Friday, April 25, 2014

Gators, Bearded Clams and more gators

Me and the boys outside of the Van Wezel in Sarasota

The Phillips Center for the Performing Arts 

Thanks for the help....

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota, FL

We welcome Colte to our tour family!

Following the yellow brick road....

Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, FL

Reunited with a Camp Florida Rep student, LeAnn Meyer!

Kelly and her new little friend 

The craziest call sheet we have ever had....

Another reunion!  Colte joined us to play Jerry Lee for 2 days!

My favorite Maine brewery, but in Clearwater? Yes please!

Hello everyone!  It was another wild week out here on the road!  This one was full of a bit of adversity, but we got through it as a team!  Here are the highlights of another whirlwind week.  

We made the mid morning drive from Fort Myers to Gainesville on Monday, and arrived in the early afternoon on the campus of the University of Florida.  It was a bit of a changing of the guard that day; James was waiting for us in Gainesville, having left us 8 weeks prior in Flint, MI to take part in the world premiere of a new musical at the Yale Repertory Theatre, These Paper Bullets.  He handed in his drum sticks and Ringo wig, and made his way back to tour having closed the show in New Haven only 2 days before.  Unfortunately, he was also quite sick.  Bradley was off on his vacation to his hometown, and Lee now moved from his position as every day Carl to the Carl understudy.  We were just glad to still have him on tour.  I met James at the hotel restaurant to catch up a bit and grab a salad before taking the short walk onto campus to The Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (above).  I was looking forward to doing the show with James again that night, though I was hoping he would make it through, as he really wasn't feeling very well.  I was also looking forward to seeing a former student, LeAnn that evening, as she was now a student at U of F.  We had an amazing, sold out show that evening and following the performance we were thrown a reception in a small room off the lobby.  I was able to catch up with LeAnn (above), and to meet a few other students in the theatre department as well.  A couple of them were intent on taking us to a few places on campus to show us a good time, so Frace, Tyler, Stephanie, Kelly and I all went out on the town.  It wasn't long before I decided I needed to head back; I went to college once....and though I had a great time, I am a little past reliving those days now.  So, I left my pals on their own devices and headed back to our hotel to prepare for the morning drive.  

We had a short drive that day to Sarasota, and had a good amount of time to hang out once we got to the hotel.  There was a restaurant attached to the hotel, The Bearded Clam, so I went there to get a very good tuna melt for dinner.  Sickness seemed to be running rampant in the cast, and though Lee said he figured he would never go on again (I told him never to doubt Scottstradamus), he in fact was called upon to perform that night while James rested.  At the same time, Sean had been having some vocal problems and hadn't been at work for a couple of days.  Luckily he had an appointment with a doctor the following day.  So, amidst the fallen victims of sickness, the boys and I headed to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall (above) for the first of two shows.  The show went amazingly well, and later that night we all headed to the Clam for some free libations courtesy of the company, as well a bite to eat.  The restaurant closed early, so I joined the crew, company and stage management at the bar attached to the hotel for a bit.  

Kelly and I met on Wednesday just before noon to do a little TV press for our 2 day stay in Sarasota.  We were in the green room for a while, and were able to talk to 2 lovely women who work for an animal shelter as volunteers.  And Kelly made a new friend (above).  The interview went quite well, and I headed back to the hotel to chill for a bit.  Here's where things get a bit complicated.....John had been having some awful lower back problems, and with Sean unable to sing, the company was in a bit of a bind.  So, they flew my good friend Colte Julian from Chicago (where he is the Jerry Lee u/s in the production there) to be the understudy for a couple of days, and give John some much needed rest.  So that afternoon we ran the show with Colte, as our production and the Chicago show are quite different.  He adjusted quite well to all of the changes, and after rehearsal we headed home to grab food and chill for a bit.  James was still not feeling well, so Tyler, Lee, Colte and I headed to the show that evening.  It was pretty amazing.  It was so great to share the stage with Colte again (above), after having understudied him in Footloose a few years ago at the Broadway Palm.  I was so excited when he got the MDQ gig, and he even gave me a few pointers when I first auditioned.  So, it made for a pretty awesome show.  We celebrated at the hotel's tiki bar that evening before preparing for another travel day the next day.  

