I don't have a lot of pictures for the beginning of this blog. Sorrrrry... I feel bad. Now that the booze was flowing - or rather, since we only had beer at the moment - fizzing? - the servers had a whole new bunch 'o crud to deal with. And frankly I'm soooo glad that I wasn't trying to juggle that stuff. Before the servers had simply had to manage soda orders and bus the food to the correct locale - as the bar started becoming more and more stocked things got a whole lot more complicated for Rich and our fantastic servers. The first day or two was pretty stressful for them - so i think it worked out well that the beverage availability was kinda staggered over time for them to adjust. The whole place was starting to work like routine now.... linens, linens, linens and then we all got pretty used to laying out pens and mailing lists and all that fun stuff. Every so often somebody would forget to the light the candles - but that was about as bad as it got. Janice had become the true master of napkin folding. We went with a method that Tricia (Margaret's daughter) taught us from a restaurant where she used to serve. And Janice was sooo good at it - her napkins were crisp and stood in formation perfectly. The rest of us had varying degrees of success - mine and Lindsay's tended to be a little too poofy. I didn't have the gift. :(
Rich also worked on this insanely hysterical time table which would have given me hives if I'd tried to cut things that close. The doors opened at six (he wants them open at five this winter and we're...DISCUSSING it - (which means I'll lose))..but anyway - the doors open at six. At, and I'm so not kidding, at five fifty he would stop running around and getting everything set (the bar set up each night was no small task since the lemonade, drinking water and several coolers of ice had to be carted over from Nick's Kitchen) he'd run upstairs and somehow ALWAYS by no later than 6:01 he was downstairs having showered, shaved, and dressed in his suit and tie. It was insane - Clark Kent doesn't get out of a phone booth that fast. Yah, his hair was wet - but whatever.
Very happily we've now got an ice machine from the Home Depot which will save those annoying trips back and forth each night - and also the bar will be plumbed so the water won't be an issue either. So that should shave probably a good twenty minutes off of the Pack Leader's preshow madness. The craziness of his schedule did mean that certain little things were in danger of getting missed - so Jo Jo got a little check list that he was responsible for taking care of before I went upstairs for my sequestered pre-show script perusal. I had to make sure the speakers were on... the palm lights had been switched on... the back door (which the waiters had to use for access to the house lights (we're gonna try and get those all wired to one place soon) and a few other things... But, for instance if that door was locked, it meant that before the show started Rich had to clamber off of the railing where his booth was located...squeeze through a teeny space around people trying to enjoy their meal, and get the lights himself. It wasn't good.
We also now had fallen into a very nice post-show routine. We kind of discovered by accident that people really liked speaking to the actors after the show. By the end of the summer we had somehow fallen into some bizarre system of a pseudo wedding reception line where people would naturally line up to kvel (Yiddish word of the day) over the performers. Katie's bum got squeezed a couple times. Jordan was told by someone that he 'was so beautiful that I had to stop looking at you" (watch him eat a Twizzler... the romance fades :)). No matter how hard we tried we couldn't make certain people understand that the show was NEW. People couldn't really believe that the four of them hadn't been travelling around together for years - a merry band of minstrels singing songs from Flashdance. Which always made me slightly confused about their perception of my role in the proceedings - perhaps they thought they just rolled into town and put in a classified ad for a hyperactive confirmed bachelor with an uncanny knowledge of obscure music trivia? it was odd.
But the love was astounding - So many people were thanking US for choosing Huntington - which was nutty since we should be thanking them for buying tickets. My favorite comment of the summer was one gentleman who came up to me and consipratorially said "That was the best night out I've had in Huntington in forty five years". I didn't have the guts - but I STILL want to know what happened 45 years ago that was so great? Something tells me it might have happened in the back row of our balcony. Speaking of which - I recently learned that Dr. Dereks first kiss was in the fourth row of our balcony. I'm going to be erecting a plaque. And probably making sure I never run a black light over that row. Eeep. The occasional silver-haired sweety would also enquire whether Rich and I were brothers.
Actually speaking of Derek - he happened to be in the audience the night of my complete and total worst performance of the summer. It THINK it was the last night prior to my abandoning all waitering duties.
((OOoo ooo phone just rang - I THINK we just nailed down the final winter cast member....so - tentative who hoo. I never relax until we actually have the contracts in our hands. But feeling good...)
