Lasts

The past week and a half has been all about lasts for me. Last city. Last load-in. Last sound check. The goodbyes have started, the packing has started, the cards from the creatives are arriving. Its weird. But, I’m also ready for this journey to be over, as I think most everyone is. I will miss a lot of things about my life out here – the people, the job, the travel, the paycheck – but it’s time to move on to something else. This is by far the most performances I have ever done of one show – I think I’m at around 11oo performances now. Before this, the most I had ever done of a show was I think about 200 performances. I would be lying if I told you I would miss “Spamalot” the show – I love it, but after 1100 performances, I am pretty bored. I’m ready to be challenged by something new.

So, the Costa Mesa stop, for me, has been all about tying up loose ends, readying my trunk for shipping, gathering all the items I think I’ll need over the next few weeks before I see my trunk again, including my winter coat and snow boots! I think by the time I get back to New York I will have missed fall entirely this year. I have a feeling I’m going to be going straight from the summery weather of California and Texas, to winter in Wisconsin and Chicago and New York. I am driving back to NYC, taking two weeks, and visiting some friends along the way. As of right now my schedule is: Huntington Beach to Scottsdale, Scottsdale to Las Cruces, Las Cruces to San Antonio, San Antonio to Houston. Two days in Houston visiting Fran and Tanya who will be there with the “Mary Poppins” tour. Then Houston to Wichita, Wichita to St. Paul, St. Paul to Sobieksi – where I’ll stay with Ryan for four days at his house. Then Sobieski to Chicago, where hopefully I’ll catch up with Flickr friends Lauren and Carolyn, and then Chicago to somewhere in Pennsylvania, then PA to New York City. All by November 1st. Whew. Had to go out with a bang, right?

So, back to Costa Mesa. We are playing the Orange County PAC where I saw “Jekyll and Hyde” while I was in college, with my voice teacher at the time, Sandie. It seemed like an enormous theater then, and now it doesn’t seem so big to me, but it is nice and spacious in comparison to other places we have played – a nice theater to end with. I was so happy to complete some of my load-in tasks for the last time, namely directional signs – which can be so tedious in some of the labyrinth-type theaters (Orange County PAC is one of those). I will be happy to take a break from killing a tree every Tuesday in copy paper.

Early on in the day, Ken, Jovon and I found some Spam can costumes in a rehearsal hall, left over from a press event, so we absconded with them, and wore them to sound check, to everyone’s delight. They ended up becoming a novelty item, being passed around through the cast, everyone taking turns wearing them during the sound check.

Ben and Merle sound checking "Song That Goes"

Ben and Merle sound checking "Song That Goes"

Find Your Grail

Find Your Grail

Ben Whiteley conducting the final sound check

Ben Whiteley conducting the final sound check

Wednesday was Ken’s (the PSM, my boss) last day. Ken is starting work on a new musical called “Wonderland”, which is doing experimental runs in Tampa and Houston, with an eye on Broadway. It was so strange saying goodbye to Ken, who has been with “Spamalot” since the very beginning. It even seems now like he’s on vacation, rather than really gone. Jovon organized a party for Ken, after the show, at Mastro’s steakhouse. Almost everyone came out to say goodbye to him. Ken got really choked up making a speech at the party about how proud he is of the family our whole company has always been. Its such a rare thing to have a company – from actors, to crew, to musicians, to management, all genuinely enjoy spending time with each other – both onstage and off. Ken was definitely a leader in guiding the company in that direction, and he should be proud of that. I got teary when he thanked Jovon and I. Its been so nice working on a team and in an office that is happy and full of laughter 95% of the time. It makes such a difference in wanting to go to work, and being happy there. I hope I get more opportunities of working with such great teams in the future.

The rest of the week was spent doing more packing, and more reflecting on what a great experience this has been.

Our official closing notice was posted. Carissa threw a farewell, thank you shot night.

The closing notice

The closing notice

Carissa's shot night

Carissa's shot night

Over the weekend I took some more photos of the show – I wanted to try and get some shots of some of our newer cast members, but also just want to get in all the shooting I can while I have the chance! What will I take pictures of when this is all over? Its been an amazing photographic opportunity – and to have had the freedom to shoot whatever and whenever I want has been great. I’m so thankful to all my coworkers for allowing me!

Nikki Della Penta, one of our newer showgirls

Nikki Della Penta, one of our newer showgirls

Can Can girls

Can Can girls

Bows

Bows

In keeping with tradition of “never a dull moment”, the weekend of shows was no exception. We had a number of people out and then Matthew Greer, who plays Lancelot, injured his leg at the Saturday matinee, so we had to put Tera-Lee on one last time (hopefully!) in a male ensemble track, to cover David Havasi, who understudies Lance. Its always fun when Tera is on as a guy, and her husband was in town, so he was able to come and see her “butch it up”. Sunday night was Cara Cooper’s last show (one of our ensemble girls). Cara has a wedding to go so she unfortunately she has to miss the final week of shows. She has been with the company for almost two years and it was sad to have to say goodbye to her early.

On Monday night it was time for a little fun. Mitchell and Paula hosted the second “Hell Party” (the first being in Dallas in 2007). They went all out decorating their rental house for Halloween, and everyone did an amazing job coming up with costumes. It was a really fun night – a great way to let off some stress and be together one more time before the final week of shows.

Angela Dittmar-Lykins

Angela Dittmar-Lykins

Jason Goldsberry

Jason Goldsberry

Roy Turpin

Roy Turpin

Mitchell Beck

Mitchell Beck

Steven Wenslawski

Steven Wenslawski

The weather this week has turned windy and rainy. Its the perfect weather for staying indoors and watching a movie – or in my case, getting my hair done, (which I did on Tuesday), getting a massage (Monday’s activity) and catching up on blogging. I’m hoping the weather is good enough tomorrow for my final hike with Suzanne. Friday will be all about packing and cleaning the apartment, and then we have the final weekend of shows.

An overcast day at the Huntington Beach

An overcast day at the Huntington Beach

Not much time left now – just trying to savor every moment. And gearing up for life back in New York!

Anchorage, Week One.

I started my “back to work” week with a Monday of errands, not very interesting – a Petco run, groceries and a rental car switch-a-roo at the airport. Ryan and I had lunch at the Snow City Cafe, a quirky diner downtown. They have lots of healthy, veggie options on the menu. I had some veggie tacos that were delicious!

Tuesday it was back to work.

