Detroit Rock City

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…

Gold seats at the Fisher - taken the last time I was here with "Spamalot"

Taken in the lower lobby the last time I played the Fisher with "Spamalot".

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.

The Most Handsome Men in the World - Sean, Chris, MiG and Nick

Chris and MiG

Nick

Sean and Chris

Jon and Dan

Joey and the band

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.

Patrick, with the giant protractor used to measure the distance of the balls to the feather

Patrick, with the giant protractor used to measure the distance of the balls to the feather

Jessica, bowling.

Michelle, Tami and Brad at Cadieux Cafe

Dan, Rob and Tami, watching the bowling

The group at feather bowling

Jess, Rob and Dan

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.

Three Stacees: Dan, MiG and Mike

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!

Singing "Happy Trails" to Dan

Finally, I took a few shots backstage on Saturday that I liked:

Joey, shadowing Patrick - he dressed up as "Lonny" to get into character 🙂

The Saturday night crowd in Detroit

Ben, mixing monitors backstage

MiG and Lindsay, getting ready for the remote video part of "Too Much Time"

Leigh giving Dan a goodbye smooch

Sean and Holly playing video games in the vocal booth

Rob, mixing front of house sound

Teresa, with hearts on her chest for Dan.

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 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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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

The Motown Museum

Yesterday between shows, Rick, Adam, Ben and I drove over to the Motown Museum, which is only about five blocks from the Fisher Theater, where we are doing “Spamalot”. The Motown Museum is in the former house and studio of Berry Gordy, who founded Motown Records and who produced so many of the legendary Motown acts, such as the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson Five.

The tour started upstairs in the “gallery” where such artifacts as Michael Jackson’s fedora and rhinestone glove were on display, as well as some costumes belonging to the Temptations, many photos of the Motown artists, and album covers, including one of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, which was released on Motown Records. 

Then we were taken through Berry Gordy’s old apartment, which was part of the upstairs of the house. If you have seen the movie “Dreamgirls”, Curtis’s studio at the Cadillac dealership is based on Berry Gordy’s studio at his house in Detroit. After touring through the apartment, which still has Gordy’s old furniture in it, we went downstairs to the waiting area and recording studio, where all the famous Motown artists once recorded music. 

The control booth

The control booth

Here’s Adam at the piano once played by Stevie Wonder, among many others.

Then Frank, our tour guide, made all the girls get up and sing “Stop, in the Name of Love” a la the Supremes, and then the boys had to get up and sing “My Girl”. 

After visiting the studio, we then watched some footage from back in the day of some of the Motown artists. It was really fascinating and I would definitely recommend the tour to anyone visiting Detroit.

Then we went on a 45-minute wild goose chase looking for Mexican Town, which we finally found, and finished off the break between shows with some yummy enchiladas!

Three more days ‘til Fort Lauderdale!

I Called the Show!

Yippee! I called the show for the fourth time this afternoon. It is such a relief to have the first few under my belt. “Calling the show”, for all the lay people, is what one of the stage managers does during every show – we basically tell the light board operator, sound board operator, pyro operator, carpenters, flymen, and automation guy when to execute their cues. It can be kind of complicated with fast cues called to musical counts while your fingers are flipping cue light switches – a little like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time.

Here’s an example of a page from my call script, during the “Camelot” number, where you can see light cues and things called off words and counts:

It can definitely be a mess if you lose your place or get behind!

I spent quite a few shows watching the show and listening to Ken call the show, and practicing by the video monitor outside our office. Here’s my little practice station at work with my fake cue lights written on pieces of paper and taped to the side of the road box.

And at the hotel I made a practice station out of a box and would listen to the show on my i-pod and practice in the kitchen:

But now I can let all the practicing go and just call the show for real – phew! Ken usually calls two shows a week and then Brian and I will call three each. 

