Tampa Again!

And the Florida adventure continues!

Since the crew had the luxury of a sane evening load-out in Melbourne (with the absence of an evening show on Sunday), and didn’t have to be at the theater in Tampa until 6pm the next day for the load-in, Ryan and I had a leisurely drive on Monday morning across the state. We had rented a vacation house in Tampa – a cute duplex just ten miles or so north of downtown. When we got there, we settled in, went and had some yummy sushi for lunch and did some grocery shopping for the week. It makes such a difference to stay in a house or apartment rather than a hotel. Being able to cook your own food is such a luxury, and with the warm weather, we were also able to grill outside. So, so nice.

Flowers blooming in the backyard

Flowers blooming in the backyard

Ryan took the car into town Monday night for load-in, and Tallulah and I chilled at the house.

The next day I joined the load-in at Tampa PAC. This was the third theater I played with the tour, almost exactly two years ago. It is a HUGE theater – tons and tons of space backstage, everyone gets their own dressing room – the stagehands are decent – I remember some of them from the last time we were there. The load-in was really easy.

At the Tampa PAC

At the Tampa PAC

The best thing about Tuesday, was the reintroduction of Callie Carter to the company. Callie was an original tour cast member and our former dance captain. She left about a year ago to head back to New York, where she joined the Broadway company and eventually became their dance captain. She is with us for a few weeks filling in. I love Callie – she’s funny and down to earth, and has a great energy. It was so nice to see her again.

Callie

Callie

On Wednesday Ryan and I drove over to International Plaza – the fancy mall in town – to do some shopping. Traffic in Florida is a pain so it was a bit stressful getting back to the house in time to make some dinner, but we managed to squeeze it all in – just in time to go to work.

Thursday we had a matinee and evening show, and then afterwards a group of us convened at the Blue Martini for a going away party for Candy and Angelina. Both girls are in our ensemble. Candy joined us in Toronto from the Vegas company, and took over assistant dance captain duties when Tera-Lee left. Angelina has been with the show for almost two and a half years. She recently was hired as a swing in the new Broadway company of “West Side Story”. So – Thursday night, a party was held for the girls. We had a party at the Blue Martini the last time we were in Tampa, to celebrate Pia’s 30th birthday. To be honest, its not really my kind of place – its kind of a meat market, with overpriced drinks. But for Candy and Angelina, I’d pretty much suck it up and go anywhere. It actually ended up not being that bad –  it was nice and warm out, so it turned out to be the perfect evening to sit outside and sip cocktails.

Paula and Angelina at the Blue Martini

Paula and Angelina at the Blue Martini

Sarah Lin and her boyfriend Shane

Sarah Lin and her boyfriend Shane

David smoking a cigar

David smoking a cigar

Nate

Nate

On Friday Ryan and I decided to spend the day totally at the house, grilling on the BBQ and sitting in the sun. It was great. Sometimes you just need those lazy days. I worked on finishing my knitting project, a top called “Rusted Root” and also took advantage of the backyard and the good weather to get some photos of some of my finished knits. I’ll do a follow-up blog post to this with some of the shots. In addition to having a backyard, the rental house also had a lanai – a screened-in porch which Tallulah spent almost all week on. She would be up first thing in the morning waiting by the sliding glass door to be let out. She would sit out there and watch the birds all day.

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On Saturday there was a big arts fair in downtown Tampa. Between shows Ryan and I went and walked around, looking at all the booths. There was some fantastic photography there – I particularly loved the photographs by  Todd Lundeen, who had traveled to Tibet and taken some amazing photos of the people there. A couple of our company members bought prints from him – I think I’m going to order a couple from his website. We had a nice time walking around and eating street fair food. The kettle corn was amazing.

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Back at the theater, the place was completely overrun with kids all weekend. There was a dance competition in the building and they were running through the hallways with mothers in tow during all three of our weekend shows. It got to be a little much by Sunday afternoon.

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Sunday was the final show for Candy and Angelina. It was definitely a bittersweet night – both girls will be missed so much. Candy was a swing, so she wasn’t in the show that night, but she watched from the wings while Ang played her last performance. There were a few pranks pulled – the two best being in “Bright Side”, the four other girls dressed as Ni Knights stayed offstage and Angelina ended up doing a “Ni Knight solo”, and then in the finale, Angelina’s boyfriend Nigel, who is a swing but was not on on Sunday, surprised her by coming out and dancing as her partner in the Wedding number. Very sweet. I wish both girls the best of luck!

Angelina in "Camelot"

Angelina in "Camelot"

The Ni Knight solo

The Ni Knight solo

Candy backstage

Candy backstage

Nigel surprises Angelina in the Wedding

Nigel surprises Angelina in the Wedding

We had Sunday night off as we had a matinee on Thursday, so I was able to spend one more warm evening on the porch at the rental house. We were off bright and early on Monday to Austin. Ryan, unfortunately, got bad news on Sunday that a water pipe had burst at his house and flooded his basement, so he left early Monday to go back to Green Bay to deal with it. He’ll meet us in Austin on Friday.