We had another late call and a pretty short drive to Clearwater on Thursday, which allowed us all to get a bit more rest.  I was astonished to see a Sea Dog brewery close to our hotel in Clearwater, so after running a few errands with Colte and Tyler we headed there for an early dinner.  James joined us for a bit, and was starting to feel quite a bit better.  We took the short, yet complicated drive to the theatre that evening, one I had played on my Christmas Carol tour, Ruth Eckerd Hall (above).  So, that night Colte joined us again, James came back, and the audience was pretty unreal.  Another great show, and following that we said our goodbyes to Colte, as he had to head back to Chicago to do the show there on Friday night.  

Tyler and I drove to a mall nearby to do a few things on Friday morning and get a little lunch at Red Robin before heading to the theatre for another rehearsal.  Due to issues with rights (don't ask, I really don't know the answer) we had to take Ring Of Fire out of our show and put Ghost Riders back in as my finale song.  And because the lights and sound were designed specifically for ROF, we had to essentially tech the the readdition of Ghost Riders.  It didn't take all that long, and before you knew it we were on our way home.  However the drive was made nearly 40 minutes longer by awful traffic, construction and accidents.  After we arrived I decided to head to the nearby Dick's Sporting Goods to look for a new baseball though I really need one.  But, I did find one, and added it to my little baseball glove family.  We headed back to the theatre that night for another great show, and afterward I decided to stay in for the night.  I ordered some Papa John's and sat down to finally watch The Wolf Of Wall Street.  What a fantastic film.  

Saturday was relatively uneventful yet busy, as we had two shows.  I had done laundry the day before, but desperately needed to fold it and put my clothes and other things in my trunk.  So, I opted to stay at the theatre between to do so, and actually to work on another blog.  The shows went quite well, and I stayed in again that night before heading out the next day for what would be another 5 city week.  

So, that's the week!  Stay tuned for another blog coming tomorrow!  Another busy week full of surprises.  Thanks for tuning in! 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Family time and a heartwarming welcome back to another home away from home

An osprey on Sanibel Island

The Sanibel Island lighthouse

Our theatre for the week, The Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall

A witty way to label my dressing room

Thomas A. Edison statue beneath a banyan tree, Edison and Ford Winter Estates

Henry Ford

New spring training home of the Boston Red Sox

Teddy "Ballgame" Williams

Go Sox!!!

My parents and I at one of our favorite spots, Mel's Diner

Mmm.  Skyline Chili cheese coney's

Mr. Lee Ferris, in the flesh

The Homer and maple bacon donuts from Bennetts

My dad resting under the shade of some beautiful palms

The boys and I got to do some hitting!

Everyone loves my guitar check outfit.  Don't you?

Our amazing wall tag, thanks to Corey Kloos

Hello everyone!  Welcome to my blog about an overdue week long stay in (can you believe it???) one city, and a LONG overdue trip back to Fort Myers, FL.  It was a pretty busy week with 8 shows, press, my parents in town, and also some visits with some old friends.  So, without further ado, let's get crackalackin'!!!

