ReMax-imum Overdrive

Thanks you guys for your 'get better' wishes. I'm feeling significantly improved. Not 100% but about 87% I'd say with an occasional chance for showers. So. That's good. The ENT dude was probably right - Eustachian tube/allergy fubar-ness. So - I'm taking Vicadin much less often (largely because every time I take one Janice freaks out because she thinks I'm gonna end up like Whitney Houston). I'm gonna get this thing updated as much as I can in the next, say four hours, cuz Rich and I are headed to NY to cast the Xmas show. And yup - how pathetic is it that the blog is so far behind the summer show hasn't opened yet, and we're casting the next one. Pretty lame. It's gonna get fixed. Particularly since i keep getting threatening text messages from a former Notre Dame football player who gets to snap my head off every week... and if there's someone you don't want to piss off - it's your chiropractor. Hell - the man already electrocutes me.

BTW I've been told you're pissed there aren't more pictures. I'm really sorry. Unfortunately I can't CREATE pictures that don't exist - and with so much stress going on and so much to do I wasn't very good about lugging the Nikon around during the first couple of weeks the actors were around. They DID however take lots of pics and I'll use those when I can. I do really apologize though - and I think I'm gonna ask Santa to bring me a dinky little digital camera that I can just carry around in my pocket most of the time so that I can document things more frequently. It's easy when your renovating - less when you're zooming around all over the place. And - to be honest - sleepy actors rehearsing in sweatpants looks pretty much the same every day. Maybe I'll start doing costume themed rehearsals just to keep things interesting next time. Also some people are peeved I'm not dating the blogs. Sorry. When I'm caught up I'll date them again - but right now looking at the date I'm writing about is just tooooo depressing. :)

But - I DID forget to share one picture with you last time... from George's party. I told you i didn't have any pictures of George's insane tricked out barn... but Katie did get a picture of she and I in the AWESOME Treehouse. Which is nicer than most New York apartments.

KATIE AND JO JO SITTING IN A TREE. tree-house.jpg

Okey dokey. So. Technical rehearsal. When we added those fun floor lights to turn the back wall different colors we had one little problem. We had no colors with which to do that. See, we hadn't planned on any sort of back light - which normally involves really saturated colors... so I hadn't ordered any. I mean when you're lighting people from the front you don't want them to turn solid green. Unless you don't like them. I actually know a stage manager who got pissed off at a famous leading lady once on tour and everywhere they toured he handed the follow spot operator a green gel and told him only to use it on the star. Payback's a bitch. Anyway. The good thing was that Rich already had to run an errand that afternoon to the Guitar Center, so he could pic up one of their little 'DJ pacs of gel' which are meant for nightclubs - so they are all saturated colors and we could choose from those. The BAD news was the REASON he had to go to the Guitar Center. All of a sudden that morning when we were working with the microphones they kept shorting out. The sound would just stop. The speaker was working - because the keyboard sound came through. But the mics weren't. At first we were freaking out that something was wrong with the mics. So we would switch them around different cords. Finally when we realized that a short cord hooked directly to the board was working with all the mics Jordan and Tim realized that the problem WAS the cords. And not just one of them. Rich had purchased a bunch of long mic cords through a sound company on the internet and they were all starting to get glitchy. And we'd only been using them for like two days. This was not good. And we had no time to send them back and get new ones. Which meant we HAD to replace them locally. So Rich had to go the guitar center and get new cords.

Which cost $700.

Yup.

Ow. Ow. Ow. Still makes me a little nauseous to think about it. It was a huge unexpected expense and, with no bar sales for the first week, it ate into our budget more than a little. Ah well.

