Monday, March 31, 2014

A town with a funny name, and the home of the Mud Hens

Tyler and I on a morning show in Kalamazoo

Johnny visited and played the Miller Auditorium on 2 separate occasions 

Miller Auditorium, Kalamazoo, MI

The Stranahan Theatre, Toledo, OH

Fifth Third Field, home of the Toledo Mud Hens

Hello everyone! I hope this newest blog finds you well! Yet again, my busy schedule is preventing me from adequately keeping up with my blog, so I apologize. It's tricky; on busy days I just want to sit and veg out, but I still feel the need to write. So, I am trying to get back to my usual blogging schedule. Here's what happened this week:

We left Davenport in the morning on Monday, and made the drive to Kalamazoo. It wasn't too terribly long a drive, and thankfully we didn't have a show that night (this would be the last time I can say this for the next 12 days.....). We had most of the day left to enjoy, so I opted to rent a car and head up to Grand Rapids to see a few friends. It was only an hour drive, and I had been looking for some ways to break up the monotony of our travel days on the bus, so this was a perfect excuse to do that. After heading up there, I had a great dinner at a place called Brewery Vivant, in an old monastery-like church. With some great craft beer, even better food and group seating, it made for a pretty awesome dinner. Following that I went into the downtown area to drive around where we had played with MDQ almost exactly 2 years prior. I then headed to Bar Louie to meet a few more friends. Though I wouldn't say I was very actively celebrating St. Patty's Day, it was a great evening nevertheless. 

After grabbing some Thai food on Tuesday noon-ish, I jumped in my rental and made the trek back to Kalamazoo in order to get ready for our first of two shows there. I got back with plenty of time to drop my rental off, get some food and head to the theatre with Lee and Tyler. We had a great first night at the Miller Auditorium, and following the show we headed to a nearby restaurant to celebrate Jennice's birthday! Unfortunately, I had to leave quite early with a VERY early press day the following morning.

Wednesday morning came pretty damn early, as our call was at 5:30 AM. Though it was early than I ever care to get up, Tyler and I had a great interview at the local TV station. We were back home by 7 AM, so I crawled back in bed to get some much needed rest. I woke up shortly after noon, and after lending my rental car to a couple of crew members who desperately needed to run some errands, I headed to Best Buy and proceeded to buy and inordinate amount of movies. I might actually want to start WATCHING a few of them. Anywho, I left there with my bounty, and grabbed a bite to eat at East Coast Subs to take back to my hotel. After unwrapping my new movies like it was Christmas morning, I got ready to head to work. Sean and Robby ended up going on that night, and along with a great audience, I would have to say it was the best performance both of them had done to date. By a stroke of fate, and old friend from my days at the Springer Opera House in Columbus, GA was in town on business, so we met up at Brewster's (where we had had Jennice's party) to catch up a bit, having not seen each other in nearly 8 years. We went our separate ways, and I prepared for the morning drive. 

We arrived in Toledo, OH on Thursday afternoon to a very busy hotel and perhaps the worst valet parking situation I had ever seen. This would be a source of frustration for the entire weekend there, as would the fact that it took 4 hours to get towels in my room, AND 3 of the 4 days we were there, I went without hot water. Me no likey. So, once I had finally received towels, I headed to get (terrible) dinner nearby at a "fast food Chinese" place; this was after finding the Jimmy John's closed for renovation. After eating only half of my meal (I use that term loosely), we went through the arduous task of getting our car out and headed to work. Our music supervisor Ethan (who I know from years ago as my music director for Johnny Guitar at Cortland Rep) was there that night to watch the show and give us some much needed notes and critiques. Following the show I headed back to my room and laid pretty low for the night. 

After having an all too familiar cold shower on Friday morning, I took a walk to see the nearby Fifth Third Field (above), home of the Toledo Mudhens; AAA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. It's a beautiful little park, and they had probably the best team shop I had ever visited, save the one in Boston at Fenway Park. I took a few pictures, got some coffee and headed back to the hotel for a hectic afternoon. 2 long back to back interviews (though great) and the undue stress of trying to get our car out of the valet simultaneously to get to our music rehearsal at the theatre. It was quite long, but very welcome. Ethan's insight helped us make substantial changes to the show, and I think we were all glad to have a bit of a refresher. We took those notes into that evening's show, for which our assistant director Scott was also in attendance. The show went quite well that evening, and we resumed our BC/EFA collections following the performance. I opted to stay at the theatre with the short time between shows, and because I needed to do some laundry before our crazy week of one nighters that was approaching. 