We took a short flight from Norfolk, VA into the all too familiar RSW Airport; Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, FL.  It had warmed up for the last few days we were in the moderate south, but stepping off the plane in Fort Myers was like walking into paradise.  It had been such an awfully long winter for all of us, and the warmth and sunshine was very welcoming to our travel-weary bones.  We took the short drive to the hotel, and I was immediately overcome with memory upon memory of years past.  Since there are some reading this blog who may not know a lot about my theatre past, I will explain.  I spent the better part of 4 years working for the Prather Entertainment Group at their 3 theatres in Lancaster, PA, Mesa, AZ and Fort Myers (I have mentioned the other 2 theatres in previous blogs; see my recaps of my weeks in AZ doing my solo Cash show, as well as our week in Hershey, PA last year).  I did countless shows at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, and even developed my guitar playing and Johnny Cash vocals while working at the theatre; I also did a 1 man cabaret of Johnny's songs to promote my stint in Ring of Fire at the theatre on what would have been Johnny's 78th birthday.  So, in other words, I have had quite a history in Fort Myers.  And this was my first trip back since the summer of 2011, just days after I had been cast in MDQ; wait....I take that back.  I was also there for a few days over Christmas that same year when I played Johnny for the first time in Naples, FL.  Anyway.......we got to our hotel, and not long afterward, I headed with Lee and Robby to get some groceries and dinner at the Publix supermarket I had shopped in probably 1,000 times.  And after being in town for a mere 2 hours, I actually saw someone I knew there.  Go figure.  Kelly had been nice enough to plan a dinner for the cast and crew at the Lan'i Kai on Fort Myers Beach that evening due to a friend of hers from Chicago being the head chef (I had a hard time trying to picture a classy dinner there, as I associated the place with drunken frat boys on spring break), but I had decided to opt out of it, as my parents were slated to arrive from Maine as the dinner was starting.  However, having found out that they would be delayed for a few hours, I decided to make the trip by myself to meet the cast at the get together.  I drove past all of my old haunts, and arrived beach side (where I had been stung by a stingray in 2007; but that is a story for another time).  I was quite surprised to find that the restaurant where the dinner was being held was very classy indeed, and my pals were already eating and being merry when I arrived.  I had a cup of clam chowder, chatted for a bit, and then made my way back to our hotel to await my parent's arrival.  I was finally able to meet up with them around 11 pm, and it was so great to see them!  It had been since just after Christmas when they came to Lowell, MA that I had seen them, and I was so glad to have them in a warm climate after the awful winter they had experienced.  They were pretty tired from their overly long travel day, so I left them to their own devices, and headed to meet some of the cast next door at one of my old cast party haunts, the Fort Myers Ale House.  We had a pretty good time chatting and hanging out, and after getting some late night eats at the close by 7/11, I turned in for the night.  

Not only had we had a short travel day and very little else on Sunday, we had an official day off on Monday.  This was perfect to spend the entirety of my day with my parents.  So, we headed out for a little breakfast at Starbucks where we ran into some of the cast.  My parents met Stephanie for the first time, and saw Frace for the first time in 12 years.  We made our way through Fort Myers and headed over the long bridge to the pristine white sands of Sanibel Island.  We had made a few trips out there before, but it was still a lovely place for us to spend the day.  First, we stopped at She Sells Sea Shells, a great little store with all sorts of sea shells harvested from the island's beaches, t shirts, and a lot of other island gifts. We even stopped by the Herb Strauss Schoolhouse Theatre, where I starred as Harry Witherspoon in Lucky Stiff nearly 7 years before. We drove through the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge once we had made our way through a copious amount of Snow Bird traffic.  The last time we had driven through, it was ungodly hot, overcast, and we could see no signs of life; this time, however, we were able to see brown pelicans, snowy egrets, cranes, herons, and a ton of other birds.  My father and I took a ton of pictures, and we had a wonderful time driving around as a family.  Once we exited the refuge, we were all pretty hungry.  We headed back down Periwinkle Way, and stopped in at a restaurant I had never been to, the Fish House. My parents were very pleased with their food, and my grouper reuben was pretty darn amazing.  We had been on the island for quite a while, but we had a few more things to see before we headed back to the hotel.  We headed to the other end of the island to take in the sights at the fishing pier, and the light house (above).  As always, we were able to see some osprey (also above) in their nest high above the beach.  After some walking around and even more pictures taken, we headed back over the bridge to our hotel.  We went our separate ways for a bit, before regrouping that evening to talk and hang out in my parent's room.  After a huge late lunch, we opted not to get dinner, but instead stay in the confines of our hotel.  They went off to bed, and Tyler accompanied me to one of my old favorite bars in downtown FM, Cigar Bar.  We sat and talked for hours, and then made our way back to the hotel to rest before our opening day.  