The Performing Arts Center in Anchorage is quite big – lots of room onstage and backstage, although strangely, not a lot of dressing rooms. Everyone is sharing rooms here. Load-in seemed to take a long time for no good reason – except that at least a dozen of the local stagehands didn’t show up for the local call, making things a lot more difficult and time-consuming for our guys. I guess they don’t get many big shows through Anchorage and maybe the stagehands here aren’t used to the standards we expect. Who knows. At any rate, at 3:00pm when we were supposed to do a brush-up rehearsal onstage in preparation for John O’Hurley’s debut, the stage was far from ready. The actors did a run through of lines in the green room instead.

Despite the setbacks, the show was received extremely well that night. The audiences have been so appreciative here. John O’Hurley became our new King Arthur, and we celebrated with a champagne toast after the show.

On Wednesday, Ryan and I decided to change hotels. We just were not happy at the Westmark. Our room was run down and dirty (dried up chow mein in the carpet – ew!). One of our wardrobe supervisors, Angela, had gotten a good deal on another hotel, the Inlet Tower, on Hotwire. We booked a room there as well (for $20 less a night!) and moved over there Wednesday morning. We are so much happier at the Inlet. We have a great view of the water, the room is bright and cute, the bed is super comfortable, and we have a fridge and microwave. It is a bit further away from downtown – about a 15-20 minute walk, but it is so much quieter, which is definitely a plus.

In the afternoon, Ryan finished getting his taxes together and then we headed over to the mall where he went to the post office to mail them out, while I went to the AT&T store. My purse had gotten stepped on during load-in and my iPhone was smashed. The guy at the AT&T store was totally unhelpful and told me it would cost $700 to replace. I went outside and called Apple, and they said if I came into an Apple Store I could get a new one for $324. So, suck it AT&T store, I’ll go and visit Apple when I’m in Seattle. I decided I could deal with a broken phone for two weeks.

After the mall, we headed back over to the Coastal Trail and spent an hour or so walking it before we had to get ready for work. It is such a beautiful trail along the inlet – what a great thing to have right downtown!

Walking along the Coastal Trail

Walking along the Coastal Trail

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The next day I wanted to do some more hiking, so Ryan and I drove north to Eagle River and did a three mile hike in the mountains there. It was really beautiful, but I was more than a tad worried that we would run into a bear while we were there. There was no one else around, and there were “high bear activity” signs everywhere! This is the time of year when all the bears are coming out of hibernation and they are hungry. Luckily, we did not run into any wildlife of that sort – we saw some moose poop, but that was about it!

At Eagle River

At Eagle River

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On Friday, I had my best adventure to date here in Alaska. David, our associate company manager, organized a small group of us to go snowmobiling! We met up in Girdwood and got suited up at the company’s office, and then drove ten miles further south where we went out with a guide for a five hour snowmobiling adventure. It was so much fun – we climbed an iceberg, crawled inside a glacier and raced at 70 mph on our snowmobiles. It was definitely an experience of a lifetime, and I’m so glad that I went.

Ryan, on top of an iceberg!

Ryan, on top of an iceberg!

Me and my snowmobile

Me and my snowmobile

Walking towards the face of Spencer Glacier

Walking towards the face of Spencer Glacier

Heading up the mountain on our snowmobiles

Heading up the mountain on our snowmobiles

Inside Spencer Glacier

Inside Spencer Glacier

A dogsled near the glacier

A dogsled near the glacier

David jumping in the snow, with Spencer Glacier behind him

David jumping in the snow, with Spencer Glacier behind him

Sorry for the overload of photos, but it was just such an amazing experience, I had to share! Of course when we all got back to work raving about the day, two other groups immediately made reservations to go – I think by the time we leave Alaska, half the company will have gone snowmobiling!

On Saturday afternoon, I had wonderful opportunity to meet up with another friend from Flickr, Val. Val lives in Mountain Village, a small town out in the Alaskan Bush on the Yukon River. She is a teacher, and it was so interesting hearing about her life there. There are only 750 people in her town! We had an awesome lunch at Orso, and then went and took some photos together before I had to head back to work. She and a group of her friends came to the evening show and I gave them a backstage tour afterward. It was so great to meet her – I just love all the friends I’ve made through  Flickr, and the opportunity to meet some of them this year has been amazing.

With Val

With Val

On Sunday, after our two-show day, David Havasi, one of our ensemble guys, hosted a party at his brother’s house (his brother lives here in Anchorage). It was a lot of fun to wind down with everyone  – Spamalot parties are always good. And David’s brother and his wife were so nice and welcoming. It was a great way to end the week.

Everyone playing a card game

Everyone playing a card game

Tim and Carissa

Tim and Carissa

David showing us some funny baby photos of himself (Carissa's face makes me laugh in this shot)

David showing us some funny baby photos of himself (Carissa's face makes me laugh in this shot)

And that was my very full first week in Anchorage!

Cleveland Rocks…not really.

Part of me really does not want to write this blog post because I was so pissed off at Cleveland right off the bat. I sort of want to write that the city doesn’t deserve my time writing about it, but that wouldn’t be fair to some of the positive events that happened this week, so I’ll suck it up and type on.

We bussed to Cleveland on Monday from Wilmington. It was a long eight hour bus ride, but I didn’t mind. I never mind the bus. I can read, and knit and watch movies, and all the stress of dealing with overweight bags, airplanes and getting up at the crack of dawn, all goes out the window. Taking the bus may take the whole day, but it is so much less stressful than flying, that I will take it any day.

Bus ride to Cleveland

Bus ride to Cleveland

On the bus

On the bus

Before we arrived in Cleveland, in fact weeks before, I had been hearing stories from different people about how scary Playhouse Square had gotten. Apparently there was a Greyhound Station behind the complex where the theaters are, and a whole string of muggings had taken place there in the past few months. We were all instructed to not walk alone and to try to avoid walking past the bus station. So that was my first introduction to Cleveland.

Playhouse Square

Playhouse Square

We got in late, so I didn’t even leave the hotel on Monday night. I was staying at the Embassy Suites, which had a small shopping center in the basement, which included a small grocery store, so I did some grocery shopping, and laundry, ordered room service and called it a day. The Embassy Suites is in a building comprised of two towers – one is the hotel, the other is an apartment complex, which worked out great, because as a guest at the hotel I was able to use the massive laundry facilities of the apartment complex (like 25 washers and dryers!) and also the apartment complex’s fitness center, which had a big cardio room, a weight room, and a swimming pool. It was great! The hotel rooms were also very big – two room suites with a bedroom and a living area. The rooms were lacking in furniture though. We had all this space and nothing to occupy it! I joked that I could have held a yoga class in my room.

