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!