Monday, September 23, 2013

Oh, Mr. Phillips! Year 3 of MDQ on Tour, here we come!

The bass in our NYC rehearsal studio

Tyler (Elvis Presley) looks on as Vince (Sam Phillips), James (Carl Perkins) and Corey (Jay, the bass player) rehearse
My amazingly nice apartment housing in NYC
The view of downtown from my hallway

First day!


Michael Krug: hands-on stage manager

Guitar tech day

Tyler and I goofing around.  "Look out, man!"

Me and Jonathan Holiff; his father Saul was Johnny's manager for most of his career, and Jonathan made a documentary called My Father and the Man In Black. 

Loading out of the rehearsal space

Hey, kids! It's been quite a while since I have written a blog! So, a bit of back story since my last post, and then on to the task at hand.

The last leg of tour closed in May in Tucson, AZ, and from there I made my way to Florida to spend a week with Amy. We had a ton of fun at the Disney parks and at Universal; particularly Harry Potter World at Islands of Adventure. We were even able to see a couple of shows, which is a luxury when, as a working actor it's often hard to see theatre. We were given free tickets to see Memphis in Orlando, and we caught Big River at the theatre Amy grew up doing shows at. 

After my week in Florida I headed home for the first extended amount of time in quite a while. It was nice to be back and to just help my parents with everyday things around the house. And, to see quite a few state parks and lighthouses I had never been to. I went to NYC for a few days in order to see my friend Anthony in Pippin, which was truly incredible. I was also able to see Broadway star Rebecca Luker at 54 Below, and to catch Corey (the bass player on tour) with one of his bands, Sully and the Benevolent Folk at Joe's Pub. I caught up with a few friends in the process as well, and it was great to be back in the city for a bit; even if it was ungodly hot.

The majority of my summer was spent with my family, and Amy was able to come up for a week of sightseeing as well. But quite a bit of my summer was devoted to reviewing shows for Again, it was great to see so many shows, and though I have been writing this blog in every city on tour, having to write under deadline certainly pushed my writing ability.  All in all, I saw 2-3 shows a week from late May until mid-August; I also did a few interviews with performers as well. And, though it was great to see so many shows I hadn't before, it mostly made me long to be back on the stage.

Before tour ended, offers were sent out for "year 3" of tour, and I was more than pleased to accept the role of Johnny Cash full time. Once the ink had dried, and my schedule was in place, Amy and I decided to take a road trip from her house in Florida to Nashville. It had become an annual trip for me prior to tour, and it just wouldn't have felt right to not go. Besides that, I had not yet been able to visit the recently opened Johnny Cash museum there. So, I flew to Florida to meet Amy and we made the 11 hour trek to Nashville. Along with my normal stops at the Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall Of Fame and Museum, we were able to visit the Cash museum for the first time; it was more than worth the wait. We also went to the "new" home of the Grand Ole Opry, and looked for Owen Bradley's Quonset Hut on Music Row. I also made it a point to drive to the sight of Johnny and June's home in Hendersonville on Old Hickory Lake, that burned down not long after their passing. And, no trip to Nashville would be complete without visiting Johnny and June's final resting place and paying my respects. 

Once I got back home from my little pilgrimage, I only had a few days before I was slated to head to NYC to start rehearsals. So most of those days were spent doing a little packing, and spending some quality time with my family before heading out on the road. After a tearful goodbye, I hopped on a plane and landed in NYC. It took me no time to get used to the city again, and it certainly didn't take long to get used to the amazing apartment I was housed in; if anything, I was spoiled (pictures above). Located in midtown, it was a stones throw from our rehearsals, which were located on 60th and 11th at the Manhattan Movement and Dance Center. It was a great space to house us, and the people there seemed over joyed to have us there. The first day was of course a bit nerve wracking; meeting quite a few new people and reuniting with others. And, the fact that for me it was like a brand new start; yes, I have been with the tour for quite a while, but in a much different capacity. So, on to who will be with us this year. We have a few people returning, which certainly made rehearsal goes smoothly. Kelly, Katie, David Sonneborn, Corey, Vince, James and Krug are all back out on the road in the same capacity. We added John Countryman as Jerry Lee (he has played the role quite a few times in Chicago), Tyler Hunter as Elvis (he is the original Las Vegas MDQ Elvis, and best friends with Cody Slaughter who will be rejoining us for a short time), and Patrick Morrow on drums. And, save Katie and David, our Thunderstudies are completely new to the show. Sean McGibbon is the new Jerry Lee u/s, Brad Waters (Cody's cousin) comes on as the new Carl u/s, Rob Kipferl comes from the Chicago company as our new Elvis u/s, and my dear friend Andrew Frace (hereafter only referred to as Frace) takes my place as the Johnny/Sam u/s.  Rehearsals went incredibly well in NYC. It's crazy that eventhough it had been a while for those of us who were returning, it came back to us as though we had never left. I will go out on a limb and say that the group we have assembled may be the best yet. The Thunderstudies are all great and awesome people, and the performing cast seemed to gel personally and as a band almost immediately. For me, it's so crazy to be a part of the same show, yet in such a different capacity. I'm clearly a lot more busy, and certainly our time in NYC was no exception. I wasn't able to see any shows as I would have liked to, but money is still tight for the moment. I was able to catch a few live gigs, which was great. I got to see David Sonneborn play with his Western Caravan at the Rodeo Bar. My friend Todd Meredith and his Buddy Holly tribute band, the Rave-Ons played at BB King's in Times Square, as did Katie's fiancĂ© Ben Hope from the Cast of Once. It was awesome to not only catch up with these guys, but to go out and support their music. I got to see quite a few old friends here and there, including my friends Mike and Jill Zygo, also from the cast of Once. I got to hang out with them and quite a few members of the Once cast, and even got to see quite a few celebrities along the way (Celia Keenan-Bolger, Audra McDonald, Tiffany Amber Thiessen, Krista Rodriguez and Zach Levi). On our last day of rehearsal I ran into an old buddy Jeff Kready who was at the same rehearsal space starting rehearsals for the Broadway bound Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. I haven't seen him in long fact, the last time I saw him was when he had just moved to NYC, and was starting rehearsals for the 1st revival of Les Miserables. It's so awesome to be able to support so many talented friends that are doing so many great things. 

Other than playing Johnny Cash on a daily basis, the highlight of my time in NYC was finally getting to see a film I have been waiting months to catch. My Father and the Man In Black has been touring film festivals all over the world, and was just released in major cities, so I took a trek down to the Village with Frace to see it. I had been in touch with the director/writer Jonathan Holiff for quite a while, so it was great to finally be able to support his work. The film is about the his father Saul, who was Johnny's manager for quite a while, and after his passing in 2005 Jonathan uncovered hours of taped audio journals and phone calls. He used these to create the film, chronicling the ups and downs of the pair's professional relationship, and the drug-fueled Johnny Cash years. It turned out (because it was also the 10th anniversary of Johnny's passing on September 12th) that Jonathan (who was named for Johnny) was in the city, so I invited him up to our rehearsals. He showed up, and got to sit in and watch for a while, which also allowed the two of us to meet finally. He told me some amazing stories, from him being on his first Cash tour when he was 9 months old, to WS Fluke Holland babysitting for him. Just an amazing day, and a great way to pay tribute to the Man In Black on the anniversary of his passing.  

After a successful two weeks of rehearsals, it's time to head off to York, PA for tech and our first two previews! Keep your eyes peeled for more news, my blog from tech!