Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson (seeing if you are paying attention), Big Tex and the Red Stick

At the strange little Oasis Bar at the Comfort Inn in Orange, TX

The King, baby

A glimpse of history

On the campus of Ole Miss

The Gertrude C. Ford Center, Oxford, MS 

The UT Tyler Cowan Center, Tyler, TX

The Lutcher Theatre, Orange, TX

Along the river in Baton Rouge

The Baton Rouge River Center

Hello everyone!! This blog is about 2 weeks late, but better late than never!  Having made my first trip to the campus of Ole Miss, I couldn't help but use a line from one of my favorite Billy Joel songs, We Didn't Start The Fire.  But, I digress.  On with the events of the week!

We made the short bus ride to Oxford, MS on Monday, and settled into our digs.  Similarly to our recent trip to the University of Indiana, we were housed on the Ole Miss campus, though this time we were in a hotel that was not attached to the student union.  It was a very nice hotel, and short walking distance to both the theatre and student union.  It turned quite cold that night, so I decided instead of venturing too far, I would head to the union to grab a quick bite to eat.  Following that, I spent most of the night in my room trying to thaw out.  

On Tuesday I woke up a bit late, but decided I was well overdue for a workout, so I went to the well equipped gym at our hotel.  Following that I got ready and headed to the union for lunch and coffee, taking some pictures of campus along the way.  After buying an Ole Miss shirt at the book store and some ridiculously long lines for a salad and coffee, I raced back to my room to do a phone interview for our upcoming engagement in Omaha.  An old friend and former cast mate from my summer at Seaside Music Theatre in Daytona Beach, FL, Amanda Wansa Morgan is now a professor at Ole Miss; she had contacted me about doing a masterclass/talk with some of her theatre students, so I decided to ask Frace to come along with me.  We sat in their black box theatre in the same building we would be performing in (above), The Ford Center.  It was really nice to be able to sit there with him and impart some of our knowledge and experience to the students, who had some pretty amazing questions.  We were there for quite a while, and actually had to race through the halls in order to make it to our call for the show.  That night marked the first 6 shows that week that Frace would do as Sam, since Vince was on vacation.  Shortly after our meeting, Robby found out he would be on as Elvis as well because Cody had a debilitating headache.  Though it was freezing outside, and the promoter feared they might not have everyone present in the sold out audience because of some uncharacteristic freezing rain and sleet, they were a boisterous crowd, and it didn't look as though there were any empty seats to us.  Following the show, Frace, Robby, John and I made our way to the downtown area to grab some food.  There was very little open, as most businesses had closed in anticipation of the nasty weather.  There were also no cabs around, so we had to hoof it back after we ate.  It was frigid and slick, but we made it.  

Wednesday was a bitterly cold and messy day, and as we made our way to Tyler, TX we were forced to reroute across the Mississippi River due to a massive chemical spill, and adding about an hour and a half to our drive time.  We did, however get to pass through Jerry Lee Lewis' hometown of Ferriday, LA, as well as Natchez.  Because of the long day, most of us just chilled at the hotel.  I ventured out in our rental car with Cody and Brad to get a bite to eat at Outback Steakhouse before laying low the rest of the night.  

Because we had cars, I was able to run a few tiny errands on Thursday.  I like to do my taxes well ahead of time, so I faxed all of my paperwork to my accountant, got a smoothie, and hit the mall for a few.  We made our way to the UT Tyler Cowan Center that night (above), and prepared to do the show with Sean on as Jerry Lee.  The show went quite well, and that night I went to an extremely crowded Applebee's with Frace and John for some food before heading back to the hotel to geek out on some music and video clips with Corey and Patrick.  

Friday brought another relatively short drive to Orange, TX.  Once we got in, I got a little bit to eat before driving to the Lutcher Theatre.  It was nice that we could look forward to being there for two days, even if there wasn't all that much around to see.  Another great show that night, and the majority of the cast and crew hung out in the very strange but very welcome Oasis Lounge (pictures above) in our Comfort Inn's lobby.  After a fun night with all of us running the juke box, I turned in.  

