Saturday, January 25, 2014

The home of Little League Baseball, the armpit of the United States and....Lowell.....

The Carson Four Rivers Center in Paducah, KY

Our historic hotel in Williamsport, PA

The Community Arts Center in Williamsport, PA

The Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, NJ

The Lowell Memorial Auditorium

I hope this week's blog finds you all well! The whirlwind of travel and cold continues, but we keep rocking! Here's what happened this week....

We traveled from Lexington to Paducah, KY on Monday, and it was a pretty short drive, which was nice. A cozy little hotel with quite a few food options nearby, and rental cars to transport us to the theatre a few miles away. Shortly after unpacking, James and I made the short walk to Panera to get some dinner, and not long after the boys and I headed to the theatre. The Carson Four Rivers Center was a beautiful new arts center (above), and I was quite taken with the locomotive and various train cars just a few feet from the theate's entrance. The show that night was pretty great; not Lexington great, but still. And the load in was quite painless for our crew, which always bodes well. After the show, a number of us went to Buffalo Wild Wings close to the hotel for a little food and merriment. 

Tuesday brought something that has been and will be a rarity: a day without travel, and nothing to do during the day. I used the day to get a bite for lunch, check on the impending upgrade of my iPhone, and run a couple of other errands. It was a pretty laid back day, but it was nice to have the time to do a few things. We made our way to the theatre that night for another great show, and following that we went to BWW for much needed sustenance. 

We had a very substantial travel day on Wednesday, and rolled into Williamsport, PA in the mid evening. Pretty much the entire cast and crew found themselves at the Bullfrog Brewing Co. shortly after we arrived, as it was close by and served food. David and I thought the beef stroganoff sounded pretty darn good in the cold weather; and we were not disappointed. I was pretty tired after that, so I made it an uncharacteristically early early night. 
I walked around a bit in Thursday, taking pictures of the amazing murals across the street from the theatre, and quite a few of the buildings in town. I also made the short walk I the Wegman's grocery store to get a few things, including a great slice of pizza for lunch and a sandwich for dinner. The lovely historic hotel we were staying at was just feet from the theatre, which made our "commute" very simple. We had a pretty good show that night, though after the past few, the audience was a bit lackluster. Following the show, Frace, Brad, Tyler and I went next door to The Public House for a quick bite, followed by hanging out in my giant hotel room for a while. 

We made the relatively short drive to Morristown, NJ on Friday. I was excited to get to the theatre, as I had a couple of packages waiting for me; certainly not the least of which was my new iPhone 5S. We didn't have much time once we got to the hotel, and there was quite a bit going on that evening. I got dinner with Frace at a brilliantly thought out but pretty poorly executed "health food" restaurant, Muscle Makers. After that, I made my way through town to get a coffee and head to work. Morristown is quite pretty, and I looked forward to taking pictures in the daylight the next day. I got to work, and was met with a number of troubling situations. The crew had had a particularly tough load in; the venue's loading dock and technical capabilities weren't exactly up to snuff. And on a personal note, I was told that my packages had been opened; I was pretty pissed, to say the least. Thankfully nothing was missing, but I was a little perturbed that someone that works at the theatre would sign for, and then open a package and attempt to steal my new iPhone. Thus, my already low view of New Jersey just continued to plummet. And, the week was young. We all pulled together and put on a good show, for another lackluster audience. However, present that night were our management company, representatives from Broadway Across America and The Booking Group, who books all of our venues. They held a reception at our hotel following the curtain, so it was nice to mill around and meet quite a few new people that are integral parts of the promotion and distribution of our show. A good time was had by all, despite the falling temperatures outside.

Saturday proved to be an interesting day, and with some surprises here and there, it was "interesting" to say the least. That afternoon, a representative from James' agent's office was coming to the show. 3 of them had planned to be there the night before, but had encountered accidents and bad weather on their drive and were unable to make it. So, Gary Krasny, as in The Krasny Office (TKO) was in the audience. Susan had planned to take the show off to head to NYC for the afternoon, so I was in the able yet inexperienced hands of Corey Kloos to do my wig for the matinee. After leaving the hotel, I attempted to get a quick something for lunch and a coffee, so that Corey and I could start my wig prep early. I failed miserably. But I was only a few moments later than we had planned. The prep went quite well, but we had to pause for a bit until I received my clean laundry and microphone. And that is when the plot thickened. It seems that the inept and incapable local wardrobe crew had taken our clean laundry, mixed it without dirty laundry, and sent it off site (no laundry facilities at a tour house?? Really???!!!!) to be washed. And as of half hour, it was clear no one was going to have clean laundry. We all resolved to wear our own undergarments and scrounge for appropriate under shirts. Corey and I finished my wig in good time, and with yet another bad taste in my mouth caused by my least favorite state, we went out and rocked the show out with Katie on as Dyanne. Afterward I had the pleasure of meeting Gary Krasny, who not only complimented my performance, but offered me his card and asked me to be in touch when I was in NYC. I was flattered and very surprised. With a short break between our 3pm and 8pm shows, I stopped next door for what turned out to be the WORST pad Thai I had ever had in my life. Way to go, New Jersey. You keep finding new ways to astound me with your awfulness. I trudged through the cold and wind to the hotel, and attempted to sit for a few moments, eat some terrible food, and continue the setup of my new phone. Just as soon as I had arrived, it was nearly time to turn around and head back to work. The show went relatively well that night, but honestly we were all just ready to get the hell out of New Jersey. That night was pretty fun, as Frace had a couple of friends from his Jersey Boys days in town (one I had previously met in Wichita). James' wife Tara joined us, as did Katie's fiancé Ben, so we had a grand old time in the hotel bar. 

