....
We actually had a pretty hard time finding things to do that day because of the holiday, but Amy found a link for the cruise we ended up taking, so I have to give her the credit for that; otherwise, I don't know what we would've done that day.  We also walked around the Las Olas shopping area and got some amazing gelato. MMM.  Gelato. 
The next morning, we headed to the Bonnet House; it's been there since the early 1900's, and is quite breathtaking (pictures above).  When my parents come to visit, that is the type of thing we have found ourselves doing.  But, that's great.  We really enjoy seeing some of the history of the towns I find myself in.  And, the place was stunning.  So, that helped. 
The cast was visited by a celebrity in Ft. of my favorite singers of all time: Dion of Dion and the Belmonts (pictured above).  He came back and chatted with us after the show, and we were all humbled to hear him praise our show, and even tell us an amazing story about meeting his wife, with whom he is celebrating 50 years of marriage.  It's pretty amazing to think back on all of the people who have seen our show, and that we have had the immense pleasure to meet.  But this time, I was performing, which gave me a better opportunity to thank him for his influence on me, and to get a photo opportunity.   
Now on to the more serious and weighty part of the blog.....
The last week in Ft. Lauderdale truly marked the end of an era.  A changing of the guard, if you will.  One of our electricians, Dan Krohne and his new bride Jillian who was on our company management team.  Dani Taylor, Robbie V's girlfriend joined our crew, though, which is a great thing.  We spent quite a bit of time with her when she came with us to Japan, so it was like a big reunion.  Lee, Chris and Chuck all left us after closing night as well.  I'm sure for some people it doesn't seem like a big deal for people to move on; but these people have been with us for 14 months.  Other than being talented, valuabel assets to the show, we have all become friends, and really more like a family.  The closing show was pretty hard for us all to get through.  I would be lying if I said it was easy for me to step down as Cash.  If you know me at all, you know that playing Johnny is much more than a show or a role for me.  I have a deep personal connection to his music, and to his life.  And going on in that role is something I will never forget or change for anything.  But, knowing that I had to step back down was not easy to deal with.  My comfort lies in the fact that I love this show more than anything.  And I know what my role in this company and family is.  So, I know that I did what was asked of me for three weeks, and can step back and look at that as a personal success and move back to the daily life I know so well as an understudy, and to be supportive of our new cast members.  But, like I said, saying goodbye to people who have become some of my closest friends was just icing on the sadness cake.  We will miss those boys every day....but, we have some great new people with us.  So, like I have said a lot this week, with every ending comes a new beginning....and it will never be "goodbye"; it's just "til next time". 
As I said last week, David Elkins joined our tour as Johnny Cash.  He has been in rehearsal day and night, and working very hard to get ready for opening in Greenville.  We are all excited to see him rise to the occasion.  Vince Nappo joined us the first week in Lauderdale as our new Sam Phillips.  He brings a lot of experience to the role, and again, we are all ready to see him step into Sam's shoes and shine.  Rounding out MDQ 2.0 are Corey Kaiser and Rob Lyons.  Corey joins us as Brother Jay, the bass player, not far removed from his run with the show at New World Stages Off-Broadway, and before that the Original Broadway Cast at the Nederlander.  Rob is certainly no stranger to the role of Carl Perkins; he originated the role, and has been a part of every encarnation of MDQ.  He has performed in all of the pre-Broadway stints, Broadway, Off-Broadway, and even opened the London production.  I feel like I've been watching him perform for years.  I've looked up to him for quite a while.  I had the pleasure of meeting him after seeing the show at New World on our first day of rehearsals in NYC, more than a year ago.  He's a great guy, and an amazing Carl. 
Last but not least, our Production Stage Manager, David Lober leaves us after opening night in Greenville.  It's so hard to lose all of these dear friends at once.  But, he is leaving to stage manage Matilda on Broadway, so we can't exactly blame him.  Replacing him is Peter Van Dyke, who has immense touring experience, and has even toured with David.  We are all excited to work with him, and see what new dynamic he adds to the group. 
Before I get too sappy and sad, I will end talk of departures and arrivals there....but suffice to say, it has been an emotionally hard couple of weeks for us all. 
We opened last night in Greenville, and the boys did a fine job!  The audience was raucous and great, and it really made all of our new boys feel right at home I think....but more on that next week! 
I will leave you with a link to the Jam's new record.  It was released today on iTunes, and I urge you to buy it.  He's a great singer-song writer, and the EP is just fantastic.  Not only that, but the artwork is done by our very own Billy Woodward, and Austin, Billy Bob, Lee and Chuck all perform on it.  It's a must have.  So, click the link below and support my buddies!  Until next week, please have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Georgia, Nashville, Orlando and the end of an era

It's been an eventful few weeks since last I wrote, so I will do my best to update y'all on everything I've been up to.  After we came home from Japan, I stayed in Maine for a week, and then trekked down to Columbus, GA to revisit some old stomping grounds; the Springer Opera House.  In total, I was only in Columbus for 4 weeks, but it seemed like much less than that.  It was wonderful to return to such a gorgeous, historic theatre and perform.  It was actually my first regional show in over a year, and my first regional Equity show, which was a pretty great milestone.  I got to play 8 characters in the Orin "track" in Little Shop of Horrors.  The show turned out extremely well; a lot of talent on that stage, some fantastic puppeteering, and just a lot of great people working at that theatre.  They made my experience feel like a homecoming.  And it was a nice little break from tour. 

