Nashville is a cool city. I should have known it would be, seeing that Memphis was so memorable. I think I actually liked Nashville even more than Memphis – there is just so much to do and so much great music to see and hear.
We arrived from Hershey close to noon on Monday and checked into the lovely (I’m being sarcastic) Extended Stay on West End Ave. Actually, I have no problems with Extended Stays, but they are definitely no frills, so if you are used to being pampered at hotels, the Extended Stay is probably not for you. I spent the afternoon doing some shopping at two local malls (one was a kick ass outlet mall that was much like Sawgrass Mills in Fort Lauderdale).
Tuesday was load-in. The theater in Nashville seemed enormous after tiny Hershey and the crew there was very good. My prop guy, Murff, was one of the funniest locals I have met yet on the road (and a good prop guy as well) – and opening night was a breeze. The presenters threw us an opening night party at a bar nearby – it was sort of uneventful, except that we were shuttled over there in limo buses, which were decked out with suede seats, flat screen TVs and LED lights, and were the best part of the night!
On Wednesday, Ryan and I went over to the Ryman Auditorium for a tour of the house and backstage. The Ryman housed the Grand Ole Opry during its heyday, from 1945 to 1974. The auditorium was built as the Union Gospel Tabernacle in 1892, and the original wooden pews still provide the seating in the auditorium today. We toured the backstage dressing rooms and heard lots of stories of the Opry stars from our charming southern tour guide. Then we watched a short movie about the history of the Ryman, and did a self-guided tour of the front of house section of the auditorium. We took pictures onstage and it was cool to think of all the great country artists who had stood on that stage in the past. If you’ve seen the Johnny Cash movie “Walk the Line”, there are lots of references to he and June Carter Cash playing the Ryman – it is, in fact, where they met.
On Wednesday night we ventured out to Broadway, which houses all the renowned honky tonks. We heard some great country music and had fun drinking and dancing with some of the cast and crew.
On Thursday, Ryan and I had a Valentine’s breakfast at the Pancake Pantry, a local breakfast place that was sooo good. Ryan had some killer Tennessee ham and I had pancakes and eggs.
We then headed over to the Country Music Hall of Fame, where we learned all about the evolution of country music and saw lots of memorabilia including instruments played by Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe and June Carter, and costumes galore. We also took a side trip over to RCA’s Studio B, where many of the best country musicians have recorded, including Dolly Parton and Elvis. Unfortunately my camera died soon after arriving at the museum, so I don’t have any photos to share.
On Friday night a large group of the cast and crew headed back down to Broadway for Patrick’s birthday (he’s our Lancelot). The bar which had been the designated party spot ended up being really crowded, so after a little while, a group of us left and went next door to Robert’s Western World, a bar/boot shop, and listened to a great country band, with a mean fiddle player.
The weekend was our regular four-show weekend, except to spice it up a little, Julie Barnes, who is one of our female ensemble members, made her debut as the Lady of the Lake on Sunday night. Esther was out on a personal day, and then Lyn, who is the standby, was home sick with a cold. Julie is the second cover, and would ordinarily not have a chance to play the role as Lyn is the first cover – it just so happened that the stars aligned and she was allowed the opportunity, and this comes five weeks before she leaves the tour! It was really exciting for her, and everyone else as well, and she did a really fantastic job. Mitchell, our hair supervisor, took some great shots with my camera. This one is my favorite:
We loaded the show out immediately following the performance and headed to Jacksonville, Florida the next morning. It has been a fairly uneventful week so far, filled with rehearsal and more rehearsal, as we get our new King Arthur, Gary Beach, ready to don the crown in a week and half’s time. But more about that in another post …