But - the Pack Leader zipped to Fort Wayne and back and bought a bunch of other stuff and we by that evening we were ready to tech the show. At this point Rich was very tired. Very very tired. And I was very tired. And things were not super cuddly. I REALLY like tech - I like futzing around with lights and getting things perfect and finicking. Rich does not like tech. Rich likes to get THROUGH tech. Particularly when he had so much other stuff to attend to. So, basically for the first time in my life i had to tech a musical in three hours. I mean, it was like 9:00 when we started - the actors had to perform the next day - there were thousands of things still left to do before the audience walked in. We just had to get it done. Which made it stressful. The great news was that despite the fact we had less lights than we had originally planned - the set up worked beautifully and gave us far more variety than I'd expected. Rich is actually really good at lighting - and I've never really done a show where he was creating the way the lights looked... Finally by the end of the stressful marathon we determined that the best way to proceed during the next show would be to just let him get on with it. I would tinker a little and ask for changes here and there - but he was a whole lot happier, it went a whole lot faster, and I was just as happy with the result, when we just left him to himself up in his little perch to get on with it.

Another really great thing was that Jordan had a guest visiting for the day - a friend of his from school in NY who happened to also be from Lafayette - not that far away. Which was GREAT - because she was kind of a 'focus group'.

The actors were actually incredibly awesome that night. We worked until about eleven thirty... zipping through songs that didn't have lighting changes. We didn't have Tim, so they were doing everything without a piano. We plied them with chinese food and they were actually really kind of jazzed to see the lobby finally start to feel like a performance space. She had grown up in the area - and knew what people had been exposed to - and she said they were going to be blown away. Which - was really nice to hear. Lights always make all the difference - and the sound seemed to be working pretty darn well. Rich got a handle on the sound stuff really quickly and we set reverb levels and effects and stuff super quickly. We had experimented with a whole bunch of different speakers and finally ended up with two at the side of the stage and then two tiny "surround sound" speakers that were hooked up to fill out the sound in the outer lobby. For those, luckily, we were able to use the super-fun underground conduit which Larry and George had run before the carpet went down...We couldn't use it for the lights this time - but we were happy that all that effort hadn't been completely wasted after all.

So - with enormous gratitude - we bid the kids goodnight. It was just SO much to get done. We were trying to open a show for the first time. Trying to open a 'theatre' for the first time. Lights and sound for the first time. A restaurant for the first time. It was NERTZ. Rich was was burning the candle at both ends - and just about ready to lose his mind. And I'm always very hyper and tightly wound before openings and it really felt like a huge amount of pressure. I mean we were inventing something out of nothing. And basically making up the rules. And just kind of praying that people would like it. I had no idea if the audience was going to be receptive to the material. Or the entire cabaret kind of atmosphere. And we didn't have liquor to get them relaxed before the show. And I didn't know if they would like me narrating. And I HATE performing. It terrifies me - and that alone had me freaking out.

Oh yeah, and earlier that day: Blame Canada got cut. It just wasn't right. We had worked our butts off on it - and as a result it was the most staged and complicated number in the entire show - and it just, now, looked OVER-done. Like we were trying way too hard to make it work. It was, as I was once taught by a professor at USC, "putting ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag". Crude...but very potent advice.

So the day the show opened we were pretty much like ticking bombs. Now to CLARIFY - this was not our public opening date. The awesome ladies from Remax, as you might remember so long ago booked the night BEFORE our opening for a private event. But official opening or not - it was a packed house and they were going to be the first "word on the street'. Despite everything that Rich still had to handle in terms of the Supper part of the Supper Club we still had to get through the show from top to bottom for the first time before the audience arrived. The show (according to my calculations) was now supposed to last just about an hour-and-a-half. And that was about all the time Rich had in the day to give us to do a dress rehearsal because there was so much more to do. The tables had to be set out - the linens had to be ironed - the silverware - the seating assignments - TONS. So we had to get through this quickly.

