Wednesday, October 30, 2013

And thus begins the whirlwind

 An interesting little park near our hotel in Akron
 Home of the Akron Aeros
 EJ Thomas Hall

 Mystic Lake Showroom, Prior Lake, MN

 My dear friends James, Aimee and Jonathan
 Hey, everyone! I hope this week treated you well!  Things have started to get busy on our tour.  We have hit the portion of our schedule that begins what we call split weeks; that means, that within a week we will often play more than one venue.  Sometimes only for a night, sometimes for a couple.  It becomes a very busy schedule for us, but even busier for our crew, who often will have to drive through the night on a sleeper bus and load in as soon as they get to a venue.  It's going to be one hell of a ride, and though there will be times where I won't be able to see a whole lot, I will take as many pictures and tell you about the week as best I can. 
We left Boston on Monday morning and headed to Akron. It was a bit of a long day with a couple of connecting flights. It was quite a bit colder in Ohio as well, but thankfully I was prepared. After taking some time to myself in my room, I headed out to walk around the main drag a bit. The hotel was a bit on the desolate side, but thankfully there were quite a few places nearby. I ended up having a much needed grilled cheese sandwich at a place called Lockview, and hung with a few of the boys at another place called Brubakers; they had a great jukebox, so we just hung around listening to tunes and playing pool. 

Tuesday was pretty low key, though I did walk around a bit and took a few pictures. Because we were only there for a short time, there wasn't much of an opportunity to see much. We opened that night, and the audience was pretty amazing; not only that, there didn't look to be any open seats. The majority of the cast and crew headed to Lockview that night, and had a pretty awesome time having some local microbrews and watching the random film noir/Kung fu/Hitchcock movies that were playing at the bar. I didn't really do much on Wednesday, though I did go to a great Thai place for lunch. It was very weird to head to the theatre that night with the knowledge that we were closing after only 2 shows. James, Patrick, Corey and I headed to another place, Baxter's, so that we could watch the game on the big screen. And we won! 

Thursday was a pretty quick travel day thankfully, and once we got into Minnesota, it was a bit of a drive to the Mystic Lake casino. We were staying at the casino's hotel, so it proved to be a very interesting week. The hotel gave us meal vouchers for every meal over our 3 day stay, which certainly helped out everyone's wallets; considering quite a few people lost some money.....
Now, when we played Vegas overa year ago, I discovered my casino kryptonite: the Ghostbusters slot machine. I don't know what it is about that dern thing, but I can't get enough of it. After a couple of days of trying to come out on top, I did not. Not to worry dear readers, it wasn't a whole lot of money. 

I spent most of my day on Friday just hanging around the hotel. I went to the gym for the first time in awhile, and even stepped into te sauna for a bit. After a couple of surpringly good meals, I headed...down the our theatre within the casino. It was a very different venue than we were used to playing, so the crew had an interesting time trying to adapt to their theatrical surroundings. But, new challenges aside, the theatre was packed, and they were a hell of a crowd. I did a meet and greet with some VIP's after the show, and then retired to my room, as me and the boys had a 6:15 call the next morning for press in Minneapolis. And let me tell you, 4 AM came pretty early. Though we were up and performing before the sun even came up, it was a lot of fun, and seemed to be a success. Once home, I slept most of the day since I had really only gotten a couple of hours the night before. I headed to the show, which was great again, and afterward I got to meet up with my friends James, his wife Aimee and our mutual friend Jonathan. It had been quite a while since I had seen any of them, so I was overjoyed that they came to the show and that got to spend the night catching up. Unfortunately, my Sox lost that night. 

Our last show at the casino was a Sunday matinee, and the crowd did not disappoint. It is pretty amazing to see how different audiences in an array of cities react to the show, but we have also been overwhelmed thus far by thir positive response. I laid low for a bit after the show, and in the evening a few of us headed up to a suite that Tyler had rented to throw a little party/Red Sox viewing party. I'm happy to say that we pulled out another win, and me and the boys had a blast hanging out. 

And that brings us up to date. I'm writing you from the airport in Wichita, as we embark on a journey to two Texas cities for the weekend. Oof. But, it's been a great week thus far, and I have no doubt it will end well. That's all for now, but stay tuned for more news from the road next week!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

I love that dirty water......



Hello all!  The tour made it's way to Boston in this installment of my blog, and what a pleasure it was to be in Beantown!  It's been more than 10 years since I've been (which is pretty sad considering it's only 3 hours from my house), but what an exciting time to be there!  The Red Sox were just starting their playoff run, the fall weather was just gorgeous, and there were so many things to see!  So, without further ado, here's what the two weeks had in store for us. 

