Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Bitter cold, Christmas, Broadway, the desert and everything in between

They made sure there was some snow waiting for me

A balmy Maine morning

He's not spoiled at all

He slept here for the better part of 2 weeks. He REALLY wants to be on tour

Our pretty little tree

Our angel that my mother made about 32 years ago

The Merrill Auditorium

Silly buddy

More treats, please

The stocking my mother made by hand before my first Christmas

Christmas cat

The effects of the ice storm

A look across the street from my house at Buker Pond

Someone is trying to stay warm

Let's rock

A great little MDQ reunion

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

A new show has moved in!

Before the show

Closing night!

My ride in Arizona

From the stage at Queen Creek PAC

Hello everyone! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season! This blog is a bit overdue, and on it's heels will come the first blog of the year for the MDQ tour! But for now, it's time to focus on the crazy time that was our holiday layoff.

After not sleeping, I boarded the hotel shuttle in Spokane with a few of my road warrior cast mates at 4:30 AM; I had a very long day of flying ahead. After a couple of layovers, I got safely into Maine that Monday evening, and met up with my brother and my parents. We grabbed a bite to eat and made the hour drive back home. It was wonderful to walk in and see the house decorated for Christmas as it had been so many times before. It had been 13 years since I had been home for the holidays, so coming home to a brightly lit Christmas tree, stockings hung on the mantle, and my mother's Dicken's Village all set up was a very welcome sight. 

I awoke the next morning and walked outside to be greeted by a degree marking I hadn't seen in awhile; 0. Thankfully, the cold weather of the Pacific Northwest had prepared me for the temperatures that awaited me at home. I had a dentist appointment that day, and ran a few errands before heading home to warm up. 

The next few days were spent mostly at home, preparing for Christmas, lounging by the tree with my parents, and unpacking and replacing for my adventures to come. My parents surprised me that Saturday with tickets to the Portland Symphony Orchestra's annual Magic Of Christmas concert at the Merrill Auditorium. Strangely, in all my years of living at home, I had never been to that venue. And even stranger, it's a venue that was at one point rumored to be added to the tour. The three of us had a lovely time sitting back and listening to some wonderful musicians, and even singing together during a sing along section. We made the frigid drive home, and prepared for the rest of the week.

Sunday's weather was not supposed to be the best, so we hunkered down for a bit due to the impending ice storm. 1998, I narrowly missed the last major ice storm that hit as I fly back to Illinois for school. My parents, however were not so lucky. They ended up being without power at the house for 19 days, and after the first five or so they left the house and our first kitty, Baby, behind and moved into the Ramada in Lewiston. We hoped that this storm would not be nearly as bad. That night, I decided to make my way through some slick roads to visit my brother after dinner. Literally as I placed my hand on the door to leave, the power went out. I left begrudgingly, but after slipping and sliding for a few miles, I stopped for a few things, and let my brother know I was heading back home. My parents and I sat in the living room surrounded by candles, and as we went to sleep, crossed our fingers that the power would return in the morning.

Christmas Eve came, and the power was still out. I had to take my mother into Lewiston-Auburn for a doctor's appointment, and we stopped on the way back to bring back some hot food for the three of us. We huddled in the living room as another day passed and the temperature fell. That night we made our way to church in Winthrop as we had so many times before. We learned (which was no surprise) that most of that town was without power too, and a neighboring congregation joined us for the service, as their church was without power or a generator. As we headed home that night, we hoped for a Christmas miracle of power being restored to our house. The temperature in the house started dripping dramatically without any heat source, and that night the temperature dropped into the low 50's.

In the night, and all Christmas morning, my poor little buddy had climbed on top of me to try to find warmth. The house that morning was barely hovering in the high 40's, and after my father and I did a few things around the house, we, clad in winter coats, scarves, gloves and covered in blankets, unwrapped our presents. The highlight of the day for me was unveiling the air conditioning unit I had purchased for them; albeit a bit ironic, since we certainly didn't anything to cool off our house on that day. We packed up the gifts (thankfully we had though ahead the day before, and handed our Christmas turkey off to my brother so that IF the power hadn't come back on, we could make dinner at his house) and veggies and whatnot and made our way to my brother's house. The events of that day were somewhat unpleasant, but being Christmas, we made the best of it. My dad made the decision to rent a hotel room for the night, so we made our way to their home away from home during the last ice storm, the Ramada in Lewiston. After moving in, my father and I drove to the house through some light snowfall to pick up a few things for all of us; we were certainly looking forward to our first hot water since Sunday night. It was about 40 degrees in the house that night, and as we gathered our belongings holding flashlights, we were astonished at the fact that we could see our own breath. It broke my heart to do so, but I let my father go ahead so I could sit with my little buddy for a while, petting him and letting him know he would be ok. I locked the house and headed to the hotel in my mother's car. After being there for a few hours, Rick invited me to join him back at his place so that we could catch up a bit and relax.