Saturday was a pretty busy day with 2 shows, and because of the lengthy drive, not too much down time between. Stephanie made her tour debut that afternoon (YAY!) at the request of the creative team, and she did great! Both shows went extremely well, and I headed to a place called Frickers with Frace and Robby following the evening show. Sunday was much the same, but Bradley joined us on stage for both shows, and that evening we returned to Frickers with Brad and Tyler joining our little group. 

So, there is the moderately calm week that transpired. The following would be anything but. Thanks for tuning in, and keep your eyes peeled for the next installment, recalling our 5 cities and 5 load ins in 5 days!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

I-O-W-A, and Fighting Irish on St. Patty's Day (figurative, not literal)

The Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, Cedar Falls, IA

The Morris PAC, South Bend, IN

The Adler Theatre, Davenport, IA

Hello everyone!  Seems that my blogging duties keep getting put on the back burner, but I hope you are still tuning in!  After two great weeks (sickness aside) in Denver, we left the Mile High City and headed off to Cedar Falls, IA. And here are the moderately exciting events of the week!

We landed in Cedar Rapids, and my ears were completely blocked and wouldn't pop.  It had been quite a while since I had been sick on a plane, and this was something I certainly hadn't experienced before.  I was freaking out a bit, but was glad that we had flown in on a Monday and that we didn't have a show that night.  After settling in a bit and researching urgent care clinics, I headed to the Hyvee grocery store with Lee to get a few things, and after dropping him off, I went to one, and then another urgent care to make sure I could get in in a reasonable amount of time.  There wasn't anything majorly wrong, which was a relief.  I was given a an antibiotic to take care of my ears, and some decongestant.  After picking them up at the same Hyvee we had already been to, I went home to hibernate for the night, and to get some rest before our first show in Cedar Falls the next day.  

Tuesday was a pretty boring day; I laid low in my room all day trying to feel a bit better.  Vince had taken a bit of time off the week prior, and though Cody had left us and Tyler returned, both Robby and Frace went on that night.  The show went pretty well, and I came straight back home to rest for the following day.  

Wednesday was more of the same, as there wasn't exactly a whole lot to see around the area.  I was starting to feel a whole lot better though, and Tyler joined me on a run to Target for a few things, and some much needed walking around and not being hold up in my room.  Robby and Frace joined us on stage again that night, and after a brief talkback, we again went home so I could get some R and R.  

Feeling even better on Thursday, I did an interview for our upcoming week in Nashville this May, and even took myself out for some "real" food; I had been having mostly soup for the last week, so I decided to head to Culvers for a gooey, wonderful bacon cheeseburger.  MMMM.  Bacon cheeseburger......That night, Tyler and Vince joined us back on stage, and we closed our few shows in Cedar Falls with a bang.  It was a good way to ease us into the next few crazy weeks, and I was trying to get as much rest as I could so I could be back in tip top shape.  

We got up pretty early on Friday to make the lengthy drive to South Bend, IN.  Yet another town I had never been to, and unfortunately, I wasn't going to be able to see the Notre Dame campus with our busy schedule.  We got in with not much time to spare, and after running an errand with Stephanie, I gathered my things and headed with Lee and Tyler to the theatre.  A beautiful old theatre (above), but renovated and updated for bigger, modern shows, the Morris PAC was a great venue, and the crowds went pretty wild for us.  Since I was feeling quite a bit better, I joined Robby and Frace and hung out in Frace's room for a while that night.  

Saturday was pretty busy with two shows, but both went amazingly well.  In between I got a bit to eat with Tyler, and was looking forward to reuniting with my friend Jess that night.  I directed her in Ring Of Fire at the nearby Round Barn Theatre; she was the fiddle player, and in fact was there when I got the call on my first day in town telling me that I would be heading out with MDQ!  She joined a large group of us at Corby's, a faux Irish bar close to the hotel.  Afterall, it was approaching St. Patty's Day.  We all had a great time hanging out, and it was really nice to see her and catch up on all that she has been doing.  

Sunday brought another drive and show, this time back across the Midwest to Davenport, IA.  I had gotten word that Marc, an old friend of mine would be in attendance that night, so I was looking forward to that.  After a late drive, we didn't have much time before the show, but luckily it was within a short walk from the hotel.  Another fantastic show and crowd followed that night, and Marc joined Tyler and I at the hotel bar for some food and much needed conversation and catching up.  