Sunday we made the relatively short drive to Lowell, MA, and shortly after we arrived my parents and our family friend Rae met me at the hotel. We were in a bit of a time crunch, but we found a place relatively close by for dinner. It was great to see them, as it had been since New Years since I had seen my parents, and Boston since I had seen Rae. The show that night was a little strange, in that the venue was not nearly equipped for our show, our load in, or our group in general. It was a rough one, but the audience certainly made up for it. That, and the fact that my family was there made up for any unpleasantness. 

So, it was a crazy week, but we have a few more before we have a week sit down. I am trying to take pictures and see as much as possible, but it hasn't been easy. Thanks for tuning in this week, and I hope you will next time as well!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Travel hell in the cold midwest and the horse and bourbon capitol of the world

The Peoria Civic Center

The RiverPark Center, Owensboro, KY

The beautiful Lexington Opera House

A cake made for us by the ushers at the Opera House

The fried duck and waffles from the Village Idiot

Hello everyone! I hope everyone's new year has started off on a positive note. Unfortunately for the majority of the cast and crew on the Million Dollar Quartet 1st National Tour....ours didn't. It was a whirlwind of a week. So much so, that a few of us found ourselves thinking back to the events of the week as though they had happened months ago. But, now for the details:

On Monday afternoon I made my way to the Phoenix airport and begrudgingly dropped off my beautiful Mustang, and prepared to take the trip to Peoria. We had gotten word that most of the cast and crew that were booked into Peoria on United had already had their flights cancelled. So, I was crossing my fingers. After making my way through security, I went to get a bite to eat, and was surprised to find Nica, our Master Electrician in the seating area. We talked about and shared stories about our break, as well as the hope that our flights went off without a hitch. As we boarded the first flight to Minneapolis, everything seemed just fine. When we landed however, we both quickly found out that our next flight had been what to do. I had been rebooked on a series of flights the following day; problem being, we had a show coming up that night, and the "new" flight wouldn't have put me in on time. Nica was in a similar fix, in that it would be nearly impossible for the show to be loaded into Peoria if she wasn't there. We stood in line for quite a while trying to weigh our options. We decided that though it was not what we wanted to do, that we were going to have the company rent us a 4 wheel drive vehicle, and we would make the 8 hour drive to Peoria. The problem was, we needed to figure out our bags first. After standing in line alternately for what seemed like hours, we waited for about 4 hours; and the realization that they would NOT be retrieving our bags, but rather sending them on to Peoria on the next available flight became clear. So, we walked out into the -17 degree weather and got in the red Ford F-150 that Nica nicknamed Bernard. Thankfully, the roads were very clear for the drive. But, we were leaving at 11:30 pm, and not expected to reach Peoria until 8 am. So it was going to be a long night. I have to say though, between good conversation, singing along to classic rock, and frequent frigid stops for coffee, food and gas, it was a pretty pleasant trip. We were just thankful that we had run into each other, and had been on the same flight. About 6 hours in, we switched off so that I could drive and she could make some phone calls regarding load in. We cruised into Peoria and some the worst frozen-snow-covered roads I had ever seen. Somehow, we miraculously showed up exactly at 8 am, right in time for her to go straight to work. We were thankful for Bernard keeping us warm and safe, but unfortunately I had to return the truck shortly after dropping her off. Then the wonderful people at Enterprise offered me a ride to my hotel, rather than walk through feet of snow in negative degree weather. I checked in, and promptly went to sleep. I woke up at about 2:30, and showered the best I could with the toiletries given to me by the hotel. Rather than leave the hotel, I ventured to the lobby for a meal, and met up with a few of the cast. After a short time, I headed to work. We all knew that what awaited us was not what we were accustomed to, but after all, the show must go on. Including Nica, there were only 4 of our crew members who made it to load in. And unfortunately no carpenters. So, we had no set. We did however at least have all of our props, lights, sound equipment and instruments. So we made do with what we had. That, and the fact that some cast members either barely made it to the theatre in time for soundcheck, or in Tyler's case, not at all. Tyler was supposed to rejoin the tour after leaving prior to Thousand Oaks a few months ago, but he got stuck in Nebraska, as did Brad in Arkansas. And James was so delayed that they feared we may not have a Carl; so they brought in a prior Carl from Chicago just in case. James ended up making it, and Robby was asked to go on for Tyler. Phew. Major crisis averted. After it was all said and done, though we didn't have a set, the show turned out quite well. It was nice to know we could all pull together and do the show no matter what. My college friend Maggie was in the audience that night, and though she had seen the show before, I was hoping it wouldn't be too much of a shock. But, she enjoyed it regardless. When we all returned to the hotel we were greeted with the offer of free drinks at the bar. So, we all gathered around and shared our horror stories of travel from the previous few days. While there, I scanned my bag tags on my phone and found that they had landed in Peoria, which was great news! Ready to crash for the night, I'd have to wait until the next day.