We made our way from DC to Boston on Monday, and shortly after we flew in my parents, brother Rick and "Aunt" Pat arrived in town (I say "aunt' because she's actually my mother's cousin).  They ended up having to stay quite a ways away because of the ridiculous hotel prices in downtown Boston.  So, they drove in to meet me, and we got dinner at California Pizza Kitchen.  As I was walking them back to their car, I met up with Robby, Tyler and Bradley, and decided to head to a bar called Sweetwater so I could watch the Sox game.  Unfortunately, they lost they night.  We did however take part in a little open mic that was going on there, so that was pretty fun. 

Tyler and I had a radio interview Tuesday morning, and then we met up with the other boys for another press appearance.  Following that, my family and I hopped on the T (the mass-transit train system in Boston) and headed to Faneuil Hall.  The whole area is quite historic, and we were able to see the old state house, Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North and South Markets, the Hard Rock (for my un-ending collection of pins) and most importantly, lunch.  We stopped into a place my dad had been previously, Durgin Park, because he said they have the best Indian pudding he's ever had.  Not only did the dessert not disappoint, but the Thanksgiving sandwich I had was pretty great too.  They advertise themselves as being "established before you were born"; they've been there since our founding fathers ate there, and serve traditional New England cuisine.  It was definitely a great place to get food.  After wandering around for a while taking pictures, we headed back "home" so that I could get to the theatre to do soundcheck and get ready.  The opening night crowd in Boston was great, and it was amazing to have my family there.  Especially since my brother and Pat haven't seen me perform in years.  Unfortunately, they had to leave shortly after the show, and left moderately early the next morning.  After they left, I headed to the Intermission Tavern close to the Colonial to meet up with the rest of the cast.  It's owned by Mike, the props man at the theatre, and suffice to say, I was there pretty much every night after the show.  They have great food, and the Sox were always on.  You can't beat that.  AND, I got to meet one of my Broadway idols, Mark Kudisch!  He was also in town doing a show, and happened to stop by Intermission.  What an awesome, down to earth guy. 

Wednesday was almost a tin type of Tuesday, if you replace my family's company with that of Robby, Frace, Kelly and Brad.  They wanted to go on an adventure, so I decided to take them back to where I had gone with my parents.  We even ate at Durgin Park again.  But, we also walked down to the water to see where the aquarium was, and Bradley got to see the ocean for the first time!  We opted to walk back to the hotel so we could see a bit more of the city on the way.  The show went amazingly well again that night, and we were thrown an opening night party at a nearby steakhouse called Flemings.  We talked to quite a few audience members who raved about the show, and even did some photo ops for the press.   

After a lot of sightseeing the previous days, I decided to lay low a bit on Thursday.  I did however introduce Brad to the wonders of Vietnamese pho at Pho Pasteur, close to the theatre.  Man, was it good.  We both good their chicken soup, and Brad had a little fried pheasant.  Another great show that night, and Thursday was done and gone. 

Friday was the day I had been waiting for; I took Frace and Tyler to Fenway Park.  It had been so long since I had been there, we've won 2 World Series titles (after an 86 year drought) and they have installed seats on the top of the Green Monster.  But, though I had been there before, I had never taken an in depth tour like we did this time.  We also got to stand on the top of the Monster and watch my Sox take the field for some drills and batting practice.  Later, Tyler caught a ball and gave it to me, knowing how much the Sox mean to me; what a solid dude.  Before our tour, we went nearby to grab some grub at Tasty Burger (so named, I believe, for a Samuel L. Jackson line in Pulp Fiction: "MMM MMM MMM!!! Now that is a TASTY BURGER!").  Following our tour, I went to the Red Sox team store and spent entirely too much money.  However, I DID purchase a Dustin Pedroia blue road jersey...something I had wanted for quite some time.  And what better place/time to buy it??  The show was great yet again that night, and I was anxiously awaiting the start of the ALCS that weekend. 

Saturday came and went very quickly, but I was able to meet up with my dentist Dr. Trigianni and his wife, who made the trip all the way from Maine to see me!  He had never seen me perform, and my family has been going to his practice for more than 40 years.  That evening, my family's friends the Pierce's came to see the show (also all the way from Maine), and I was able to visit with them for quite a bit afterwards.  It's always so nice to have family visit and see the show.  I made my way to Intermission that night, but unfortunately watched my Sox lose.  Sunday was a whirlwind of two shows, and in between, Tyler, Robby and I got Chinese at this interesting dim sum place that was a converted theatre.  That night....SOX WIN!! SOX WIN!!!