So, that is the recap of the beginning of our last three weeks in the frigid midwest.  Things got a bit crazy after this, but Florida is the light at the end of our proverbial tunnel.  Sorry there wasn't much that happened this week, but every week can't be the most exciting.  There is plenty more to come though, and I PROMISE there will be another blog coming shortly.  Thanks for reading, and I'll be back with more news from the road soon!  Oh, and it is crazy to think about....but this week marked my 101st, 102nd, and 103rd  city on tour!!  Crazy!!!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rocky Mountain dry, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, my 100th city on tour, our 700th show and sickness

Random big purple bear at the convention center

It's me!! Life sized!

Me and me!!

The Buell Theatre, Denver Center for the Performing Arts

The cast and the first lady of Denver

My little ride for the day off

Our contribution to charity

The whole crew at the Hard Rock Cafe Denver

Cody and I talking to the creator of the DCPA

At rehearsal for our opening night surprise

Chicken and waffles at the Corner Office

Lee's guitar lesson

Frace's trip to Vegas

Second car of the trip; BMW

It's me and me again!

Hello kids, and welcome to yet another long, LONG overdue blog from yours truly. After having battled a bit of illness toward the end of our 2nd week in Denver and the schedule starting to get crazy again, I have had trouble finding down time to write; or a good enough internet connection to upload pictures and videos. So, at long last, here is my blog recapping our 2 weeks in the Mile High City! And, I might add, this is the 100th city I have visited on my 3 years of tour.  Pretty amazing. 

After a great week in Omaha, we took a pretty short flight into Denver. It was a bit of a drive to the hotel, but we were all glad to be planted at our hotel in the early afternoon. The weather was surprisingly warm and gorgeous; after unpacking and getting settled amongst the slew of other hotel guests, I ventured out (though not far) from the hotel for a coffee. In a blink of an eye and really only a few minutes, the weather went from low 60's to low 40's. So quickly that I had gotten an iced coffee, walked around a bit outside, and when the weather changed I instantly wished I had not had that iced coffee. After warming up a bit inside, I walked to Pizza Republica close by for a little nosh (and a healthy one, I might add), and then retired to the hotel bar for a little bit before turning in early.

Tuesday was a bit chilly, but I decided to venture out into the heart of Denver. After a brief and overdue workout, I wandered around 16th street taking in the shops, with the Hard Rock Cafe being my endgame. I walked in to buy my obligatory pins and to take a few pictures when I ran into our press reps, Heidi and Emily. They spotted me because of my not so incognito appearance (MDQ bag, Johnny Cash beanie) and took me on a little tour to show me where we would be performing and congregating the following day. They not only had quite a few Cash items on display (above), but the Hard Rock was partnering with the DCPA to display 2 large quartet displays (Carl and Elvis) at the Hard Rock and (Johnny and Jerry Lee) in the Buell Lobby. I got quite a few suggestions from the ladies about things to see in our immediate area, and after taking a few more pictures I ventured home to warm up before the show that night. We had a bit of a rehearsal (above) to work up Fools Fall In Love; an addition to our show for the evening in the finale, when we would be joined by the 1st lady of Denver! The rehearsal went quite well, as did opening night. She came out and sang with us, giving the audience a little more bang for their buck. After a photo op following the show (above), we all headed to the Lucky Strike bowling alley for a little company party. Our producers Ted and Gigi (whom I hadn't seen in quite a while) were throwing us the little soirĂ©e, and we also got to celebrate our prop man Cory Kloos' birthday. After some food and bowling a string, I headed back to the hotel early to prepare for extremely early press with John in the morning. 

The radio interviews on Wednesday went extremely well, and following that I tried to lay down and rest for a while, and I was moderately successful. After recharging I met the boys, m'am and press reps in the lobby to head over to play a live promo at the Hard Rock. It had been a bit of a long day already, but after sound check and some time to compose myself, we put on a hell of a show (see the full videos of each song below!). Following that we had a series of photo ops and interviews, and even got to meet the man who established the Denver Center for the Arts (see above). A nice meal and a short sit down later, and I was off to my hotel room to chill before the show that evening. Lee wasn't feeling all that hot, so Brad joined us for a great show that night. Most importantly, the day marked what would have been Johnny Cash's 82nd birthday. Along with wearing all black (duh) and paying tribute to his music on stage all day, I decided to invite a few people over to listen to music and watch a few videos. Patrick, Frace and I sat around mostly watching the Live at Folsom documentary video for most of the night, and I was glad to be able to share my love of Cash and birthday festivities with them. 

