Chicago, Week One.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Chicago. I had been here a couple of times before en route from California to New York, or vice versa, but never longer than a couple of hours. My limited experience with the city was pretty much confined to the blocks surrounding the train station, and the restaurant, Italian Village, which for some reason is where I have always eaten while I’ve been stopping through town. I was just happy we were leaving Peoria and heading back to a big city. I was craving good restaurants and good shopping.

We took the bus from Peoria directly after the Sunday matinee and drove three hours to Chicago. It was nighttime by the time we arrived, and after getting settled into our hotel, I only really wanted to get some dinner, and then spend the rest of the night in the hotel, getting rested up for an actual day off the next day.

On Monday, the crew began load-in at the Auditorium Theater, but the rest of the company enjoyed a day free of work and travel! I had a number of items that I needed to pick up, and so I started my long day of shopping. I first went to Ritz Camera and ordered a new Lensbaby – Ken had given me some gift cards for Christmas, and they needed to be spent! Then I headed up Michigan Ave to the Magnificent Mile. Oh how I had missed good shopping! I went to Sephora, Nordstrom, Macy’s, the Apple Store…it was so nice. I picked up all the things I needed and managed to control myself from buying anything frivolous on top of that.

The frozen river

The frozen river

I had a really nice time walking around town – it was freezing cold out, but I was just so happy to be back in a real city that I didn’t care! I recognized Union Station from my many train rides across the country, and the river, which runs close to the train station. It was also so awesome to be in Chicago just in time for Obama’s inauguration. Obviously the city is uber-proud of their former senator, and the banners all along the streets illustrated just that.


After a long day of shopping, I went out for Indian food for dinner, and ended up talking to Tanya for about an hour on the phone while eating. Tanya is in Chicago, as well, rehearsing “Mary Poppins”, which starts its national tour here. Tanya is one of the stage managers for it.

Our load-in into the Auditorium went pretty well. The loading dock only allowed for one truck at a time, which can be slow-going, but all the stagehands are so good here in Chicago, that they made up for the lost time. My biggest challenge during load-in was all the directional signage. There are so many fire doors in the basement of the theater, its insane. You have to go through seven doors to get from stage left to our office. It took me FOREVER to do signage this week, having to clearly label each door and each route. I was bummed about it, too, because of course Tuesday was the inauguration, and I didn’t want to miss it while I was posting signs. Ken made us all take a break, though, and go back to the hotel to watch the proceedings on TV. He said it was more important than load-in. I think he was right about that.


Mr. President

I watched the inauguration in my room at the hotel with Tallulah. It was a very happy, but emotional event to watch. I am just so hopeful for the future now, and so excited about what is to come. I’m so grateful to Ken for making sure that we were able to witness this history!

Tuesday night was Richard’s first performance with the company. He did really well, and the audience loved him. Our general manager was in town, so we all went out for drinks after the show at the hotel bar, and celebrated Richard’s opening, and also the inauguration. All the TVs in the bar were on, so we were able to watch the inaugural balls while celebrating the great day!

Tuesday was also Merle Dandridge’s first day with us. Merle is our new Lady of the Lake, succeeding Esther, whose last day was Sunday. On Wednesday I had rehearsal with Merle for a few hours, and then had some time to kill before the show, so Ryan and I ventured over to Millenium Park, and took some photos by the infamous Chicago Bean.

Me in the Bean

Me and the Bean

After the show on Wednesday, we had our “official” opening night party at the italian restaurant, Petterino’s. It was a small, nice gathering. Jaki, one of our former wardrobe supervisors, was in town, helping us out for the week, so it was great getting to spend some time with her. I miss her so much – and I never really realize it until she comes to visit, and then I remember how much awesomer my job is when she’s around.



On Thursday, Ryan and I did some more shopping. Gotta make up for all those weeks in small towns! We went to Barnes and Noble, Old Navy and Macy’s, and then back to Ritz Camera! That night I took advantage of my new wide angle lens to take some shots of the theater. The Auditorium Theater is a really impressive building. Over 4000 seats in the house! There are two balconies very far away from the stage, and very high up. I climbed all the way up to the top to take some snaps. The prop guy told me that the upper balcony is slowly sinking, so they don’t sell the seats anymore. The whole time I was up there, I hung on for dear life. Not only was it very vertigo-inducing, but I was afraid the old, wooden, sinking floor would collapse at any time (talk about an overactive imagination!). I was also terrified of dropping my camera over the balcony. None of those things happened, but I did get some cool photos:

The view from the upper balcony

The view from the upper balcony


The view from the stage

The view from the stage

On Friday we had a put-in rehearsal for Merle.  She seems like a really fun girl and is a powerhouse singer, so its great to have her as part of the company – despite the fact that Esther will be sorely missed.

We had two shows on Saturday, followed by Shot Night, hosted by Erik Hayden, where we enjoyed vanilla vodka and ginger ale.

Sunday was Esther’s last day.

Tanya met me for dinner between shows – we ate at Flaco’s Tacos near the hotel, which has AWESOME fish tacos. I was able to hear all about her first week of rehearsals for “Mary Poppins”.

After Esther’s last show that evening, the company gathered at the wine bar, Bin 36, for her going-away party. Esther is an original company member of this tour. She’s been with it for three years now. It’s hard to imagine the tour without her. Her party was a success – Jonathan Hadary showed up (he was vacationing in Chicago last week) and so did Jeff Dumas, our original Patsy, who assumes the role again in Detroit. The wine was tasty, and aside from having to say goodbye to Esther, it was a great night.

Esther as the Lady of the Lake

Esther as the Lady of the Lake

It was a fantastic first week in Chicago. I really like this city – much more than I expected to. The few short hours I had spent here in the past just did not do the city justice. I only wish we had even more time to spend here – and that the weather was warmer! The cold really makes it hard to spend too much time out of doors.

Luckily, there was one more week to be spent in Chicago, including a Monday off – a luxury which we haven’t experienced in a while! But more on that in the next post –

Hope everyone had a great week!


2 thoughts on “Chicago, Week One.

  1. Hi there! I just found your website after googling Merle Dandridge and have been here for over an hour reading! I love your blog! And you are an amazing photographer. You are able to catch such great features and you find some unusual perspectives! I love it!

    The reason I googled Merle is because I saw her in Spamalot on Broadway and heard she was joining the touring company. I live in the Detroit area and was hoping she would be in it when I came to see the show.

    I want you to know that I think it is great that you have this blog. I bet it is great for your friends and family to keep up with your amazing journey. And then there is the added perk for Broadway and Musical junkies like myself to see a show they love from a whole other perspective. Oh, and Tallulah is such a cutie!

    Anyways, I wanted to thank you for your blog! And tell you I can’t wait to see the show! My students have asked me about it since I brought the poster back from NYC.

    And one question…….do members of the touring company come out after the show at all? I know it is not the same as a stage door in NYC, but I was wondering if it was possible to get any autographs afterwards? Thanks!!!

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