Because of the continued government shutdown, my plans for the day off were put on hold a bit.  I had hoped to go to the Bunker Hill monument and the USS Constitution.  But, I still had a few things that I planned to see.  So, Kelly, Brad and I ventured out to explore a bit.  We walked through the expanses of Boston Common and took in the rolling hills and greenery, and found ourselves at the gravesite of numerous famous Bostonians including Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and victims of the Boston Massacre. It's amazing to think that some of the graves there are more than 300 years old.  After touring the gravesite, we made our way through the Boston Public Garden to Cheers.  As many times as I've been to Boston, I haven't been to any of these sites.  So, Cheers was a must.  Now, for those who don't know, the show was based on the Bull Finch pub, which, like the show, was underground.  But, none of the bars in the building (regardless of what they tell you) in any way resemble the actual set of the show.  That doesn't mean it wasn't fun!  Tyler and Robbie joined us there, and after a couple of pumpkin beers and a trip to the gift shop, we all made the brisk walk home.  That day was Vince's birthday, so he invited everyone out that night to Jacob Firth's, a bar and restaurant that has been there for nearly 200 years.  We had a bit to eat, including the cake Vince's mom made (DELICIOUS!!), and most of us Intermission for a bit afterward. 

Brad, Tyler and I went on a bit of an adventure on Tuesday.  We headed back down to Fenway, but this time our intent was to get Brad a new guitar to travel with.  We grabbed a bit of lunch at the Cask n' Flaggon, a famous bar very close to Fenway, and then headed to Guitar Center to do a little shopping.  We were successful, and headed back to the hotel.  After another great show that night, the Sox won again!  Wednesday was a pretty low key day with another trip to Pho Pasteur, another great show, but a Sox loss. 

On Thursday, Frace and I took a walk to the North End so that we could get some lunch, and stop in for some cannoli's at Mike's Pastry...they were more than worth the walk.  Afterward, we saw the North Church near the Paul Revere Mall (no, not shopping, an open space in the old world meaning of the word).  It was where Revere hung lanterns to announce that the British were coming.   We walked around quite a bit before heading back home.  The following day, the two of us headed to the Harvard campus, since neither of us had ever been.  It certainly is one of the nicest college campuses I've ever seen.  Frace was able to get a sweatshirt for his grandfather who is an alumnus, and after walking around quite a bit, we headed home to get ready for the evening. That evening, a good friend of mine, Carl Hsu came to see the show, and it was great to hang out and talk afterward. 

Saturday was a big day.  After the matinee, I had some friends of my mother at the show, and so I chatted with them for quite a while.  But, the highlight of the day, our visit to Boston, and perhaps of the entire tour thus far, was meeting a big fan of mine, Carl Hanson.  He had seen MDQ a few times before, is a big Johnny Cash fan, and has been reading my blog for a while.  So, I decided to not only meet him after the show, but take his family backstage for a tour.  I can't express how much it warmed my heart to hand Carl a signed poster from the cast and crew, the pick I use in the show, my album, and to show him what the set looks like.  I don't think either of us will ever forget it.  After my eventful afternoon, I joined our sound man Brian at Panang Malaysian, and sampled Malaysian cuisine, which I had never tried before.  It won't be the last time.  The evening show went well yet again, but the highlight of the evening was that....the SOX WON!  World Series bound!!  What an amazing experience it was to be in Boston when they won.  YES!!!!!

Sunday, though we had two shows, was relatively low key, and after our final show and a last stop at Intermission, I headed home to pack. 

The next few weeks are going to be a little hectic; it will be the first time on tour that we will be playing multiple towns/venues within a week.  So, my blogs in the future will often feature a couple of towns, though I will still be doing them each week. 

Well, that's about it for now!  I'm writing this from Minnesota, and I will have plenty of updates for you soon!  Take care, and keep reading!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Kicking off the tour in our Nation's Capitol, furloughs and all....

 DC Metro L'Enfante Station
The Great Emancipator

"Do you expect me to talk?" "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!"

