So usually you see Detroit on your tour route and groan. Its the thing to do. But here’s a little secret. I don’t hate Detroit. In fact, I kind of have a little soft spot for it. It was my first stop on “Spamalot”, and between that engagement, and the return engagement that we did on “Spamalot”, I have spent six weeks in Detroit. Eight weeks now, including the “Rock of Ages” stop. And all of those dates were at the Fisher Theater downtown. The Fisher is small, but unique – there is nothing quite like that 1960’s gold decor at any other theater I have played in this country. And the crew at the Fisher is really nice, and actually quite good. You always stay in the ‘burbs when you play Detroit, and you always have a car. The suburbs of Detroit are actually quite nice – take a drive to Royal Oak or Birmingham sometime, and you’ll see. There are big houses and lots of good shopping. The mall in Troy (the Somerset Collection) is seriously, in my humble opinion, the best mall in America. So, you see – when Detroit pops up on the schedule – I don’t cringe. I really, honestly do not mind Detroit at all.
First off, the drive from Cincinnati was a cinch. It took like, four hours. So nice. I was able to get into the hotel and settled, and run some errands in the afternoon, and get a decent night’s sleep before load-in on Tuesday! How about that?
The Fisher was exactly as I remember it, in all its tacky golden glory. Our office was in the same dressing room it has been the last two times Ken and I played there. So many memories of Christmas and chocolate fountains and Robbie Roby working on his swing book in the hallway on the hampers…
Load-in and load-out are always kind of a bitch at the Fisher, no matter how good the crew is, because of the cramped quarters and even more cramped loading dock – so things progressed slowly on Tuesday. This was definitely the tightest space we have played since Chicago – not much room upstage at all. We managed to fit everything in, though and the opening night show went off without incident. “Rock of Ages” is so different from “Spamalot” when it comes to training the locals the first couple of nights. The scenery doesn’t move and most of the prop moves are covered by our road crew. On “Spamalot” I would constantly be talking throughout the whole show opening night, explaining all the cues to the local prop people and carps. There were so many prop cues for the local on “Spamalot”, that they wouldn’t even have time to read their cue sheet opening night. “Rock of Ages” is nowhere near that complicated. The prop locals have very little to do and their training is taken care of by our road crew. It’s a bit of a bummer because that was always my favorite part of the week on “Spamalot” – the chaos of opening night. It was definitely a rush when it all went well.
What there is a lot of on “Rock of Ages” is wardrobe. The ensemble, and many of the leads, are constantly changing their clothes. And quickly. So, along with our two wardrobe supervisors, who obviously can’t be everywhere all the time, Michael and I spend a lot of opening night (and really every night backstage) supervising costume changes and making sure the wardrobe locals are doing what the actors need in order to get onstage on time in the right clothes. Most of the dressers in Detroit are really excellent, and I recognized a lot of them from when we were there with “Spamalot”. There was only one who I found to be really slow, and kind of dumb (and I don’t say that to be mean, but really – when you still don’t know what comes next, even 5 or 10 shows in, you have to wonder what the problem is). I actually got into it with her one night when she refused to move when I asked her to (she was about to get run over by three girls running offstage and hit with a big chain – the most annoying, loud prop in the show). It bugs the crap out of me when locals act like they know more about the show than the road crew.
Anyway, as you always do when you play Detroit, we were staying out of town a ways – in Dearborn. Its a suburb about 10 miles west of downtown. I had never stayed there before – I’ve always stayed up in Troy, which is 20 miles north. Although I enjoyed the shorter commute from Dearborn, I did miss staying in Troy. Its a bit more upscale up there – which really translates into better shopping 🙂 There’s an REI and a Trader Joe’s, and of course the awesome Somerset Collection. Plus its closer to Birmingham and Royal Oak. Dearborn was fine, though. We stayed at the Hyatt, which was a really nice hotel (except for the weekends when it was overrun with thousands of kids who were in town for a hockey tournament). There was a mall across the street, which was pretty ghetto, but had a PF Changs and a decent food court. There was plenty around – Target, Meijer, Border’s. Dearborn is actually home to a huge population of immigrants from the middle east, specifically Iraqis, who came over to work for Ford. So there are tons of middle eastern restaurants and an Arab-American museum.