On top of all of this crap... As we were trying to hurtle through the show... stopping as little as possible (for the sake of the schedule and my personal health)... the doorbell kept ringing. And ringing. And ringing. It was like a bad episode of I Love Lucy. Except profoundly not funny. First it was Fed Ex. The UPS. Then the florist (awwww...but still arghghghg). Then another florist (I'm so not kidding). We were now running over our allotted time and we had to get through it and the doorbell rang AGAIN. It was the mayor. Mayor Updike loves the theatre. He loves it. We love that he loves it. Any time anyone from out of town shows up he wants to show them the theatre. Anytime. And today...was a time. (Actually the time before we were in the middle of rehearsal and he and the guests kind of stood there for ten minues watching us like we were a National Geographic documentary). This time I had to send the poor guy away. I was like "Steve... love ya... mean it. NOT NOWWWWWW BUDDY". We were so stressed out we're kind of lucky it didn't end up like that singing telegram scene in 'Clue'.

Back to work. Gotta get through it... gotta get through... DING. Yup - again. I open the door and some woman is standing there and I've never seen. And we're like WHAT THE FREAKING HECK DO YOU WAAANNNNNTTT WOMAN???

"I'm from the excise police. I need to do your surprise inspection".

Well - that's not exactly something we were in a position to put off. Because a) we wanted our hearing to go through without a hitch. And b) because you don't really tell the police to buzz off. So we put on the brakes and the pack leader dealt with that for half an hour. The actors and I kept busy touching up bits and pieces.

TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK.... is-it-time2.JPG

The police said everything was A-ok...whoo hooo. And we got back to work. And got through it. There was a show. A beginning a middle and an end. And we got through it. Who knows if anybody was gonna like it or not...but it existed. Which was something.

It was now seriously down to the wire. Like, seriously. This is what the lobby looked like an hour before people started arriving...

before-auditince-arrived.JPG

The waitresses arrived before we had even finished running the dress rehearsal. But - the actors scuttled off to their dinner break and, with all hands on deck - the Pack Leader started unfurling tablecloths at the speed of light. Jean Anne started setting up the kitchen - at which point all the fuses blew in that storefront. Which makes it tricky to keep food cold...or hot. Rich had to stop everything and, after a consult with Larry, realized the problem could not be solved in a matter of minutes - and we started running extension cords up the stairs to our apartment to draw power for the warming pans. The bar, for the moment, was curtained off with a jerry-rigged - but very nicely executed - black drape which Janice had stitched up. Because we had no liquor, (and the doorway to the bar still looked like something the Kool Aid guy creates when he knocks through a wall) the soft drinks and water were all going to be bussed from the kitchen area as well. Tables were set... mailing lists and pens were placed... plates went in the freezer for the salad... vaccuums were a-buzzing. it was... truly...completely insane.

I showered and got into my monkey suit - beginning the longest period of my entire life when I have had to wear a tie since I was 16 at school. Because Tim lives forty minutes from the theatre, and because rehearsals ended at five thirty and the show was at seven-ish... it was pointless for Tim to drive home every night. So this was the first night of Tim's new schedule too. He had decided that he would take advantage of the time to practice things, go through the material for each evenings performance - and also to be working on harmony and stuff for the next show. This was a great idea. Really great. What was NOT a great idea was where the piano was. It was in Jean Anne's kitchen area. Right next to the doorway. Right next to where the drinks station was. So the entire first night during the meal portion of the evening - with eighty people zooming around with a look of panic on their face every time they got behind the curtain to the kitchen - in a scene that looked a little like "Armageddon the musical!" we had Tim, with his headphones in, merrily tinkling on the ivories like Nero with his fiddle looking happy as a clam. Jean Anne was night delighted by the ergonomics of this arrangement. We fixed it the next night - but for Remax night... it was an issue.

And thus... in they came... I actually only managed to get one picture of the audience at the Supper Club - and it happened to be this first night as people were settling in... it's not great... but it's something:

YOU THINK THIS IS BLURRY? - YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN OUR EYES. first-night.JPG

And food started to go out...

And the actors arrived for the first time to prepare in their glamorous dressing room. Or, rather, our apartment. See there was nowhere else for them to get ready. The old managers office didn't have a bathroom and there was no egress in and out once the audience was seated on that side of the lobby. The bar was now...the bar. And the other storefront was now Jean Anne's kitchen area. So - our apartment it was.