On Tuesday I went to load-in. The Palace Theater, which we were playing for the week, is very large and grandiose in all the front of house areas – the auditorium and the lobby, but small-ish backstage. Nothing compared to the week before in Wilmington, though. We felt like we really were in a palace compared to the DuPont. It was a crunch to get everything in the building and ready for show time, but as usual everything came together at the last minute.

The Palace Theater

The Palace Theater

In the lobby

In the lobby

Tuesday was also Richard Chamberlain’s 75th birthday. Our general managers, Jeff and Wendy, came in to town to help celebrate. We presented Richard with a cake onstage at the curtain call, and everyone (audience included) sang “Happy Birthday” to him. We continued the celebration afterward at the bar at the Wyndam Hotel.

Celebrating Richard's birthday onstage

Celebrating Richard's birthday onstage

On Wednesday, my hate for Cleveland was ignited. Ryan had a work call, so I had the afternoon to myself. I set off for a walk to see what was around. I swear, I could not walk past any man on the street without being catcalled to. It was so uncomfortable that I finally gave up and went back to the hotel. I was so angry that these men thought it was okay to just yell whatever they wanted at me. I found Cincinnati to be much the same way – that the people on the street there just had no regard or respect for others. My experiences in both Cleveland and Cincinnati with this kind of treatment have quickly put Ohio in my book, as the state I dislike the most.

On Thursday, Ryan and I headed over to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ryan had been there before, but it was my first visit to Cleveland, so the Hall of Fame was a must-do. We happened to be in town the week of the 2009 Inductions, which was kind of exciting. There were a lot of musicians in town, and lots of events surrounding the ceremony. The Hall of Fame had displays of all this year’s inductees, as well as a ton of other memorabilia. I loved all the stage costumes from musicians like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Madonna. Janis Joplin’s car was there, and tons and tons of guitars from every famous musician you can imagine. There was a great Bruce Springsteen exhibit (who I love), with dozens and dozens of his personal notepads with song lyrics written in them, and also lots and lots of his personal scrapbooks. I also loved the exhibit in the main hall of different American cities, and the different music styles that have come out of those cities, and my favorite artifact on display was a note that Madonna wrote to a friend while she was in college, about all her aspirations, and wanting to move to New York and be a dancer. She sounded like every other young aspiring actress or dancer that I have ever known. I loved how familiar that note was.

The Hall of Fame was really great – I wish we actually could have spent some more time there, to try and catch some of the films that they were showing as well. I definitely recommend checking the place out if you ever find yourself in Cleveland.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

On Thursday evening, Steven Wenslawski, one of our ensemble men, asked if I could take some photos of him during the show. Steven has been filling in for about the last six months for Lenny, who has been out on medical leave with a back injury. Lenny comes back to the company in Anchorage, so Cleveland was Steven’s last city. I happily obliged, and caught some fun shots of him during the show:

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Before the show that night, kind of spontaneously, a group of us realized that there was an air shaft within the building that many of our office and dressing room windows looked out onto. If we needed someone from one of the other floors, we could just lean out the window and yell for them! It created a funny moment of everyone leaning out their respective windows yelling for everyone else. I wish I had had my wide angle lens with me to really capture how many people were leaning out the windows, but I did catch a few with my 50mm camera lens. It was a funny moment.

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After the show on Thursday night, Richard treated the company to pizza and cocktails at a nice restaurant called Bricco, across the street from the theater. It was such a nice thing for him to do, and he gave a really heartfelt speech about the company. I think he is really going to miss us!

Suzanne at the party

Suzanne at the party

Ken, with our press rep, Anita.

Ken, with our press rep, Anita.

Tera-Lee and Jen

Tera-Lee and Jen

On Friday night, I had a lovely evening out with Lyn, Paula and Callie. We drove over to the Warehouse District, where Paula was renting an apartment, and went to a really cute wine bar. We all ordered flights of wine (I had a flight of sweet whites – my fave!) and had yummy cheese, bruschetta, and ended the night with a dessert called “the chocolate pizza”, which was to die for! It was so nice going out with these girls – we called it “Old Bags Night”, since it was the girls in their thirties! It seriously was so great though to have some girl time – its hard to come by out here. I hope we get a chance to do it again!

On Saturday and Sunday we had the usual two-show days. I started out Sunday on the wrong foot, as I was once again harassed going into, and then coming out of Starbucks by the same man. The second time he started yelling at me from across the street, I just lost it and starting screaming every name in the book at him. I just cannot get over how rude the men are here. Do they really think girls like being catcalled to?? I was so fired up by the time I got to work. Its too bad the whole thing couldn’t have happened around the corner where all the stagehands were doing a box call on the street (unloading empty boxes off the trucks to ready for load-out) – because I would have had ten big dudes on my side immediately if they had seen that go down.

Sunday night was the last performance for Richard, Steven and Callie. It was sad for all of them, Richard especially. I have a feeling we’ll see Steven back around as a vacation cover, and Callie had already gone through a big drawn-out goodbye a year and a half ago when she first left the show, so it was really Richard’s goodbye that was in the spotlight. He obviously was really torn up to be leaving. He is just the sweetest man with such a good soul. He really endeared himself to the company during his time with us and he will be greatly missed.

Merle Dandridge and Richard Chamberlain

Merle Dandridge and Richard Chamberlain

And with that, another chapter closes. We left the east and head west for our final leg of the tour with a new King. We have a week off, and then Anchorage, Alaska!

(As always, all photos published here are copyrighted. Please do not use without permission.)

A Busy Week in Wilmington

We flew to Philadelphia from Atlanta (luckily on time and without incident this week), and then took a bus to Wilmington from Philly. I had smartly decided to fly with the cast this week, which meant being able to sleep in a bit. Last week’s 6am flight did me in, and I was in no rush to get to Wilmington. It was a little bittersweet driving out of Philly. Couldn’t we at least stop at get some lunch at Alma de Cuba??? It was a short bus ride out of Pennsylvania and into Delaware, and soon we arrived at our hotel in downtown Wilmington. It was fairly late in the day so I stayed in for the evening and ordered room service.

Jen and her dog, Bella, on the bus to Wilmington

Jen and her dog, Bella, on the bus to Wilmington

Its a good thing that travel day was relatively stress free, because I needed all my patience to deal with load-in on Tuesday. We were playing the DuPont Theater, a very small theater (only 1200 seats) which is part of the DuPont Hotel. The backstage was very tight, and the auxiliary areas – dressing rooms and basement were also very small. It was definitely the tightest overall space we have played to date. Although the stage was smaller in Sioux City, the dressing room areas there were quite spacious. Everything about the Wilmington theater was small. Couple that with the fact that the building had no elevator and everything had to be chain motored or carried to the different levels, and then top it off with all the crazy safety rules enforced by the local crew, and we had quite a tough situation on our hands.