It was lovely to spend two weeks in Florida after the weeks and weeks of cold and snow that we experienced earlier this winter. We are not out of the cold just yet – we still have Wilmington, Cleveland and Anchorage ahead, but it definitely feels like we are out of the thick of winter. Before we know it, we’ll be on the beach in Los Angeles!

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Last Few Days in Tampa

A few observations from this week… 

There is a Home Depot and a Hooters in every city in America.

If you like steakhouses and strip clubs, Tampa is the city for you. They are EVERYWHERE.

I think this tour will be a lot about checking out who has the best shopping mall in America. So far, the Somerset Collection in Troy, Michigan is tops.

Stagehands often have strange names. So far I have met Knuckles, Hacksaw, Sprout, Sideshow, Bones and Boots. 

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Michael Siberry (he plays the King) lucked out and had a fat dressing room in Tampa. To celebrate, he invited us all to an “open house” in his room after a show last week and provided champagne cocktails.

Michael and Justin

Michael and Justin

Brian

Brian

Note the lovely red plush sofas. Pia (our “Lady of the Lake”) was very pissy that she didn’t get the big dressing room, but she did partake in Michael’s cocktails, nonetheless.

Also this past week, Karl (company manager), Brian and I ventured over to Bern’s Steakhouse, which is a Tampa institution, and which we actually name in the show when the Peasant is pulled up to the stage from the audience (“You shall be revered here in Tampa, along with Bern’s Steakhouse”). Bern’s has amazing steaks, and also the largest wine collection in the country. We had a delicious dinner and drinks, followed by dessert in the upstairs dessert room. Our waiter was quite a character, and obviously took great pride in his job. He told us that he picked the organic lettuce for our salads and helped build the tables in the dessert room. Wow!

Karl and Brian tasting their dessert wines

Karl and Brian tasting their dessert wines

In the over-the-top lobby

In the over-the-top lobby

Also this week, the Spam-mobile made an appearance! Apparently it follows us around the country, although this was the first time I had seen it. Here it is parked outside the performing arts center.

Spam-mobile

Spam-mobile

I ventured over to Ybor City, the Cuban area of Tampa, earlier this week for a walk. There are a lot of empty storefronts now, but it is still very charming and has some restaurants and other shops still in operation. There are also a lot of cigar shops!

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I also took a few shots outside the back of the theater, which had a nice outdoor area for dining. It looks out onto the river.

And finally…I finished knitting my first pair of socks which I started in Detroit! One is a bit bigger than the other, but I’m too lazy to do one over, so here they are!

Today is Monday and Tallulah and I travelled to Naples, Florida, about a three hour drive from Tampa. We will play here for a week before heading to Memphis. Our accomodations here are AWESOME! We are staying at a golf resort. Here is one teaser picture to make my dad jealous:

It’s our very own “lanai” (enclosed patio), which looks directly out onto the golf course!

More pictures from Naples in the next post!

The Happiest Place on Earth…

…I have always claimed is Shakespeare Santa Cruz, where I spent two blissful summers, and dream about spending more, but I suppose Disneyworld follows at a fairly close second.

I’ve never been to Disneyworld…have been to DisneyLAND many times, but I was really excited to go and check out the giant complex in Orlando. Plus it’s been over ten years since I’ve even been to Disneyland, so it was time for a refresher. Disneyworld is made up of four parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Disney/MGM studios. They also have two water parks, a bunch of resort hotels, Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island on the property. Whew!

I went on Monday with Brian (other assistant stage manager) and Ryan (assistant carpenter) and we met up later with Mitchell (wig supervisor) and Karl (company manager). We also later ran into Pia (“Lady of the Lake”) and Rick and Adam (both associate conductors/keyboards).

Ryan had never been to any Disney parks, so we had to do all the classic rides with him, including “It’s a Small World”, lame as it is. We were lucky to be at the park on a Monday in January, because we literally walked onto all the rides, only having to wait in line for “Peter Pan’s Flight” and “Soarin’”.

We parked at Epcot and then took the ferry over to Magic Kingdom to start the day. Here’s Ryan and Brian trying to look manly in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle:

Ryan and Brian

Ryan and Brian

We did a bunch of rides at Magic Kingdom, including “Pirates of the Caribbean” which now has a couple of Jack Sparrow animatrons, which are really realistic…which kind of makes the other animatrons look a bit dated, but oh well. The “Pirates” ride at Disneyworld also doesn’t have the drops that it has at Disneyland. We also went on “Haunted Mansion” and a bunch of others. The boys were able to get me to go on “Thunder Mountain” which was actually really fun, but I did skip “Space Mountain” which they rode twice. We had a weird experience at the “Lilo and Stitch” ride when it broke down and a staff member came in and had such a loud, weird conversation on the phone with someone else about the malfunction, that we thought it was part of the show!

