SPELLING BEE OPENING AND MAN IN THE MIRROR

Well, peeps, we opened The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on Friday night and it was great.  The people are freakin’ loving the show.  It’s amazing.  There is something about William Finn that people just connect to.  This is my third Finn show and each show, the crowds have really enjoyed themselves.  But they really do lose their minds for this show.  Even our quieter shows are raucous.  We’ve already extended a week and there is the possibility of extending another week.  They have to let us know by the end of this week.  Love this cast.  They’re fun and dedicated and talented and funny.  The opening was great, the volunteers were great.  (We pull up 4 volunteers from the audience to be spellers at the top of the show)  And so far the reviews have been glowing.  It’s always nice to be in a hit.

So we did the opening night, two shows on Saturday, a show Sunday night and then I was on the red-eye to Toronto to sing in the “Man In The Mirror” benefit concert for Acting Up Stage on Monday night.  It’s the amazing company I did Elegies: A Song Cycle (I got my second Dora nomination for it) and A New Brain for.  It is the 3rd benefit of it’s kind.  A few years ago, Mitchell Marcus, the Artistic Producer, had the idea of exploring the works of huge pop stars/groups through the interpretations of 10 musical theatre performers.  I’ve done all of them so far.  The first year was The Beatles.  The second year was Paul Simon.  And this year, as you can imagine by the title, was Michael Jackson.  It was amazing, y’all.  Louise Pitre, Adam Brazier and I were the headliners (I was told – not my own decision – but I’m happy to be a “headliner”  –  I’m coming over all “Vegas”) and the other wonderful performers where Eliza-Jane Scott, Jeigh Madjus, David Lopez, Erica Peck, Justin Bott, Sara Farb, and Amanda LeBlanc.  It was a spectacular night.  Completely sold out and the crowd loved it.  I sang Got To Be There and the title song, Man In The Mirror.  It was a hoot.  Reza Jacobs, who is the MD of the gig and did all of the arrangements, is a marvel.  What he did with the arrangements was astonishing and beautiful.   I love doing gigs like this.  Fun, cabaret-ish.

Then I was on a plane back to Calgary on Tuesday morning to be back for my show on Tuesday night.  So no day off but still feeling revitalized.   Life is good, my people.

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Published in: on April 29, 2010 at 5:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

DIGGING MY WORLD

You know, my friends, life is full of so many wonderful things if we let them in . . . or just simply look around and notice the good stuff that’s going on.  I just had dinner with our “Spelling Bee” director, Dean Gibson, his partner George, amazing actress Corrine Koslo and her partner, Peter.   We had a great dinner, laughed out asses off, caught up, told stories, had a great time. And I had that moment where you stop and just make a mental note of what a great time you’re having.  I had to breathe in this feeling of joy and happiness and  . . . what?  Honour, I guess.  I feel honoured to be friends with these people, these artists.  People I respect, who respect what they do.   Dean is really a fantastic director. What makes a fantastic director, you ask?  I’m glad you asked that.  To me – I repeat – TO ME (for all of those who want to get a big, “well, I want a director to blah, blah  and not blah, blah, blah” hate-on, chill the freak out) a fantastic director is a precarious balance.  He (or she, but since our director is male I’m going to go with the masculine pronoun) has to come to the project with ideas and insight, a strong point of view for the production, but be completely open to the ideas of the actors and their instincts, ready to shift moments and perspective as fresh versions of character erupt from the artists in the room.  That’s what makes a room feel “safe” for actors to explore.  It can’t feel like there is any possibility of being shut down by the director – it makes actors not feel emotionally available.  I mean, think about what actors are asked to do – to lay bare our entire emotional canon, to be sifted through by ourselves, our fellow actors, the director, the musical director (if it’s a musical) . . . vulnerable, raw, searching.  In the hands of someone insensitive, uncaring, clumsy (which is a big pet peeve of mine), careless, it can become an experience that is horrifying, boring, annoying, inane, colourless, insulting, etc, etc, etc.

A fantastic director also knows when to push you and when to let you figure things out on your own.  There is nothing worse, as an artist, than being micro-managed early on before you have a chance to figure out who this person is your supposed to be portraying.   A director should have information to give you at the beginning, know the world of the play to give you the architecture, then let you play and find your way while steering you if you go too far in a direction that doesn’t make sense of the character or the script. (Which is really what the common goal should always be – to make sense of the play/musical/show.)  Now having said that, he should be a constant presence, prodding the actors toward the truth while empowering the actors’ choices, be able to see when an actor is lost or in trouble, be able to keep his actors buoyed and confident.  It’s a lot of things.

The great thing is Dean is all of those things.  His eye for detail is so specific and gets more so the more we discover.  But he’s not molly-coddling.  He is firm but caring, acerbic and witty and crazy (in the good way) and incredibly intelligent.   It’s been a great time.  He cares about art, people.

And Corrine Koslo is one of my favourite people.  A wonderful actress who is so smart and funny, she makes every show and gathering a scream to be a part of.  Again, someone who is about doing great work and having a ball doing it.  No short cuts, no “close enough”.

There’s something in the air for me these days.  I’m running into/working with so many people who are amazing people and amazing artists – respected in their fields, loving what they do, doing it really well . . . with care and excitement and intention and focus.  . . . . . . .