We all spent the day running around, working to make the show fit. Our office for the week was a corner of a room in the basement behind some of the hair work boxes. We called the show from a catwalk. Scenery was piled everywhere, and there was no room for all the wardrobe. We were all just on top of each other the whole week. I have to admit, though, once we figured out how to make it work, I sort of liked the space. It reminded me of a Broadway house. Most of those Broadway theaters are ridiculously small backstage and often the dressing rooms and offices are the size of a closet. The DuPont reminded me of that. It was definitely cozy.

To make things even crazier, John O’Hurley, who played the King in the Las Vegas production of “Spamalot”, and who you probably know as the current host of “Family Feud”, joined us to start rehearsals. He is taking over the role of King Arthur in Anchorage. He had a music rehearsal in the lobby with Ben and Michael after the orchestra finished their rehearsal. Also joining us on Tuesday, was Tera-Lee, who was our associate dance captain up until she left in Toronto. She decided to return to us when Candy put in her notice, and we couldn’t be happier. She is such a nice, happy presence in the company. It was so great to see her again.

So the evening approached quickly – we had no onstage crossover, the boys were changing in the basement, it was a crazy night – but we managed to get through the opening performance without anything tragic happening. We were all beyond exhausted though when it was all over, and so everyone convened at the hotel bar afterward for some much needed libations!

No rest for the weary, though – on Wednesday we had two shows. In between, Ryan and I ate at the Washington Street Ale House, a cute pub a few blocks away, which had a nice menu and quite a few beers on tap. We also discovered two good coffee shops nearby – Brew Ha Ha, and Presto (which was also open on the weekend – a rarity in this town).

On Thursday I was up at the crack of dawn to catch the Amtrak into New York City. I had two doctors’ check-ups and a dentist appointment scheduled. I felt slightly bad because Casey Nicholaw, our choreographer, and Todd Ellison, our music supervisor were in town for rehearsal, but I had had these appointments scheduled for ages, and without knowing when I would be back on the east coast, I knew I needed to just get them done. I also had to get up to my storage unit in Inwood to drop a few things off, meet up with Patty at the Lion Brand Studio, go to the bank, and meet up with Richard for dinner. Whew. Somehow though, everything went super smoothly all day long – and I didn’t have to wait at all at any of my appointments, so I also ended up having time to go to Central Park –  and do a little shopping. I stopped by B&H Camera and picked up a telephoto lens to be put to use in Alaska!

Heading to the dentist on 57th Street

Heading to the dentist on 57th Street

Playing with my new telephoto lens in Central Park

Playing with my new telephoto lens in Central Park

Times Square

Times Square

A wall of yarn at the Lion Brand Studio

A wall of yarn at the Lion Brand Studio

I spent the night at the Edison Hotel on 47th. I have eaten at the Edison Cafe a million times and have hung out at the bar, but have never stayed there. It kind of cracked me up – it is a really old hotel – very clean, but old – and very old fashioned. It felt like a classic New York rooming house from the 50’s. I actually really kind of liked it. I slept with my windows wide open so that I could see the city lights and hear the traffic. I miss the city so much.

I was up early again for one more appointment and had a bit of time of walk through Central Park again afterward. I am physically unable to be in New York City without going to Central Park. It is my absolute favorite thing about the city. I ate some fruit and yogurt for breakfast just outside the Delacorte Theater, where I did Shakespeare in the Park for three summers.

Morning in Central Park

Morning in Central Park

And then it was time to head back downtown to Penn Station to catch the train back to Wilmington, where I went straight to the theater for John O’Hurley’s put-in, and then a show following. I was beat by the time the day was over!

The subway platform at 81st and Central Park West

The subway platform at 81st and Central Park West

Then it was on to our two-show Saturday, and a closing matinee on Sunday. As I write this, I am grateful for the Sunday evening off to catch up on blogging and emails and knitting. Thank god for hobbies, because there isn’t anything else to do in Wilmington! It was actually a blessing that the week was so busy because sadly, like so many other downtowns we have come across throughout the country, this one is pretty dead. There are a few good restaurants and things, but on the weekends everyone closes up shop. I walked around a little bit, and there is some nice architecture here – the brick buildings are in the colonial style, and the town feels a lot like Baltimore or Philadelphia. I only wish it had the charm and personality those cities do! Ah well, with all that was packed into the week, I wouldn’t have had time to experience it anyway.

Onward to Cleveland!

Austin!!

I was so looking forward to going to Austin. Everyone always talks about what a fun city it is – I had heard tons about the food and the music, and had seen lots of photos from my Flickr contacts who live there. And of course, there are all the old school movies that took place and/or were filmed in Austin – like “Reality Bites” and “Dazed and Confused” – just everything I had seen or heard or read about Austin was totally positive and I couldn’t wait to be there in person.

We arrived on Monday from Tampa – it was a long travel day with a stop in Houston on the way. We were staying about ten miles from downtown at the Hyatt Place Arboretum, an upscale shopping area. By the time I reached the hotel, got settled and went to the grocery store, I was too beat to do anything exciting that night, unfortunately. Exploring Austin would have to wait until Wednesday.

On Tuesday morning I drove in the horrendous traffic to the theater, which was on the campus of the University of Texas, Austin, not far from downtown. The traffic in Austin is unreal – worse than Florida, worse, I dare say, than L.A. I couldn’t believe what a parking lot the freeways were at all times of the day. We learned some back ways of getting downtown and to campus throughout the week, which made driving a little less painful, but still, I can’t say that I will miss doing that drive to work at all.

The campus at the University of Texas was gorgeous – big and sprawling and busy, busy, busy. The theater was also large, but surprisingly (and happily) we managed to fill it to the gills all week. The audiences loved the show! It was so nice to feel like a hit again – we have definitely seen the audience numbers decline over the last nine months or so.

I took a few minutes on Tuesday afternoon during load-in to walk around campus a bit. There was some construction going on (as there is on all college campuses – I don’t remember a time at UCSD when there wasn’t some new building going up), but amidst the construction and all the hundreds of students, there were some really pretty buildings, sculptures and glimpses of spring.