Here’s the real call desk:

Well, we have a week left in Detroit – the time has gone by so quickly! We leave for Fort Lauderdale one week from today. Yesterday I went to Greektown with Rick, Adam and Ben (Ben is our conductor and Rick and Adam are his associates) and also Karl (our company manager). It was such a fun area of downtown Detroit! It is an area full of Greek restaurants and a casino. We went to one restaurant, the name I can’t remember, and had some yummy combo plates of lamb, spinach pie and other goodies. We also had some flaming cheese for an appetizer.

Here is a picture of the main drag with all the restaurants:

And a photo of the boys after we finished dinner:

Ben, Rick, Karl and Adam

 It was such a great area and I’m so glad I got a chance to see it before we leave. On Wednesday we are hoping to hit the Motown Museum between shows, which is the last touristy thing on my list for Detroit. It should be especially fun to visit after seeing “Dreamgirls” last weekend which is based on Berry Gordy and that whole era.

Tonight we have another show and then a party at the Residence Inn to celebrate New Years. Wishing everyone a happy 2007!

With the band boys and Karl

With the band boys and Karl

Merry Christmas from Detroit!

Crazy Christmas house

Crazy Christmas house

So I had a fairly mellow Christmas, which was nice. On Christmas Eve I went out for steak with Christopher Gurr (Bedevere), who I’ve known for almost ten years now, believe it or not! He is the boyfriend of my friend Karen, who I used to work with at San Jose Rep. It’s so great to be working with him all these years later! We were also joined for dinner by Robert Petkoff, who plays Robin, and his wife Susan. It was a delicious dinner, but the strange Michigan blue laws came into effect at 9:30pm when all the wine was taken away from our table! Apparently from 9:30p on Christmas Eve through all day Christmas (and on Sundays), no alcoholic beverages can be purchased at retail stores or restaurants. I had heard about this, but didn’t think they would take our half-full glasses away from us at the table!

Christmas day was spent hanging out with Tallulah at the hotel, watching movies and practicing the call of “Spamalot” (which I have to do for real on Thursday), and then last night I met up with a couple of people to see “Dreamgirls”, which was fantastic, and so perfect to be viewed in Detroit, as that is where the story is based.

This is how Tallulah spent her Christmas:

On my way to the movies, I stopped by this crazy house on 12 Mile Road that Brian had told me about. If you thought the house in National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation” was bad, check this out:

Pretty amazing, right?

Last week I did a bit of exploring nearer to where we are staying in Troy. Tanya had told me that there was some good shopping in Birmingham, which is about a ten to fifteen minute drive from Troy, so I went over and checked it out. It is such a cute area!

        

These pictures actually don’t do it much justice, so you’ll just have to trust me that it was a nice welcomed place to walk around after the desolation of downtown Detroit.

On Friday night, we all went out to karaoke to celebrate Naomi and Kevin’s 30th birthdays (they are both ensemble members). The bar was hilarious – very redneck crowd. They were of course a tad intimidated by the singing chops of some of our group.

Tony knocking one back

Tony knocking one back

Piper, Esther and Rick

Piper, Esther and Rick

And finally, today of course I got in my first, and probably not my last fender bender. I scraped a pole in the parking lot at Barnes and Noble and the whole back bumper fell off the rental Camry. What a piece of crap! I managed (after quite a bit of trouble) to shove the bumper in the backseat and get it back to Avis to trade for another car. But unfortunately not in time to make it downtown to see the matinee of “White Christmas” that I was hoping to catch. Oh well.

I hope everyone who reads this had a fantastic holiday!

Barbecued Weenies and Chocolate Fondue

Well, as is fitting for our engagement in Detroit, we had the most BUSTED opening night party. Actually, that’s not entirely true. It was actually pretty fun, but mostly because it was so unbelievably tacky. The press office arranged it so we all blame them. It took place at a restaurant in downtown Detroit (mistake #1) called Mario’s, which was not closed to host our party, but open and serving dinner to it’s Friday regulars. We felt like we were interrupting someone else’s party. There was a really bad duo playing cover songs in the back room and the Friday night regulars were already dancing up a storm.

