22 Weeks, 22 Cities

This week marks the end of a very, very long stretch of one-week stops. Twenty-two to be exact, making the last day off – free of travel and work, way back in January when we were in Boston. I went on vacation that week, so my Mexico trip was the last time I had any time off. That was six months ago!

Traveling to a new city every week has had its ups and downs. On the one hand, we were able to explore a variety of cities that we may not ever had had the chance to visit, if not for this tour schedule. We were also able to play at some amazing theaters around the country, and meet some really nice people along the way. We were able to experience a true touring gypsy life – which some accustomed to better than others, but I think  in the end, we all feel pretty proud of ourselves, regardless, from having made it through.

On the downside, packing every Sunday got to be a drag – both packing up the show, and packing up our own suitcases. The travel between the shorter jumps was fairly easy – the overnight bus rides were fun and convenient. But in the last few weeks, when the stops have been further apart, all the air travel has been a drag. The schedule has also been unfortunate in that you can never stock up on groceries (well, too many groceries), because you can never finish them all on a one week stop. That is one thing to really look forward to on the longer stops – a stocked fridge – that you might actually finish!

Tallulah has been a sainted kitty throughout all the moves. She only had one spiteful episode (peeing on my suitcase in Nashville), but other than hiding under the bed every travel day – she has been the best-behaved, most adaptive and loving little puss on the planet. She is a rock star.

So to recap – here are some of the highlights of Spam Tour’s “Trail of Tears”:

PROVIDENCE: We said goodbye to Michael and Jeff, our original King and Patsy. The girls sent them off right with a hilarious game show-edition shot night. We also enjoyed the diner truck which parked late night behind our hotel.

Jeff and Michael's final shot night

Jeff and Michael's final shot night

HERSHEY: Brad Bradley made his debut as Patsy, with Chris Gurr assuming the role of the King. We had a blast at Chocolate World, and were welcomed with open Italian arms at Fenicci’s.

Waiting to see the 3D movie at Chocolate World

Waiting to see the 3D movie at Chocolate World

NASHVILLE: We visited the Opry, hung at the honky-tonk’s on Broadway, and celebrated Patrick’s birthday. Julie Barnes made her debut as the Lady of the Lake, as both Esther and Lyn were out. Cara Cooper joined us to take over Sabra’s track.
Julie's debut as the Lady of the Lake

Julie's debut as the Lady of the Lake

JACKSONVILLE: Hometown of Patrick and Keith Reese. Was lovely seeing Keith’s smiling face around the show again. Adam Souza assumed the maestro’s baton as Ben began his leave of absence.

Also, Gary Beach joined us, and began rehearsals to take over the role of the King.

Adam as Ben at sound check

Adam as Ben at sound check

FORT MYERS: Where we were re-introduced to “Crawdaddy”, a strange crawfish-loving keyboard player who had first played with us back in Naples. Most of this week was spent doing taxes with Trudy!

Crawdaddy!

Crawdaddy!

MIAMI: Gary made his debut as the King, we had an awesome anniversary party for the show at the Raleigh Hotel on Miami Beach. It was a generally happy week spent on the beach – oh, and quite a few people got tattoos. Sadly, we said goodbye to Jeff Klein, our associate company manager, and welcomed his replacement, David.
Original Spam Tour members at the 2-year anniversary party

Original Spam Tour members at the 2-year anniversary party

WEST PALM BEACH: We had a big photo call at work, and spent much of the week around the gorgeous shopping center near the theater. Ryan and I stayed at a very cute pool house, as did other members of the company.
Gary and Esther - one of my shots from the photo call

Gary and Esther - one of my shots from the photo call

CLEARWATER: One word – O’Boobigans! We sent Lee Appleton, our drummer, off in style with a party at an Irish bar/Hooters called O’Boobigans. Crawdaddy returned, and great controversy began when one of his lobster puppets mysteriously disappeared…
Lee, Ryan, Lobster Puppet, Keith and Crawdaddy