The plan for my day with my parents was to head to a train museum my father had seen some information about.  Unfortunately, it was very small and really geared toward small children.  So, we opted instead to head to one of my favorite lunch stops, Skyline Chili.  A favorite of mine and fellow cast member David Sonneborn, I reacquainted my parents with the joys of their unique, Cincinnati born delicacy.  MMMM. Chili cheese coneys..... After another big lunch, we headed home so that my mother could rest, my father could go to the pool, and I could chill on my own before I had to head to the theatre with the boys.  It was pretty crazy to walk into the BB Mann (above) after having previously played there on my last tour with A Christmas Carol, and also where I threw the party for Matty Kamprath's 20th year of tour (see my Omaha blog if you have no clue what I am talking about).  I was a bit nervous to return to the stage in a place I had spent so much time in, knowing that my parents and countless friends, colleagues, and past theatre-goers of the Palm would most likely be out there.  But, we had a fantastic opening night, and I was glad to ride home with my parents and talk about the show.  I spent a while with them, and then headed to meet the cast at the Ale House for a bit.  

The boys and I dressed up and headed to the theatre to do a little press on Wednesday morning.  After a pretty long interview, we played the same medley I played with the Thunderstudies in Denver, and we were on our way back to the hotel.  A few minutes later, I left with my parents and Tyler to head to the Broadway Palm.  My old boss and owner of the Prather Entertainment Group, Will Prather, offered free tickets to anyone in my cast and crew who wanted to see Les Miserables.  So, Maia and Jason joined the three of us for an all to familiar buffet, and to see the show.  It had been nearly 3 years since I had stepped through the doors of the theatre I had done hundreds of performances in.  No sooner had I walked through the door, that I was greeted by a slew of old cast mates and friends waiting with hugs and well wishes.  Sigh.  It felt good to be "home".  After catching up with a few people I headed into the theatre with my crew and had a wonderful meal before sitting down to a stunningly wonderful performance of Les Mis.  I mean, having done countless shows in that theatre, I had high hopes; but my hopes were totally surpassed with the quality of the voices, orchestra and production values.  I really was blown away.  And my friends were pleasantly surprised as well.  It is my favorite show, afterall.  So, to see it done so well made me very proud of my former home theatre.  After a short time at home, the boys and I headed to the theatre for yet another great show while my parents spent the evening in the quiet of their room.  I joined Vince and Lee at Ale House to talk/watch/geek out on baseball for a few hours, get a bite, and eventually head to bed.  

On Thursday morning, my parents and I headed toward downtown and stopped at one of my favorite coffee shops, Bennetts.  They have great coffee, but what I go for is the phenomenal donuts.  (Pictured above) My favorite donut is the maple bacon, but a close second is now the Homer donut.  MMMM. Donuts.  My parents enjoyed them as well; my mom got a classic glazed, and my father got an orange crunch.  We enjoyed our breakfast in the bakery for a bit, and then headed further toward downtown to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates (multiple pictures above).  My parents have been there quite a few times, but we have had never been in the spring.  The houses and grounds are always decorated differently, so it was really nice to see it all in a new season.  It was a great way to be out in the sunshine and to take a bunch of pictures with my parents.  It is certainly one of our favorite places to go in Fort Myers, and given the recent rain and nice weather, the vegetation was quite lush and beautiful.  We even got to see a few Model T's and Model A's as we drove up to the grounds; unfortunately they left the parking lot before my father and I could get any pictures.  We left the property and drove further downtown so I could point out a few other houses that I had seen in my travels, and then headed back to the hotel so my parents could have a little downtime, and so that I could run a few errands before the show.  I met up with the boys and drove to the theatre for another great show that night.  In attendance was Will Prather, my former boss, who loved the show.  He and his parents had seen it in Naples when we were there shortly before Christmas in 2011, but he was impressed with the "new" version of the show.  It was great to see him and catch up a bit, as it had been quite a while.  I value my time with the Prather Entertainment Group, and it was nice to know that he, his employees and my former cast mates did too.  I went to the Ale House again for a bite to eat and then adjourned to my room. 