The Jefferson Memorial

My DC tradition since my first visit when I was a little boy

The Eisenhower Theatre in The Kennedy Center
Hello, everyone!  I hope everyone is enjoying the fall weather!  It was actually a warm couple of weeks in DC, but the weather was great for walking around; it was certainly a lot better than the ice cold temperatures that we endured the last time we were in DC. 
It was a pretty short drive from York, PA to Washington, and we were there in the early afternoon.  I had a bit of time to get acclimated to the area we were staying, which was actually Arlington, VA.  I walked with Sean to get some moderate groceries, knowing that because we had kitchens it would be very convenient to have a few things on hand.  Later that evening Amy arrived, so I took the short train ride to Ronald Reagan airport to meet her and cabbed it back.  I had been having major problems with my iPhone, and even after taking it in to get it "fixed" in Lancaster, PA, it still wasn't working.  But I also knew I didn't have much time to find an Apple store to get it fixed. 
Tuesday morning came very early, and me and the boys headed to the Fox studio nearby to do an interview and play a little teaser.  We had a bit of time off, and then headed off to the Kennedy Center to do a full rehearsal/sound check in preparation for our first preview that evening.  We were overwhelmed by the warm response we received, and celebrated a bit at the hotel bar next door at the Renaissance.  The following day, with the full day to ourselves, I was able to find an Apple store not far away.  The bad news was, there was no way for them to fix it, so I had to get a new phone.  C'est la vie.  We headed to the International Spy Museum following our trip to the mall.  Amy and I had a lot of fun there, and though I hadn't heard the greatest things about it, I thought it was pretty amazing.  The majority of the exhibits and "artifacts" they had were from the history of espionage; most of them from the Cold War era.  It was just really to cool to see tools of the trade that had actually been used, and to know that the museum wasn't all based around James Bond or other movies, it was an actual history lesson.  Around the time we left the museum, my parents arrived at our hotel.  So, we went over to greet them before my last preview that evening. 
On Thursday morning, I went to do two more TV interviews by myself.  One on NBC, and one for a mainstay of DC television, the Arch Campbell show.  Arch's show was very laid back and a lot of fun, and I felt the whole day of press went extremely well.  I had a bit of time to chill, and then Amy, my parents and I headed to an Italian restaurant, Kora.  Because of our distance from the theatre, and maintenance on the Metro, I had to leave more than an hour to get to the theatre.  We had a nice early dinner there, and I headed off to the theatre.  The audience blew us away; I can't remember the last time I saw an audience stand for our bows and not one sit down before our finale ended.  It was pretty unreal.  Afterward, my parents, Amy, the cast and I headed back to the Renaissance Hotel bar to celebrate a bit. 

On Friday, Amy and I took my parents to Ford's Theatre, and the new annex that houses all sorts of artifacts and exhibits all based around Abraham Lincoln and his assassination.  Amy and I had been there before, but my parents hadn't been in years; the entire set up is completely different, and they really enjoyed it.  After all of the trips we have taken to DC, and my parents living in Maryland shortly before my father went to Vietnam, they have been there quite a bit.  And this trip was one of their favorites.  We drove around a bit after that, passing the WWII Memorial, and the Martin Luther King.  I had really wanted to go to the Jefferson Memorial, because I hadn't been in years, and it's a bit off the beaten path for a walking tour.  So, we drove out there and took it all in.  It's really quite magnificent, and I was glad to be able to take a ton of pictures and refresh my memory as to what it was like.  Shortly after we got back from our trek I had to head to the theatre, and following the show a few of us went to Buffalo Wild Wings close by. 

My parents left in the morning on Saturday, and with my two shows that day, it left little time for exploring.  I took the Metro to meet Amy on the National Mall, and there were a bunch of food trucks around, so we sampled the eats, and I got to have a staple of my diet on every trip I've ever taken to DC: the bomb pop.  When I was little, it was always one of my favorite things, and I probably couldn't have cared less about any of the sights (save perhaps the Air and Space museum, because they have astronaut ice cream....).  We also walked around the sculpture garden near the Smithsonians which was really quite nice.  Sunday was much the same, as I had another two shows.  We tried to go to the American History Museum, but the exhibits that were closed last time were this time as well.  That night after the evening show we were invited to a get together at our director Eric's house in Virginia.  I had been there last year with the cast on Christmas Eve, so it was nice to go back and let loose with the cast a bit. 

On Monday, because it was a full day off and Amy's last full day in town, we headed out to the National Zoo.  I've been to quite a few zoos in this country now, and this was definitely one of the finest.  There was a bit of craziness there though, as a few buildings and exhibits were shut down because of "suspicious activity".  There were police, FBI, fire fighters and helicopters landing on the property.  A little disconcerting, but we had fun nonetheless.  We then took a long walk from the Mall all the way to the Lincoln Memorial (by far my favorite thing to see in DC, no matter how many times I go there), and then to Constitution Gardens, where there is a memorial to the signers of the Declaration of Independence, which I had never been to. 

