Chicago

There is so much to catch up on. Chicago was a whirlwind of rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals. I left New York immediately after our last “Rock of Ages” studio rehearsal and began the long drive. I arrived the next evening and then it was straight into tech. The process went very quickly – much more so than I expected, especially with the bajillion moving lights and the band and all the costume pieces. We were in really good shape though going into our first preview – we had run the show at least three times before a paying audience was in front of us.

That’s not to say that everything was smooth as can be. One of our principal actors came down with laryngitis the weekend before our first performance, so we had to fly in one of the actors from the Broadway show to cover him, since our understudies had not rehearsed yet. It was a bit of a scramble, but opening night went really well. We had a really fun party at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Patrick (who plays Lonny), during tech rehearsals

The ensemble, during tech rehearsals

MiG (who plays Stacee Jaxx) during tech rehearsals

Dan, the cover for Drew, during tech rehearsals

Most of our time in Chicago was spent in the theater. Even after the official opening of the show, we still had rehearsals, as the creative team was still in town. We also began working with the understudies. It was a jam-packed three and a half weeks!

Opening night madness at the Hard Rock Cafe

I did manage to catch up with a few friends. Ken and I had dinner with Matt and Paula, two friends from “Spamalot”, on an evening off. Matt is in the Chicago company of “Billy Elliott” and Paula was in town visiting him. It was wonderful to see them both, and it turned out that it was Paula’s birthday (even though the sneak didn’t tell us until a dessert with a candle in it showed up at the dinner table). There were a number of “Spamalot” friends who dropped by the theater – Tony Pittsley and Jeff Brewer, both on the crew of “Billy Elliott”, and also Jody Durham, who subbed on our electrics team a few times on “Spamalot” and who works in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theater.

There was also a fun night of Whirlyball (the first for most of the “Rock of Ages” company), put together by Jeff Brewer, with our company and the companies of “The Lion King” and “Billy Elliott”. I was able to hang with Jeff, Tony and his wife, and Matt that night, too.

Whirlyball

Lauralyn, playing whirlyball

I also met up with Carolyn, one of my Flickr buddies, for drinks the night before I left town at an Irish pub near the hotel. It was so nice to see her. I wish we lived closer to each other so that we could hang out more often!

Finally, Ryan made it into town for the one day that I had off during our Chicago stay. I was exhausted, but it was really nice to see him, and we went on a Chicago architecture tour along the river, which I have always wanted to do. We also ate at Flaco’s Tacos (my favorite fish tacos in Chicago!) and walked all over the downtown area, including a visit to the Bean (a trip to Chicago is not complete without a trip to the Bean!) and a walk around the planetarium and also Navy Pier.

Michigan Avenue bridge, seen on the architecture tour

Taken on the architecture tour

Taken on the architecture tour

The view from the harbor, taken on the architecture tour

Taken on the architecture tour

Shot near the planetarium

The Bean!

“Rock of Ages” was a hit in Chicago and I am crossing fingers we get to go back. After two weeks in Chicago though, we packed up shop, and are now currently in Boston. I started calling the show the last weekend in Chicago and so with that element under my belt, things are gradually starting to routine themselves, and settle down. I am looking forward to the show hitting its stride from here on out and for the fun to start to outweigh the work 🙂

I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorite shots of the cast in costume during tech – these were actually taken on the first day with costumes.

Lindsay, as "Young Groupie"

Joey, as Joey Primo

MiG, as Stacee Jaxx

Rebecca, as Sherrie

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Cross-Country Road Trip, Week 2.

Day 8:  St. Paul, MN to Sobieski, WI.

It was an easy drive on Monday to Sobieski, where Ryan lives. Of course, I HAD to stop on the way in Wassau, WI. for a soft-serve cone from Briq’s. I discovered this place a couple of years ago driving to Ryan’s, and I just love their soft serve. It is the perfect balance between creamy and icy. Yum!