We were hoping with a name like “Mario’s”, that maybe the buffet would include some decent italian food. Instead we got this:

Barbecued weenies

Barbecued weenies

That’s right, y’all, BARBECUED COCKTAIL WEINIES. Perfect, right?

So we finally had to just laugh about the whole evening and give in to the pure tackiness of it and just live it and have fun. Of course leave it to Paula and Daryl to make that happen. They got everyone dancing, and put the locals to shame.

So that was our opening night in Detroit! Pretty hilarious.

By the way, I finally had a chance to take a picture of our stage door via gas station:

Fisher Theater stage door

Fisher Theater stage door

The brown door in the background is indeed where we enter to go to work. Again, perfect.

Karl, Rachel, Brian, myself, Jeff and Ken at the casino buffet

The next highlight of this weekend in Detroit was dinner Saturday between shows at the Buffet at Motor City, one of the casinos. It was a blast – Ken, Brian, Rachel and I and our two company managers, Karl and Jeff, headed over there and partook of the enormous food spread. It was actually really good, especially after a week of sandwiches. It was nice to have some warm food.

In fact, the buffet was so good, that even international celebrities like Santa Claus eat there:

Santa Claus at the casino buffet

Santa Claus at the casino buffet

The boys also got in about fifteen minutes worth of gambling before we had to head back to work. Ken won $65 and Brian won $90. Pretty good for fifteen minutes!

With Karl, Rachel and Ken

With Karl, Rachel and Ken

On Sunday, Brian, Rachel and I gave Ken his Christmas present – a chocolate fondue fountain that he has apparently been talking about since the show was in Boston. Rachel went out and bought all the ingredients for the chocolate sauce and things to dip in it and we set it up between shows in our office. It was a hit!

Paula, Jamie and Chris test the fountain

Paula, Jamie and Chris test the fountain

Penny and Aidan try it out

Penny and Aidan try it out

Last night was Rachel’s going away party, as well as the going away party for Bradley Dean who plays Galahad, Brandi Wooten who is one of the swings, and Marcus who mixes sound. It was sad saying goodbye to all of them – Brandi and Bradley were with the show when we did the rehearsals in NYC last winter so I met them then, and Rachel has been with the show since rehearsals for the Broadway company. We went to a billiards club in Royal Oak (near where we are staying) and there was a fun cover band playing. 

The cast dancing away

The cast dancing away

Brian, Rachel and Jeff (Patsy)

Brian, Rachel and Jeff (Patsy)

Scott playing pool

Scott playing pool

It was a really fun night…and actually the evening before Rachel and Esther hosted a wine and cheese party in their rooms at the Candlewood, which was also very fun. I forgot to bring my camera to that party, though, which is a shame because Paula, Jamie and Brian all brought their dogs over. Five dogs in a hotel room! Pretty funny – they were really cute, everyone was fawning all over them.

Tony Holds, who is a friend of mine from the Trailer Park Musical, came into town on Saturday to join the company as the new Galahad, taking over for Bradley. I’m so glad he’s here –  a familiar face, and another “new kid”. He’s also a really fun person and I think will be a great energy to have around. 

I also got to experience my first “shot night” on Sunday! Every Sunday, someone in the cast hosts “shot night” in their dressing room after the show. This past Sunday it was Patrick (Lancelot) and Robert (Robin), and we all did shots of Southern Comfort and lime. Woo-hoo!

Rachel left early this morning to go back to New York, so now the job of 2nd assistant is all me. Yikes! I feel really good about the deck track, though, and now I just have to learn to call the show! I watched last night from the sound board, which was great, since I haven’t seen the show since Boston. I’d forgotten how funny some of it… well most of it, is. 

So now its my day off and I’m off to do laundry. More soon!