On campus at UT

On campus at UT

University of Texas, Austin

University of Texas, Austin

The stadium at UT

The stadium at UT

Unfortunately, the weather while we were in Austin was not great. It was warm the day we arrived, but the next day the skies turned to gray, and it started raining. It was chilly, too – in the forties for most of the week. I know that the Texans are happy for the rain because they are dealing with such a drought, but I was so sad to not be able to sit outside on any patios all week, or do any bike riding. It was kind of a huge bummer.

On Wednesday, I found a window of opportunity between rain showers to get down to the capitol building and walk around a little bit. It is a pretty building and grounds. With the big presence of the university, the grand capitol building, and the funky vibe to the city, Austin feels a lot like Madison or Portland. After visiting the capitol, I drove over to the flagship Whole Foods downtown, which is e-normous and quite spectacular inside. After that I went across the street to Book People, a great independent bookstore, and dropped some cash on a few books.

Capitol Building

Capitol Building

The wine section at the flagship Whole Foods

The wine section at the flagship Whole Foods

On Thursday morning I decided to wholeheartedly forgo dieting for the week, and embrace all the food that Austin has to offer. I had heard so much about breakfast tacos and margaritas and ice cream from some of my friends on Flickr, that I decided to go for it and just enjoy Austin for the week, tacos and all. So, I started Thursday by going to Kerbey Lane, a local diner, for breakfast/lunch, where I had their famous pumpkin pancakes. It had been a while since I had had pancakes, and these babies did not disappoint. So, so, so good.

We had a brush-up dance and music rehearsal in the afternoon on Thursday followed by the show. For dinner, Ken took Jovon and I to Threadgills, a local restaurant, for some comfort food. I had grilled tilapia with pineapple salsa, some corn and sweet potato fries. Delicious!

After the show was Spamalot’s big three year anniversary party. It’s hard to believe it has been three years already since the show opened in Boston. Anyway, to celebrate, Karl arranged a party for us at a great bar and restaurant downtown called the Moonshine Grill. There was a tent set up for us on their patio (it was still raining), and we had a great time listening and dancing to the band Milkdrive, and eating the delicious food (cornbread wrapped shrimp – come on!). It was a really fun night.

Original tour company members

Original tour company members

Callie

Callie

Callie, Lyn, Sarah and Alexa

Callie, Lyn, Sarah and Alexa

Annie, Graham and Cara

Annie, Graham and Cara

Jamie and Paula two-stepping

Jamie and Paula two-stepping

Nate (our flyman) got up and sang a Johnny Cash song with the band

Nate (our flyman) got up and sang a Johnny Cash song with the band

On Friday I drove over to Austin Java, and met up with Meg, a friend who I have gotten to know this year through the 365 Project on Flickr – this was our first time meeting in person, although we “see” each other every day in our photos. It was so nice sitting and chatting with Meg – the time flew by – she was so easy to talk to. The best thing about taking part in the 365 Project has been the friends I have made along the way – some really awesome ladies! My lunch with Meg was definitely a highlight of the week.

With Meg at Austin Java

With Meg at Austin Java

In the afternoon on Friday I drove out to the airport and picked up Ryan.  He had gone back to Green Bay for the week to deal with a broken pipe in his basement. Its a shame that he had to miss the first part of the week in Austin, but we tried to make up for lost time over the weekend. We drove straight from the airport to Kerbey Lane for dinner where Ryan had a green chile pork stew with gorgonzola mashed potatoes and I had a bacon and pear grilled cheese sandwich with sweet potato fries. Yum!

On Saturday, Ryan and I got up early and stopped by REI where Ryan picked up some snowboarding pants and goggles that he had ordered in anticipation of our trip to Alaska. Then we went to Taqueria Arandas for some breakfast tacos. I had heard so much about breakfast tacos before coming to Austin, and they did not disappoint! When we got to the theater, Jovon had brought in donuts from Round Rock. I had a slice of one – so good. Between shows, we headed over to the South Austin Trailer Park to the infamous Torchy’s Tacos truck. Jovon, Ken, Karl and Callie showed up, too. The tacos were so good! I had an ahi tuna, a shrimp and a deep fried avocado (what?!). The trailer park was really fun and kitschy. You sit outside at picnic tables and can order either from Torchy’s, or a hamburger truck. There was also another trailer that sold gifts and coffee and s’mores! On the way back to the theater we stopped at Amy’s Ice Cream. I had triple Mexican vanilla and dark chocolate – yum!

South Austin Trailer Park

South Austin Trailer Park

Sitting by the fire pit at Torchy's

Sitting by the fire pit at Torchy's

That night we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day a bit early at shot night. Merle hosted and she did up the room with all St. Paddy’s Day decor and with shots of Jameson, green apple liquor and cranberry juice. They were pretty lethal.

Celebrating St. Paddy's Day at shot night

Celebrating St. Paddy's Day at shot night

Nigel

Nigel

After Shot Night, Ryan and I went back down to South Austin to The Continental Club to meet up with Tom, Vicki and Suzanne to see the band Southern Culture on the Skids. It was a lot of fun, and I’m glad we were able to get out and see some live music while we were in town.

On Sunday it was the official third birthday of the Spamalot tour, and as with all anniversaries, we celebrated with cupcakes. These were from Hey Cupcake! in Austin.

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There also was a return trip to Torchy’s Tacos. It had to be done. Those tacos were so freakin’ good. A few more company members also showed up. It was also the first sunny day in town. It felt really nice to sit outside in the sun.

Annie, David and James at Torchy's

Annie, David and James at Torchy's

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And with that, our stay in Austin was over. It’s probably a good thing, too, because my stomach could not have handled much more! I wish it could have been nicer out so that I could have done some outdoor activities like riding around Towne Lake or going to Zilker Park, but that will have to wait for another visit. I loved my week in Austin – if it wasn’t in such a hot climate, I could probably live there. But I like my seasons. I’ll just have to save Austin for visits – that being said, it was definitely one of my favorite stops on the tour. What a great week!

Tampa Again!

And the Florida adventure continues!

Since the crew had the luxury of a sane evening load-out in Melbourne (with the absence of an evening show on Sunday), and didn’t have to be at the theater in Tampa until 6pm the next day for the load-in, Ryan and I had a leisurely drive on Monday morning across the state. We had rented a vacation house in Tampa – a cute duplex just ten miles or so north of downtown. When we got there, we settled in, went and had some yummy sushi for lunch and did some grocery shopping for the week. It makes such a difference to stay in a house or apartment rather than a hotel. Being able to cook your own food is such a luxury, and with the warm weather, we were also able to grill outside. So, so nice.

