Sunday, January 25, 2015

The home of Otis and the Allman's, a quick stop in NC and some time in The Ole Dominion

It may not be the most "lawful" picture, but it's still pretty awesome

The Grand Opera House, Macon, GA

A tribute to the great Otis Redding in Macon

The Givens Performing Arts Center, UNC Pembroke

The gorgeous Altria Theater, Richmond, VA

The amazing Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA

Frace showing a positive attitude after our bus broke down outside of Atlanta 

A gorgeous shot of the Grand Opera House, thanks to Bryan Langlitz

H & H Restaurant, Macon, GA

Thanks for the love, MDQ social media and Type A Marketing!

Laura at sound check in Macon

The exterior of the Jefferson Hotel 

Sometimes Chuck gets confused...

My recreation of the Vanity Fair pictures, Richmond, VA 

Hello, folks and welcome back to my blog!  It's been a busy couple of weeks, so I am just now getting to post this blog.  I hope everyone has been having a good couple of weeks and staying warm in the frigid weather.  Here's what we have been up to on the MDQ National Tour! 

The week started off with an interesting twist as we made our way from Worcester.  We took a drive on the bus to Hartford, CT to fly into Atlanta.  Our flight was delayed a bit, but thankfully we didn't have any connections, so it didn't effect our travel too much.  Once we landed in ATL, it was a bit of a wait for our bus to arrive, so some of us got food and chatted while we waited.  The bus arrived, we loaded everything up, and not more than 10 minutes later we had broken down on the side of the road.  It seems there was a problem with the engine, but thankfully we were close to where the busses were kept.  We did have to wait about 45 minutes for a new one, so most of us got off the bus and stood out on the countryside (see the picture of Frace above).  We finally got back on our way, and arrived in Macon in the evening.  After getting settled and getting our rental cars I headed to Carraba's with Patrick, Colte, Laura, Skye, Jimmy and Gabe.  We chatted about theatre horror stories,  all of our collective experiences with MDQ, and just generally had a great time.  Following dinner, a few us hung out that evening at the hotel.  

Tuesday came, and thankfully we didn't have to be up early.  I slept in, and early in the afternoon greeted my dear friend Kira who came into town to see the show.  After a quick dinner, I headed to the theatre with the boys for opening night.  The Grand Opera House (above) was a gorgeous space, and the show sounded fantastic in it.  Following the show, the cast and crew headed to Buffalo Wild Wings, accompanied by Kira and another friend Whitney who had performed with me in Mary Poppins.  After some food and merriment, we all headed back to the hotel to hang out for the rest of the evening.  

Wednesday was surprisingly cold, but it didn't stop me from heading to downtown for pictures of some of the amazing architecture, a journey to the park that houses the Otis Redding statue pictured above, and also for some amazing southern home cookin' at a Georgia landmark, H & H Restaurant.  Made famous by the Allman Brothers, it was a great little place to get a bit at.  That night the boys and I headed back to the theatre for another great show with an audience to match.  With an early call the next day, most of us laid low after a quick hang out after the show.  

We made our way to Pembroke, NC on Thursday, and after a bit of time at the hotel we headed for our one show on the campus of UNC Pembroke, at the Givens Performing Arts Center (above).  It was a bit of a different show for us, given that it would mark the first time we wouldn't have our show drop, and our finale coats didn't fly in.  It was, however a great show, and the audience was fantastic.  Following the show we all went back to the hotel for a bit of a hang before another early bus ride in the morning.  

We embarked on Friday morning for Richmond, VA and arrived in the mid afternoon.  I walked around a bit after we got in, and took pictures of a few of the buildings, and particularly the amazing facade of the Altria Theater (above).  After a quick bit at Jimmy John's, I walked to the theatre to bask in yet another beautiful house.  Colte hadn't been feeling well, so Jimmy got the chance to go on for the first time on this leg of tour.  Also, Chuck had a bit of a problem with his bass... the bridge completely cracked, and he had to cart the entire thing off stage.  Thankfully our crew was on top of it, so he miraculously got the back up bass wired and walked back in the studio just in time to play his solo shortly before we sing Peace in the Valley. Other than that, our opening there went splendidly, and most of us headed to the gorgeous Jefferson Hotel (above) close to our hotel for a bite that evening.  I was joined by my friend Trish who played Mary Poppins!  She was in the area on the tour she is currently doing, so it was nice to spend some time with her.  

