DROWSY OPENING

drowsy-endWell, it’s over.  We opened The Drowsy Chaperone last night and it was a bit surreal but actually fun.  I have no sense of the Vancouver audiences in general, never mind opening night audiences.  It sounded like they were enjoying it from the beginning but it wasn’t boisterous.  It would come in spurts.  There were some things they found incredibly funny and other things they would be “amused” by.  But it all seemed in the right spirit.  My first scene got an okay response.  I had a bit of a repeat of the feeling I had at our invited dress rehearsal – which was that they didn’t quite know what to do with me yet in that scene.  And in all fairness, I felt like I was on the edge of pushing a little bit but not a lot.

But . . I think I had them by the time I did my number.  I could really feel them on the ride then. . . unless I’m totally delusional, which is entirely possible.  But it got a good response at the end.  It’s always a little hard to tell.   As performers, you get this rush of “blank sound” at the end of doing a big number where it doesn’t sound real because you’ve just had the orchestra (okay, band) and your own voice blaring in your ears so you can’t really tell what the sound of the audience response was.  I think it was a pretty good response.

Anyway, after that, I felt like they were with me and I got the laughs where they should have been and a lovely response on my curtain call.  This role really is a gift for the person playing Aldolpho.  You sort of have carte blanche to do anything.  But you have such great clues as to who he is, you can just keep digging and creating.  “A former silent movie star, raging alcoholic, scenery chewing, poodle-raising, latino doing a musical in the 1920’s”  Please!!  Tell me that isn’t a whole picnic of merriment.

There was an after-party in the lobby.  That was an even wilder experience.  The one thing that stood out for me in particular at the party was that a lot of the folks coming up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed Aldolpho (I’m not bragging, it’s just what happened), all strangers, almost automatically or soon thereafter hugged me.    I was so touched by that.  One, because I love hugs from strangers (no, noone call a therapist).  And two because I think they found Aldolpho endearing in his belief that he is “giving” to the production with his great (and by “great”, I mean “terrible”) acting.  And the one thing that I loved about Aldolpho when I read the script is that he’s a “sweet” idiot.  He’s not just a buffoon.  He’s actually really lovable and probably has a big heart.  Of course, I realize I may just be projecting but the proof is in the puddin’. . . . or, I guess in the huggin’. (I’m not sure why that comment calls for the leaving off of the “g’s” but it does . . . work with me.  It’s a flavour I’m going for.)  Anyway, that’s my theory.  I feel really happy that people seemed to be touched by him, even by how funny they found him.

Aaaannnd, I’m really surprised by how many of the details I worked on that people got and pointed out at the party.  That was awesome.  Just things like  . . “stock” hand moves and facial expressions that Roman Bartelli would have used in his movies.  Oh . . .who’s Roman Bartelli, you ask?  Hmmmm. . . . well for those of you who don’t know the show, we play performers in the 1920’s, playing characters in a musical.  So I play a former silent movie star named Roman Bartelli who is playing a character named Aldolpho in a musical called The Drowsy Chaperone in 1928.    So physically and vocally, I made choices that Roman Bartelli thinks are good acting choices for the stage in 1928.  Layers, my friends, layers.   LOL

The buzz was good.  Our musical director apparently said to our choreographer that in all his time (some 20 years +) at the theatre, he has never had such outrageously positive comments at an afterparty.  I so hope it translates into positive buzz for the Playhouse and for Max (our director and the new Artistic Director of the Playhouse).  I know the arts here are having a hard time in BC as witnessed by the trouble the ballet is in.   The arts will always struggle but the arts will never die.  Whether people choose to believe it or not, art is how the soul of society soldiers through everything else.  The spark of creation may dim but it can never be extinguished.  It’s life itself.

One of my castmates gave everyone a great quote from Arther Miller last night (along with a tiny gift bag of gumballs and suckers – gotta love balance)

When the cannons have stopped firing, and the great victories of finance are reduced to surmise and are long forgotten, it is the art of the people that will confront future generations.  The arts can do more to sustain the peace than all the wars, the armaments and the threats and warnings of the politicians.”

Live it and love it, y’all.

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Published in: on November 28, 2008 at 5:52 pm  Comments (3)  

JUST A TASTE

A little bit of Aldolpho (the character I’m playing in The Drowsy Chaperone right now).  Enjoy.

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aldolpho-tango-start-1

aldolpho-fancy-dress1

Published in: on November 26, 2008 at 8:06 am  Comments (23)  

DROWSY 1ST PREVIEW

Sorry it’s been sooooooooo long, my peeps.  So we’ve been rehearsing like mad-people (trying to be non-gender-specific).  But what an amazing time it’s been rehearsing the show.  Seriously, I’m not just saying that because I hate the cast and I’m trying to be polite on my blog (not that I would do that).  Great people and the crew is awesome and they seem to be enjoying the show too which is fantastic.