We had two shows to look forward to on Saturday, but also a home cooked meal at the theatre in between.  Both shows went extremely well, and the meal in between was not only fantastic but much needed.  We all stayed at the theatre in between, as we had a short promo rehearsal, a couple of video shout outs to tape for Denver, and with the drive it wouldn't have made sense to leave.  Following the long day, a few of us adjourned to the Oasis before heading to bed.  

We drove to Baton Rouge, LA on Sunday, and were greeted with some very temperate and very humid weather.  The Indigo Hotel we were at was very nice, and in a great area downtown.  We didn't have too much town, but I walked along the river and took quite a bit of pictures.  The show that night went amazingly well, and afterward most of us headed to one of the only places that was open, Schlitz and Giggles for some amazing thin crust pizza.  I then made my way with a few people to the Belle Of Baton Rouge was pretty lame.  None of us stayed very long, but it was a bit of fun while it lasted.  We also said goodbye to Johnny Kinnaird that night, as he was with us to allow Frace to go on for Vince, who would be joining us the following day in Omaha.  

So, sorry that this blog is so overdue, but my Omaha blog will be on it's way in the next few days.  I hope everyone is well, and that you are staying warm wherever you are!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Athens (not Greece), Columbia (not the country) and a visit from a red dirt Alabama country boy's son

A new shot of me taken by local press!

The old State House in Athens, GA

The only double-barreled Civil War cannon in existence

On the campus of UGA in Athens, GA

The Classic Center in Athens

The Koger Center in Columbia, SC

The Old State House in Columbia, SC

The Von Braun Center in Huntsville, AL

My friend Elizabeth Savage and I after she saw the show in Athens

Reunited with my old Christmas Carol tourmate Scott Herr in Columbia

Frace with Sam Phillips' son Jerry in Huntsville

Hey kids! Hope y'all are doing well! Our jet set lifestyle continues as we snake around the country rockin' and rollin' the whole way! Here's what this past week brought:

After 12 long days of travel and shows every night, Sunday brought a rare travel day without a performance. And let me tell you, we all needed it. We still had quite a bit of travel, as we had to bus from Flint to Detroit, fly from there to Atlanta, and drive the rest of the way to Athens, GA. I was just looking forward to sitting back, relaxing and watching the Super Bowl that evening. When we moved into our hotel I was both pleased and surprised to find that I had an adjoining living room (pictured above); perfect for watching the Super Bowl and entertaining. I started affectionately referring to it as the Board Room, because of it's cork board and white board displays. After settling in and making plans to enjoy the confines of my huge room, Frace and I went in search of food, opting to stay at the hotel for a salad in the restaurant while watching the beginning of the game. The endgame was to move to the Board Room and order pizza later on. I had a surprisingly great salad, as did he, and we moved the "party" up to my room. Later in the game, Brad, Patrick and Corey all stopped by. It was a pretty great way to spend the end of a travel day, and we had a full day to look forward to the next day!  

I decided to spend my day off on Monday by wandering around downtown Athens, and by touring the campus of the University of Georgia. I started out be heading for lunch with Frace at Yummy Pho, where we got exactly that; some very tasty Pho. We walked around a few of the shops in the area before heading across the historic campus. We were able to see the UGA football stadium, and I even stopped in the bookstore to buy a Georgia shirt; one of many college shirts I have been buying lately. After walking around and taking a bunch of pictures, I headed back to my room to chill for a bit. I met up with Brad and Frace for a late dinner at a cool little place called Trappeze as we awaited Cody's return to tour. After dinner we adjourned to the bar and talked to a delightful man who told us all he knew about craft beers through his years of traveling the country. Once Cody arrived, we went to a divey little place called The Roadhouse, and then ended up back in my "boardroom". 

Tuesday was a little cold and rainy, so after venturing out to get Pho and Starbucks, I spent the rest of the day in the confines of my room. After quite a bit of time off it was actually really nice to return to work. The Classic Center was quite nice (pictured above), and it was pretty surreal to know that I would be doing the show with Lee AND Cody again; it was like old home week. The audience was quite good, and afterward we had a wonderful reception in their grand lobby. I was also able to see my friend Elizabeth (pictured above) and her father, having not seen them since we met in Atlanta almost a year ago. A few of us ventured to the Roadhouse for a bit again, and again adjourned to my room to enjoy it for the last time before heading out in the morning. 