I guess what all of this is about is I feel like the universe is preparing me for the next phase of my life.  Like I’m supposed to get ready to step it up.  And I feel like I’m ready to do that.  It’s time for change and I’m welcoming it in with open arms.  Am I a little terrified ? . . . . . . . Only a little, actually.  I feel more excitement and anticipation than fear.   I want to be one of the people I’m meeting.  I want to be respected for the excellence of my craft/talent/skill.  I want to be working with people who want to make magic.  I want to part of the world of magic that happens when one finds one’s reason for being on this earth – the actual full usage of the gifts we get to “borrow” while on this planet.  I don’t want to waste time pretending I’m living my life.  I want to live it, to see the world, to share my shit with the world.  Bring it on.

I’ve been very lucky in my career, I haven’t worked with too many people who were crappy but I don’t know if I’ve worked with a lot of people who were brilliant – some were good, a few great.  But I’ve never wanted to just work.  I really want to be a part of things that are an attempt at something great.  (Be it really funny or dramatic or whatever).  Don’t misunderstand me, this is not about “I think I’m so great that nothing lives up to me!” (“Wow, Thom Allison’s an asshole”)  !!!!!!!  LET ME BE VERY CLEAR.  It’s more the opposite.  I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of who I am as an artist.  I want to work with people who are way better than me because I learn so much and can keep growing and seeing what is possible.  It’s thrilling when you see someone who is truly realized in their evolution.  Let alone get to work with them.

I’m reminded here of the late, great Goldie Semple, whose memorial I just missed because I was here in Calgary.  I had seen her for so many years, doing the most extraordinary work over the years.  Then there I was a couple of years ago, not just sharing the stage with her but playing her lover.  To be in the room with her was already like meeting the Queen but then playing a scene with her, being terrified, then looking in her eyes and seeing her gentle warmth, inviting me to play with her, was an experience I will treasure forever.  Her talent and grace showed me that there is life and breath in generosity.  I want a life of those experiences and I can only hope that I have the grace to pay it forward.

Okay that’s all.

Published in: on April 11, 2010 at 3:19 am  Comments (1)  

SCOOPED!!!

Oh my children.   I’ve been scooped.  Richard Ouzounian has outed my announcement prematurely.  I still can’t give all of the details yet as the contract isn’t signed but yes, the big announcement is that I’ve been offered Priscilla, Queen of the Desert on Broadway.  It starts in Toronto then opens on Broadway in the new year.  Details to come.  But there it is.

I’m not playing the role I was going to offered in Canada, Miss Understanding (not in the movie).  I’ll be in the ensemble.  I wouldn’t normally take an ensemble role but the creative team, who are so incredible and generous, want me to understudy Bernadette (Terence Stamp in the movie) and understudy Miss Understanding and understudy Jimmy (the aboriginal guy they meet in the desert – really fun part in the musical – even though he has to appear in a loincloth – Jesus).  I won’t take out a billboard until all is signed and done, but the offer is on the table.  Sorry it’s been so long but things are involved.  I will share all of that soon when some stuff gets worked out.

Love y’all.

Published in: on April 7, 2010 at 8:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

TAKING FOREVER AND HAPPY EASTER

I know, I know, my children “When the hell am I going to announce the news?” (Kelly, I’m not holding out on purpose, I swear.)  It will probably be a couple more weeks. Sorry to do that to you.  Well, actually I may be able to tell you some news sooner than that.  But the big news, not for a couple of weeks.  But it’s going to be worth it, truuuuuust me. 

In the meantime, I’m here in Calgary, having a fantastic time.  The cast of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is so great.  And our director, the wonderful Dean Paul Gibson, is a crazy, clever, smart, funny, generous, loving, gruff,entertaining man, who makes every day an adventure and  a hoot.   I’ve got a professional crush on our choreographer, Lisa Stevens, who is a scream and a sweetheart and is so on top of her game.  Her choreography is clever and fun and character driven.  She’s pretty freakin’ great.  We all laugh so hard every day, it’s almost a crime to get paid for this. 

Other thoughts.  I’m so aware these days of trying to be present for myself.  I mean, really being in the moment, listening to people/the world; sitting with my thoughts and emotions in moments of discomfort.  That shit is hard sometimes, y’all.  I’ve become aware of how many times a day I try to disappear or tune out or become concerned that someone won’t like what I have to say or wonder if what I have to say is just stupid  and on and on and on.  That’s a lot, my friends.  But the nice thing is, I’m aware of those times and I have now really become conscious of just trying to breathe and, as I said before, stay “present”.  Really stay in moments of fear or anxiety and see what’s actually inside those moments.   I feel like I’m sounding like a “Psychology Today” article but these are some very real things I’ve been noticing and experiencing and playing with. 

I feel like I’m on the verge of a new phase.  I really do.  The universe has something cooking for me.  I feel ends being wrapped up and new doors opening to fresh and multitudinous possibilities.  Nothing excites me more than that.  The other great part of that is that I’ve been active in finding and opening those doors so it’s not like I’ve just been at the whim of fate.  I’ve been walking hand in hand with fate, tickling its palm . . . just a little.  (I don’t want fate to think I’m getting fresh, but just that I’m willing to possibly give it some “sugar”.)

That’s about all.  I have to hit the hay.  Gym early and then rehearsal. 

HAPPY EASTER, Y’ALL.  Hope it’s filled with all the chocolate you can eat.  Nothing says “Hooray for Jesus coming back from the dead” like cocoa, fat and sugar.

Published in: on April 4, 2010 at 5:40 am  Comments (1)