Here’s Brian with Stitch:

In the afternoon we headed over to Epcot where we saw “Honey I Shrunk the Audience” which starred Eric Idle, strangely enough.  We went on “Soarin’” which was probably my favorite ride of the day – it was a simulated hang-gliding (actually probably more like parasailing) ride over a movie screen which showed all different views of places in California. There were fans on simulating wind, and they pumped in smells – pine for the forest, salt spray for the ocean. It was pretty awesome and made me miss California!

The boys also got me to go on “Test Track” which was a fairly tame ride until the end when the car you are in goes 65 miles an hour around a raised track. In the end though, it wasn’t that bad.

We met up with Karl and Mitchell for “Fantasmic” which has its own theater at Disney/MGM. It was as spectacular, as I remembered it being, although it has changed a lot. I think the last time I saw it “Lion King” and “Pocahontas” hadn’t even been released yet, so now there are elements of those movies in the show as well. After “Fantasmic” we headed back to Epcot for dinner. There is a whole area of Epcot which is made up of different “countries” – there are restaurants and shops for each. We had decided to eat at Morocco, but unfortunately got there just as the kitchen was closing. “Illuminations”, an amazing fireworks show on the lagoon, was just starting though, so we stayed and watched that. I also ran back to the United Kingdom to look in the windows of the shops and take a few pictures.

This was a great looking pub that I wish we could’ve gotten some dinner at!

This was a smaller version of Windsor Castle. 

If I ever make it back to Disneyworld, I would definitely want to stay for a few days and check out all the countries at Epcot as the shops and restaurants looked really great. We also didn’t even make it to Animal Kingdom or to MGM, except to see “Fantasmic”. But we did manage to accomplish a lot, nonetheless.

After “Illuminations” (during which, by the way, I ate my very first funnel cake, thanks to Mitchell! Yum!), we headed out to Downtown Disney, which is a shopping area with restaurants which is open late. We ate at House of Blues and then set off for Tampa. I was exhausted driving home, but Ryan did his best to poke me and keep me awake.

What a full, fun day!

Tampa – Pirates and Princesses

We travelled to Tampa last Monday. Tallulah and I took the bus with the cast. She was again the perfect cat, sleeping most of the way and (mostly) staying in her bag (she jumped out once, but I managed to grab her before any chaos could ensue).

Tampa is a lot more urban than Fort Lauderdale – not quite as idyllic and resort-like. We are staying in an Extended Stay hotel by the airport which is actually really nice. A lot of the cast are staying at the hotel across from the theater called the Ashley Plaza, which has been dubbed “The Bates Motel” because it is so dumpy. I’m glad I decided to stay at the other hotel option.

The weather here has also been a lot more chilly than in Fort Lauderdale, which has definitely been a bit of a downer for everyone as we were all so happy in our t-shirts and flip flops a week ago!

I’ve mostly been laying low since we got here and resting up from such a busy two weeks in Fort Lauderdale. Last Wednesday was Pia’s (our “Lady of the Lake”) 30th birthday, so we did all go out that night and celebrate at a bar called The Blue Martini. Here’s a couple of pics:

Me and Piper

Me and Piper

Siobhan and Matt

Siobhan and Matt

Kevin and Paula

Kevin and Paula

Pia and Jamie

Pia and Jamie

On Friday I drove over to Clearwater Beach to see what the Gulf Coast looks like. It was really beautiful, but COLD! So I only stayed a little while.

Then the big event of the weekend was the Gasparilla Festival, which is a Mardi-Gras-like event that is celebrated starting at 11:30am. “In this annual re-enactment of Tampa’s historic pirate invasion, the Gasparilla Flotilla – led by the Jose Gasparilla, teeming with pirates – heads up the Seddon Channel towards downtown Tampa. When the ship docks at the Tampa Convention Center, the Mayor surrenders the key to the city of Tampa to the Captain.” The pirates then launch a victory celebration in the Parade of Pirates. 

We, unfortunately, were in a matinee when all the official events took place, but some of the actors threw in a couple of pirate references during the show, which was pretty funny. When we broke for dinner, I definitely saw a lot of people on the streets dressed as pirates… here’s one blurry picture I took from the car:

Things had pretty much wound down by the time we got out of the evening show and there were mostly a lot of really drunk pirates roaming the streets. Brian and I decided to escape downtown and instead went the Cheesecake Factory by the hotel for some cocktails.

The theater here in Tampa is even more enormous than in Fort Lauderdale, although not quite as new and beautiful. The show fits well backstage though, and runs much the same as in Fort Lauderdale. It will be a shock to head to Naples next week, which is apparently a tiny theater in comparison.

Brian’s replacement was hired this week. He starts with us next week in Naples. I will miss Brian so much when he goes! Hopefully the new guy, Jovon, will be just as nice.

Yesterday was our day off and Brian, Ryan (one of our stage carpenters) and I headed off to Disneyworld. We had a great time, but I think it deserves it’s own entry, so look for pictures from Orlando next time…