When Jo Jo comes marching home again...

So - we're back. I'll tell ya all about the trip when I get there... but I have to say I'm pretty darn excited about where we are looking with casting right now. Fingers crossed that all the t's and i's get dotted on contracts...and then I'll tell ya all about 'em. I will have you know that there WAS a whole extra blog which certain Pack Leaders didn't manage to get posted while we were away - so the good news is that I'm actually 'stock piling' blogs at this point which I hope means we are moving well in the catchup department. I have SO MUCH to get done in the next two weeks that it's gonna be tough - but i'm determined to get this thing back in the present tense.

On the stage-side of things, the show was coming together. It was just A LOT. This much group stuff really meant a lot more complicated staging...more harmony to go wrong...and exponentially more for everyone to remember. So - we were now in full-swing of our insane schedule. After the fun and frolic of the fourth the cast was rehearsing full days and then performing at night. The person that this was the toughest for, believe it or not, was energizer bunny Jordan. He was just going at everything with full force, twenty four seven. He's awfully young - and a guys voice doesn't fully settle until your in your twenties. And because this was really one of his first jobs AND because he's never lived through the hell of rep or summer-stock before, it was really hard for him to take it easy in rehearsals. He wants to give his all every time - which is fantastic for a director - but not so fantastic for your vocal chords. So we ALLL had to start policing him and make sure he wasn't pushing himself because after the first few full length days I noticed he was sounding a little bit tired. So - despite some major pouting he was put on as much vocal rest as we could manage to get him to do. Which was kind of like getting Bob Barker to not talk about getting your pets spayed and neutered.

While we were 'blitzing' the war-show, the Pack Leader was decending slowly into linen hell. Rich, more than...well...most sane mortals, is relatively obsessed with wrinkleless linens. If you go to most restaurants you will see that their linens often have four creases in them becuase they come folded that way from the linen service. The Pack Leader did not like this. So we had ordered our own linens. Which took over Rich's entire existence on the planet. Basically his entire day, night and sleeping pattern were dictated by the preparation of these things for the next evening's performance. And very often, even while the audience were still socializing and filtering out, he and Janice would start zippng about like laundry droids, spraying each table with Spray and Wash to zap the stains...then gather them all..then into the washing machine...and the 18 cycle of insanity started again. You had to watch them like a hawk because if they were left in the dryer after it buzzed for even .0000001 of a second they would crease and have to be ironed. So, the pack leader, for the next eight weeks almost solidly slept in the living room, six feet from the dryer which would wake him up every time it buzzed...he would spread out the linen...try to go back to sleep until the next load buzzed again.

WASH AND FOLD...GETTING OLD laundry-rich.JPG

NO WRINKLES. ON THE TABLECLOTH, AT LEAST. linens-1-rich.JPG

Literally for eight weeks the poor dude looked like a character from "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown"

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While we were rehearsing every day we'd just see this white blur zooming around accompanied by a strange moaning sound. "Whoosh...flutter...arghgh....whoosh...flutter...argh". Also immortalized by one of the summer's most memorable quotes: Jordan: Hey Rich, how are you? Rich: I'm drowning in linens. (I believe "Drowning in Linen" is soon to be a Lifetime Movie of the Week with Valerie Burtenelli playing Rich. I, of course, am played by Vin Diesel).

Midway through the week Rich DID have to abandon his precious white wasteland in order to attend our excise hearing. This was the big day that we would find out if our liquor license would be granted. At last... And it WAS. Hooray... because no matter how good those kids were... it's always better when the audience is a little lubricated. NOT because the audience is rendered incapable of detemining if it's good or not - but because it helps the crowd relax in a setting where they are very much involved. In a normal show if the audience is quiet - it's sucky for the performers - but you don't feel like you're drowning. In cabaret they are as much part of the energy of the show as what's happening onstage. Largely because you're interacting with them the entire time. Normally onstage you're looking at your scene partner - or imagining something in front of you... with cabaret you're looking RIGHT AT THEM. And they're looking AT you looking AT them.