I walked the opposite direction that I had on 16th street to start my Thursday, and got a delightful lunch at Blue Sushi before heading to the Mecca of all western shirt stores: Rockmount Ranchwear. Though most of their shirts are quite expensive, they are one of a kind and made outstandingly well. After shopping around for a bit (and having the owner check the brand of the shirt I was wearing out of curiosity, I left with a new western and headed back to the hotel. Lee was still not feeling up to snuff, so Brad joined us for another performance, which, having been in his shoes before, is always good to get a little momentum and go on for a couple of shows in a row. Following that, quite a few of us headed to a different part of town to catch a gig; Corey and Patrick joined Eddie Clendening (the original Broadway Elvis, and our cast mate for our 3 weeks in Toronto). Gary Lee's was a great little venue, with some amazing food, and friends to boot. I was joined by Robby, Frace, Robby V, Katie, and Corey's wife Jenn. Later, Brad and Cody stopped by. Eddie even asked a couple of us up to do a couple of tunes, and I launched into a bit of Johnny's Cry Cry Cry. After a long but awesome night there, we retired to cabs and finally our hotel. 

After the busy Thursday, I laid low a bit on Friday before heading to a favorite chain for lunch that I hadn't seen since the first time we were in DC: Zoup. After a warm bowl of soup and a sandwich I headed back to chill inside before the show that night. Lee was feeling better enough to come back, and while Cody was out of town for a couple days, Robby joined us as Elvis that evening. After a great show, I headed back to the hotel and Robby, Frace and I hung out while awaiting the arrival of Frace's brother Matt. Once he arrived, the four of us along with Brad and Cody headed next door to play a little pool at Tarantula's. 

Saturday was relatively straight forward with two shows. In between I went to "observe" a quick rehearsal for the Thunderstudy boys (which will become important later on in the blog); they had been asked to do a medley of songs that we had not yet performed, so I was just there to help if need be; and they were spot on, needing no assistance from me. Following another great show that night (and actually for dinner prior to the rehearsal) I went to Row 14 for a salad. On the recommendation of a friend, I got the boar salad; I was not steered wrong. And upscale little place with amazing food and great service, I would stop in quite a few times before our stay was over.

Sunday was another 2 show day. Robby was on for the first, and Cody returned in time to do the second. Between shows I headed to Snarfs sandwich shop for dinner, and following a great week of shows approaching a glorious day off in the city, the boys and I headed back to Tarantula's. That night marked Kelly's last night on stage with us for a week, and the beginning of Katie's last week on tour with us. Prior to the show we all met in the green room to wish Katie well on her new journey and present her with a few gifts from the producers and cast/crew. 

It was wonderful to have a full day off without travel on Monday. I decided to get a Zipcar (sort of like a rental car, but much easier and able to be renter hourly; check it out at My little Mini Cooper (above) took me all around town for the day. First I headed out to Coors Field where the Rockies play (above) and visited their team store. I then drove across town to visit the Molly Brown House and museum; unfortunately, it wasn't open. So, I stopped in for a bite at a little sandwich place called Sub Culture, took a few pictures of the house's exterior, and then headed off to get a few things at the Cherry Creek Mall. I headed back to the hotel, dropped off my car, and hunkered down for a bit before the eventful night ahead. For the last two months or so, our talented Thunderstudies had been working tirelessly to put together a set list for a gig, and had found a venue to host it in Denver! I met up with Robby and headed to get some food at a popular place we had heard quite a bit about; unfortunately it was WAY too busy. So we turned around and headed to the Corner Office for dinner. A cool little place constructed somewhat like a boardroom with menus on clipboards and the daily specials on post it notes. I got an awesome plate of chicken and waffles, and we had a good time chatting about the gig that night. We walked back the hotel, and after grabbing his gear we caught a cab to the gig at the Bannock Street Garage. Droves of people started showing up, including some dear friends I had worked with at Seaside Music Theatre in 2007. After setting up (and me doing my best to set up multiple cameras to film the gig) Mile Marker 5 took the stage and rocked out for the next couple of hours. We were all so proud to see the boys and m'am rock out, and it was a wonderful way to give Katie a bit of a send off, as well as celebrate her birthday a bit early. (See the video below)