Ok.. so back to the Derek night. I was more hyper than usual and the show was feeling a little ookey for some reason (nothing the audience would be able to tell) but I was just distracted. And the thing is that the Pack Leader slightly reconfigured the space every night to arrange the correct configurations of tables and seating. During the first week he had never really altered the area around my perch, right in front of the stage. I had a music stand on my left and my chair was right next to there - I just kind of swerved between a couple of tables of two, on and off the stage with my mic and then sat back down. Well - somehow, this night, Rich for the first time had needed to shift my seat slightly. My setup was exactly the same as normal just slid about two feet more to one side. And with the stage lights shining you really can't see very well where you're going. And I stepped off the stage very early on the in the show, and happily plopped back down in my seat. Except my seat was no longer where I thought it was. My butt only landed on about an inch of chair and I fell ass over tip flat on my butt. Whomp. Taking my music stand with me and nearly decapitating a very nice woman. This was not unpainful. And it completely freaked me out. Plus Derek and Larry were in the audience and I think Larry is still laughing about it. A lot. He was giggling like a girl in church for the whole rest of the show.
i however was not giggling and was totally thrown for a loop. I was really wound tighter than a swiss clock. And we reached a point in my script where I'm talking about "Mrs. Robinson" and I tell the audience that the song was originally about Mrs. Roosevelt. Except I grew up in a British colony and went to a British school where they say ROOOOOZEvelt. Not 'rose' like the flower. Which the cast and Rich had told me over and over in rehearsal I COULD NOT say because I sounded like a boob. Well I was still so freaked out that when I reached this point i SAID Rooooooosevelt and then caught myself. And was so mad at myself that I started kind of raving in a slightly deranged way about 'not being from America and I can't pronounce these names and it's not my fault and I apologize to the entire nation". In my head I thought I was being kind of goofy and funny about it. Rich did not feel this way. He was very convinced that I sounded relatively deranged...
and since I didn't explain myself well I made it sound like I wasn't even AMERICAN (which of course, I am...I just didn't grow up here). So now I'm probably on some terrorist watch list. And of course, it gave the Pack Leader one more reason to be thrilled with me that week. Wheee.
Of course - it's live theatre - and these things happen. Katie, in her upcoming exciting guest blog, will tell you all about some of Tim's more amusing moments too. Katie, in particular had found a great, great liking for direct interaction with the audience and, when she felt the show was going particularly well, would begin a rather odd strem-of-consciousness interraction with them and me that was often unexpected. At one point I asked her is she was auditioning to replace Kelly Rippa! Jordan, however, had realized that he could gain maximum adorableness by sort of running a animated commetary of expressions behind me while i was speaking - which I only learned after I watched video of the shows! Our favorite person during my blurbs, however, was Timmy who - despite being quarantined off in the boondocks, gave full-show energy with gusto and always would animatedly react to every one of my fun-facts and jokes as if he'd never heard them before. :) Of course Timbo is easily distracted...so maybe he HADN'T heard some of them before?
After several days of bullying, Jordan had managed to rest his voice far more than he wanted to. And very steadily he started to sound a lot more comfortable in the evenings. The upper notes in his range were coming far easier now and the light purity of tone was back too. Yay. This was fortuitous, since not only were we opening the War Show soon... Jordan was about to sing more than any of us had ever anticipated.
We were just about wrapped with the movie show. We had all consumed about 21,000 meatloaves and lasanga, and were all rather excited about the prospect of chicken pot pie! Despite Jo Jo having some distinct issues with the video camera (SOUND is always helpful when recording a cabaret) - I had taped the show twice not realize there was no audio - by the final night we had the problem solved and were able to get at least one good record of the show. The night the first show closed was actually really emotional. Rich and I were getting along better...I was less concerned that Po and I were going to have to live in the Shit Box for the rest of our lives. Ok - Po wouldn't have had to live in the Shit Box. I'd be on my own. The audiences had been incredible - we'd had a pile of standing ovations - and we kind of knew that we could at least DO what we had told people we intended to. The other shows were going to be a pile of work - but the running of the restaurant portion...and the set up of the tech and the troubleshooting was pretty much solved. Now we just had to put on the new show...not put up a new THEATRE. :) So it was very sad to say goodbye to the Muppets and the Maniacs and PARTICULARLY the Bond medley... but we felt pretty darn confident about having a clear 24 hours to tidy up the war show... sharpen up a little tap dancing... and light the war show. We were ready. All systems go. I was, practically, ready to hang up a banner that said "Mission Accomplished".