OPENING FRIGHT NIGHT oopenng-night.JPG

Which provided them with the calming influence of a manic wiener dog as their dresser. Actually Po has never been happier. Every night for eight weeks she had a bunch of people imprisoned with her for forty five minutes that had to pay attention to her. Of course she also had to wear the collar of death. See - dachshunds bark. They just do. Bark bark bark. Particularly when they hear really really fun stuff going on downstairs and lots of people and smell fifty meatloaves. They're like "Yo...hellllooooo I'm here..... and I LIKE meatloaf people!!!!". So Po was going to bark. Which meant she had to have her barky collar. Which is a little thing that beeps when she barks and warns her and then if she keeps barking it shocks her. Yeah - I know - we suck. But in a NY apartment you have to have one or your neighbours kill you. And she was used to it. BUT somehow, in recent weeks, even without thumbs she had managed to HIDE the collar of death. It was nowhere. I figured it was just under the bed or something and the day of the show I looked and looked and searched. And started to panic. (Oh, great...MORE panic)... because it was nowhere. So I ran to Walmart and PRAYED that they had barky collars because if they didn't we had no choice but to get Po high on Nyquil. They did. And, I can promise you after some highly scientific accidental self-testing. It works.

So the lights were wired up. The sound was wired up. And Po was wired up. Time to do the show... OMG.

The one good thing I will say about me being PART of the shows is that I'm SOOO terrified before the performances about my crap that I don't have time to bother the actors about THEIR crap. I was really pretty darn sure they were gonna be fine... I was very concerned I was going to TANK. But - we did it. As it was with every one of the shows that followed - the first night we felt a little bit like deer in headlights. Nothing in particular went wrong - we were just all freakin' scared. Particularly at the very beginning...because we rapidly realized at the very start that the AUDIENCE was scared. People in NY are used to cabaret - they're used to what it is. People in Huntington were not accustomed to being seated 12 inches away from four people belting at the top of their lungs. So when Katie first came on and started wailing "Let the River Run" on top of them they looked a little bit like they were somewhat concerned that she was going to eat them. Not abject terror - but certainly grave concern. Luckily - after a couple of songs, they relaxed A LOT. And - so we learned - for the first week or so (until word spread, or the season subscribers returned for the second show) that we were just going to have to accept their fear for the first five minutes. Word must have spread though - because the problem rapidly decreased as the days went on. Also - as the days went on - we got alcohol. Also very handy.

And - we did it. It was a little like being duct taped to the outside of a jumbo jet - but we did it. The actors were great. No one killed anyone else with a mic cord (much) and I managed to not suck too bad. I was a tense however. The more nervous I was, the more I started to sound like a college professor - academic rather than casual and engaging. So I really had to work on not being James Lipton. But at the end of the night - a standing ovation - and enormous relief.

opening-night.JPG

We seemed most prone to the double-dutch disaster in the final number (which admittedly had the most choreography). As the evenings progressed they were most prone entanglemnet during "Get Happy".

gethappy2.JPG

And - the first night - as every night - surprisingly EVERYBODY'S favorite number was the Bond medley...

bond-shot.JPG

We had done it. That was the great part...we knew we actually had some kind of a show - and we knew that the audience, at least the first audience, had liked it. A lot. So - it seemed our shot in the dark guess-work as to what to give this audience had worked.

After we survived the first show, it was time for the first meal. It was in the actor's contract that every show-night they also got to have the same meal as the audience. Jean Anne would leave us a mess of food and we'd all sit together afterwards and wind down. I really loved it, actually. We're not doing it again, because it was kind of a hassle - not being able to get everything put away at once - and the extra food and stuff... but the nice part was that we really got to sit together after every show and relax and laugh and evaluate. And so - that night - we had the very first of our eleven nights of meatloaf and lasagna. And I'm very happy to say, that it was soo yummy that I'm NOT sick of meatloaf OR lasagna. I actually kind of miss it. Weird.

FIRST SUPPER after-show-dinner.jpg

Ok... we're not doing bad... baby steps, kids... baby steps. Thanks for bearing with me.

xoxoxo jojo.