The next morning I took my mother in for a follow up, and we ran a few errands around home as my father did the same. That afternoon we headed back to the house to check on the kitty, and to get a few more supplies. After having a meal in the hotel restaurant, we settled in for the evening again. Just as we had seemingly lost hope that we would get the power back that week, I called the house (as we had all done 20 times a day; it would be a sure indicator that the power was back) and it went to our voicemail! Eureka!!! The power was back! As I was preparing to take a long planned trip to New York the next day, I decided to drive home so that I could have a warm night in front of the tree with the kitty before making my way to the Big Apple the next day. The kitty was certainly happy to see me, and we were all happy that the power was finally back after 72 hours. 

I woke up bright and early on Friday to drive to Portland and catch the train to New York. I had never been to NYC from Maine that way; every other trip I've taken has been on a bus. A 2 hour ride to Boston, a freezing cold transfer to Back Bay, and a 4 hour ride to Penn Station later, and I was there! I had arranged to stay at my friend Trey and Lara's place, so i took my small amount of luggage, hopped on the A and headed to Washington Heights. After the cold I had experienced in Maine, the 40 degree weather in the city felt like spring. I hadn't had much to eat that day, so after settling in for a few hours, I made my way to the Dallas BBQ to fill up. It was glorious. After a bit of a rib-coma nap, I hopped back on the train and headed to the Bowery to meet up with Billy Woodward (our Elvis understudy for the first two years, and a dear friend). He had a gig that night at a really cool performance space, Rockwood Music Hall. Just him and his guitar, playing some tunes from his newest solo album, The Beast In Me, as well as some new stuff and some covers. I had a drink with him, and then the crazy MDQ past and present reunion began totally unexpectedly. Corey and his wife Jenn arrived, followed by John Michael (our Carl understudy for the first two years) and his girlfriend Flor. Shortly thereafter, we headed into the venue, which quickly filled up as the sounds of Billy's blues styling a filled the air. Sasha, a good friend to all and Dan Mill's (off-Broadway Carl understudy who joined us on tour for a week in Dallas on the first leg) girlfriend showed up for a bit, joined quickly by Chris Grant (Sam Phillips for the first year and half of tour) and his girlfriend Grace who is currently starring in Natasha Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812. After getting out of work, Billy's girlfriend Rosie, who was on tour with us for the first two years selling our Merch joined us. Not to be left out, Robby V showed up, and it was officially a party. After Billy totally killed his set, we headed to San Loco taco nearby for a some after show food, and so that we could all catch up (picture above). It was a totally unexpected, but much needed night. It was about 4 am before I finally made my way back up to the Heights, but it was totally worth it. 

The next day I had plans to meet up with my friend Erin and attempt to get into the Book of Mormon lottery. We hadn't seen each other in quite a while, so although we didn't get in to see the show, we had a great time catching up over some much needed Thai food at Yum Yum Too. With no agenda for the day, we decided to wander a bit and head across town to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Apparently everyone else in the tri-state area had the same idea....but, having never seen it in person, it was totally worth wading through tourists. Along the way there were a lot of other amazing decorations on the street (pictured above) right next to Radio City Music Hall. After a few hours of walking around, we went our separate ways, and I headed back "home" to prepare for the show I was seeing that night. On our last day of rehearsals in NYC this past fall, I ran into an old friend Jeff Kready. He was there for the first day of rehearsals for his latest turn on Broadway, The Gentleman's Guide To Love and Murder. Jeff and I met years ago at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, and it was shortly thereafter that he booked the first revival of Les Miserables on Broadway. I was there in NYC subletting when he started rehearsals, and after so many years I was really glad to catch up with him again. Not only was I looking forward to seeing him in the show, but I had heard many good things about it; not in the least, Jefferson Mays' portrayal of all 9 members of the D'ysquith family that are subsequently murdered by the lead character in order for him to become the one and only heir. So, after attempting to get a slice at Carve, my favorite place for a slice in the city (ok, I succeeded. But I was forced to eat my pizza outside because it was so busy), I made my way to the Walter Kerr Theatre to see my friend perform. Ironically, as I perused the Playbill, it turned out that I knew another member of the company, Catherine Walker. She had been with Mary Poppins for a while, and we met while me and the boys were doing an advance promo in Dallas on the first leg of tour. I had actually worked with her younger sister at the Dutch Apple. Yet another connection was that James Barry had done Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson on Broadway with the show's lead, Bryce Pinkham. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the show, and was overjoyed that I had decided to see it. Jeff put my name on the list to go back stage afterward, and after meeting up, we talked and hung out for quite a while catching each other up on our lives; he and his wife Nicky have a newborn daughter, so his life has been pretty eventful of late. He headed back to the family, and Erin met me at one of my new favorite haunts, Beer Culture, to hear about the show, and to talk a bit more before heading home. 