I was swung out on Saturday at the matinee, so it gave me a bit of time to stand back and watch Frace rock it out as Cash, and gave me the chance to do some much needed laundry.  Trish and I grabbed dinner at Penny Lane (a suggestion from a high school friend of mine); a nice little British pub, slathered in Beatles memorabilia.  Trish watched the show that night (no bass issues this time), and most of us headed back to Penny Lane that night for a bite and a cocktail.  In between shows, I was asked to use my camera to recreate a couple of pictures (above).  One of the guys on the local crew let Jake know that a couple of famous pictures of Elvis in Vanity Fair had indeed been taken in a stairwell at the Altria.  So, we waited for the light to be right, and I did my best to recreate the angles and poses.  I think they turned out pretty great, but then again, I had a lot to work with with my friends involved.  

After a few busy weeks, we were all glad that Sunday brought a drive to Wheeling, WV, but thankfully not a show.  Once we got in that evening, most of us went down to the hotel bar to watch the two NFL playoff games that were on.  After a yummy pizza from Papa John's and a hang with the cast and crew, I was ready for bed.  It was time for a day off.  

Well, that's all for this week's installment!  Thanks for tuning in yet again, and keep your eyes peeled for the next one soon!  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A long time gone......

Our opening venue after our week of tech: The Hanover Theatre, Worcester, MA

A new look for our signs!

Say hello to the new boys!!

The Hanover Theatre

A nice shot from the first day of rehearsal (credit: Patrick Morrow)

Our rehearsal space at the Pullo Center in York

Our seasoned veteran MDQ rhythm section

He's a real wild child....

"So, you went ahead and hired yourself a piano player...."

A nice building on my walk for coffee at the Green Bean in York

So good to have Dr. Zayas back! 

A mural near one of our favorite spots in York

The Pullo Center, York, PA

Our first sound check on stage!

My lonely microphone

Scott Weinstein (associate director), Chuck Mead (music supervisor) and Collin Escott (writer) offering some words of wisdom

Our first travel day from York to Worcester! 

The backdrop of the booths at Mezcal in Worcester, hosts of our opening night party

First press shot of me and the boys in Worcester! 

A great picture of Gabe at guitar check (credit: Bryan Langlitz)

The MDQ mic belt graveyard...

"Oh, Mr. Phillips..." Me and the great Chuck Mead

Hello everyone!  Man, it's been a long time!  Well, MDQ has hit the road again, and we are all looking forward to a very exciting year!  A lot of new faces on our tour, and some that will be blasts from the past.  First, a bit of catch up on my last few months.  

When last I wrote, our tour friends parted and went our several ways after our 3 week stint in Cleveland.  I headed to NYC for a couple of days before heading to Maine to leave my car and the bulk of my things, in which time I filmed an audition for Boardwalk Empire.  I got back to the city and got the news that I had gotten it!  So, within my first few official days subletting in the city, I was out in Far Rockaway shooting what would become the final episode of the entire series of HBO's Boardwalk Empire!  It was an eye opening, frightening and exciting experience.  Now that the final season (season 5) has been released on DVD and BluRay, I hope you will check it out!  

Following that, I spent the majority of my time in the city auditioning for various TV shows, Broadway shows, tours and regional theatre.  The audition scene was a little bleak this fall, but I didn't let it get me down.  It allowed me the chance to see quite a few Broadway shows (Hedwig And The Angry Inch, The Last Ship, Bullets Over Broadway, Rocky, On The Town, Les Miserables, Revolution In The Elbow Of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter, Cabaret, Beautiful, Violet, and A Piece Of My Heart) and to catch a few gigs of MDQ alums Billy Woodward and Dan Mills.  I may not have been performing, but there certainly wasn't a shortage of learning experiences through performing.  

I left NYC shortly before Halloween to venture home, after a nice visit with Georgia and my friends on the Mamma Mia National Tour in Boston.  I enjoyed the comforts of home and some time with my family before making my way south to one of my many theatre homes away from home, The Springer Opera House in Columbus, GA.  I was given the opportunity to return to the Springer to play Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins (I had previously played Orin in Little Shop of Horrors between our 3 week stop in Tokyo and Osaka, and the start of Year 2 in Orlando).  Overall it was a great experience as usual, and allowed me to spread my theatrical wings a bit with a challenging role quite different from what I have been doing for the majority of the last 3 years.  Following our closing, I had a surprise chance to head home again for the holidays; it had been 13 years since I had been at home for Christmas the year prior, and not having power for 5 days didn't exactly make it the most "cozy" holidays.  So, I was glad to be home with my family in the warmth of our home this year.  After a nice New Year's Eve celebration with my parents and family friends, I made my way back to tour on the 1st of the year.  