So, we had our first audience last night.  It was amazing.  They got everything.  They laughed at things we didn’t think they’d even catch.  Now I have to be honest.  Because my performance is so over-the-top as called for in the script, I was a little concerned that the audience would wonder what the hell I was doing.  But to my delight, they got it and I had a great time.  They really went on the ride with me which made me happy as I was starting to think, “hmmm, I know this is supposed to be too much, but is this “too much” too much?  Apparently not.  I’m interested to see how other audiences react.  They were so attentive right off the top, I don’t want to get my hopes up.

One of the many things making this such a great experience is Gabrielle Jones.  She’s playing the Drowsy Chaperone.  My dears, my dears, my very dears . . . . when she sings her solo, you can feel the audience go from “I wonder where this is going to go” to “Holy Sweet Mother of God!” in about 2 1/2 minutes.  It’s brilliant.  And then I basically spend the rest of the show with her.  I couldn’t be happier.  Not only is she a wonderful actress, singer, and comedienne, but this is one of the most generous, fun, charming, intelligent, and giving human beings I’ve ever met.

Something else I feel needs to be mentioned is Dayna Tekach’s choreography. If you guys don’t know her, you should.  Not only is she a wonderful performer in her own right (she was my Cinderella in INTO THE WOODS at Stratford) but she has managed to make an entire company of mostly non-dancers look like they’re not just dancing but TAPPING their asses off.   The choreo is so perfect and fun and dancey and it follows the narrative – which is one of the problems I find with some choreography – it doesn’t tell a story I can latch onto. It’s so of the period but so dancable for those of us who are good movers but don’t kick our legs up to our armpits.  And when it’s simple, it looks so good and impressive, it seems like we’re kicking our legs up to our armpits.  She was a perfect accompaniment to Max Reimer, our director who had such a clear vision of the world we were living in, it was like spreading peanut butter on toast – where else was it gonna go?  I feel like this show is a real gift, especially for the holidays.

And today was our day off.  And so far so good.  It’s only 4:26pm here.  I got up and had some breakfast, went to the gym and did a leg day (I may regret that tomorrow . . . oh wait, I already do) and then went for a 2 1/2 hour walk to and around Stanley Park (the big-ass park that’s the size of a small country).  And now, I don’t know.  I’m writing this, then I may go have a bath or lie down and read for awhile.  It’s such a luxury to not have to worry about the show or feel I should go through something.  I feel like I can leave it for today and do a whole lot of unwinding.  Life is good, y’all, life is good.

Published in: on November 24, 2008 at 12:52 am  Comments (2)  

JUST A THOUGHT

Had an interesting moment today.  I was writing an e-mail to a friend who just recently lost a pet – I mean lost in the ‘eternal rest’ sort of way – and without thinking I wrote something that I believed but I was so gladdened (that’s right, I wrote gladdened and I’m not ashamed) to see it come out of me so freely.    The jist (sp?) is that we can choose to find joy in our lives.  We have that power.  One could say that we can’t control what happens to us and to an extent that is true . . . . hmmm  wait, I may be opening up one whopping can-of-worms here.  Okay let’s leave the existential discussion of how much we control the universe out of it.   (To be honest, I’m not even remotely convinced that is the correct use of the word  “existential” – it just felt right)  Or maybe we can’t.  But let’s just say, there is a lot we can’t necessarily  control.   I do believe we can have more control in what comes at us by what we put out there.  But my point is, what we definitely can control is how we deal with the shitty things that come at us.  We can choose to be broken by them or defeated or depressed  or to withdraw.  ORRRRRR (or would that be oooooooooor) we can choose to go, “Okay, that was shitty but that doesn’t change the how much my friends or my partner love me”; or it doesn’t change how beautiful your favourite piece of music is or a park or how much you enjoy cooking or writing or . . . spelunking (shut up, I’m trying to cover ground). 

There is beauty everywhere all the time.  Yes, some moments it takes a little more work to see it but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.    Of course, I’m not saying not to grieve a loved one or a lost job.  But what I’m saying is, ultimately that loved one would hate to know you were spending the next year or 3 or 10 grieving instead of celebrating their life; and that job you got fired from was obviously not the one for you and now you are free to start what you should be doing – the universe just gave you the shove you needed.   

I work very hard to believe and practice (sp? – I never remember when to use the ‘s’ and when to use the ‘c’) the idea of “everything that happens to you is only as bad or good as you decide it is”.  In other words, the crappiest slap in the face can be a blessing if you realize how much it saves you on rouge. . . no wait, that was a terrible analogy.  Um.  ………………Well you get the picture.  Choose joy.  That’s what this is all about.  You can choose to be angry or sad or mad or to hold on to ugliness and hurt . . . or  you can let it go and clear your heart and choose joy. 