Well we all know how well THOSE banners work out.
24 hours before the War Show opened. Remember, the show that I told you had so much more harmony - group stuff - so much more for the ensemble to do? Yah. Remember that one? 24 hours before "Over There's" opening night, everything changed. All our 'Oh yeah, we're ready". Poof. Isaac, for personal reasons, had to leave us and go back to Boston. The day before the show opening, when we normally would just be running through everything and doing the lights and sound... we had to rethink EVERYTHING. Honestly, we weren't even sure it could be done. How do you take something that you've rehearsed musically for two weeks with four part harmony - and staged - and memorized - and just redo it.
The answer, apparently, is make sure you have three most freakishly amazing people in your cast to accomplish it. Frankly the only piece of music I think that we all FELT like singing was the theme to Mission Impossible.
The morning this all went down phone calls were flying back and forth before rehearsal even started. Katie was like "we can't... can't be done... no way...can't can't". Then, three minutes after we arrived to start rehearsal, Katie just did it. Somehow we managed to be fortunate enough to have four people in a room who were just too nuts to realize that impossible meant... impossible. Frankly, if they hadn't all been remarkably skilled at reading music...we would have just had to lay down and die I think. We sat there...shaky and feeling like we were duct taped to the Titanic, and just started with the stuff we thought was the hardest. And somehow...someway...every single thing we'd been sure we would have to cut or just change completely - they made work. Jordan is a freak. Plain old scary talented monster freak. The kid reads music faster than a six-year old Mozart and you could practically just watch the wheels zooming around in his brain as he would go "Ok...I'll sing this part...then I'll jump to this part...then this part...they need this note....now I can do this part". I've honestly never in my entire career see anything or anyone like it. It wasn't just that he COULD do it - that he had the vocal talent to SING a bass and a tenor line... AND that he could read the music and process what the girls needed to fill out the harmony...It was that HE COULD do it so quickly AND remember it. Instantly. It wasn't like we had to drill and drill and drill stuff over to relearn and erase the stuff we'd been doing for two weeks. They just did it.
Even the most complicated things that had incredibly close harmony like "Rosie the Riveter" they managed to chart though in like ten minutes. The biggest challenge, the four part a capella version of "Wing and a Prayer" was isanely solved by having all three of them trade off on the bass line - taking it over whenever Jordan was busy singing the melody. We were also darn lucky that Katie has a really low voice - and times was able to fill in Jordan's tenor line while Jordan now filled in Isaac's old bass line.
The group stuff was the most time consuming. The solo stuff was split up amongst the three of them - Jordan took over the Bing Crosby material in the Andrews Sisters medley, and Colleen luckily already knew the words to "I'll Be Seeing You". And, thanks to modern technology, Tim simply had to press a few buttons and we were able to transpose everything in suitable keys for a girl. The one song I was completely certain that we would just cut was a cute little 'charm song' which was about Rationing. It was a kind of sexy bluesy sassy number about food rationing which had a lot of silly sexual double entendre. I was sorry to lose it because I had managed to strong hold Jean Anne into coming up onstage and being a prop for Issac to work with (a very attractive prop of course). Jean Anne was nervous about doing it - and I think more than happy for it to end up on the cutting room floor. But it was a great song. And then the Pack Leader spoke. The decree was laid down that I was going to do the number.
Me. Wait. I don't sing. I don't memorize. I get stage fright. NOooooooooo.
We can all guess who won this debate. So. I was singing the number. I managed to rehearse it with Jean Anne for like fifteen minutes, clutching on to the lyrics that afternoon... we figured out the juggling of my script and mics between Jordan and myself... and I just had to suck it up and learn the words. Which freaking terrified me. Particularly because it's one of those 'list songs' where all the lyrics can kind of be interchanged between each verse so you can really screw yourself up. So for the next two weeks every five minutes I wandered around talking to myself saying the words as quickly as I possibly could trying to convince myself that I knew them. i was actually so scared that I had Jordan replace me in my normal perch, and had the lyrics inside my script and he would follow along and stay on book in case I needed him to throw me the words. Miraculously I didn't need him to.