There is a great batting cage complex in Fort Myers, so I encouraged some of the boys to join me for some hitting on Friday.  Tyler, Frace, Lee and Vince all joined me for a smoothie at Smoothie King before heading to hit for a while (pictures above).  It had been a while since any of us had been in a cage, but you really wouldn't have guessed it the way we were hitting.  I was glad to have gone back there, and to share that with my boys.  We got back in the mid afternoon, and I met up with my parents to grab a late lunch back at Skyline.  We then took a trip toward the airport to see the Red Sox's new spring training stadium, JetBlue Park (pictures above).  What a beautiful stadium.  I loved City of Palms Stadium, but this park was quite a bit different.  A huge team store (that I, of course spent quite a bit at, but thankfully everything was 50% off), a nice "garden" of sorts with huge 3D numbers of players whose Red Sox jerseys had been retired (as well as number 42, Jackie Robinson, whose number is retired throughout the major leagues).  We walked around taking pictures, and then made our way back to the hotel.  I was able to see quite a few people at the show that evening, including long time Prather friends Keara and Kristen, and patrons whom I met while I was performing Ring Of Fire, Lorraine and her husband John.  They had also seen my first performance as Cash all the way back in December 2011, so it was wonderful to reunite with them. Another great show that night was followed by me taking a few of my boys to the Broadway Palm in order for them to meet and me to say goodbye to Busty Lanza, long time bartender at the Palm.  It was great to see him after such a long time, and I was glad to be able to wish him well as after 20 years there, he was set to retire the next week.  

Saturday was set to be a busy day with 2 shows, and my parents seeing the show that evening.  My parents and I headed back to Mel's for a great breakfast before I headed to the theatre for the matinee.  Another great show (I sound like a broken record) was followed by me and Lee heading to FedEx to ship boxes of our now obsolete (thank God) winter clothing back home.  I met up with my parents for a bit again, and we went next door to have dinner at, you guessed it, the Ale House.  Tyler wasn't feeling particularly well, so Robby went on that night as Elvis, and my parents got to see him perform for the first time.  Following the show I went back at talked to my parents for a while before heading to Busty's again to see a few more friends.  

I woke up early on Sunday to say goodbye and safe travels to my parents, and then promptly went back to bed.  Another two show day to look forward to, and also a meal provided at the theatre that day.  We had two great shows and some fantastic BBQ for dinner.  That night marked Lee's final show as Carl on tour with us (or so we thought; more on that in the next installment), though in an interesting twist, he would be staying on with us for another week.  Bradley opted to take a vacation week, which meant that when James rejoined tour, Lee would then become his understudy.  Seemed to work out extremely well for everyone!  Following Lee's "last" show, I headed to the Palm with a few of my boys to meet up with my old friend and former cast mate Allison, and the entire crew of us adjourned to the Ale House before heading to bed. 

So, there is the eventful week we had in Fort Myers!  A busy couple of weeks followed, and some VERY interesting happenings.  Tune in VERY soon to find out what all happened!  Thanks for reading! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

5 cities/5 load ins in 5 days....need I say more?

Peter surprised Frace in Norfolk!

The Coronado Theatre, Rockford, IL

Sangamon Auditorium in Springfield, IL

The Clay Center, Charleston, WV

The view from my hotel room in Norfolk, VA

Chrysler Hall, Norfolk, VA

Hello everyone! Seems that my long overdue blogs are becoming commonplace, and I am not a fan; the hotel wifi in the majority of the places we have been during this busy time has been kinda atrocious. To let you in on how I construct my blogs, I always upload my pictures first, and then write my blog based around them. So, if I don't have a strong enough connection, it takes me a while to get started. That said, here is my latest installment. I apologize in advance for it not being the longest or most action packed, but I assure you the week was a busy one. 

We left Toledo bound for Rockford, IL on Monday morning. It was a relatively lengthy drive, and when we moved into our hotel, it was a bit hectic. I had opted to rent a car to drive myself from city to city for the first 3 days of the week, to break up the monotony of bus life, and to allow me to see some friends along the way. Though I had reserved the car nearly 2 months before, I had a hell of a time trying to get the rental car people to get me at our hotel so that I could go pick up my car. We also had company cars there, which made things a little bit difficult; so, I left the company car with Lee and Tyler and just barely got my car with enough time to cruise to the gorgeous Coronado Theatre (above) with time to spare before our company meeting. The theatre was quite breathtaking, and the audience that night was just great. Following the show, I headed back to my room to put my bags in my rental car, bound for the Windy City; or, well, the burbs. I was pretty glad to leave, in that the stench coming from spoiled leftovers that had been left behind in my room was excruciating. I made the short drive and met up with some new and very dear friends at a clubby sort of bowling alley...thing..... It was pretty loud, but pretty fun! 

