My awesome room (just the UPSTAIRS) at the Magnolia Hotel
Reunited with Olivia after 7 years; she was Belinda Cratchit on my last A Christmas Carol Tour
My rental car for the week
Another reunion with another Belinda! KC Ramsell
The lobby of the Magnolia
The Orpheum Theatre
The Omaha Community Playhouse
The room I rehearsed in for 6 years
Inside the Orpheum
Hello everyone! Sorry I have been a bad blogger! Things were pretty busy in Denver for the last two weeks, along with me being pretty sick, so I have neglected my writing duties. But, as I start to feel better but am staying inside for the most part, I should be getting back on track as quickly as possible. Here's what happened in Omaha!
We flew in from Baton Rouge on Monday, and thankfully had quite a bit of time that evening to just chill and take in the town. I had made the decision to rent a car while there, as there were a few things I wanted to do around town that were much more easily reached with a rental car. They ended up upgrading me by accident (see above); I certainly wasn't complaining. But, the car was going to cost me an arm and a leg for the 4 days I planned on having it. C'est la vie. I drove my car to the historic Magnolia Hotel where we were staying, just a few short block from my old stomping grounds in the Old Market. I was pretty blown away by the hotel; my room (pictured above) was a full two floors; a full living room downstairs, and a huge bedroom complete with a padded, full-length window seat upstairs. It was certainly a very welcome and comfortable room for our first week sit down in over 2 months. I started to get pretty hungry, so I decided to walk down to the Old Market and get some food at one of my old haunts, The Upstream Brewing Co. After some tasty beer and gouda soup and beef stroganoff, I walked around a bit; it's crazy to see that not a whole lot has changed in that area since I had been there nearly 7 years ago. I headed back to my room to await a call from Corey and Patrick; Patrick has been trying to see every Tiki bar that is in any close proximity to us on tour, and I volunteered to drive them to one that was about a 20 minute drive. Unfortunately, it was closed when we got there. So, I suggested heading back toward the hotel and stopping at a place that me and my friends from the Nebraska Theatre Caravan used to frequent: The Old Dundee. We stayed there for a bit, and I reminisced about all of the cast parties we had had there over my 6 years in Omaha. We headed back downtown, and ended up meeting up with Frace at an Irish bar close to our hotel.
My hair had started to get pretty darn shaggy; the last time I had even had a trim was in New York in September when we were rehearsing for tour. So, after looking up quite a few places, I headed up the street from the hotel to the Beard and Mane; a cool little barber shop housed in the lobby of an apartment building. Both barbers were in their late 20's/early 30's, totally dug the rockabilly vibe, and wanted to know all about the show. And, I got about the best haircut I have had in years for a mere $17. Totally worth it. However, I had to wait quite a while due to me a being a walkin, and them being quite busy. I walked back to the Old Market past our hotel, and stopped for a quick bite at a sandwich place, Pickleman's, that I had never been to. It was a lot like Potbelly's (Billy introduced me to the beauty of that place all the way back in Milwaukee), and certainly hit the spot. I walked around all of the places I had once known so well; Homer's Music, Drastic Plastic (another record store), and dropped in for a couple of scoops at Ted and Wally's ice cream (a cool little place in a converted service garage). Following my desert I headed home to get a little R and R before opening night. The Orpheum Theatre is breathtaking (above); a great mix of historic surroundings as well as modern renovations. And it was pretty amazing to return to a town that was so dear to me, but that I hadn't actually performed in; in all of my time with the Caravan, we only did "preview" performances following tech at local high schools, but we never actually did any sit downs in Omaha. Opening night went amazingly well, and following the show I was able to reunite with Olivia (above) who played Belinda Cratchit on my final tour of A Christmas Carol; it's crazy to think so much time has passed, as she is now a senior in high school. The theatre was also nice enough to throw us a great opening night party with some amazing food and quite a few members of the press in toe. I spent the majority of the evening doing interviews and photo ops, but was able to enjoy myself at the same time. I invited a few of the boys back to my room afterward, and we hung out for a while before turning in.