We had some time before Amy left on Tuesday, so we took the Metro out to see the National's ballpark and take a few pictures.  And, of course buy some stuff at the team store.  We then headed to get some lunch at Good Stuff Eatery, which turned out to be exactly as advertised.  We took the short trip to the airport, said our goodbyes, and then it was time for me to head to work; once again, the DC audience did not disappoint.  I also forgot to mention earlier that Robby became the first Thunderstudy to go on as Elvis.  He nailed it!!!!

Wednesday was a relatively busy day, as there was a full put in rehearsal for the Thunderstudies, and I was there to be Cash so that Frace could focus on Sam.  Following the show that night, James and I sat around talking about the show, music, and most importantly, the Red Sox. 

I did an advance radio interview the next morning, and then the performing cast did a photo shoot for all of our upcoming press and print media.  I can't wait to see how well they come out! Before the show, John and I headed to a local restaurant to do a talkback to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids sponsored by Broadway Across America for some donors who seemed very pleased to see us, and prepared to enjoy the show that night.  And, Frace got to do his first show as Sam!  And let me tell you, having experienced the same thing he did, it is REALLY nerve wracking the first time; but just as Robby had, he did an amazing job. 

On Friday, I decided to head to the mall where I had had my iPhone "fixed", and do a little shopping for myself.  After a new pair of black jeans and some shaving accessories, I headed back home, and then off to work record some new versions of Riverside for the end of the show.  That night, Katie began her weekend run as Dyanne!  What a great couple of weeks for the Thunderstudies!

Saturday and Sunday flew by with two shows each day, and because the government furlough began the Tuesday before, sight seeing was pretty much out of the question.  The MDQ press team had approached me about organizing the boys to do our version of Sweet Caroline to send ahead to the Boston press team, in the hopes that the Red Sox would use it at one of their upcoming playoff games.  So, we rehearsed on Saturday in between shows, and then recorded it on Sunday.  I think it came together pretty well, and you can watch the link below! 

It was a pretty great couple of weeks in DC, but with all of the time spent on our commute, and the government shut down, I think we were all ready to leave.  Besides that, I hadn't been to Boston in quite a few years, so I was looking forward to doing some exploring there; and of course, living up being in the same town as the Sox for a couple of weeks! 

I'm writing you in the midst of our second week in Boston, and it's been incredible thus far.  But, all of that is for next time.  I hope this finds all of you well, and please keep reading! 
Click the link below to watch me and the boys do our version of Sweet Caroline for our upcoming visit to Boston!!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tech, tech and more tech

Ah yes. Even the Man In Black stayed here...

The Pullo Center for the Performing Arts

York, PA blog

Hey there kids! Time for a bit of an update of tour thus far! I apologize that this one may not be as long or exciting, but I assure you I will make up for it in the future! 

After our final run through on Monday in NYC, we boarded the bus to take the short trip to York, PA the following day. It was pretty surreal to stand on the corner of Broadway and 51st, next to the Winter Garden theatre as we loaded the bus. I was very much looking forward to the fact that we were staying at the Yorktowne Hotel; a historic, haunted hotel, and one of my favorites from my years of touring and traveling. 

After our arrival, I convinced Tyler and Rob to take a little trip with me to Trio Bar and Grill, one of my homes away from home, in Lancaster. We got roped into playing a little trivia, but it was fun to get out and let loose a bit with the boys; especially considering the week would be very busy.

The next day we started tech, and it went amazingly smooth. We donned our costumes and wigs for the first time on Wednesday night, and though it had been quite a while, it all seemed to come right back to me. And that wig still fits like a glove.  It was relatively close quarters in the dressing rooms at the Pullo Center, so the entire quartet, along with Corey and Patrick were together in one room. But we certainly made the most of it.

Tech was going SO smoothly in fact, that it allowed our Thunderstudies the time to get on stage and work through the show just as we had been. I did the rehearsals as well, allowing Frace to be able to focus on Sam, and not have to do double duty at rehearsal. 

We had our first preview that Saturday night, and for our first go around with an audience, it went amazingly well. We were really getting to the point where we NEEDED an audience, and we got one just in time. The following day we had a random 3 o'clock matinee, and that night we packed up to head to DC. 

Like I said, I'm sorry that this blog isn't more exciting, and is long overdue. But, as we are about to finish our time here in DC, I can assure you there will be much more to tell in my blog from the nation's capitol. Take care, and stay tuned!