Tuesday brought the short and relatively uneventful drive in my car to Springfield, IL. I had thought I that I wouldn't be driving anywhere near my alma mater, Illinois Wesleyan University, but it turned out that it was very much on the way. Had I realized it, I would have left earlier to have enough time to actually get out and walk around. Sadly, I only had enough time to drive around a bit. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The campus looks much the same as the last time I was able to stop in in 2005. I hope to go back very soon, but for now, this was just a quick scenic tour. Cruising into Springfield with little time to spare, we headed to work and were greeted by the Presneys! For those that have been tuning in for a while, John Michael Presney was our Carl Perkins understudy for the first 2 years, and Springfield is is home town. So his parents not only got tickets to see the show, but stopped by the stage door to hand me a giant platter of home made cookies!!!! They are just the sweetest people! I actually had quite a few people there that evening, for what turned out to be an amazing show. There was very little around our hotel, as we were out by the highway as opposed to near campus, where the theatre was. A small group of us headed to a bar/pool hall to unwind a bit with some burned pizza. Ok, mine was actually quite good. But still. 

Wednesday's drive was a bit longer to Evansville, IN, and it became a stressful day. I grossly underestimated the length of the drive, stops, etc after our leave I was kinda freaking out upon my arrival in Indiana. Again, a relatively long drive to work, so I had to drop off my rental car and zoom to work. Ironically, after having to visit 2 return locations and finding the closest one to the theatre so I could be dropped off, I made it to the theatre well before the rest of the cast. Another great show, but not a whole lot around, so we settled for the delicacies at.......Denny's. An early call and a LONG drive the next morning meant a very early night. 

I rejoined the folks on the bus on Thursday morning as we headed to Charleston, WV. We got in with little time to spare, but thankfully the theatre was within walking distance; and, the Clay Center (above) was gorgeous to boot! What an amazing jewel of a brand new theatre in an unexpected place. Another great show, and we were joined by a few of the Marshall University students that we had met weeks and weeks prior when we played Huntington, WV. I took a stroll and met a few of the boys at Sam's Uptown Cafe for a little nosh. And then Tyler and I headed to a sports bar for a night cap. 

Norfolk, VA and one of our longest drives yet was on the menus for Friday. However, we were certainly glad to be moving further and further south to warmer weather. We arrived at our hotel, which was quite nice. However, there was some sort convention going on (as I write this, I know my mother will be laughing out loud as she reads this). Though I heard very little barking, there were SO many dogs and owners running around in our two days there. And, I have to say, most of the owners were really unpleasant people. Not a fan. Anyway, we were a short drive to the theatre, and the boys and I were lucky enough to get a luxurious Buick Lacrosse for our rental car. Parking in a giant garage that housed parking for not only the theatre but the minor league hockey team AND convention center was a NIGHTMARE. Hard to get in, hard to get out, hard to find spaces with hundreds and hundreds of people parking and leaving at any given moment. But, we got in safely, and made our way to the theatre. Another great show was followed by a long wait to leave the garage, and then me getting a bite to eat at one of my least favorite, but most convenient eating establishment near the hotel....Hooters.....blech. 

Saturday was pretty busy, as we had two shows, and we would be flying for the first time in a while the next I had to out a few things in my trunk to ensure my bags were underweight. Frace was on as Sam for both shows, and the day also marked our last day of a 12 day stretch of shows and travel without a day off. It also meant a much needed break for our amazing crew who had done 5 load ins that week. Following the day, the boys and I headed guessed it.....Hooters. We were joined by Frace's friend Peter who had driven out on a whim to see him perform. I have met him a few times now, and he has officially become my 2nd favorite Australian (no offense, Peter. And no, Hugh Jackman is NOT #1 ;)))) We then headed to the Norfolk Tap Room and met up with a few more of the cast as well most of the crew. It was nice to let loose a bit and celebrate the fact that we had almost 2 full days off coming up. 

Well, that is all for our busy week! Much more to come from our full week sit down in Fort Myers, and much much more!!!! Thanks for reading!!!!!