Flowers blooming in the backyard

Flowers blooming in the backyard

Ryan took the car into town Monday night for load-in, and Tallulah and I chilled at the house.

The next day I joined the load-in at Tampa PAC. This was the third theater I played with the tour, almost exactly two years ago. It is a HUGE theater – tons and tons of space backstage, everyone gets their own dressing room – the stagehands are decent – I remember some of them from the last time we were there. The load-in was really easy.

At the Tampa PAC

At the Tampa PAC

The best thing about Tuesday, was the reintroduction of Callie Carter to the company. Callie was an original tour cast member and our former dance captain. She left about a year ago to head back to New York, where she joined the Broadway company and eventually became their dance captain. She is with us for a few weeks filling in. I love Callie – she’s funny and down to earth, and has a great energy. It was so nice to see her again.

Callie

Callie

On Wednesday Ryan and I drove over to International Plaza – the fancy mall in town – to do some shopping. Traffic in Florida is a pain so it was a bit stressful getting back to the house in time to make some dinner, but we managed to squeeze it all in – just in time to go to work.

Thursday we had a matinee and evening show, and then afterwards a group of us convened at the Blue Martini for a going away party for Candy and Angelina. Both girls are in our ensemble. Candy joined us in Toronto from the Vegas company, and took over assistant dance captain duties when Tera-Lee left. Angelina has been with the show for almost two and a half years. She recently was hired as a swing in the new Broadway company of “West Side Story”. So – Thursday night, a party was held for the girls. We had a party at the Blue Martini the last time we were in Tampa, to celebrate Pia’s 30th birthday. To be honest, its not really my kind of place – its kind of a meat market, with overpriced drinks. But for Candy and Angelina, I’d pretty much suck it up and go anywhere. It actually ended up not being that bad –  it was nice and warm out, so it turned out to be the perfect evening to sit outside and sip cocktails.

Paula and Angelina at the Blue Martini

Paula and Angelina at the Blue Martini

Sarah Lin and her boyfriend Shane

Sarah Lin and her boyfriend Shane

David smoking a cigar

David smoking a cigar

Nate

Nate

On Friday Ryan and I decided to spend the day totally at the house, grilling on the BBQ and sitting in the sun. It was great. Sometimes you just need those lazy days. I worked on finishing my knitting project, a top called “Rusted Root” and also took advantage of the backyard and the good weather to get some photos of some of my finished knits. I’ll do a follow-up blog post to this with some of the shots. In addition to having a backyard, the rental house also had a lanai – a screened-in porch which Tallulah spent almost all week on. She would be up first thing in the morning waiting by the sliding glass door to be let out. She would sit out there and watch the birds all day.

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On Saturday there was a big arts fair in downtown Tampa. Between shows Ryan and I went and walked around, looking at all the booths. There was some fantastic photography there – I particularly loved the photographs by  Todd Lundeen, who had traveled to Tibet and taken some amazing photos of the people there. A couple of our company members bought prints from him – I think I’m going to order a couple from his website. We had a nice time walking around and eating street fair food. The kettle corn was amazing.

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Back at the theater, the place was completely overrun with kids all weekend. There was a dance competition in the building and they were running through the hallways with mothers in tow during all three of our weekend shows. It got to be a little much by Sunday afternoon.

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Sunday was the final show for Candy and Angelina. It was definitely a bittersweet night – both girls will be missed so much. Candy was a swing, so she wasn’t in the show that night, but she watched from the wings while Ang played her last performance. There were a few pranks pulled – the two best being in “Bright Side”, the four other girls dressed as Ni Knights stayed offstage and Angelina ended up doing a “Ni Knight solo”, and then in the finale, Angelina’s boyfriend Nigel, who is a swing but was not on on Sunday, surprised her by coming out and dancing as her partner in the Wedding number. Very sweet. I wish both girls the best of luck!

Angelina in "Camelot"

Angelina in "Camelot"

The Ni Knight solo

The Ni Knight solo

Candy backstage

Candy backstage

Nigel surprises Angelina in the Wedding

Nigel surprises Angelina in the Wedding

We had Sunday night off as we had a matinee on Thursday, so I was able to spend one more warm evening on the porch at the rental house. We were off bright and early on Monday to Austin. Ryan, unfortunately, got bad news on Sunday that a water pipe had burst at his house and flooded his basement, so he left early Monday to go back to Green Bay to deal with it. He’ll meet us in Austin on Friday.

It was lovely to spend two weeks in Florida after the weeks and weeks of cold and snow that we experienced earlier this winter. We are not out of the cold just yet – we still have Wilmington, Cleveland and Anchorage ahead, but it definitely feels like we are out of the thick of winter. Before we know it, we’ll be on the beach in Los Angeles!

To Florida – Lucky me!

I have been lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Florida for the past three winters, thanks to the “Spamalot” tour. When you live in a cold climate, there is nothing like visiting some place warm to rejuvenate your soul. For reals. I am always happy with the cold and the snow through the holidays because it is pretty and cozy and season-appropriate. Come February though, and I’m ready for winter to move on. And since winter has a mind of its own, fleeing it is the next best thing.

So this year, our warm winter stint began in Melbourne, Florida. Where? I know, I had never heard of it either until it showed up on our itinerary. Turns out it is a town on the “Space Coast” – in other words, just down the road from Cape Canaveral. We just missed a space shuttle launch by a matter of days, in fact. Originally there was supposed to be a launch while we were in town, but it was postponed. Bummer! I did see the launch pad though, from afar, while I was on Cocoa Beach. I originally had planned on getting over to Kennedy Space Center for a tour during our stay, but then the sunshine lured me away and I decided I didn’t want to spend a whole day inside. I would rather be by the beach. So that’s pretty much what I did with my week. Spent it at the beach.

It basically took all day to get to Melbourne. We flew through Atlanta and after having to wait for a while for a rental car once we got into town, there was basically only enough time to go to the grocery store before dinner. Load-in the next day was really easy – the theater was big and everything fit – so I had some time in the afternoon to myself before coming back for the show. It was beautiful outside, so I decided to drive over to the beach. We were staying at a Candlewood right next to the causeway, and so it literally was only about a ten minute drive to get to the water.

The closest beach to us was Satellite Beach, and  Patrick Air Force Base, which also has a stretch of beaches. I didn’t realize at the time that I was on the Air Force Base, so I ended up going to one of their beaches unknowingly. It was gorgeous – empty and clean. I only spent about a half an hour there – all the time I had on Tuesday, but it was still the best part of my day.