On Wednesday morning, Maggie drove me to the airport, and my bags were there! It was such a relief to finally have them. She dropped me off back at my hotel, and I proceeded to unpack, and take a long warm shower.... FINALLY. The rest of the day I stayed in out of the bitter cold except for walking across the street to get an amazing cheeseburger pizza from Hoops. We headed to the show that night, and Frace was told he would be going on for Vince, as he and his girlfriend had woken up with an awful flu. I had another college friend in the audience that night, Kelly Ullom, who still works at the Illinois Wesleyan University School of Theatre Arts. She and her husband loved the show, as they did the opportunity to meet WS Fluke Holland, who was joining us again for the evening. I talked to him more that evening than I ever had before, and finally got a picture with him and my friend Kelly (above). I felt a bit bombarded by people in the lobby who had seen the show, so I headed across the street to meet the boys at Hoops. No sooner had I walked out the door than Tyler showed up in a cab. After throwing his things down, we met the gents across the street and caught up a bit. 

The next morning we made our way to Owensboro, KY via bus. THANK GOD. I think we all were very much looking forward to NOT flying. And, we had officially assembled the entire cast and crew, so that was the most important thing. We got into town and found our rental cars to take us to the River Center, about 5 miles from our hotel. Ironically, our vehicle was a blue version of Bernard. Thankfully I had had experience with a behemoth that size. It was a gorgeous little theatre (pictured above), and following a "normal" and very good show, the 3 other boys and I did a meet and greet with some of the audience. We returned to the hotel, and Brad, Frace, Tyler, Robby and I headed to the hotel bar for a little country karaoke. It was a blast!

We boarded the bus on Friday morning bound for Lexington, KY. Maia was quite excited, as she is a U of K alumnus. I was excited to see what the town had to offer. I walked around a bit once we were checked in, and stumbled upon a great little place called Clawdaddy's; everything on the menu was from Maine. From lobster or shrimp rolls to lobster bisque, I felt right at home. I grabbed a bite to eat and headed to work. Load in for the crew had gone much better than some of the previous experiences, thankfully. And we were all stunned at the beauty and intimacy of the Lexington Opera House (above); but not as stunned as we were by the audience's reaction. I will go out on a limb and say it was officially the best audience we have had on this leg of tour. So good in fact, they gave us a standing ovation before the show was even close to over. Which had never happened. After a glorious show, a few of us headed to the Village Idiot, a popular gastropub close by for some much needed food. 

Saturday found us doing another two fantastic shows for some very vocal and appreciative audiences. We were really quite surprised at how much Lexington folks were liking the show. I opted to do laundry between shows, so I needed to stick pretty close to the theatre. I decided to go back to Clawdaddy's and try a couple of different things. This time I had their New England clam chowder and mmmmmm lobster bacon mac n' cheese. Both were quite fantastic. After talking to a lovely couple from Vancouver, B.C. that had seen the afternoon show, I also got to speak to the owner of Clawdaddy's. He told me all about how he started the business, the fact that the lobsters are shipped in from Saco, ME, and all of the recipes they use are from Maine chefs. I was pretty impressed. After heading back to the theatre to take care of my laundry, then home for a bit, I went back to prepare for the evening show. Following that, Tyler and I met our show's local corporate sponsor, and he insisted on buying us a drink. We chatted with him and his wife and 3 other couples for quite a while, and also were able to sample some of Kentucky's finest bourbon. 

Sunday brought another two great shows. So good were they, and our overall experience in the town, we just really weren't looking forward to leaving. Between shows we were fed a fantastic meal on the lower level of the lobby that was prepared by a few of the ushers. Some local favorites as well as quite a few vegan options. Certainly one of the best meals we have had in a long time. The show closed with another amazing audience, and a group of us went back to the Village Idiot; and I got what I had been waiting to get for days....fried duck and waffles. And, they did not disappoint. Quite a few of us were there, and even more people joined as we headed to Rosebud for the rest of the evening, playing tunes on the jukebox and talking about the week to come. 

As I write this to you nearing the end of a very long week of one nighters, I assure you there are many more interesting stories to come. I hope you enjoyed the retelling of this week's events, and that you tune in next week!