Day Five in Detroit

City Knits

City Knits

Well Detroit is everything I thought it would be! The theater is in the downtown area, which is really rundown and empty. I was surprised to see that there aren’t even really any restaurants around – I would have thought that people going to the theater would need places to eat but I guess not! The Fisher Theater, where we are playing, is luckily in a building which also has a few shops and places to get food, so it is not an entirely inconvenient location to be performing. There is actually a pretty good coffee shop in the building as well as a post office, deli and funnily enough, a really great yarn shop called City Knits which of course makes me really happy!

Fisher Theater

Fisher Theater

Tuesday was my first day of work. Rachel and Lee (our drummer) picked me up at 7:30am and we headed towards Detroit from Troy, the suburban town where we are staying. We immediately hit traffic – welcome to Detroit! We managed to get to the theater shortly after 8:00am though, so were not too late for our call. The stage door for the Fisher is accessed through an old gas station – how appropriate is that? Our crew and the local stagehands had been up all night loading the show in. Ken, the PSM, had also been there all night, so needless to say, everyone was not in the finest of moods by the time we got there, for lack of sleep. The load-in actually went really well though and everything was in ahead of schedule. Rachel went through all my responsibilities for load-in with me, which mainly entail getting the dressing room areas set up with cots, valuables bags, and signage, and setting up the houseboard, getting water stations set up, the call desk set up, ordering office supplies, setting up our desk areas, and getting the stage ready for actors – putting down white tape where needed and touching up the spikes. 

The Fisher Theater presents an interesting challenge as it is very tight backstage. We have no crossover on deck, everyone has to use the basement to get from stage right to stage left, so we had to do some strategizing to figure out how to make that work with quick changes, etc. The wing space is also really tight, so much of the scenery and large props are hung in the air and it is a jigsaw puzzle in figuring out when things can be set-up and where to put them when they come offstage.

The show that night was an interesting experience. “Spamalot” travels with two carpenters, two prop staff, and one flyman…so in each city local stagehands are added to round out the crew. They spend all day Tuesday loading the show in and then go into running the show that night with no rehearsal. The two ASMs split the deck for the first three nights in a city – one on stage right and one on stage left, and we basically have to talk through the show as it goes with the new stagehands. It was a bit nutty the first night in Detroit as we had not only 2 local carpenters and a local props person on each side who were learning the show, but also two new ensemble cast members doing their first performance as well as a bevy of local wardrobe crew who were running the show for the first time. Couple that with a theater that has no backstage space and it made for a bit of chaos! It was really fun though to see how it all works backstage. Everyone kept saying it was the craziest first night they’ve had jesince they were in Toronto, which was also a very small theater. I had quite a few people come up to me at the end of the night asking me if I had signed a contract, and would I be coming back the next day! They thought the first night might have scared me away…not likely! 

I wish I had some good pictures of the interior of the theater but even with a flash the ones I have taken are still very dark. It’s quite a sight. Very seventies. Just think gold. Everywhere. Seats, walls, everywhere. Wow. Hopefully I will be able to get some decent pictures before I leave. The one at the top of this entry is about as good as it gets for the pictures I have taken of the theater so far.

It has been great seeing the old cast members again and meeting all the new ones who have joined the company since I did rehearsals with the show last winter. And the crew all seem really great. Everyone has been very welcoming.

So tonight we “marry” the deck, which means only one deck stage manager and the crew are essentially left to their own devices in many cases. So we’ll see what happens. Hopefully no train wrecks. I will shadow tonight and tomorrow and then start running the deck alone on Sunday. Rachel leaves Monday and then I start to learn to call the show.

In terms of sightseeing, I went the giant Somerset mall on Wednesday with Rachel and Rick. It is enormous! We went intending to Christmas shop and instead all we got was a Charlie Brown Christmas tree for Brian (the other stage manager) from Urban Outfitters. It’s a great mall though…I’m sure I’ll be spending some more time there. It’s funny how much you appreciate the mall after living in the city for some time.