I arrived at Ryan’s early in the afternoon and we hung out around the house for the afternoon. All the improvements that Ryan has made on the place since he came home in April are fantastic. The house is looking really great, and he had just gotten a bunch of new furniture the week before, which really made the house feel like a home. Unfortunately it was dark and kind of dreary weather all week, which made the house interior really dark, so I didn’t really get any good pictures of the inside.

That night, we had dinner in downtown Green Bay at a restaurant called Cafe Espresso, which is one of Ryan’s favorites. I had to laugh because it seemed like everywhere we went over the next couple of days, starting with Cafe Espresso, Ryan knew someone. I asked him,  “do you know everyone in Green Bay?” Hilarious.

Day 9: Sobieski, WI.

On Tuesday we went for a walk at Baird’s Creek – a wooded park in Green Bay that has skiing hills, a frisbee golf course, bike paths and hiking trails. It was so pretty there – it had rained, so everything was wet and lush. It was so nice to see all the beautiful fall leaves.

Before we left the house, we made an Irish stew and put in the slow cooker, so when we got home that night, we had a delicious dinner waiting for us. Yum!

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Day 10: Sobieski, WI.

On Wednesday I took Tallulah for a “kitty hike” around Ryan’s property. He has about six acres of land around his house, so there is quite a bit to explore. Tallulah did so well! I had her on harness and leash, and she actually walked and responded to the leash tugs and led the way! We were out for about a half an hour.

In the afternoon Ryan and I went to a couple of yarn stores! I bought some yarn for a sweater in one of them. We also did some shopping at Kohl’s, where I bought a slow cooker on sale. I really don’t like to cook at all, but I think the slow cooker might be a good way for me to go – throw everything in in the morning and then you come home to dinner! We’ll see how it goes.

That night we got together with a group of Ryan’s friends – Neil and Tara, Kris and Steph, Dan and Rick. We had drinks and dinner at a local bar – it was two-for-one perch plates, and they were super good! It was really fun meeting all of Ryan’s friends – they all seem like really nice people.

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Tallulah on a kitty hike

Day 11: Sobieski, WI.

On Thursday, we met up for lunch with Ryan’s dad and sister, Renee, and her two kids. We went to a yummy Mexican place and had a nice time catching up.

After that Ryan and I did a little shopping – I went and looked at some furniture and we went back to Kohl’s to pick up some more things for Ryan’s house.

That night we had dinner at Jake’s Pizza, Ryan’s favorite pizza place. It wasn’t as good as Cicero’s – but it was definitely a close second – really yummy crust. I was glad that we had leftovers so I could enjoy it for lunch the next day as well!

We went home and watched a movie and lit a fire. We actually had fires every night in the fireplace – so nice!

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The view from Ryan's living room - he lives in the country!

Day 12: Sobieski, WI. to Chicago, IL.

It was with great reluctance that Tallulah and I left Ryan’s house on Friday. I had such a nice few days there in his cozy house. Hopefully I’ll get back there soon.

I drove on to Chicago, which took longer than it should have, thanks to traffic. I checked into the Hotel Indigo in the afternoon, and met up with my friend Kevin, who used to be in “Spamalot”, for coffee. Kevin is currently in “Jersey Boys” in Chicago. It was so nice to see him and catch up. We’ve kept in touch through email, but I hadn’t seen him in person in about two years. We had a nice visit before Kevin had to leave for his show, and I went to meet up with friends for dinner.

Carolyn and Lauren are both friends that I got to know through Flickr, an online photography website. I met up with Lauren the last time I was in Chicago, but this was my first time meeting Carolyn. We met at Carolyn’s apartment in Belmont and made pizza and sat around and knit. It was so fun! Lauren and Carolyn’s friend Sara also came over and we just had the best time chatting and knitting and drinking beer. I’m so glad I was able to get together with those girls while I was in town.

