Thursday, July 28, 2005

Thursday, July 28th - Covering New York, New York

Sorry about the delay in posting something about the second half of the trip. While we had net access in New York, we didn't spend a lot of time hanging around the walk in closet that served as a hotel room at the Milford Plaza. The full size mirror on one wall wasn't enough to disguise that the bed took up most of the room. At least it was cheap, at least for Manhattan.

We drove up to NY from West Virginia on Tuesday through various thunderstorms and a lot of rather dull country in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Got into NYC around 9 PM and did my usual trick of parking in the long term lot at Laguardia and taxiing into Manhattan. It's the one place in the country I refuse to drive and parking at the airport is cheaper than in Midtown. The city was hot and humid, even at midnight, and remained so the entire week.

On Wednesday, we did some retail therapy at Colony music and Patelson's music looking for various and sundry books and songs for both ourselves to sing and the upcoming 'Phantom of the Opry'. Also bought some body make-up for the Emcee role that will hopefully not give me a full body rash the current stuff does. In the afternoon, I had to do a work related conference call. Tommy used the opportunity to see Harvey Fierstein in 'Fiddler on the Roof'. He liked the production, but thought that Harvey was miscast - unless you like Tevye played by Edna Turnblad. Our evening show was 'Rent', which neither of us had ever seen. Glad to have seen it in NYC at the Nederlander as it's one of those shows that I don't think travels well. Talented and energetic cast.

The rest of the week more or less followed a pattern of sleeping in, sniffing out an interesting restaurant or two, and taking in as many shows as we could fit before having to get up at an ungodly hour on Sunday to drive back to Birmingham. We made it in a straight shot. Nearly 1000 miles in 17 hours and were pretty beat by the time we got back. Entered the house to find the air conditioning had gone out and it was 98 degrees in the living room. Fortunately the second unit that took care of the guest room was working so we had someplace cool to sleep.

The other theatrical adventures and thoughts:

'A Light in the Piazza' - Gorgeously designed. Lush and romantic score, but not especially memorable. Great performance from Victoria Clark as the mother, but not necessarily Tony worthy but it was a weak year for women. The juvenile leads were far less engaging and Matthew Morrison seemed all wrong for his part. No passion at all. I liked it better than Tommy who loved the music and design but didn't think much of the plot or performances.

'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' - Amazing technical achievment and great stage craft with huge sets, flying cars (which come right out of the proscenium and over the heads of the orchestra seats - somewhat discomfiting) . Confetti cannons go off and they more or less cram the whole movie in during a two hour and twenty minute stage show. Raul Esparza in the Dick Van Dyke lead was charming, but bland. Erin Dilly was off, the understudy for Truly whose name I do not recall was pleasant but uninspired. Philip Bosco as Grandpa was not given enough to do. Chip Zien and John Sella as the Vulgarian spies, greatly expanded from the film, steal the show although an unrecognizable Mark Kudisch as Baron Bomburst gives them a run for their money. They're having trouble selling it as it's a kids show and it's way to expensive for a family outing.

'Naked Boys Singing' - various friends of ours have been involved with this over the years but we'd never actually seen it. The title says it all. Watching the audience (it was the sixth anniversary performance) was also a lot of fun.

'Sweet Charity' - Christina Applegate has been taking some undeserved knocks for this. She's not Gwen Verdon but she's perfectly acceptable in the singing/dancing/performing category and does quite a reasonable job in a tricky part. Denis O'Hare, as Oscar, is also fine. Unfortunately, this Fran and Barry Weissler production has all their usual hallmarks. Cheap, ugly sets. Uninspired direction. Bad choreography (kick boxing during 'The Rich Man's Frug'?) and a supporting cast of minimal talent that are probably working cheap.

'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' - This one's a gem. Beuatifully designed with a gold and gem studded Riviera set with whirling balconies and palm trees, a cute poppy score, and greatish performances from John Lithgow and Joanna Gleason. The standout is Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz who absolutely throws himself into the best comic role for a male in a musical in years and absolutely nails it. See this one if in NYC, especially if the original cast is still on.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Monday, July 18th - Covering Asheville, North Carolina and Welch, West Virginia

Tommy and I left for our week off on Friday afternoon. Drove from Birmingham, up through Tennessee to Asheville, North Carolina where we had a weekend at the Grove Park Inn, one of those historic nineteenth century hotels that still survives as a reminder of past elegance. Lots of photos of Elbert Hubbard and references to the Roycrofters amongst the reproduction Stickley furniture and exposed Limestone surfaces. The building and grounds are lovely, but the service left a lot to be desired. They couldn't make us room keys so we had to hang out in the hall waiting for security, and couldn't really leave the room - so we had room service for dinner - overpriced and stale.