On Wednesday I was determined to make my way to the Omaha Community Playhouse (above) where I had spent so much time rehearsing. I stopped on my way up town for lunch at a great and brand new little place, Chicago Dawgs. It was not only amazingly authentic, but decorated with plenty of Chicago sports banners, pictures, etc. I left full and satisfied, and eager to make my way to the Playhouse. I hadn't set foot there since I left shortly before Christmas in 2006, but not much had changed. I wan't even sure if I would be able to see anyone, but after talking to some friendly people at the box office, they called up to a few of the offices, and two of my former directors, Carl Beck and Susie Baer-Collins came down to meet me. Over about an hour and a half, we caught each other up on the events of the past few years, talked about old times on tour, and they let me know they were both retiring at the end of the year. As we navigated through the Playhouse, all of these intense memories came flooding back; hours of rehearsals in the dance studio, helping tutor the kids in my off time, long "street scene" rehearsals in the massive rehearsal space. And mostly, I thought about Matty. Matty Kamprath was Scrooge on my final 5 tours with ACC. We had made a pretty special bond through those years, though we were never in contact throughout the year. I looked up to him quite a bit, and it was always great to come back and see him. Shortly before my last year, Matt was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. There were rumors that he may not be healthy enough to return to tour, and it almost made me rethink my decision to go back. He received treatment, and was feeling up to the tour, so he went out for what would be his 20th tour. Though you could tell he was not quite himself, he never let anyone see anything resembling weakness. I followed him around taking pictures for most of the tour, and when we made our final stop in Ft. Myers (coincidentally, a place I had never been but would spend many years performing in), I organized a surprise party to congratulate him on his 20th year with the Caravan. We presented him with gifts, framed pictures I had taken of him, and I somehow made it through a speech I had written, albeit not without shedding a few tears. When tour ended, I said goodbye to him and the little motor inn we were staying at, and jumped in a rental car to drive to Orlando for Christmas, and to start work at Seaside Music Theatre shortly thereafter. Sadly, it was the last time I saw him. Somehow I think we both knew in that last meeting that we wouldn't see each other again; he was always pretty salty and sarcastic with me, but in a loving way. This last meeting was nothing but sincere and heartfelft, and we told each other we loved one another. Nearly 2 years later after a long struggle with cancer, Matty passed away on Halloween; ironically, on the eve of me starting rehearsals for a different production on A Christmas Carol. I think about him often, though returning the the Playhouse for the first time since his passing certainly brought those memories back tenfold. I miss him every day.
With a heavy heart, I left Carl and Susie and headed back to my hotel, and to meet Olivia for coffee before the evening show. It was another great show, and following that, the entire cast and crew headed to the Upstream for something I had been organizing for a while, Crew Appreciation Night. It was something I came up with in year 1 to thank the crew for their tireless work loading our set in and out; and with our hectic schedule this year, it was long overdue. So, I set up a private area for us at the Upstream, and ordered a few pizzas and hors d'oeuvres to be ready for our arrival. It was great to able to have the entire company in one place, and be able to show our appreciation for our crew, even if the only thing we could do was provide some food, drink and merriment.
Thursday was pretty light in comparison to the rest of the week, though Robby and I woke up very early for press. The weather in Omaha had gone from warm and balmy to a downright blizzard, and it was slow going getting us to the radio interviews and back to the hotel. We stopped at Bruegger's Bagels for a little nosh on the way back, and then I spent the majority of the day napping and staying inside, as the weather was pretty treacherous. I had hoped to return my car a day early, but the roads were in such bad shape, I didn't dare venture out. Robby went on that night as Elvis, as he had the night before, and we had another great show. That night, the girls had been planning a surprise wedding show for Katie, who would be leaving us in just a few short weeks following our stay in Denver. They asked us to contribute a little something....so we worked on a little faux-stripper choreography in my room, and headed up to surprise the lot; they were surprised, alright. At least it was good for a laugh, and Katie was very appreciative.
I ran a few errands on Friday morning, including sending out a few things, getting some lunch at a chicken finger only restaurant (a little weird, but extremely busy), and dropped off my car at the airport. I went back down to the Old Market for a bit, taking some pictures (above) of some of the amazing statues near the Union Pacific building. I stopped into a clinic to get a little checkup and to see if they could unblock my ear that had been bothering me for a while. Following that, on the doctor's recommendation, I headed to Plank's for my first foray into oysters; believe it or not, I have never had them raw, fried or otherwise. I had a feeling they might be a little funky for me in the raw, so with her advice I tried the oysters Rockefeller; it was a perfect choice to introduce me the the delicacy, and along with a bowl of New England clam chowder, I had a great meal. After getting some rest at home, I headed off for another great show, and got to have yet another reunion; KC Ramsell (above), her mother Carol and her grandmother all saw the show that night. KC was also a Belinda Cratchit on tour with me years ago, and she is now a junior in college; I am officially old. Following that, I met up with an old friend from tour, Molly O'Brien at The Upstream. It certainly felt like old home week.
I decided to meet KC for breakfast the next morning at a great little place called Wheatfields in the Old Market. We caught each other up on our lives, and I had some amazing crab cake eggs benedict. I sped off to another great show, and in between we had rehearsal for an upcoming surprise in Denver; following that, I got ready for the second show, and we rocked it out again. Feeling a little tired, I joined Frace and a few of the boys at the hotel restaurant for a bite and a night cap.
Sunday was a pretty fast paced day, as we had two shows and a pretty short break between. Both shows went off without a hitch, and Tyler made the drive from Lincoln with a friend to not only see the show, but hang out afterward. I had a hankerin' for sushi, so Frace, Robby and I headed to Blue Sushi after the show, and then met up with the boys and Kelly at Upstream afterward. After a long evening, we all retired to get ready for the travel day on Monday.
So, there it is! Sorry it's so overdue, but nevertheless, it is here! Stay tuned for another blog this week from our eventful two weeks in Denver! Thanks for reading!