Because we were driving back and forth to work, the drinking hole of choice for the two week stay was the hotel bar. They actually stayed open late for us and served food late as well. And the drinks were cheap – $4 pints? You can’t beat that, especially for a hotel bar.
Honestly, not much happened the first week. We are still rehearsing a whole lot with the understudies, and we also had a new cast member starting. Dan Domenech, who was one of our swings and the Drew cover, left the show at the end of the Detroit stay to go back to New York to join the company of the new Broadway musical “Wonderland”. Mike Zygo is replacing Dan out here, so we were in rehearsal with him everyday the first week of Detroit.
I did have one afternoon off, so I took Tallulah to a local vet to have a check-up. She’s been drinking quite a bit of water lately, so our vet in New York recommended having her kidneys checked. I found a vet who, like our New York vet, practices not only conventional medicine, but also holistic medicine. He ran some blood tests on her and did a thorough check-up. I’m still amazed by how calm Tallulah is at the vet, even after all the visits she had to make this year. The vet in Detroit had to shave her arm and put a tourniquet on it to draw a vial of blood. Its the first time I had been in the room while her blood was taken – usually they shuffle the animal off to a back room somewhere to do it. She was so calm. Didn’t meow or squirm or anything. Just looked up at the vet’s assistant with big, sad eyes. Poor bug. Anyway, they were able to test her blood right there in the office, which was great, because I didn’t have to wait for the results to come back from some lab. Her kidneys are fine and her white cell count, although still below normal, is up from where it was the last time it was tested in New York. The vet told me Tallulah is a bit dehydrated (which probably accounts for the drinking more water), but he said it was very slight, so nothing to worry about. I know I’ve been dried out from the air flow in the hotel room, so I can only imagine she is too. It was nice to get confirmation that she is still doing well! The vet gave me some homeopathic treatments to help support T’s immune system, as well as some drops to clean her teeth and ears, and we were on our way.
Over the weekend, Ken’s boyfriend Geoff came to visit, so between shows on Saturday, as is tradition whenever we play Detroit, we all went to the Motor City Casino buffet for dinner. Motor City is the most ghetto of all three of the casinos in Detroit, but its close to the Fisher, and we always make at least one visit to the buffet while in town. Who doesn’t love a buffet? We stuffed our faces and then all wanted to take naps instead of doing the evening show 🙂
On Monday night, the Most Handsome Men in the World, otherwise known as the “Rock of Ages” band along with a couple of our actors (MiG, Nick, Sean, Dan and Joey) played the Majestic Cafe. It was such a fun night. I had seen the Majestic earlier in the week when Ken and I went to dinner across the street from there (at Union Street which is a pretty good restaurant not far from the Fisher), but had never been inside before. Our guys played in a smallish room with a bar that served pizza – there was a small stage, and some tables and chairs. We actually had a pretty good turn out – I’d say there was about fifty or sixty people there. If you went out of that bar and into the next part of the building, there was another bar which was hosting karaoke, and then there was a bowling alley in the back, and then upstairs a billiards room and an even bigger performance space. It was a really awesome place. Our band was great – they played most of the same stuff that they had the week before in Cincinnati, but they sounded awesome, and there were a few fun surprises in there – like our lead guitar player singing “Highway to Hell” (which some remarked should be the name of our tour!) and a really great cover of “Purple Rain” sung by Nick Cordero.
On Tuesday of the second week, I went out to Royal Oak and had my hair cut and colored at an Aveda salon. Its been almost a year since I’ve had it professionally colored. So nice to have someone else do it for once! It was a nice salon and the stylist was really friendly, although its always weird to me how much small talk you have to make with your hair stylist – and when you are getting color done, its like two hours of finding stuff to talk about. I heard all about her Thanksgiving plans and the weird parents of her boyfriend and her plans to go skiing. And now I’ll never see her again. Weird.