Sunday was a cold and rainy day, so after sleeping quite late and grabbing some Chinese food nearby, I stayed in the apartment. In the early evening I made my way to midtown to get a bite and make my way to the theatre for the final show of my trip, closing night of Big Fish. I ducked into an unfamiliar pizza place for a mediocre but much needed couple of slices before trudging through the freezing rain to meet Erin on 52nd street at the Neil Simon theatre. It was a pretty amazing experience to be sitting in the orchestra on closing night; some of Broadway's elite were in the audience, and the outpouring of support for these clearly emotion actors on the end of their run was pretty unreal. I was so glad I was finally able to see Norbert Leo Butz on stage, as well as Kate Baldwin. The show's visual effects were nothing short of astonishing and breathtaking. After we cried our eyes out along with the cast and the rest of the audience before AND after the curtain fell, we made our way to the House of Brews nearby so that Erin could catch the end of the Eagles game. We went our separate ways, and I headed back to the Heights to prepare to leave the next day. 

I woke up relatively early on Monday morning and made my way to the area around Penn Station so I could meet my friend Gene at the Tick Tock Diner for lunch and a little catch up. Following some time at the train station, I took the train back to Boston South Station, and after a short wait, boarded a bus bound for Portland. It was late when I arrived, so I opted to crash at a friend's place in the area before heading back home the next morning. 

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent mostly a home, so that I could spend some quality time with my parents, pack for my impending journey to Arizona and back to tour, as well as to work on my show. I had tried in the days leading up to Christmas, but the temperatures and reading by candlelight made that nearly impossible. 

On Thursday morning, my parents drove me to the airport, with bad weather approaching. Before I got to the airport, my flight to Detroit (the first of two, ending in AZ) was delayed. Once I checked in it was delayed again, and even once we were in the plane we left late. So, by the time I had landed, my flight to Phoenix was long gone. Luckily, I had already been booked on the next flight in the morning. So, it was off to find out about my bags and book a hotel in Detroit. I was told that it would take hours to get my bags, as they were already checked for my flight in the morning. So, I opted to take the Delta overnight kit consisting of the most basic toiletries, and head to my hotel. It was quite early, so I had quite a bit of time at the hotel. I grabbed a bite to eat there, and tried to stay warm as the temperatures had started to plummet again. I went to bed early, and looked forward to not only arriving in Phoenix safely, but to be able to actually SHOWER; the lack of this ability was something I had unfortunately become accustomed to. 

Friday morning arrived early, and I boarded the freezing shuttle back the airport. It was a zoo. Thankfully, I already had my boarding pass and my bags checked, so I stealthily maneuvered to a shorter security line downstairs. My flight was smooth and painless, and when I stepped out of the plane into the arid 70 degree weather, it was very welcome. I went to pick up my rental car, and the clerk seemed to take an interest in my guitar. After talking for quite a while, he offered to upgrade my car to a black Mustang convertible for $11.....I eagerly accepted. I took the 45 minute drive to Mesa, and went to meet up with Seth and JR to go over a new element they added for the show, a power point presentation on a screen above the band. I was very pleased with with they came up with, and keys in hand, I headed to my condo for the weekend. After moving in and grabbing some food, I stopped by the reopened Palms Dinner Theatre, where I had worked quite frequently. I was very pleasantly surprised to run into some very dear friends of mine that I hadn't seen in quite a while. I headed back to the condo to restring and tune, and then loaded my gear in my sweet car and headed to the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center for rehearsal. It was great to see all of the boys again, and considering it had been over a year since we had done the show the last time, rehearsal was pretty quick and painless. After rehearsal, I met up with an old friend from the Prather Family of Theatres, Scott Williams. We caught up a bit, having not seen him since I went on opening night in Hershey, on the last leg of the tour. 

I had two shows to look forward to the following day, so I was pretty nervous. It was a pretty big undertaking to construct a show the way I did, but it was a labor of love. The first show went quite well, and the second was even better. It was a shame that we only had the two shows to "get it right", but it was a great experience none the less. I headed back to the Monastery bar that night to spend some time with all of my Prather people after a long day of shows. 

Sunday was a slow, but eventful day. I had the day off, but I used it to ship some things, including my guitar, back home. I had learned a few days earlier that an old friend of mine from my 2002 tour of A Christmas Carol with the Nebraska Theatre Caravan, Don Winsor was close by with the tour of Mamma Mia. So, I went online and got tickets to see him that evening. I drove to Tempe, and pulled up to the Gammage, where we had played in the first year of tour. I have to say, I had never really cared to see the show, but I really really enjoyed it. And, it had been 12 years since I had seen Don. So, seeing him on stage, and hanging out at an old haunt, Casey Moore's afterward was a very welcome evening. I headed home that night, and prepared for my long day on Monday. Had I only known how long it would be....

Well, that's it for updates from my Christmas break! Our next installment takes us through the rigors of returning to the road. Please tune in in a couple of days for that, and thank you for reading! 

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