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Lauren

Carolyn, looking hilarious with her in-progress knit hat on her head

Carolyn, wearing her in-progress knit hat

Day 13: Chicago, IL. to West Middlesex, PA.

Nothing much to report for Saturday. I got up and drove to Pennsylvania. I saw cornfields. I had dinner at Red Lobster. I went to bed. The end.

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Day 14: West Middlesex, PA. to New York, NY.

I could not get to New York fast enough on Sunday! By then I was completely sick of driving. It was actually a beautiful drive through all of Pennsylvania, through the Poconos, but I just wanted to get there! My leg and foot were falling asleep by the afternoon. Finally, finally, I reached the George Washington Bridge! And of course, traffic ground to halt. I discovered that Sunday was NYC marathon, so lots of streets were closed off, making for traffic jams around the island. It took a while to figure out how to get to my sublet with all the street closures, but I finally did – and then had to carry all my stuff up four flights of steps. Argh! A rude awakening back to New York City living!

Seriously though, it was great driving across the bridge and into the city. I always get such a rush when I see the Manhattan skyline. It is such an awesome, awesome place to live. I’m really happy to be back.

My apartment in Harlem is great – cute and charming and comfortable, with a fantastic roof deck with a “West Side Story”-esque view of all the surrounding rooftops. I love it. I am here for a month, and then hopefully I’ll be moving in to my own place!

And – I’m actually going back to work next week! Only for a week though, which is good, because I really do need to focus on looking for a place to live. When my friend Phyllis emailed me (she and I did “BARE” in 2004) and asked if I wanted to do a reading with her of a new musical, directed by Kristin Hanggi (who directed “BARE” and also was nominated for a Tony for “Rock of Ages”), I couldn’t say no – I had such a  great time working with the two of them on “BARE” – and it will be a nice way to get back in to the swing of things in New York. I’m looking forward to it.

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So, there probably won’t be many “travels” with Tallulah any time soon, but I’m sure there will be stories, so I think I am going to continue this blog to keep at least my parents apprised of what I’m doing (does anyone else read this???). I thought about changing the name of the blog, but I like how “Travels with Tallulah” rolls off the tongue, and plus everyone knows it as that name, so its probably easier to keep it. And… I kind of think leaving it as “Travels with Tallulah” is kind of like positive thinking – hoping and willing that there will be more travels in the future!

But for now, I am more than content to unpack my suitcases for a while and put them away! New York City, I’ve missed you!

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On the rooftop in Harlem

Chicago, Week Two.

The second week in Chicago began with a glorious full day off from work. Ryan and I had talked about various options of what we could do with the day – all made a bit difficult by the wintery weather. Ryan wanted to go to the aquarium, but then we looked online and found that a large portion of it was closed for renovations. We had been told that the architecture tours of the city were really great, but since it was winter, the boat tours weren’t running, and the bus tours only ran on Wednesday and Saturdays. So, we decided to go to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Outside the Art Institute

Outside the Art Institute

First we went to an awesome lunch at The Bongo Room, which specializes in breakfast all day, including really decadent pancake platters. I stuck with an omelette and Ryan had a breakfast burrito. Then we headed up to the art museum.

I have to say, the Art Institute is the perfect size. I tend to get burned out after a few hours in an art museum, and this one required just the right amount of time to get around. My favorite, favorite exhibit was the special photography exhibit in the basement of portraits by Karsh. I was so impressed by his use of light to enhance a certain feature of someone’s face, or to create a mood. I loved it. The portraits seemed so natural and not set up at all. It was also interesting to actually see the faces of so many writers and other notable people, whose names I knew so well, but whose faces I had never seen. Click here for a Google image search of Karsh’s portraits and check them out for yourself.

We spent the better part of the afternoon at the museum, and by the time we left it was getting dark outside. We went back to the hotel for a bit to rest, and then went to a good Mexican restaurant for dinner.