Here’s Rick and Rachel in front of Santa’s Castle at the mall:

Rachel and Rick at Somerset Collection

Rachel and Rick at Somerset Collection

and an interior shot of the mall:
  

Car where JFK was shot

Car where JFK was shot

Then yesterday, Rachel and I headed over to Dearborn to the Henry Ford Museum, which is amazing! We unfortunately got there only an hour before closing so only really took in the highlights, but hopefully I’ll have a chance to go back. Henry Ford was a big collector of American artifacts and the museum is filled with some really amazing objects, which include the chair which Lincoln was shot in and also the car in which JFK was killed.
There were also a lot of really cool cars:
 
And the Weiner-mobile:
And lots of other fun things:

There is also a ton of info and exhibits on all of American history, from the Civil War to civil rights – they have the bus that Rosa Parks rode, and all kinds of other bits and pieces from American history. Very cool. They also had a mock-up of a teenager’s room from 1987 that looked just like mine did, with a Cabbage Patch Kid and Depeche Mode poster and other fun ‘80’s memorabilia.

There is also a car factory tour and a reproduction of a historic American village, which I did not get a chance to see, but hopefully if I go back I will. 

Ford Museum

Ford Museum

So that’s about it for my first few days in Detroit – our “opening night” party is tonight. I’m sure there will be more stories to come…

My cat is a ROCK STAR!

We have just settled in to the Residence Inn in Troy, Michigan and I am so elated about how fantastically my baby cat behaved today. I gave her a big dropper full of Bach’s Rescue Remedy before we left the house this morning, which is basically the equivalent of a shot of Jack Daniels. It worked! She was calm getting into the bag, quiet for the whole car ride to LaGuardia. I even dropped her bag by mistake once we were at the airport, and still nothing.

Then…the xray machine. I had to take her out of the bag at the loud wack-a-doo airport and carry her in my arms through the doorway while they shot her bag through the machine. Did she try to get away or even squirm? No!

Then, while we were chilling in the seats by our gate, I let her poke her head out of the bag and assess her situation. Again, did she try to get away – no!

Tallulah on the plane

Tallulah on the plane

Then…the big test…the actual plane flight. First, I was thrilled to find that her cat bag fit perfectly under the seat – there would be no drama about trying to wrench it under there. (p.s. She was also not weighed at the airport. Phew!)Then, once again, all through take-off, the flight, the landing….not one peep out of that cat. As we were taxiing to the gate in Detroit, I pulled her bag into my lap and let her stick her head out the top and look out the window. It was very sweet.

Now, we are here in Troy at the Residence Inn which will be our home for the next four weeks, and there has been no hiding or wailing. Just a very curious kitty checking out her new digs. Have I mentioned that MY CAT IS A ROCK STAR! I am so excited that she seems to be taking to this traveling thing so well. And I have to say, she was a good distraction for me today on the plane, as well. I didn’t even get nervous for this flight…which is a rare and wonderful thing for me, and I hope the trend continues!

So here are a couple of snaps so far:

Coming in to Detroit

Coming in to Detroit

And some snaps of our little studio at the Residence Inn:

     

It’s actually quite cozy and I scored a fireplace. The only drawback is that it is on the ground level near the street, so a) I can’t walk around naked unless all the curtains are drawn and b) I hope I don’t get broken into and c) we don’t get much light. On the other hand though, the street noise is good – it reminds me of Manhattan! And the fireplace is an awesome bonus.

It’s not too cold here yet – in the forties. I’m stocking up on some logs though for the fireplace – it will definitely get some use, even if for only the ambiance.

So tonight I am having dinner with Rachel and Rick, my car buddies (Rachel is the girl I am replacing and Rick plays keyboards in the band) and then have to be at the theater in downtown Detroit at 8am for load-in. Should be exciting – my first load-in on the road!

Was a bit sad leaving the apartment in Wash Heights this morning – even though I know its only for a little while. It did make me realize how much I do love New York City and even though it gets me down sometimes, there really is no other place like it.

Oh look, Princess Lulu has found her new spot:

Princess Tallulah

Princess Tallulah