We had a pretty late call time for the bus on Wednesday, which meant we could sleep in. It was a short drive to Columbia, so we had quite a bit of time at the hotel before we had to head to work. Another big, beautiful theatre, and a fantastic audience to match. I had 4 friends in the house that night; my friends Kira, Sarah and Matt were in from Greenville, and my old friend Scott (above) lives in Columbia now. We had fun reminiscing and grabbing a bite to eat later that night at the Flying Saucer.

Thursday was both pretty laid back and busy. I planned to send out a box of things back home, so I had to assemble everything and take it a few blocks to FedEx. Then I walked around the USC campus and old state house grounds seeing the sights and taking a ton of pictures. Once at work, we welcomed Johnny Kinnaird to the fold. He had been the Cash/Sam cover in both Chicago and for a time Off-Broadway, so he was no stranger to the show. We had met briefly before, but it was nice to see him again and welcome him to our tour family for two weeks. Another great show that night and a trip to the Flying Saucer again, this time with my friends as well as Robby and Frace. We geared up for the early call the next day, and made it an early night. 

The drive to Huntsville, AL on Friday was quite long, and when we got in we realized there were very few food options close by. Thankfully there was a Ruth's Chris steakhouse in the lobby, so I grabbed a tasty salad before making the cold yet short walk to work. The Von Braun Center (above) was packed that night, and the audience was again fantastic. The majority of the cast and crew met in the lobby at the steakhouse after the show for some food and fun. 

Saturday brought 2 shows, but with a very special guest at the matinee. Sam Phillips' son Jerry (above) came to see us with quite a few members of his family. It was really nice to see him, after he had come to see us previously in our second trip to Memphis last year. Both shows went extremely well, and we again chilled in Ruth's Chris that evening.

I don't know why, but I was insanely tired all day on Sunday; perhaps the hectic schedule was just catching up to me. I tried to rest as best I could in between shows after grabbing another salad, and somehow I found the steam to make it through the second show that evening. I stayed at the bar for a bit before heading up to get some long overdue rest that night.  

Though hectic, it was a pretty great week full of friends, great audiences and some nice surroundings. This blog is overdue more than usual due to some problems with my web browsers and internet at my current hotel. So, there will be another one on it's way soon! Thanks for tuning in, and make sure to check back soon!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Polar Vortex continues, more Division 1 campuses...oh...and Flint

The Embassy Theatre in Ft. Wayne, IN

A jaunty piano player on the campus of Indiana University

The IU Auditorium in Bloomington, IN

Elliot Hall on the campus of Purdue, West Layafette, IN

The view from the back of this massive house

The Whiting in Flint, MI

Hello everyone!  Welcome to another delightfully busy blog about our whirlwind tour of the United States!  The craziness continues, as does the cold weather and busyness.  Here we go!!

Monday brought an all to familiar long travel day coupled with an uncharacteristic (though, commonplace lately) Monday night show.  The temperatures were just insane; well below zero with the windchill when we arrived in Ft. Wayne.  It may be bad for us, and for people who are out and about a bit during the day, but man....our poor crew had to load in all day in that weather, and had even colder temperatures to look forward to for their load out after the show.  And people wonder why I appreciate their hard work so much....
Once we got in, I really didn't want to go anywhere.  I was hungry, but the cold was deterring me from leaving for even a few minutes.  I warmed myself up in the room for a while, and finally ventured out bundled up to my eyebrows to walk a few short blocks to get linner (lunch/dinner) at Jimmy John's.  After warming up for a few and getting some necessary sustenance, I headed back to the hotel to warm up yet again before making the short yet frigid trek to work.  The Embassy Theatre (above) was a gorgeous little space.  After a pretty great show and wishing the crew well on their long and cold night, Frace, Tyler and I headed next door to a place called Champions for some food before adjourning to the warmth of our hotel.  