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On Wednesday we had two shows, so no time for anything fun. Ryan and I had some good sushi between shows, but otherwise, it was work, work, work.

On Thursday I ran some errands in the morning, then drove out to Satellite Beach in the afternoon while Ryan went to play frisbee golf with Erik. Tallulah had been antsy all morning, so instead of leaving her at the hotel, I brought her with me. You might remember seeing photos of Tallulah on the beach in Fort Lauderdale two years ago. She had a repeat experience! People always ask me “aren’t you afraid she’s going to run away?”, but honestly, she’s been in so many different environments now, that she is more curious about new places than she is scared. She is a very careful, tentative cat, and so she tends to kind of creep around new environments rather than taking off. Plus she knows she has it good. Why would she want to run? On the first night in Melbourne, she accidentally got out into the hall at the hotel. I heard her meowing a few minutes later. When I opened the door, she hadn’t taken off running down the hall or anything, she was sitting outside the door, waiting to get back in. She knew I was on the other side of the door and she wanted to be with me. That’s my girl!

So that’s how she was on the beach, too. She didn’t stray far from me. I had my eye on her the whole time – there were dogs on the beach, too, and I didn’t want her to get too close to them. She enjoyed watching the birds. I took some photos and then after a little while it started to lightly rain, so we headed back to the hotel. Tallulah’s beach day!

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On Friday Ryan and I drove up the A1A to Cocoa Beach. We took a long walk down the beach to the pier and back. We could see the shuttle launch pad from there. After our walk, we stopped by the ginormous Ron Jon Surf Shop before heading back to the hotel. I bought a bag and Ryan bought a ukelele!

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On Saturday we had two shows, but the hotel was close enough that we could run back in between and get some grilling in. Ryan made some salmon and we also grilled some asparagus. So yum!

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With the addition of the matinee on Wednesday, we only had one show on Sunday – such a luxury. We were done with the matinee by 4:30p and I had the rest of the evening off while the load-out started. I did a bit of shopping and then hung out and knit in my room, listened to podcasts and caught up on my TV shows. Bliss! Oh, and I packed. 🙂

On Monday morning, Ryan and I drove the two and a half hours to Tampa where we have rental condo a few miles north of downtown. I’m looking forward to one more week of sunny Florida with lots of backyard grilling. And then we are off to Texas for one more warm winter week before heading north again. Lucky me.

Heading South

I can’t believe it’s Thursday already and I still haven’t blogged about Huntsville. It *might* have something to do with the fact that we are currently in Florida, and all I want to do is be outside in the sunshine, not inside chained to a computer. Nevertheless, there is blogging to be done!

I was hoping Alabama would be warmer than it was. I was all ready for short sleeves and open toes. Alas, it was still quite chilly, but nothing compared to Chicago or Detroit. There was no snow on the ground. The temperatures were in the 40’s and 50’s, and although it was brisk out, it was bright and sunny – a vast improvement over the weather we’ve had the past couple of months.

Huntsville didn’t start out great – completely because of an annoying travel day. Our flight out of Detroit was incredibly early, and coupled with having to leave extra time to drive the 40 miles from Troy to the airport, I was exhausted by the time we arrived in Huntsville. I had rented a car for the week, so I drove into town and arrived at the Holiday Inn ready to check in and take a nap. Many of the company members had made reservations at the Holiday Inn through Hotwire, rather than through “Spamalot”, because the Hotwire rate was $40 cheaper a night from our company group rate. I knew I would be getting into town early though, and so to be sure to get an early check-in, I booked with the group rather than through Hotwire. Unfortunately it didn’t do me any good – I arrived at the hotel at 10:30am, and didn’t actually get a room until 1:30pm. I was so upset (mostly because I was tired), but also because I felt like an idiot for not booking through Hotwire and saving myself some money. Ah, well. Lesson learned.

After getting settled in my room, I decided to let off some steam and shake off the bad mojo of check-in. Yes, I did some jumping on the bed. And you know what, it worked! I totally felt better afterwards.

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Downtown Huntsville was cute and clean, but rather empty. There were a lot of empty storefronts. It didn’t feel sad at all, like some of the towns we have visited – for example, Birmingham, which is only a couple of hours away. Huntsville was just empty and quiet. So, I was glad for the car that I had rented for the week. I drove to the grocery store and stocked up – another thing to be grateful for, as there were only a couple of restaurants downtown.

On Tuesday we finished loading the show in and had a successful opening. The local crew wasn’t the sharpest, but as usual, everything worked itself out somehow. The theater was part of a big performing arts complex, so there was plenty of room – much welcomed after the squeeze of the Fisher. Our office for the week was kind of funny – we were in a large room, sharing with company management, Wayne (our wardrobe supervisor) and Ben Whiteley (our conductor), who had a pipe and drape dressing room rigged up by Props within the room. When Ben and his associates were sitting and chatting within the pipe and drape room it was like they were in a fort they had built in their living room out of bed sheets. It was kind of hilarious.

On Wednesday, Ryan and I drove a few minutes out of town to Monte Sano Park to do some hiking. It was cloudy in the morning, but we hit the right window of time for a hike in the afternoon, because the weather cleared up and was warm and breezy and perfect. The park was a wooded stretch of land up in the hills with some nice views of the valley. It was so peaceful to walk around there – we didn’t even talk much, just enjoyed finally being outside again after a few very cold months of winter. We timed our hike perfectly because as we got in the car to head back downtown, the raindrops started to fall.

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The next day we had an understudy rehearsal in the afternoon before the evening show, so no fun activities for me that day. But on Friday, I went to Fleet Feet, a local running store, and was fit for some running shoes. I’ve been doing a program called Couch to 5K, which is essentially interval training over eleven weeks, culminating with being able to run three miles on a regular basis. I’ve been really enjoying it so far, but didn’t really have the best shoes for running – so I decided to remedy that. The experience at Fleet Feet was really cool – I spent about an hour there, getting my feet measured, running on a treadmill and having my stride videotaped and then trying out a few different pairs of shoes before finding a pair that seem perfect for me. I came back to the hotel with a pair of Brooks, and I love them!

It was also just warm enough to do one run for the week outside. I ran the pathway around the park across from the hotel on Friday morning instead of staying inside and running on the treadmill. My ears were a bit cold, but it was really nice to run outside in fresh air.

After my shoe shopping was complete, I headed out again for some photo-taking. Huntsville has some cool old cemeteries, and so I stopped at one to take a few shots.

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I also stopped at a big open field that I had passed a couple of times throughout the week. It was just begging for a self-portrait to be taken there.

