Friday, December 21, 2012

A new brother in the City of Brotherly Love

The crew at the Magic Garden

Our first restaurant experience in Philly

The Liberty Bell....duh.....

Cody and Martin during the power outtage

Signed Playbills for BC/EFA

Independence Hall


As Christmas quickly approaches, I hope that everyone is staying warm and spending time with their loved ones.  Last week we were in Philadelphia, one of my favorite cities, and here is a little recap of the events of the week. 
Our flight out of Durham was delayed, so what was supposed to be a relatively quick travel day became a much longer one.  But, once we got into Philly, we were all ready for some food.  Billy and Rosie had spent quite a bit of time in Philly, so they suggested a place nearby our hotel, The Continental.  A kind of upscale dinner focusing on tapas, a group of about 9 of us went.  Wow.  One of the best meals on this leg of the tour by far.  We shared quite a bit of things, but probably the best thing I had was the lobster macaroni and cheese made with orzo pasta, and the French onion soup dumplings.  MMMMMMMMM. 
The next day a group of us went out for a smidge of sight seeing, despite the cold weather.  We walked to the "old city", and along the way, I saw from afar, many of the historical sights I've seen on my prior two trips to Philly.  One of my favorite places I've ever been, Independence Hall, home of the 2nd Continental Congress, and the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.  Now, having been there before, I opted not to go this time.  Philly is an amazing city with so much to I didn't want to go back to places I had already been. 
The cold-weary travelers stopped in for what turned out to be the longest wait for hot food in the history of the universe.....thankfully the food was good, or else they would've had a mutiny of leather-jacket-wearing, pompadour having, not so gentleman or lady-like people on their hands. 
On our way back to the hotel, we did stop at the Liberty Bell.  Though I had been there before, it was nice to stop in and see the finished complex surrounding it; it had been under construction the last time I was there.  And besides, it's the Liberty Bell; if you are in Philly, you kinda HAVE to see it.  And it is synonymous with freedom and it was a welcome visit.  Then it was off to get warm at our hotel and head to opening night.  The Forrest Theatre is one of the older theatres in Philly.  It truly looks like a slice of Broadway in Pennsylvania.  It also has the distinction of bein the only theatre I have ever played that has it's dressing rooms in a seperate, to explain, it's not as though the boys and m'am had to walk outside in the cold to get to stage.  But, there is a tunnel connecting the buildings to lead the actors to stage.  The show, as usual, went off without a hitch, and the Philly crowd really seemed to love it. 
One of the best parts of our week was that we were in such a great part of the city.  Shopping all around us, and TONS of food options.  The shopping was a plus, because I was able to get a few more things for Christmas, AND, to finally bet my BRAND NEW iPad mini replaced.  I was having a lot of problems with it, but the folks at THIS Apple store were nice enough to replace it for me.  Major weight off my mind. 
On Thursday, the Jam and I ventured to the Reading Terminal Market first Philly cheesesteak of the trip.  And....only my first of the day.....  The Market is this great place with tons of vendors...with everything from chocolate, to southern style BBQ, to the first ice cream made in America.  The cheesesteak was exactly what I wanted.  Hot, tasty, and great.  I also got to stop by the Hard Rock while we were there, so that small part of our trip was great.  We then met up with Corey, Billy, Rosie, Rob, and his wife Roisin.  We headed to South Street, one of my favorite places to shop in vinyl stores, and we got to see something that has always stuck with me about Philly; the Magic Garden.  I've passed by it the last two times I've been in Philly, but it was never able to be visited before this trip.  A guy (don't remember his name....oops....) started creating this MASSIVE sculpture in/on his house, and in a vacant lot.  It is comprised of glass, tile mosaic, plates, bicycle wheels....anything you can imagine.  It is truly stunning.  It's so amazing, it's hard to know where to look.  I took a ton of pictures, but they just don't do it justice.  See the one above with the blue glass bottles. 
