Milwaukee

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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!

Channeling Laverne and Shirley

I had another low-key week last week in Milwaukee, but that’s not to say that the town is not without things to do. In fact, quite the opposite. The town is filled, and I mean filled, with brew pubs and bars and museums and shopping…but I’m getting ahead of myself. 

We arrived, as usual, by sleeper bus at the crack of dawn, literally – I think it was 6:30 in the morning. We were all staying at the Hyatt downtown, a nice hotel – comfy bed, always important. I slept for a little while after arriving, and then went out in the afternoon for some lunch and a walk around. 

I headed over to the lake (Lake Michigan) and walked along it (freezing my butt off, by the way – we had gone from 70 degree temps in Dayton to 40 degrees. Thank god I had the sense to get my down vest out of my trunk) for about two miles until I reached Brady Street, which was lined with all kinds of cute shops and pubs. Unfortunately I was so cold that I didn’t feel like spending time browsing, and so I headed back down Water Street to the hotel. 

Downtown Milwaukee is cool – its sort of a mix of new buildings, like the art museum, and old Gothic germanic-looking buildings. I had kind of a picture of it in my head from “Laverne and Shirley”, and expected it to be big-city, Manhattan-like, but it’s not quite as busy and urban as that, and guess that’s what I get for believing everything I see on TV is real.

Freezing my butt off

Freezing my butt off

I got a call from Ryan around 6:00pm saying that they were laying off for the day because the truck with all the deck in it had not arrived, halting what work the carpenters could do. It turns out the driver got confused and thought he was supposed to show up with the truck on Tuesday morning rather than Monday, so he took a side trip the opposite direction into Ohio. Oops.

That meant, though, that Ryan had a Monday night off for the first time in forever. So we went for dinner at the Water Street Brewery, which had some delicious microbrews.

The load-in picked up on Tuesday, as usual, and the guys still managed to cut out early in the afternoon. It’s amazing how much faster they’ve managed to get the load-in – I suppose doing it every week now for 14 weeks in a row will do that. It has made the one-weekers so much more bearable for the crew, though, now that load-in has gotten so much faster. 

The theater, the Marcus Center, was spacious and we had another successful opening. We had a party following at the City Grille. Ryan and I had fun hanging with Suzanne and Gurr, and then chatting with Piper, who was leaving the company at the end of the week.

Ryan left the next morning for Sobieski, the town where he lives, for a week’s vacation. I headed over to the art museum at noon to see the building’s “wings” open up, which happens three times a day. It’s a stunning visual to see.

Pretty cool, huh?

I also walked around the museum a bit – they had a photo exhibit on which was pretty good. The lobby was also architecturally quite fantastic, so I took some snaps in there as well.

After the museum I walked over to the Public Market to grab some lunch. It is a cute little market, not as grand as the Eastern Market in Philly or even the Public Market in Columbus, but there were some good-looking stands with yummy things behind the counters.

On the way home I walked through the Historic Third Ward, which is actually a lot like Soho in New York, on a much smaller scale. There were a lot of cute boutiques and shops, housed in old warehouse-y buildings.

Since Ryan was away and since we went out almost every night last week in Dayton, I decided I would take the week to rest and recoup, and so I didn’t do all the barhopping that I could  have last week.

I did go out on Thursday night, after a day of understudy rehearsal and a show, for Piper’s going-away shindig. It was also a celebratory evening for Tim, Bree and Jen Mathie, who all had birthdays this past week. Piper arranged a party bus which took everyone around to three bars. I opted to just go to the first bar, the German Beer Hall, which was a lot of fun, but very crowded. It was fun watching everyone do “shotskis” – basically a ski with a line of shot glasses attached to it – meaning that everyone who partakes, has to drink at the exact same time.

Cuz and Piper

Cuz and Piper

Doing a shotski

Doing a shotski

Friday’s weather was yucky – heavy rains and wind, so I decided to have a lazy day inside. Which was great. I caught up on emails and things, watched Tom Cruise on “Oprah” and entertained Tallulah.

I got up on Saturday morning and walked over to Marquette University and just beyond, to see the Pabst Mansion. I didn’t have time to go inside, but the outside of the building was enough of a sight to see. It was old and creepy – 

Pabst Mansion

Pabst Mansion

Sunday turned out to be quite an eventful day as we had our first ever cut-track show in almost 900 performances! Both Darryl and Rick were out on personal days, and then Patrick (Lancelot) called out sick. We only have two male swings, and one of them (Nigel) is also the only cover we have right now for Lancelot. So Graham, our dance captain and the other swing,  and Tera-Lee, our assistant dance captain and female swing, had to figure out how to cover Darryl and Rick’s tracks between them. Which basically meant, Tera-Lee dressing up as a boy and performing in three numbers – “Finland”, “Camelot” and “Bright Side”. In the other numbers, we cut a track and Graham covered whoever’s track was most important.

Here’s some pics of Tera-Lee as a boy (she’s the one in yellow):

Sunday night was Piper’s last show. She had quite a going-away week, with her party on Thursday, Friday was her “super-swing-out show” in which she played a different girl’s track in each number, and then Saturday night she hosted shot night and played us a slide show she had put together about her time on the tour. Everyone was in tears by the end. Piper will definitely be missed. She was the tour’s residence cruise director and party planner. We bonded over knitting and crochet – this last Christmas she crocheted sixty hats for everyone in the cast and crew. She has a great heart and spirit and I will miss her Tuesday load-in hugs! 

Piper with a bucket of margaritas in Houston

Piper with a bucket of margaritas in Houston

Monday morning, Tallulah and I drove Ryan’s giant truck to Appleton, Wisconsin, where we spend this week. It’s Ryan’s home local, and Friday we will go and spend the day with him at his house.
Tallulah in Ryan's truck

Tallulah in Ryan's truck

Wishing everyone a great week!