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On Saturday we had two shows followed by Shot Night. I’m sure I’ve explained Shot Night before, but everyone in the company takes turns hosting – we do it every Saturday night (Sundays if we are not loading out). Its fun to get together socially after a long day. Sometimes Shot Night is quick, sometimes it evolves into a full-blown party. Jovon hosted our Huntsville Shot Night – it was a pretty hardcore shot – Jack Daniels, Southern Comfort and Rose’s Lime Juice. Yeow!

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Ben, knocking one back.

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Lyn trying a shot

After Shot Night, we all headed to the lobby to a party thrown for us by the theater. Now these types of parties are often hit or miss, but this one was definitely a HIT when it came to the food. What a spread! I especially loved the baked brie with chutney on pita chips and the chocolate covered strawberries. Yum! Ryan and I had fun hanging out with Suzanne, Vicki and Tom. Good people.

Carissa at the party

Carissa at the party

Suzanne

Suzanne

On Sunday we had our final two shows in town. In between, Ryan and I had dinner at the only place we could find that was open – Mason’s Pub. It turned out to be a great meal though! I had a really good salmon BLT. It was a great find at the last minute! The day before we had also happened upon a great coffee shop – Old Towne Coffee. It had a patio out back where some guys were playing guitars, and there were a few people sitting out front with their dogs, too. It was so cozy and inviting – I so wanted to stay, but we had to head back for the evening show. I love it when I discover good local spots in a city.

Old Towne Coffee

Old Towne Coffee

Taking photos on the dinner break

Taking photos on the dinner break

The sun setting as I head back to work

The sun setting as I head back to work

And so, the week in Huntsville came to an end. I had a very relaxing week. I didn’t visit the Space and Rocket Center, but a lot of the company did. Huntsville is home to Spacecamp and NASA training, hence its nickname “Rocket City”. Ryan went on an outing with some others from “Spamalot” where they did some diving in a pool at the Space Center that simulates weightlessness. The astronauts train there to get used to zero gravity. I saw lots of photos from the day, and it looks like everyone had a great time.

Huntsville was a charming, sleepy, happy town with beautiful houses, friendly people and very pretty surrounding country. It was so nice to escape the cold north and head towards warmer temperatures. And this week, we are in warmer temperatures still – Florida! But more on that next week.

Spamalot moves on to Florida!

Spamalot moves on to Florida!

Back to Detroit – Where it all started!

I drove to Detroit with David, one of our company managers, the day after we closed in Chicago. The four and a half hours flew by as David and I chatted and gossiped, and before we knew it, we were at the Residence Inn in Troy, Michigan. The Residence Inn in Troy is the very hotel where I began this tour over two years ago! It was a nice place to ease into the touring life, and so it has a sentimental place in my heart. I was so excited to have a kitchen again after two weeks of not even having a fridge in Chicago, so I went to the grocery store immediately and stocked up.

The next day I joined the load-in at the Fisher Theater. The Fisher was just the same as I remembered. Small. Gold. Kinda dirty. Nice crew. I’m glad that I have a good camera now, because the photos I took of the Fisher the first time around, just didn’t do it justice. The shots I took this time are much better, but the theater really must be seen to be believed. It was remodeled in the 1960’s and the decor is definitely a product of that time! There’s not a lot near the Fisher Building, but there is an awesome yarn shop called City Knits which is in the same building as the theater! Another reason why I don’t hate Detroit. For lunch, we piled in Ken’s car and went to the Motor City casino buffet. Awesome. Yet another reason not to hate Detroit.

The Fisher Theater

The Fisher Theater

Yellow seats

Yellow seats

There is no space backstage at the Fisher. I remember, on my first day with the show, wondering how we were ever going to make it work in that space. It’s difficult. Ken and I put our heads together and reconfigured the quick change booths on stage right so that both the boys and girls had room to dress on deck this time around. The last time we played the Fisher, the girls dressed in the stairwell. It was not ideal.

The show opening night was a bit nutty because of the space constraints, but all in all, it went well. It was Jeff Dumas’s first night back with us as Patsy – he was great, as always.

Jeff Dumas as Patsy

Jeff Dumas as Patsy

We had heard horror stories about the very low numbers of tickets sold – but the audiences weren’t terribly small (who knows how many of those tickets were given away – but who cares! Butts in seats is all we wanted) – and they made up for their small size in enthusiasm. We had great audiences the whole run!

I wish I had all kinds of interesting things to say about my first week back in Detroit, but I don’t. Chicago had been such a busy couple of weeks, that I took advantage of having some down time. I finished my “Wicked” sweater (to be written up in another post!), I finished getting my tax prep together, I did some shopping, and I cooked!

I brought my camera to work on Saturday and snapped some pics backstage. Here are my favorites:

Thread in the wardrobe department

Thread in the wardrobe department

The girls waiting to enter

The girls waiting to enter

Jen, passing the time backstage.

Jen, passing the time backstage.

Fly Rail

Fly Rail

Between shows on Sunday, Ken, Karl, David, Jovon, Ryan and I went to Mario’s for dinner between shows. Mario’s was the site of our infamous opening night party for the Detroit run in 2006. It was just as gawdy and over-the-top as I remembered.

Dinner at Marios

Dinner at Marios

On Monday and Tuesday of our second week in town, I ran lots of errands and caught a movie with Ryan – “Slumdog Millionaire”. I have to say, I enjoyed the movie, but wasn’t blown away by it. I guess maybe my expectations were too high.

On Wednesday we had a big photo call to get shots of all our new cast members. I love photo calls because they give me a chance to get some shots of the show as well. Here are some of my faves:

Matt Allen as the nun

Matt Allen as the nun

The Laker Girls

The Laker Girls

Paula in "Camelot"

Paula in "Camelot"

Jen getting ready for the Wedding

Jen getting ready for the Wedding

Merle as the Lady of the Lake

Merle as the Lady of the Lake

On Thursday night a group from the show went bowling near the hotel in Troy. It was a lot of fun, even though I bowled a terrible game!

Nigel getting ready to bowl

Nigel getting ready to bowl

On Friday, Trudy and Linda, the best entertainment accountants ever, were in town to do taxes. I met with Linda and it seems like I should get a nice chunk back, but we are still waiting to get all my Canadian paperwork back for the three months we played there.

Saturday and Sunday were four shows, and then Monday we were off to Huntsville, Alabama and warmer weather! So long, Detroit! ‘Til next time.

Tallulah, helping me pack

Tallulah, helping me pack

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.

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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.

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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.

Jaki

Jaki

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!