A relatively short drive on Tuesday brought us to Bloomington, IN, home of Indiana University.  A bit of a different experience this time around, as we pulled straight onto campus among the thousands of students going to and from class, and unloaded the bus into the student union, where we would be staying for our days there.  The rooms were much more akin to dorm housing, but it certainly was nice to have a Starbucks and a few food options in the same building as our accommodations.  After unpacking and settling a bit, I ventured into the union to get a Hoosiers tshirt at the bookstore and got some food and a necessary coffee before heading to work.  It was pretty exciting night; not only was I blown away by the beauty of the IU Auditorium (above), but our old friend Lee Ferris was scheduled to rejoin tour that day, AND my dear friend from IWU, Karyn McNay works PR for the theatre!  So, it was like old home week!  I got to say hello to Karyn prior to sound check, and had a big hug with Lee before we headed back stage.  The crowd was pretty amazing that night, and after the show Karyn and her fiance Brad picked me up and took me to one of their favorite spots, The Rail.  We ordered some great appetizers, including a warm goat cheese dip with hand made chips, and I sampled a one of a kind cocktail (fitting for my heritage), the Remember The Maine.  We sat and talked for hours, catching up on life, their meeting and engagement, work, etc.  It was a great night, and long overdue.  

The next day I wasn't feeling the greatest.  Sickness has started to run rampant through the cast and crew, so I was trying to do my best to combat that.  However, we did have rehearsal to put Lee back into the show, as well as another Riverside recording session to add Lee's velvet voice back into the fold.  So, after grabbing some lunch and again, necessary coffee, I headed to work.  Though it had been since Orlando (October of 2013) since Lee had done the full show, and even then, the show was quite different, it was like he had never left.  Everything went very smoothly, and following the rehearsal I did a bit of laundry before heading back home for some rest.  Another great show that evening, but rather than hang out with Karyn and Brad again, I opted to stay in.  Not what I wanted to do, but I wanted to make sure my health was my priority.  

We loaded out of the student union on Thursday morning, and took the short drive to West Lafayette, where we would be performing on the campus of yet another university, Purdue.  We had quite a bit of time at the hotel this time, and so the Countryman's, Tyler and I drove to Logan's Steakhouse for some much needed sustenance.  James was starting to really not feel well, having called out the night before in Bloomington.  He had gotten some medicine, and was hell bent on doing the show that night in West Lafayette.  The theatre was easily the largest venue we have played (pictured above) with nearly 6,000 seats.  Pretty crazy.  Though we didn't completely sell out or anything, we had a great crowd that night.  After getting James back so he could rest, Tyler and I hung out in my room and started watching something I had talked about and he insisted on watching; Elaine Stritch Live At Liberty.  It just goes to show that she is appealing and funny to EVERYONE.  

Friday started off pretty awkwardly; we had a relatively short bus ride to Flint, MI, but our bus driver didn't seem to care that we needed to make a couple of stops for...ya know, going to the bathroom and eating...or, ya know...because it is an EQUITY RULE. For all intents and purposes, he held us hostage on the bus after one short break, and when we got to Flint, we were all ready to be anywhere but that bus.  However, the roads were a mess, and the snow began to fall.  We were technically in walking distance to the theatre, but there were no clean sidewalks to walk on, so we were provided with a couple of rental cars to get us to and from work, as well as get food; there was nothing to eat within walking distance.  However, there were only a few cars between us, so it became a bit complicated.  Tensions were running high, not the least because this marked our 11th straight day without a day off.  It was time.  Unfortunately, James hadn't been able to get his voice back, so he called out that night.  Brad went on and did a great show; but that would've marked James' last with us for about 9 weeks.  We wished him well, and let him knew that he would be sorely missed.  Following the show, we made our way very carefully back to the hotel over feet of snow, unplowed and unsanded roads.  

Ah, Saturday.  Our final day of shows before a day off.  The roads were even worse when we headed to work for the matinee, but that didn't stop of from doing a hell of a show, and welcoming Lee back to the stage.  It was great to be back up there with him, and the audience certainly showed their appreciation.  The snow continued to fall between shows, and after shuttling people to and from work as well as for food, it was time to do our final show in Flint.  A show that also marked the last for Tyler for quite a while, as Cody would be joining us the next week in Athens.  As tired as we all were, we cranked out another great show, and finished the week with a bang.  We caravaned back to the hotel, and settled in for the night; breathing a collective sigh of relief at our nearly 60 ours off before the next show.  

Sorry this one is a little late, but as I've said, we've been pretty busy!  My next installment should be on it's way in the next couple of days, and pretty soon we will have a week sit down in Omaha!  I hope everyone is staying warm and safe, and keep tuning in for more updates!