So . . . CHOOSE JOY!!!!

bundle-of-joy

Published in: on November 10, 2008 at 3:08 am  Comments (4)  

NEWS

Okay, here is the news.  I won’t make you all wait.  Now, all the “i”s are not dotted nor the “t”s crossed but it’s basically happening so I think I can tell you.  I’m going to be playing Curtis (the Jamie Foxx part in the movie) in DREAMGIRLS at the Grand Theatre in London, ON in Apr/May.  It’s been a strange, long journey to this part.  I was offered the role in the first all-Canadian production that was done at Stage West Calgary last year and couldn’t do it because of a conflict.  Then was offered the role again when Theatre Aquarius and Manitoba Theatre Centre did a co-production with the same director/choreographer and musical director. I went to the Shaw Festival instead.  (I’m not telling tales out of school as all involved know I was offered it.  I don’t want y’all thinking I’m a jerk for shocking the other two gentemen who ended up playing the part.  That would be really shitty of me.  “What, I wasn’t first choice? . . . Damn!”)  Now the Grand is doing the show with same director/choreographer, the wonderful Tim French  (though different musical director – I shall miss you Stephen Woodjetts) and bless him for still wanting my behind in his show.  So this time, I was available and I said yes.  Woohoo.

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DREAMGIRLS is one of those shows that, as a Canadian performer of African descent (how politically correct was that? – for those of you who like it plainer like me, “as a black Canadian performer”) it’s rare to have the opportunity to do a show with that many black people on stage at the same time in a musical.  Yes, there’s AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’, which I enjoy but 5 crazy black folk does not a large musical make.  So it’s going to be great to finally do the show after being taunted with it for so long and hear that music every night for 4 weeks.  So if you’re around London in Apr/May, come and catch it.  And even if you’re not around London, could be worth the trip.  Or not, London is a little far.

Oh come on, it’s not too bad, find a friend with a car.

But none of my friends have cars.

Come on the train and see a matinee.

Ah, that’s  great idea, then there’s no excuse.

Great see you there.

Published in: on November 8, 2008 at 3:25 pm  Comments (9)  

MY BIRTHDAY AND FIRST DAYS OF REHEARSAL

Sorry it’s been so long.  Whew, where to start.  Okay well, we started rehearsal a week ago, Oct. 30 to be exact.  It’s been fantastic, y’all.  Such a good time.  I feel like I’m going to be arrested by the acting police.  I couldn’t be bigger in my choices.  It’s shocking.  The union is having regular meetings to discuss whether they’re going to have to take back my Equity card.  The script actually describes my character as chewing the scenery.  Good Lord.  It’s like having license to go way over the top and it’s encouraged.  And it’s a fantastic group.  Such great people and cast so well.  And we’ve been having such huge laughs.  Max Reimer, our director is on fire.  It’s so great to see him having such a great time and he knows this show and style so well, he ideas are right in the pocket.  And Dayna (Tekach) our choreographer is so fantastic.  She’s getting people who don’t even remotely dance dancing and looking great doing it.  My number is this hilarious tango and it’s the most fun I’ve had dancing in years.

And as for my birthday, it was quiet and really special this year.   It was on Nov. 2 which fell on Sunday, our day off.  I woke up early (I’m still on Toronto time) and started to open e-mails.  There were about 150 and I would respond to all of them and invariably get a message back, so that number would multiply.  I basically answered e-mails for about 4 hours.  It was actually fantastic.  I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel very touched that people reached out with even the smallest birthday wishes.  It was really nice.  And it had been raining for a couple of days and the forcast for the day was rain all day. Which was fine with me.  Now, you have to understand that I’ve always been touched by a bit of light on my birthday, ie. no matter if there is a snow-storm, on my birthday, the sun comes out.  Well it certainly didn’t look like it this year and I was really fine as I felt very contented.  It was pouring rain and as I was answering e-mails at around 11:30, I suddenly noticed that the light in my apartment here in Vancouver had changed.  I looked up and the clouds had cleared and the sun had come out and cast a warm glow over the whole room which is windows on two sides (corner apartment).  I looked at the forcast and it still said, pouring all day  . . . . the sun stayed until sundown, and included the most extraordinary palettes of oranges as it set, just as a last “Happy Birthday, Thom”.

In the meantime, I finished my e-mails, went to the gym, went for a walk, went into a Chapters and found a book I wanted that for some unknown reason – even the salesclerk didn’t understand why –  it was about 1/3 off.  Then got some sushi take out for dinner that was fantastic.   Oh, it was a good day, my friends.

I feel like there is some magic back in my life that was a little dim for awhile.  I feel really happy and dare, I say blessed –  whatever that means to you is up to you.  LIfe is good, dolls . . let me re-phrase that.  Life is as good as you allow it to be.

Live it and love it.

Published in: on November 6, 2008 at 3:45 am  Comments (2)