While I was there, I got the news that I was going to be going on as Johnny Cash for the three weeks we are in Florida.  Needless to say, I was very excited!  But, it was also a bit nervewracking.  I had been planning on taking a trip to Nashville on the 3 days off I had in a row in Columbus; once I got the news about going on, I made the trip a definite.  I did the same thing just about a year and a half ago when I found out that I was cast in the tour, and I figured it was pretty fitting.  After about a 6 hour drive, I threw my stuff in my hotel room and ventured to downtown Nashville.  My initial reason for going was the opening of the Johnny Cash Museum on Music Row.  Unfortunately, the opening has been pushed back a few months.  However, the museum store IS open, and I dropped in to spend entirely too much money.  While there, I met Kelly Hancock....Johnny's neice.  We chatted for a bit, and once I brought up MDQ, she said she had "heard really good things" about me.  Surely she was thinking of someone else.  Turns out......nope.  She did indeed mean me.  So, not only did I get to go to the impressive new museum store and get some great Johnny Cash merchandise, but I spoke to his niece who complemented me.....pretty good start to the trip, if you ask me.  From there I headed a bit north of Nashville to see a friend's show that night, and was back in Nashville proper by about 11 o'clock.  Which was good, because I wanted to start my next day early, giving me enough time to see a ton of stuff.  Besides, I needed to plan it all out!

I woke up the next morning and headed directly for the Ryman Auditorium.  I only have been to Nashville once before, and the last time, not only was I only there for 4 hours, but I missed the Ryman tour by about 15 it was a definite priority this time.  I got in very soon after opening, and I was pretty overcome with emotion.  The building has been there since 1892, and is commonly referred to as the Mother Church of Country Music.  It was the home of the Grand Ole Opry for decades, and the Johnny Cash Show was filmed there from 1969-1971.  Needless to say, it was a very special place for me to visit.  I got picture taken onstage, and walked throughout the pews in the audience.  I perused each case of memorabilia, and stopped for quite awhile at the largest case in the hall; dedicated to Johnny and June.  I really was overcome with emotion; it was amazing to be able to stand in yet another place where the Man In Black once stood.  And to know that his voice once echoed off the back wall next to me.  It was pretty powerful.  I went up to the balcony, where Johnny saw June for the first time on a school trip to see the Opry in high school.  I wandered around the hall for quite a while, and after a quick lunch, made my way to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  I didn't have that much time left in the day to see a lot, so I wanted to move as quickly as possible.  The Hall of Fame was pretty great, but I was a little turned off by the mass amount of "new" country memorabilia there.  In my opinion, Taylor Swift has no place at the Hall of Fame; I'm not discounting her talent, but she is not nearly in the same league as those people.  Off my "new country" soap box.  I just happened to be in Nashville on the eve of Minnie Pearl's 100th birthday, so there were tons of new exhibits at both the Hall and the Ryman dedicated to her. 

After leaving the Hall, I needed to get on the road pretty quickly.  But, my trip was not going to be complete without one last of the main reasons I went through Nashville the first visit Johnny and June's final resting place.  It's at a funeral home/cemetery called Hendersonville Memory Gardens; in the town where Johnny and June lived for their entire married life.  It really is a beautiful place, and I spent quite a bit of time there.  I paid my respects to John and June, and I talked to him for quite a bit.  I'm sure most people find that strange, in that we have never met....but I have been given so many opportunities because of his music, his message, and his life.  So, I feel like I owe him a lot. 

I made the long trek back to Georgia that night, and the following morning (and the morning after) I did a 9:30 AM performance of Little Shop.  Nothing like doing a full scale musical and belting G's at 9 in the morning....  The show closed well, and I hopped on a plane to Orlando the morning after we opened.  And thus starts the adventure of year two of tour.....

24 hours after closing Little Shop of Horrors in Georgia, I was preparing for my first day of "rehearsal" as Johnny Cash in Orlando.  On Monday evening, the boys, m'am and I all met at the theatre to do a run through of the show in the lobby as the crew continued their dilligent work to load in the set.  It was crazy to think that we had been on opposite corners of the earth for 5 weeks, but just like seeing an old friend, once you get back into the swing of things, it's like you never left. 

After a successful rehearsal, I made it an early night in order to wake up for a tv interview with Cody the following day.  It went pretty well, and after a quick lunch we made our way to the theatre for our dress rehearsal before opening night.  Talk about a whirlwind of a couple of days!  The run went pretty smoothly, and then it was time to rest and chill for a bit before opening. 

The crowds in Orlando were just fantastic; enthusiastic and with us every moment.  The reviews have been great, and very kind to me as well.  All in all, it was a fantastic week.  I was quite busy, so no, I did NOT go to Disney.  But that's ok.....I've been quite a few times.  In fact, I really didn't get to see a whole lot of Orlando in general.  But, it was worth it to be able to step up and perform all week, and be greeted by such great crowds.  And, to meet some amazing people as well.....more on that later....

Our 3 week stint in Florida marks the end of an era of sorts.  There is quite a large influx of new cast/company members, which means we are also saying goodbye to quite a few people that have been with us for the entire year.  Rather than get sappy....YET.....I'll just talk about the people who have joined us thus far:  David Elkins joins the cast to take over as Johnny Cash in Greenville, SC.  A great guy, hard worker, and a friend of a friend; he may have only been with us for a few days thus far, but it really feels as though he's been with us forever.  And, when all of us are so close, that's a good thing. 

As Bob Dylan wrote, "The times, they are a changin'".  We are in Ft. Lauderdale now, and by the time we get to Greenville, the show and people on tour will be quite different.  But, like the end of a show, it's not all bad, and not all good.  It's great to have some new blood on tour, but we will miss the people that have been with us for so long. 

I hope you enjoy the latest news from tour....make sure to check out the videos below to see what we've been up to, and stay tuned for a very detailed and very bittersweet blog from Ft. Lauderdale.  Take care, everyone!