So with the license granted we were able to put in the first order for the hooch. This wasn't really as easy as we had anticipated. One weird thing about certain service businesses in the area is once you have a relationship with you - you're fine. But UNTIL then - it ain't so easy. These people put the "Hunt" in the Huntington. You have to chase them. People just don't seem to BELIEVE that you really want what you're asking them for. Maybe because business are failing quickly in this economy - they take a 'wait and see' attitude? I dunno. But some times it's really tricky to get people to deal with you. And then once they decide you're legit - they're great. When Rich first tried to place the bar order - to set up the ENTIRE bar (so not like a tiny order...not like 'oh i'll have a mini-bar sized Jack Daniels and we'll call it a day") the guy said "well if I show up are you going to buy anything?" Which we just find kind of hysterical. As if we call up delivery people and ask them to come buy just cuz we're kind of lonely. We had the same problem (for five months) with the Coke people. To the point where we just gave up and are ordering Pepsi.

Anyway - Rich was eventually able to convince people that he did, indeed, want to BUY liquor - not just, y'know, shoot the breeze with the distributor. And you can't just drive somewhere and pick the stuff up. Because you HAVE to buy it from a distributor (which I never knew) it's all tracked and schtuff so ya gotta think ahead, order what you need, anticipate what you're gonna run out of....and hope. Of cousre this is all stuff that falls in my purview of responsibility and organizational skill. Ha. And, the first order was set to arrive that Friday. Which meant that Rich had about 24 hours - from Wednesday night, Thursday all day ( the only night that we didn't have a show) until Friday evening - - to make a working bar area.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Yah. No. i'm serious.

In anticipation of the liquor's arrival - and I THINK this no coincidence - the bar was invaded by Eckerts. While the actors were Packing Up Their Troubles, Madge and Claire arrived to lend a major hand to the Pack Leader getting the bar into some kind of fighting shape for service. The room did not have to be aesthetically impressive this summer... not a functional bar where patrons come up and order drinks. (That's actually what we're working on now). But for the summer Rich basically had to have a place where all the beverages could be prepared and picked up by the servers. It would be in full view of a large portion of the audience - but from a distance. So it had to be nice. So we needed Eckerts :) The other thing was that we couldn't serve liquor from anywhere other than that area - because that's where the license had been approved for prep and service. So the floor - the walls - and the giant cave like opening had to be transformed in a very short period of time. Very, very short. It was kinda crazeeee.

Rich had been struggling with trying to sand the floor using a big sander thingy which had been in the buildling when we arrived. The sanding pads (even when replaced with new ones) didn't really cut mustard and just kind of gunked up. So he rented one of the gigantinormous ones and the girls went at it.

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And apparently there is legally some kind of required floor sanding footwear:

CROCK AROUND THE CLOCK crocs-on-floor.jpg

Heck - they are comfy.

Then Rich started staining the newly sanded floor. The stain color had been a little bit of a tricky decision - but he eventually settled on a really dark ebony stain which I loved and, since there wasn't any wood in the lobby itself - it actually tied in really nicely with all the dark browns and blacks. (This ebony stain proved a little tricky to locate actually - Minwax makes it but they don't seem to package it in the larger containers...so Rich was trying to stain a whole floor using baby food jar-sized tins of stain!). The floor also had some rough spots - and it really did a nice job of maximizing the assets and minimizing the flaws. He went to work using this scrubby brushy thing that looked more like something on a pole you should be scrubbing your dishes with than 'brushing'. But we do what the folks at the hardware store tell us to do. I actually did relief pitching for Rich at one point during our lunch break from rehearsal - and I gotta say this was NOT easy. The 'brush' didn't hold any liquid - and you really were scrubbing it into the floor. It wasn't at all like the simple sponge application of stain you'd normally do. This was actual real physical effort. But he got it done - and the result is very nice. It's not polyurethaned yet (yup...still) so we think we might hit it with another coat and then do the poly in a day or two.

The Eckert gals apparently were inspired by our rehearsals of Rosie the Riveter - and basically banished the over-worked, over-extended Pack Leader and told him they would get the bar area done. Themselves. Which I figured meant Margaret just wanted to paint everything brown... but I was wrong. They went to work right after the 'curtain came down' (like we HAVE a curtain...ha!) on Thursday night and started moving faster than the speed of light. Claire does NOT screw around. Claire brings her OWN power tools. I mean, Margaret is tireless and amazing... but Claire is kind of like Margaret rewired as The Terminator. Together they make the entire team from Extreme Home Makeover look like a preschool class sticking lego up their nose. These gals were SERIOUS. They're intention was to work through the night and get it down ready for the next day so that the floor could be stained and dry in time for use. They seriously sent us to bed.