Saturday, off we went to Biltmore for the house tour, the winery and to people watch. The house is much the same - they've opened up some new rooms on the fourth floor - old servants quarters. We also took a behind the scenes tour that took in the Butler's pantry, the organ loft, the sub basements and some other places you generally can't get. Awfully fun. After that, off we went to a nice dinner on the terrace of the Grove Park and then on to the usual West Virginia jaunt on Sunday.

Saw 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' at the Mercer Mall outside of Bluefield yesterday afternoon - not a whole lot else to do around here, and then slept a lot before having to drive up to Welch. The spot price for coal is way up so Welch is showing signs of economic life for the first time in years. Some new retail and a movie theater downtown. The mineworkers are all fine. We spend more time with them tomorrow and then off we go to NYC starting tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Wednesday, July 13th - an addendum

Thought I'd share with y'all my new headshot. Trying to make it the photo on the sidebar but it doesn't seem to want to show up there. I'll keep working on it. I thought it was fairly decent - but I don't know if it'll help me win any roles other than the butler...

Wednesday, July 13th

I've been battling a cold for the last three or four days. It's moved into the chest for one of those barking coughs that make everyone think you need an immediate TB test and chest X-ray. Fortunately, I don't feel too bad and it should more or less be out of my hair by the time we head out of town on Friday. The news out of DC has been raising my spirits as well. It looks like the fallout from the Plame affair may finally puncture the teflon of that cabal in the White House, leading to some interesting times over the next few months and into the 2006 election season. It also looks like W may be about to thumb his nose at the religious right over the Supreme Court nomination so we can all breathe just a little bit easier.

Tommy has been busy starting to put some business principles in place in the running of CenterStage. It's going to be a long process but I think it will be worth it in the long run. It has a lot of potential as a company, but needs a steady hand on the tiller who knows how to make a business work and how to really handle money. I imagine there will be the occaional agonized scream as things change and some of the 'Hey kids, lets put on a show' mentality is left behind.

Hurricane Dennis came blowing through town this weekend. Wasn't too bad around our house. We took all these precautions with tarps and moving the furniture after the wierd leaks with Ivan last year so, of course, nothing happened. No leak. Not even a power outage, an absolute first for our neighborhood in a significant storm. That's enough hurricane's for now, two in less than a year. We'll settle for the usual tornados in suburbia or maybe a nice earthquake.

Been doing a little puttering around the house as there haven't been rehearsals for a few weeks. It's been nice. 'Twelfth Night' starts up the day after we get back from New York. I'm auditioning for the world premiere of 'The Phantom of the Opry' (the usual story but with a country music twist) about the time that opens and that will take me through October. Probably have to declare a moratorium after Christmas to give myself prep time on 'Kiss Me Kate' which I'm directing in the spring. Performs the first two weekends in June, 2006 for those who wish to make their travel arrangements early.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Wednesday, July 6th - Covering Biloxi, MS and New Orleans, LA

It was both a busy and a lazy weekend this past week. A lot of activity involved, but most of it was non-work related and therefore not terribly strenuous. Tommy and I drove down to New Orleans on Friday afternoon, getting one of the last hotel rooms in town. We should have remembered from last year that the Fourth of July weekend is also the Essence Music festival, but we had somehow forgotten that little detail. We did get ourselves booked into a Holiday Inn outside the airport. Friday night, a wandering in the Vieux Carre, we walked into a dinner reservation at Bayona, one of the best restaurants in town as the Essence crowd tends not to be fine diners and had a lovely dinner. The mouse running around the dining room to the consternation of the maitre d' was also amusing. Didn't bother us as long as it stayed out of the kitchen.

Saturday, after sleeping in, we headed over to Biloxi where 'Politically Incorrect Cabaret' had been booked as a benefit. Ninety some degrees in ninety plus percent humidity made being out of doors exceedingly uncomfortable. The venue was a pavilion on a pier jutting out into the gulf next to the Isle of Capri casino (which seemed to feature parrots everywhere - although I don't recall them being native to Capri). There was a breeze off the water but the heat was still ungodly. Took a few hours to load in, then I did my body makeup in the middle of the pier, much to the amusement of some random fishermen and the show started around eight. A reasonable performance - I bobbled one lyric in my patter stuff and tripped on the hoopskirt of the Scarlett O'Hara costume, but no other big problems. Both Tommy and I probably lost five pounds in sweat.

We stayed in New Orleans on Sunday - it rained cats and dogs, which at least cooled it off. More time in the quarter gallery hopping and window shopping. No purchases though. Trying to put some money away for a bang up vacation this winter. The Matt Rinard I bought five years ago seems to keep going up in price - Would cost me about four times as much now as I paid for it then. I occasionally make a decent investment choice. We took in 'Batman Begins' as a matinee and then, on Monday, after driving back to Birmingham 'War of the Worlds' - enjoyed them both as pieces of summertime junk - MNM should be weighing in shortly as, for the first time in a year, there are no rehearsals scheduled for anything for a few weeks.

This week and next is work and home catch up and then we're off to Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York for ten days.