Lee, Ryan, Lobster Puppet, Keith and Crawdaddy

ORLANDO: We said a tearful goodbye to Julie Barnes, whose going-away party was at a fun tiki bar downtown. Some people ventured to Disney – I enjoyed our Extended Stay Deluxe and stayed in most of the week, with the exception of a walk around the cute shopping area of Winter Park. This was Vera’s last week before her leave. On our final Sunday in Orlando, some clean-shaven faces showed up to work to kick off the Beard Contest!
Julie at her going-away party

Julie at her going-away party

BIRMINGHAM: Probably one of the least favorite stops on the tour. Sort of a depressed, run-down city. There was the trolley that took you to Five Points where you could get pancakes at the Original Pancake House, otherwise you were stuck with Subway. I think everyone ODed on Subway that week. Bree Branker made her debut, and David Havasi began rehearsals. We also had a visit from Casey, our choreographer. Probably the highlight of the week, was the man-o-vator at the theater…
Patrick on the man-o-vator

Patrick on the man-o-vator

GREENVILLE: A surprisingly cute town! We all ate our faces off at the myriad restaurants on Main Street, a vast contrast from Birmingham the week before. There was lots of hiking and park-going, and Brian O’Brien’s farewell pub crawl was truly awesome. We also had the best stage management office we’ve ever had – walls lined with windows overlooking the river. Lovely.
Brian makes a new friend on the pub crawl

Brian makes a new friend on the pub crawl

RALEIGH: It was Jonathan Brody’s final week – we had a cajun dinner hosted by Piper to send him off. Not too much doing in Raleigh – some shopping at the mall across from the Candlewood, and some photo-taking of all the old, old houses. There was also an evening of Cornhole at a local bar, which was quite fun. David Havasi made his debut in Brian’s old track. There was a big blow-up among the chorus boys over some ridiculousness that sort of clouded this week.
Taking pictures at an old cemetery in Raleigh

Taking pictures at an old cemetery in Raleigh

DAYTON: Probably second only to Birmingham in general ass-iness. The theater was big and new and nice, and if you ventured over to the Oregon District, there was an area of cuteness, with cool shops and restaurants, but downtown was rather barren. We spent most nights at a bar called J-Alan’s, which Ken dubbed “The Hootennanny”. Terry and Patrick both did open mic performances there. Rick Costa made his debut this week in Jonathan’s old track. Oh, and who could forget Tony’s masterful win in the Beard Contest!
Patrick at open mic night at the "Hootenanny"

Patrick at open mic night at the Hootenanny

MILWAUKEE: Pubs, pubs, and more pubs. That’s how I remember Milwaukee. The art museum building was stunning to see. We said farewell to Piper with another pub crawl, this one in a party bus. Piper and Julie leaving were big blows – it was hard to lose those two girls – I miss them! Milwaukee was also the debut of “Duckie” – Tera-Lee performing a male ensemble track.

Cuz and Piper at her going-away

Cuz and Piper at her going-away

APPLETON: Ryan’s home local! I had fun visiting his house that week. We also hosted a super cool shot night – the ice luge! Even Gary Beach did a shot! I also discovered a great yarn store in Appleton – Iris Fine Yarns. Sarah Lin Johnson took over Piper’s swing track.
Gary taking a shot from the ice luge

Gary taking a shot from the ice luge

MADISON: My love, Madison! One of my top three favorite stops on the tour. That city rocks. We did a lot of bike riding, a lot of eating and drinking (at the Black Dog and Essen Haus), and I did even more yarn shopping. And p.s., the Capitol Farmer’s Market ROCKED! We also had a visit from Jeff Dumas, and Darryl’s family hosted a party for us at their house!
Gurr, Suzanne, Matt and Paula hanging out at Darryl's

Gurr, Suzanne, Matt and Paula hanging out at Darryl's

GRAND RAPIDS: Kind of a letdown after Madison, but it had pockets of cute. I got my hair done at a nice salon. We visited the art museum, and did a little bit of bike riding. But the highlight of the week was having Elaine around to cover Mitchell’s vacation. Yay! And also Bret arriving to cover Ken’s vacation! Scary weather driving to Minneapolis.
Getting drunk with Elaine when I should have been packing

Getting drunk with Elaine when I should have been packing

MINNEAPOLIS: The crazy weather of being in Tornado Alley continued, with thunderstorms peppering the week. We visited the sculpture garden and played mini golf with Ryan’s friend, Brent. In work-related news, Patrick split his head open causing a frenzy of last-minute replacements on the Saturday. I visited the Mall of America, Brit’s Pub (a couple of times), did quite a bit of bike-riding, and had a lovely Monday night meal with Bret.