But - late in the evening Margaret got a phone call from home and Larry had passed out. He'd been feeling under the weather for about a week - and he had fainted. So - the plans had to be readjusted - the girls went to check on Larry - and returned first thing in the morning.

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While the actors and I rehearsed that morning in the Lobby Margaret and Claire just whizzed and banged and zoomed and whacked away and would fly in and out of the auditorium carrying lumber. I think the Eckert's were beavers in a former life. Claire apparently figured out the entire design to make the new archway out of George's cave entrance. I had no understanding of what they were doing - but apparently they were kind of wrapping the wall - boxing it in with six by nine and making a clean/crisp archway entrance. And they did... did you ever doubt. In a couple of hours - there was an amazing arch. It looked so perfect. And - as the hours of the day ticked by, they wasted no time in getting down to paint. Time was so crunched that they were crafty enough to only paint the walls which the audience could see - not the ones on the opposite face from their viewpoint! I cannot BELIEVE how much they got done in one day - but by the time the audience arrived the walls were painted - the arch was fully constructed and painted (to match the original wall - blending it perfectly together) - the floor was stained and the whole thing looked like it had always belonged there. Sure, there was a whole lot of work to do in there after the summer season was over. But right now - Rich had a great service area to work from.

And, that afternoon as the area was being set up with glasses an coolers and tables and ice and soda... we had our first delivery. The beer was the first to arrive (the wine took an additional week) - and, after all that lost revenue, it was a very welcome sight. Paricularly welcome to Issac who felt that the bar needed an official 'poison tester'.

"NOTHING TO FEAR BUT BEER ITSELF" liquor-arrives.jpg

On the performance end of things, we were chugging along nicely. It was just a whole lot of stuff - with so much more group material it was so much more staging - more harmony - more to keep in the databanks. And the girls were doing a phenominal job adapting the Andrews Sisters from three parts to two - but it still took a whole lot of tie and rehearsal for them to get solid. Hysterically both of the girls had done Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy before at other venues - but had both learned the harmony part that we DIDN'T need. So they were RElearning which is way harder sometimes than learning from scratch! We also were having some challenges with a tap section in Boogie Woogie Bugle boy that Rich had thought I was insane to try and incorporate from the beginning. Jordan had mentioned when we were first speaking to him about joining him that he was "about the most fab tapper you're ever seen". As it transpired he might be the most fab tapper which Stevie Wonder has ever seen. I mean - that's not fair... but it's not UNFAIR :) The real problem was the stage was very small, which meant that it had to be very concentrated, quick sounding tap - rather than a lot of travelling and acrobatic stuff. So it required great precision. And we kept experimenting with it - finally realizing that a big part of the problem had been the accompanimnet of the dance break - so Timmy pared the orchestration on that down bigtime. And Jordan worked his butt off... and we'd see.

Rich wasn't at all convinced that the opening number was the right choice. It was a medley of World War One songs. They were, for the most part, very familiar tunes, and I thought it was a good idea to reassure the audience that we were going to sing things they knew. The world war one songs are also not very 'actable' - they are fun songs - but not really things that need to be sung in their entirety - they work well in a medley. It also seemed better to start with the WWI stuff to and try - in general - to progress forward through history - which is how I was trying to structure my script. But the Pack Leader wasn't convinced... he thought we should open with the Army Life Medley (that inluded "This is the Army") and was a little more, for want of a better term, fun.

We also had a little challenge due to the changing nature of the use of words over the last hundred years. This caused a problem in the opening sequence because in the first line of the first song we had Colleen singing "up to mighty london came an Irish man one day... as the streets are paved with gold sure everyone was gay"...which then led right into Pack up Your Troubles which had them singing "While you've a lucifer to Light your Fag". So we had gay and fag in the first thirty seconds of our show... and it WASN'T MY FAULT. I didn't write the freakin' songs. Seriously kids - those WWI guys LOVED the word gay...everybody's gay. Gay gay. And since we were pretty sure that most people wouldn't know what they meant by 'fag' or 'lucifer' I had to root around and try and find some alternate lyrics. Which - luckily - I did. There was an American version of the lyrics released which said "Don't let your joy and laughter ever sag"... so we went with that. But of course we were getting very close to opening night - and they had to learn new words. Which posed the dangerous possibility of them going blank and loudly singing "la la la la Fag!" Which would not be an optimal situation.

xo jojo.