The boys and I were picked up for a little press on Tuesday morning and headed to a great bookstore, the Tattered Cover (pictures above and a video below). We did a talkback with quite a few people that had seen the show, and a few that gotten tickets for later in the week. It was moderated by John Moore (who's great black and white photos from the Hard Rock are featured above) and the patrons asked some really great, in depth questions. Following that, the press team took us next door to Udi for lunch. I had a delightful chicken and mango salad. We had some great conversations, and I learned that the Denver Center would be doing a pre-Broadway premiere of a show very near and dear to my heart, The Unsinkable Molly Brown. After lunch, the team was nice enough to accompany Lee and I to Twist and Shout Records nearby; and amazing record shop similar to Amoeba Records in Los Angeles. I bought a few things for Frace, and pined for the complete collection of Johnny Cash American Recordings they had on vinyl. We headed back to the hotel and I chilled for a while before heading to the theatre for an eventful night and an even more eventful week. Because of Katie leaving following the week, and Kelly's vacation, we welcomed a new member to our little tour family, Stephanie Lynne Mason, who had understudied Dyanne in Las Vegas as part of the original company there. It also marked Katie's birthday AND our 700th show on tour; as I said, a pretty monumental day. The show went extremely well, and afterward I ventured back to my new favorite place, Row 14, and later joined the boys and Stephanie at Tarantula for some convo and billiards. Along with everything else, I learned that my impending day off on Thursday for Frace to be swung on was now cancelled. It seems they were having a lack of Sam Phillips' out in Vegas, so they planned to fly him out to play the role. Thus changing all of our schedules for the week.

Wednesday started very early. Because Frace was on his way to Vegas, I was asked to do the promo that the Thunderstudies has prepared the medley for. We had an early morning soundcheck before an afternoon performance, so we all got up and ventured to a large space at the DCPA for our check, and then I headed home to shower and get ready. I stopped in to Mod for another great salad before heading back to the venue to perform for an arts awards banquet. It went quite well! I went home to hibernate before heading to work that night. And after another good show, my evening transpired the same as the night before. 

I was determined to be able to tour the Molly Brown house, so I woke up pretty early on Thursday to do so. I had reserved another Zipcar, but because of a parking issue, I ended up with a BMW instead of the Ford Focus I had reserved; I wasn't complaining. I headed off to the area I had previously visited, stopped in for another great sub at Sub Culture, and too the tour of the house. It was just gorgeous; unfortunately, they don't allow pictures inside, so you'll just have to take the tour yourself. But, it was interesting to confirm a lot that I already knew; the musical bearing her name is highly historically inaccurate, but nevertheless, I love it. Along with the promo the day before, I was asked to do Thunderstudy rehearsal in Frace's absence. It went quite well, and after heading home to chill before the show, headed back to work that night. The show had a bit of a weird vibe to it, but still came off pretty well. I spent my evening chatting with Lee, Katie, Stephanie and David in the lobby bar. 

And the inevitable happened on Friday....I woke up sick. It's the first time it has happened on tour, but very poorly timed. With no real ability to call out with Frace out of town, I resigned myself to the fact that I would pull myself up by the boot straps and make it through the weekend come hell or high water. I stayed in my room most of the day and watched a great documentary I had been meaning to buy, The Standbys. It follows 3 Broadway standbys and their trials and tribulations and daily lives. I highly suggest it to anyone who is confused as to what a standby really does; it is a great look at that life, of which I only had a taste of for 2 years...for some performers it is a way of life. I also did a phone interview during the day before heading to the theatre. Though I wasn't feeling great, I made it through the show without an issue, and went to the lobby to start collections for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. Rather than drag on the rest of this blog, suffice to say it was a struggle to get through the double weekend, and when I was not on stage I was either sleeping or eating comfort food. Following Frace's return to Denver and personal day with his girlfriend Haley who joined him for the full week, he finished the week out as Sam for our final show in Denver. We raised a staggering $4,200 PER SHOW over 5 shows for BC/EFA over the weekend, which was pretty amazing. I was a little bummed that I hadn't been able to explore the city as much as I had liked, but I needed to focus on getting better.

So, there's the long overdue Denver blog! I hope to have the next installment done in the next day, so I hope you enjoy all of the reading material, pictures and videos! 

Blue Suede Shoes

Folsom Prison Blues

I Hear You Knockin'

Hound Dog

Brown Eyed Handsome Man

See Ya Later, Alligator 

Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On

The boys and m'am of Mile Marker 5 doing Midnight Rider

Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line and band introductions