More rehearsals on Wednesday with Mike Zygo and then on Thursday, Fran Curry came into town to have lunch with me! So awesome to see her. She was on the “Spamalot” tour with me for a while and now dresses Mary Poppins on that tour. They were in East Lansing last week, which is about an hour and a half drive from Detroit, so she came down to see me and Tallulah. We hung out at the hotel for a while so she could have her Tallulah time, and then drove downtown to have lunch at Traffic Jam and Snug, a restaurant and brew house near Wayne State. It was too short of a visit, but great to see her even for a couple of hours 🙂
On Friday I drove up to Birmingham, and then to the Somerset Collection to do some shopping. There is a Roots store in Birmingham – one of the very few in the U.S. and I really wanted to get a leather waist pack to use for backstage. Roots bags are just the best. I got a dark brown one – making that three bags and a wallet that I now own from Roots!
On Friday night after the show, Jessica, our assistant prop head, had arranged for a group of us to go feather bowling at Cadieux Cafe in Grosse Pointe. Feather bowling is a Belgian game, played on a dirt lane, where you bowl wooden balls shaped like cheese rounds towards a feather at the end of the lane. The team with the ball closest to the feather wins the round and gets points for all their balls closest to the feather in that round. You play up until 10 points. Cadieux Cafe is apparently the only place in the U.S. where you can play feather bowling. Crazy, right? It was super fun. I’m sort of sad that there’s no place else to play. The bar was cool too – very dive-y, served Belgian food, and there was a bad blues band playing.
Saturday was Dan’s last day with the show. As I said above, he is leaving to join the company of the new musical “Wonderland” in New York. The Saturday night show was fun, with a few shenanigans to send Dan off. He spent the show walking around backstage (he is a swing, so was not performing in the show that evening) in a variety of his understudy wigs and costumes. My favorite was when he showed up backstage with Mike (who is taking over for him), both in their Stacee Jaxx costumes and wigs. They gave MiG a scare (he plays Stacee regularly) when he came offstage and saw them.
We sang “Happy Trails” to Dan at intermission. He will be missed. He was such a positive presence within the company and such a valuable cover for Constantine – both in rehearsals and when he went on in Boston. Tallulah will miss him, too! Dan came over a few times in Cincinnati just to play with her! At shot night after the show, MiG showed a video he had put together of clips of Dan, and clips of all the company members saying goodbye to Dan – there were definitely some tears shed!
Finally, I took a few shots backstage on Saturday that I liked:
We finished up with two shows on Sunday and then started the big load-out. Next up, Pittsburgh. The audiences in Detroit were pretty freaking awesome, I have to say. I wasn’t sure how we would sell, seeing as Detroit is one city that has been hit really hard by the recession, but the second week of performances were almost all sold out. We had some really raucous houses (on Friday night a bunch of people actually were asked to leave, they were so rowdy!). Hopefully this translates into some overage for us this week 🙂 (on this contract, if the producers make a profit, the Actors’ Equity members are entitled to a teeny tiny portion of that profit – it doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, its a nice perk. Boston was the last time we got an overage payment).
Also, just because I know a few of my fellow touring buddies read this blog, I wanted to write about a couple of other restaurants that I found on this trip to Detroit. Finding places to eat downtown is difficult, so when you do make discoveries, its only right to share the knowledge. Cass Cafe is a cool college-y joint near Wayne State – about a mile from the Fisher. Full bar, lots of good stuff on the menu, vegetarian options. I had the lentil burger, which was delicious. Motor City Brew Works is also about a mile from the Fisher, near Union Street and the Majestic. They have AWESOME personal pizzas – I had one with gorgonzola, caramelized onions, figs and poached pears. Come on. Delicious. You can also make your own pizza if you don’t like the options on the menu. They also brew their own beer and wine there. The cherry wine is YUM! Traffic Jam and Snug, which I mentioned above, is across the street from Motor City Brew Works. The food is pretty good, and they also brew their own beer. The Dunkle (a dark beer) is a must try. Finally, Good Girls Go to Paris Crepes, is a delicious creperie down towards the Fox. Its kind of a wait to get your crepe, but their menu is amazing. I was pretty excited about all these new food finds this trip! And of course, there is always Greektown. Ken and I went down there between shows this past Saturday and ate at Pegasus Taverna – you can’t come to Detroit and not get saganaki (greek fried cheese) at least once!
So now on to Pittsburgh. Not my favorite town, but I do love the hotel we are staying at – the Omni William Penn. If all else fails, I am happy just staying holed up in my hotel room there 🙂