On Tuesday, I woke up early and went and got my hair cut and colored. In the afternoon, I met up with Lauren, a friend I met through Flickr. This was our first time meeting in person, and it was so much fun! We had coffee, then went over to the photography museum at Columbia College, where we saw a cool exhibit of photos by Michael Wolf, and then we hit a yarn store – Loopy Yarns – before I had to head to work. Thanks for a great afternoon, Lauren! It was so fun to meet you!

Hanging out with Lauren

Hanging out with Lauren

Tuesday night was Merle Dandridge’s opening night with our company, as the Lady of the Lake. Merle played the Lady in the Broadway company, so she is no stranger to the role. She is a fantastic singer and has great presence, and her first performance went really well. A group of us gathered after the show at a local bar called Kasey’s to celebrate with her.

Scott at Kasey's

Scott at Kasey's

Terry

Terry

Jeff and Candy

Jeff and Candy

On Wednesday, we had two shows, so not much time for anything else. Thursday was all about errands. I ran up to Petco and then to Ritz Camera and to Old Navy. So nice to be in a city where there are all kinds of shops and services at your disposal! I realize that I also took a lot of taxi cab rides while we were in Chicago, mostly because I could! So many cities we have to call for a cab and then wait for a half an hour for it to show up. Not Chicago! Like New York, there are cabs everywhere. Later in the afternoon Ryan and I hauled our laundry over the theater to do our washing. Our hotel in Chicago was very nice, but lacking a few essentials – like fridges in the rooms and laundry facilities in the building. Luckily our wardrobe department are very accommodating, and if you can find time around their work schedules, you can usually get in and use the laundry machines at the theater.

On Friday we had yet another put-in rehearsal, this one for Jeff Dumas, who is returning to the role of Patsy (he originated the role on the tour). It’s great to have Jeff back. He’s a loud, boisterous energy that has been seriously lacking as of the late! He’s also fantastic as Patsy. The put-in was easy as pie, and hopefully we won’t have to do another one for quite some time.

That night a small group of us headed uptown to The Lodge, a bar that the company spent quite a lot of time at the last time the tour played Chicago. It is a small, kitschy bar, still decorated for Christmas! It was a fun group, and nice to hang out in another part of town.

At the Lodge

At the Lodge

Cara

Cara

Graham and Lyn

Graham and Lyn

Paula

Paula

On Saturday we had two shows, followed by Shot Night, hosted by Carissa, one of our lovely ensemble girls. She made a summery rum concoction – something to try and take us away from the cold winter momentarily!

Carissa, the hostess

Carissa, the hostess

Candy

Candy

Angelina

Angelina

Sunday was an unusual luxury – because we had a matinee on Wednesday, we only had one show! The guys were able to start loading out the show after the matinee –  at around 4:30p, and were done by midnight – so they actually were able to sleep before starting the load-in into Detroit the next day. Sunday marked Brad Bradley’s last show with us (our current Patsy). As much as I am glad to see Jeff back, I am sad to see Brad go. He is a really, nice sweet guy, and is one of the original Broadway company members. He has been doing Spamalot for four years! I think it was kind of appropriate that he opened Spamalot in Chicago as part of the pre-Broadway run, and then finished his tenure in Chicago as well. Full circle. Still, he’ll be missed.

I was supposed to spend the evening with Tanya and Michael, but Tanya was sick, so instead I grabbed some dinner at the Elephant and Castle, and then went to a movie. I’m trying to catch up on my movies before the Oscars! It was a shame to not get to see Tanya one more time before leaving town, but nice to have a night off nonetheless.

The next morning I jumped into a rental car with David, our associate company manager, and we sped off towards Detroit, where we will be for the next two weeks. Everyone has been dreading Detroit, but as it was my first stop on the tour, I sort of have an affection for it. We are staying in the same hotel in Troy as we did the last time we were in Detroit, which will be a strange deja vu, but I’m looking forward to it.

So long, Chicago! I had a great two weeks visiting you – hopefully next time we see each other, it will be warmer!

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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!