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!

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