Brent and Ryan playing mini-golf

Brent and Ryan playing mini-golf

OKLAHOMA CITY: Hmmm…sort of along the lines of Dayton. Not horrible, but not much going on. Crazy windy but hot weather. The Memorial was quite a sight to see, and made the week worth it. We also stayed at a nice hotel downtown called The Colcord, and enjoyed drinks a couple of times at a cool brewpub called Tapwerks. 
OKC Memorial

OKC Memorial

ALBUQUERQUE: Ken was back from vacation, and it was Jovon’s turn for a week off. I was in bliss all week with my buddies Michael and Tanya and Bret all back in my life. I had a great visit to Santa Fe with Tanya, and Albuquerque’s highlights included the breakfast burritos at Frontier, Satellite Coffee and the weather! Gorgeous! Hot and dry. Sadly we said goodbye to our A2, Tony.
With my Ta

With my Ta

With my Bretty

With my Bretty

SAN ANTONIO: Hot and sweaty is how I will remember San Antonio. The Riverwalk was fun – highlights included meals at the Iron Cactus and Boudros. Mi Tierra at the Marketplace was also good, although if I never see menudo again it will be too soon. I had my birthday here, and was treated to a yummy chocolate mousse cake from Ken! I also treated myself to some new camera equipment! Oh, and then there was the Alamo. Eh. Patrick bailed on us this week to go and do “Gossip Girl” for eight weeks, so we scrambled a bit (another couple of gender-bending performances by Tera-Lee), but we had it figured out by….
Tera-Lee doing some gender-bending in Rio

Tera-Lee doing some gender-bending in Rio

FORT WORTH: Where Brian O’Brien re-joined us to help fill in the gap left by Patrick. Kevin Burrows was also around this week to help cover some of other boys’ vacations. Everyone was antsy getting ready for Canada. There was a quick trip to the Stockyards, but otherwise it was all about getting phones, and credit cards and money in order. Vancouver here we come!
Packing up trunks for Canada

Packing up trunks for Canada

22 eventful weeks! I look forward to the next 22, only I am happy to report that we will be spending some quality time in the next few cities with longer sit-downs, just enough time to recoup before another slew of one-weekers begin this winter. 

Bring it on!

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Factory Town

One week in Hershey, Pennsylvania is more than enough. Don’t get me wrong, the town is cute enough, but with four restaurants and one bar, your options of things to do run out pretty quickly – especially in the dead of winter when the amusement park is closed. 

We arrived early Monday morning via sleeper bus – I slept for eight hours on the bus, believe it or not. I had trouble sleeping the first couple of overnight trips that we did on the bus, but not anymore. Plus the bus we have had lately has extra long bunks which are nice and roomy. I have to also give a shout out to our driver, Cookie, who is such a nice guy, and who LOVES Tallulah. Hey that’s funny, we were driven to “Chocolate Town” by a guy named Cookie!

In addition to a lack of restaurants in Hershey, there are also a lack of hotels, so we were housed at the oh-so-glamourous Days Inn (“The award-winning Days Inn Hershey” is how they answer the phone there – what??). You know you are staying in a motel when you have a bottle opener permanently attached to the wall in your bathroom. But, the place was clean enough, so whatever.

I stayed in almost all day on Monday and got a lot of knitting done on my “Tilted Duster”. I finished it just before we left Hershey and it is blocking in my hotel room as we speak, so pictures will follow in an upcoming post. I also watched a couple of movies, did some laundry and ventured out to the small grocery store around the corner from the hotel where, among other things, I bought a loaf of homemade banana bread. Only in a small town can you find actual homemade banana bread, wrapped in tin foil with a handwritten label, sold at the local grocery store. I had dinner Monday night at Fenicci’s, a local italian restaurant, with Ken, Karl, Jovon and Jeff. The owner loves show people, and he treated us to a free meal. He also told us he would be keeping the bar and kitchen open late every night that week so that we would have somewhere to go after the show, which proved to be a great thing since everything else (and by that I mean the other three restaurants in town) closes by the time we get out of work. I think we ended up at Fenicci’s most nights last week.