From there, we headed on down South Street, where I got to visit one of my favorite stores, Crash Bang Boom; kinda like a non commerical Hot Topic.  And, I had my SECOND cheesesteak of the day.....ok, I split it with Jam, but still.  Jim's Steaks on South was quite good, but I think I preferred the one I got at the market.  As we continued on our trek, we headed down to the water, and then to a little place Billy wanted to show us....Delancy Street.  When Billy was in college there, he'd often walk down that street to calm himself and clear his mind.  It is an older, wealthier part of Philly that is filled with brownstones, coblestone streets, and quite a few old relics of America....for instance, one home had a "Don't Tread On Me" flag flying out front, the original symbol of the USA.  We walked close to 5 miles to and from South Street, so it was time to head home and rest a bit before heading to the show that night. 
On Friday, I ventured out on my own for the first time in the last few cities.  I walked quite a bit, and got to take in the sights in Philly I had never been able to see before.  I stopped by the Philadelphia Free Library, the Benjamin Franklin Institute, and the art museum, with the famous steps Rocky ran up, complete with a statue commemorating the movie (see above picture).  On the way back I took in the Rodin memorial, and stopped at Underdogs, a hot dog place close to the hotel.  I had walked about 4 miles before I got back to the theatre for rehearsal.  It's crazy to think that in the first year of tour, we only lost one technician, and one actress...well, not "lost", but they left us.  And, since this leg of the tour started, things have changed every couple of weeks.  In Philly, we welcomed the newest MDQ family member, James Barry.  He will be taking over as Carl Perkins in January, and I have to say, he's a pretty rad guy.  Now, he's a Red Sox fan and a native New Englander so I'm partial....but still.  We had a short music rehearsal with him, and I'm anxious to see just how great he will be; if he has that much of a grasp on the show after just a couple of days, the sky is his limit.  I should also mention, he was a part of the original cast of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson; a little-known show with great music, and an unorthadox manner of story telling.  He is a great addition to our little family. 
On Saturday, we experienced something we have yet to on tour: a power outtage. 
We were at the theatre, and just before half hour, the power in the entire theatre, as well as a few other buildings nearby, went out.  We were told that it would be at least an hour and a half before we'd get power back, so we made the best of it by standing in the emercency-light-lit hallways.  People get bored.....enjoy the videos below......
Along with eveything else above....we were also working on our newest project....our 2nd Christmas song for our battle with Once.  I have a lot of pictures from the audio recording....and the other portion I will not mention yet....suffice to say, it will be MONUMENTAL.  And I will make up for the secrecy with pictures and video at a later date. 
One of the most amazing things about Philly was that our BC/EFA campaign finished....and we raised $52,000!!!!! Pretty amazing for only 3 weeks of collecting.  Not only is it great that the Broadway and tour communities take part in such a worthy cause, but it's a great feeling to know that by presenting a show that people seem to love and asking for donations, we are able to help people who really need it at this time of year.  And to meet people in the audience who are living with AIDS, HIV or cancer and are so touched by our collecting is so heartwarming, and something I will never forget. 
Well, that's about it from Philly.  We are here in our nation's capitol, Washington, DC at the moment, and we are quickly approaching Christmas and New Years.  With all of the business, visits from family, fellow actors in Les Miserables and White Christmas nearby, I probably will wait until the end of our stay here to update you.  So, if I don't write before then, please have great Chrismases and New Years parties, and I'll write soon!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Durham, Duke University and a little friendly holiday competition....