This year was a bit different, in that with all of the returning/experienced members of the cast, we headed straight to York, PA for rehearsals and tech rather than spend a couple of weeks in NYC rehearsing.  Shortly after arriving in York I met up with my boys and met the new folks at one of our favorite places from the previous year, The White Rose.  There are so many new folks to introduce you to!  Frace, Jimmy David and Bradley are all back to anchor our solid core of understudies, with the additions of Skye Scott (understudying Elvis, with a vast amount of theatre experience, most notably with the Jersey Boys National Tour) and Aly Bloom (understudying Dyanne; she also has a deep resume, having been with Rock Of Ages in Las Vegas.  We worked together when I was taking my many train trips back and forth from Lancaster, PA to NYC to audition for MDQ in The Unsinkable Molly Brown).  Patrick returns as the rock of our rhythm section as Fluke.  Coming back for a full tour after his 2 day stint as Jerry Lee is my dear friend (since I understudied him in Footloose 5 years ago) is Colte Julian (pictured as Jerry Lee above).  He has been the JLL understudy in Chicago for quite a few years, and it is great to have him out on the road playing the role full time.  Also veteran understudies turned principles from the Windy City are Laura Obenauf as Dyanne and another dear friend, Gabe Bowling as Carl Perkins.  Chuck Zayas returns to us after his departure in Ft. Lauderdale at the beginning of Year 2 as Brother Jay (he also played the role for numerous years in Chicago).  The two brand new members of the performing cast are Bryan Langlitz as Sam Phillips (another lengthy resume, including the Memphis 1st National Tour) and Jacob Rowley as Elvis; the youngest member of our group, who has been making a name for himself in the Elvis Tribute Artist community with his eerily accurate Elvis performance.  Man, are you going to love this dude.  

We all convened for rehearsal on January 2nd at the familiar Pullo Center in York.  Bryan, Aly, Skye and Jake all had a crash course in MDQ with Scott (pictured above), Rob Lyons and the Vegas cast prior to Christmas, so they were well versed in the Quartet vernacular when they arrived for our first rehearsals.  We started right in and started running all of the music with our fearless rockabilly guru Chuck Mead (see picture with me above), and even started working some of the scenes on the very first day.  By day 3, we were working the show from top to bottom and before we knew it, we were on stage with lights and sound.  After a few runs and a short tech period (and, and introduction to our almost entirely new crew; I will save THOSE introductions for another time) in which our new crew did an AMAZING job at learning our show from the ground up, we had an invited dress.  I was glad to have been able to invite quite a few friends from the area and from my years at the Dutch Apple in Lancaster to help round out the audience.  Our first performance with an audience was a success, and it was time to make our first group trip to our opening city, Worcester, MA.  

The temperatures had turned frigid across the bulk of the US, and the northeast was no exception.  The single digit temperatures on our drive and the next few days proved challenging for all of us, certainly not the least of which was our amazing crew that had to brave the elements for their first load in.  After a brief rehearsal and press photo shoot, I met my parents at our hotel.  I was overjoyed to be able to share opening night with them yet again, and to be so close to home.  The boys, m'am and I made our way to the Hanover Theatre (above) for opening night.  We were blown away by the response of the crowd, and we knew that we were finally ready to be on the road.  A nice opening night at Mezcal close to our hotel followed, and it was official; MDQ is back!!!!

The subsequent shows in our opening weekend continued to get bette and better, as our familiarity with each other and the show grew.  No offense to ANY of my past MDQ brethren, of whom I love, but I think this may be the strongest group we have had yet.  And it bodes well for our stint of one nighters and limited engagements in the next 6 months.  

As the first week ends, the Million Dollar Quartet 1st National Tour has done 841 performances in 133 cities (not including repeated venues/cities); 327 shows for me as Johnny Cash, and 352 performances for me on tour overall (it's been nearly 2 years since I played Sam Phillips).  We are off to a great start, and I can't wait to start the adventure.  Here's to us!!  Thanks for tuning in, and please keep a lookout for my blog next week!  Stay warm, and have a great week!