Of course, beyond the total musical reshuffling of almost every single song - the whole show had to be restaged. The whole thing was tightly blocked and choreographed and mics were tracked and already figured out. Plus we still had to tech and light the show that night. it was a long, long day. Timmy was awesome and stayed with us late into the night (again, they were all bribed with Chinese). Doing the show with two girls and one boy also made certain numbers totally different. "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" was originally sung between two couples. Boy/girl...boy/girl. Well - now we musically had to redo the whole thing - but how the HECK were we gonna stage it. Jordan came up with the idea of a guy who's basically two-timing his girlfriends and the number became about him juggling the two gals. It was adorable. A technical nightmare to remember all the changes - but adorable.
And so - the hour came. The audience arrived and the gang started to put on their uniforms for battle. And that's JUST what it felt like.
They all looked so cute in their uniforms I wanted to cry :) With our limited budget it had been quite a challenge to find the quality of uniforms we desired. I had been insanely lucky and found a vintage WWII uniform in Jordan's exact size (shirt AND pants) on ebay at an amazing price - although it did smell rather moth bally... which as days went on and it mingled with sweat wasn't quite the ideal odor if Jordan ever decides to release "Stanley: The Frangrance". (of course that probably would just be a mix of velveeta and twizzler smells). The real challenge for other uniforms had been finding a rental house which could accomodate Isaac - who was a big fella. And in the forties (since most of the uniforms these places had were vintage) we were smaller. And, ironically, as it all panned out - we never needed that uniform in performance. But the girls clothes were sooooo cute - pulled from a rental package from South Pacific. They fit them beautifully.
And we had to go out there and do it. We had debated whether or not to tell the audience that anything had happened. Normally the philosphy is that you just 'keep going' and pretend that everything is fine. But...also it's traditional that if an understudy is going on, you let the audience know. And really we had three understudies going on simultaneously - and they with a ridiculously inadequate amount of preparation for the task. The run through that afternoon went really quite well - I believed we could at least get through it...which was more than I'd imagined was possible. But becuase what they had accomplished in 24 hours was so extraordinary - and because we might have a few technical hiccups - we decided to let the audience know that we had lost one of our four musketeers the day before - and let them be in on the adventure with us.
And we were SCARED. All of four of us. It felt like we were just trying to get through it one song...one bar...one note at a time. But they were doing brilliantly - we just tense. And who on earth could blame them. But they were solid as a rock - no mistakes...no blunders... no scary notes that no longer worked in harmony. It was an amazing achievement and I was so proud of them. And frankly - if we could get through this night - it was going to be smooth sailing from then on. Right before intermission we hit the Andrews Sisters medley which was was a LITTLE rocky. It was the most complicated number in the show - the girls had already from day one had to reduce down a very complex close harmony - and then Jordan had needed to learn an entire song from scratch with complex words overnight. Boogie Woogie just sounded WEIRD to me... like weird. Not bad... Just weird - and we realized it was because so much had changed that the girls had managed to pick up swap mics so that Rich was boosting the Katie's harmony line rather than Colleen's melody line. And then we hit Jordan's tap break. Jordan, who assured me prior to his arrival that he was "the most fab tapper you've ever seen" went down like the Hindenburg. Admittedly we'd struggled to get the tone of the tap break right for days...and then with everything else going on, we hadn't had the time to really devote to it. But basically rather than "tappity tap tap tapp tapp tapy tap tap tappity tap tap" it kind of sounded like "thud... whomp....silence silence silence....tap...thud...silence". Eep. It was not our finest moment. It provided the pack leader with an enormous opportunity for smugness since he had thought it was insane to entertain putting any tap on a stage that small.
In a weird way it kind of helped us out. It was right before intermission and it was SO horrible that it kind of made us all relax. It was such a Saturday NIght Live moment that we all got off stage and just started laughing about it. And then we started to actually breathe. And act two - according to reliable witnesses - was pretty darn great. We had gotten over the hump - realized that we could keep going despite a minor train wreck - and still keep it together. So when we came back after fifteen minutes - they rocked the house. I was so so so so so proud. At the end of the night I got a little teary and did a lam-o impression of Churchill saying "Never in the course of human events have so many songs been sung so well, by so few".
i actually really love that picture - and we just learned that the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce used the pic in their sexy new brochure. It looks mega sexy.
And so - the war show opened. And so - we started work on the Island Show. You're exhuasted aren't you? Just try being them!