Is he cute, or what?

THE Durham Bull

Outside of the Burt's Bees factory

He's a baseball player!

The Durham Performing Arts Center

The Duke University Chapel

The lighting of the Lucky Strike Tower

The Durham Bulls mascot

I'm hiding from cockroaches and bed bugs

Giant family dinner

Billy as Chuck Zayas

 I'm a VERY happy man
I hope this last week treated you all well!  Not to spoil anything, but I will say the week in Durham was pretty uneventful.  That said, I certainly have some stuff to update you on. 
As we left Baltimore, we were all looking forward to the fact that it was our first travel day in weeks with a direct flight.  We didn't really have any plans when we got into Durham, but we knew at the very least we would have most of the evening to relax and explore.  Little did we know....
We arrived in Durham, and took the bus from the tiny airport to our hotel.  Within minutes of our arrival, it became very obvious that the hotel was not up to our standards.  Or, to ANYONE'S standards, for that matter.  I won't tell you the name of it, but it rhymes with EXTENDED STAY AMERICA.  My room was "fine"; I wouldn't say it was great, and I wouldn't say it was clean, but it was ok.  However, the rest of the company experiences cockroaches, bed bugs, dust, general filth, and in one case....NO FURNITURE in the room.  So, it was decided by company management that we would not be staying.  However, that's easier said than done to find a hotel that will immediately take in 28 people for a week.  With time to waste until a new hotel was found, the entire cast and crew made their way to a small German restaurant nearby.  These poor people had no idea what was coming.  They hadn't opened yet, but we waited until they did.  Though it took quite a while to get food, our server was quite nice, and the food was very good.  It may have been annoying travel day, but all of us being able to let off some steam and eat good food together was a great experience.  Later on in the evening, we got the word that we had a new hotel, so we all made our way there. 
The next day I explored the area immediately around the theatre.  The Durham Performing Arts Center is directly across from the American Tobacco Campus; it's a renovated cigarette factory filled with restaurants, cafes, office and retail space.  It's a pretty cool little area.  I got my hair cut at a great little barber shop, American Tabocco Barber, and then walked around taking pictures for quite a while.  Also near the theatre is the Durham Bulls ballpark, home of the team by the same movie, and made famous by the Kevin Costner baseball movie Bull Durham. 
Opening night went extremely well, and the promoters threw us an opening night party at a local restaurant.....probably some of the best food we've gotten at an opening party on the whole tour.  To be honest, a lot of my time in Durham was spent at a large mall nearby.  Not only was I doing a bit of Christmas shopping, but I've been having some problems with my brand new iPad mini.  The problem still hasn't been cleared up, but hopefully soon. 
On Friday, Vince and I went to see the Duke campus.  I've been a Duke basketball fan for a very long time, and I've always heard they have a beautiful campus.  I was not disappointed.  We strolled around for quite a while, but we were most taken with the Duke University Chapel (pictured below).  I had to make some obligatory purchases of Duke schwag. 
Saturday brought the more interesting/exciting things of the week.  In between shows the crew at the DPAC had a potluck cookout for us.  It's always so nice to be able to mingle with the local crew, and share some fantastic food.  After the between show cookout, some of the cast and I headed to the jam room to record a Christmas song.  Strangely, our cast has quite a few friends in the Broadway cast of Once, and they challenged us to a Christmas song battle.  Their first song, White Christmas, was extremely well done, and we knew we needed to turn it up a notch.  So, we recorded our version of Mele Kalikimaka (video below).  Both songs have gotten a great reception, and a lot of buzz on social media, and now we are just awaiting the next installment from the Once cast as we work on OUR next song/video.  Let me tell's gonna be EPIC. 
I'm writing you know from the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia.  I've been here quite a few times, but I've always loved this city.  I'll be looking to see what I haven't gotten to see here before.  AND, we welcome a new cast member this week.....more on that later.  I hope you are having a great week!  Enjoy! 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Good morning, Baltimore!