Outside Fenicci's with Jeff and Karl (photo courtesy of Jovon)

Outside Fenicci's with Jeff and Karl (photo courtesy of Jovon)

As for the show, the theater in Hershey is TINY. I’ve played over thirty theaters now with “Spamalot”, and it is by far the smallest we have played. We had to cut two of the reed pallets (two pieces of scenery in the “Lady of the Lake” scene) because they didn’t fit offstage in their normal preset positions. It was definitely a tight squeeze. Luckily though, most of the stagehands were pretty good – especially my prop guy on stage right, so the week wasn’t too bad backstage. 

It was the first week with a new King and Patsy. Christopher Gurr, who normally plays Bedevere is playing the King for a month until Gary Beach joins us as our permanent new King Arthur. Brad Bradley is our new Patsy, and Wally Dunn is playing Bedevere for the month. Wally played a few shows in Providence, and Christopher has played the King while Michael has been on vacation, but it was Brad’s debut, and he did a great job. He is a very different Patsy from Jeff, but he has a great energy.

On Wednesday I had another lazy day, but Thursday was our fantastic chocolate adventure. If you don’t know, Hershey, PA is the home to the Hershey Chocolate Factory. Pretty much everything in Hershey is centered around the factory. Everyone works for Hershey. They even own the theater we were playing. The town was set up to be a complete factory town by Mr. Milton Hershey, and it still totally feels that way.

Hershey Kiss streetlights

Hershey Kiss streetlights

The Chocolate Workers' Union Office

The Chocolate Workers' Union Office

Ryan, Jovon, Karl and I met up with Ken and Jeff at Chocolate World and we had fun wandering around the gift shops and going on the cheesy ride through the “factory” (which is a totally fabricated factory just made for the ride). We ran into Gurr, Gribster, Adam and Brad, and had fun hanging out with them, too. We also went to see a 3D movie about the start of the Hershey corporation, which was silly and fun and akin to “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” at Disneyworld. We had fun screaming and laughing along with the movie. After that, we all attended a “chocolate tasting”. We tasted mostly a lot of dark chocolate, with a couple of milk chocolates thrown in. We learned all about the making of chocolate and the cacao plant and it was really interesting to taste the different chocolates with different cacao percentages. Plus, we were able to take some chocolate home with us, which was a big bonus. After the tasting, Ryan and I went over to the Hershey Museum and learned all about Milton Hershey and how he established his company and built the town.

The group waits for the 3-D movie

The group waits for the 3-D movie

Everyone enjoying the ride

Everyone enjoying the ride

Karl and Jovon making Hershey kisses

Karl and Jovon making Hershey kisses

Jeff smells his chocolate

Jeff smells his chocolate

Friday night Paula’s family (she’s one of the girls in the ensemble, and one of my faves) hosted a party for us at another of the four restaurants in Hershey, DeMarcos. It was a fun time, and nice to hang out with everyone.

We woke up on Saturday to snow, and the weekend got progressively colder and colder. I felt so bad for the crew by the time Sunday night rolled around. It was something like -11 by the time they started the load-out – they were all bundled up (except for Mike Berg, who ALWAYS wears shorts) as they started loading the trucks.

The week finished with Shot Night, hosted by Ben Davis. He made a delicious drink called “Chocolate Milk”, made with milk, chocolate liquor and amaretto – it tasted exactly as its name. Yum!

Yesterday we flew to Nashville, TN. The theater here is ginormous, so load-in has been going very well. We are rehearsing Cara Cooper this week, the wife of our dance captain, Graham – she is taking over for Sabra, who leaves after Jacksonville. Hopefully I will have some free time this week though, to do some sightseeing – I want to see the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand ol’ Opry!

And then after this week…Florida! I can’t wait for sunshine!