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!


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