 The U.S.S. Constellation
 The Hippodrome Theatre, our home for the week

 The Bromo Seltzer Tower, close to our hotel
 Edgar Allan Poe's grave
 Babe Ruth statue at Camden Yards
 Mr. Oriole
 Oriole Park at Camden Yards
 The great Brooks Robinson
 Babe Ruth's birthplace and museum
 A vinyl Christmas tree
 He is indeed....
 Family dinner at the Paper Moon diner
A walking contradiction....
Seasons greetings from the Charm City!  We are currently in Durham, NC home of Duke University and the tobacco road.  But, before I get ahead of myself, it's time to tell you about our great week in Baltimore! 
Amy joined me for the beginning of the week, so on Tuesday morning, we set out to explore the town.  Our first stop was the National Aquarium in the Inner Harbor.  A little expensive, but a FANTASTIC aquarium.  We got to watch dolphins jumping, splashing and playing, observe some beautiful jellyfish, and even stand and watch sharks swim around us in a massive tank.  Lunch was at Phillips's Seafood right there on the water; it was a bitter cold, rainy day, and the crab macaroni and cheese I got there helped warm me up for the next few hours.  Next door was the Hard Rock Cafe; I feel like I haven't seen one in forever.  In fact, thinking back, the last one I went to on tour was in Osaka.  Following lunch and a quick stop at the Hard Rock, we headed home to get out of the cold and get ready for opening night. 
The Hippodrome is a gorgeous, historic theatre that has had some recent renovation, making into a more modern theatre without losing any of it's historic feel and charm.  During the show I got to chat with the city fire marshall.  A kind, interesting guy who was the technical advisor for the film Ladder 49, shot right in Baltimore.  After a successful opening night, a few of us headed to a local pub to celebrate. 
The next day started early again, and was even more bitterly cold than the day before.  We headed to Edgar Allan Poe's grave first.  On the grounds of a beautiful cathedral, it is one of the oldest burial grounds in the city.  Even in the daylight, it was pretty creepy to be standing in a cemetery at the monument to the master of the macabre.  After warming up a bit inside the historic Lexington Market, we headed to the historic Camden Yards, and more importantly for me, Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  It's a park I've wanted to go to for quite some time, so it was amazing to be able to stand there, even in the cold of winter and look out onto the park (see pictures above).  From there, we walked to the Babe Ruth birthplace and museum.  Not far from the ballpark, it's a nice little museum to comemorate a very large and important sports and cultural icon.  Now, I may not be a Yankees fan, and I may have very much believed in the "Curse of the Babe" as a die hard Red Sox fan....but you can't deny the importance of Ruth, nor not be interested in his life and playing career.  So, I really enjoyed myself there. 
Amy left on Thursday, and the Thunderstudies and I had our first rehearsal together in quite some time.  David joined as Cash, so I was only asked to do the rehearsal as Sam, which is quite different from the usual schizophrenic act I usually do at rehearsals. 
I laid pretty low inside my hotel room on Friday, but I did end up venturing out for a bit with Billy, Rosie and Corey to visit the Hampden district, and to go to Hon Cafe, featured on the Gordon Ramsey show...whose name I can't remember.  Anyway, though kitchy and fun to be with my people, I wasn't impressed with the cafe or the food.  However, we walked around a bit, and went into a fantastic antique/vintage store.  I only wish we could've stayed longer, or I could've shipped everything I had seen home. 
The highlight of the week was undoubtedly getting to see Billy and his band the Senders play at The Night of 100 Elvises.  2 years ago, Billy performed there, and a casting director approached him about going to NYC to audition for MDQ.  A few short weeks later, he was understudying Elvis on Broadway.  So, it is a very special event to Billy, and the entire cast and a large number of the crew went out to support him.  Held in an old town hall-like building, it was filled with Elvis look alikes, impersonators, crazy fans and musicians alike.  Billy peformed with his band and added Austin on keyboard, as well as Kelly, Rosie and Katie on backing vocals.  They played a small set upstairs, and then headed down to the mainstage as the headlining act.  They crowd went crazy.  The video below can't even possibly capture the excitement of that night, but I tried to do my best.  I hope you enjoy it. 
For our last night in Baltimore, a group of us headed to the Paper Moon diner where I had a great meat loaf sandwich, and.....a chocolate bacon milkshake.  MMMMMMMM.   BACON.  Ground up pieces of bacon in the shake, and a giant strip sticking out of the whipped cream on the top.  Oh, it was good.  Following that we headed to see an older area of Baltimore that is lit up and decorated for Christmas.  See the video below for a better explanation. 
Now we are here in Durham, NC, and I will keep you posted as to the events of the week in my next blog!  I hope the holiday season is treating you all well!