DONNABLOG #5

Whew!!  Okay my darlings.  So it’s time to do an update.  I LOVE New York City.  I’m getting used to it pretty fast and enjoying the hell out of it.  So we’ve been staging numbers.  I’m always a little leary as I’m not a dancer but they are so much fun.  The choreographer is such a darling.  Truly.   Andrew – love him.   Well it must be said that all of the creative team are pretty fantastic.  Our director Simon is such a generous, intelligent, funny man.  Filled with such joy.  It’s why we do this.  And as I’ve already said, our musical supervisor, Spud, as well as our musical director, Jeff are great.  But I want to say a few words about our leading men (or leading ladies, depending on how you look at it).  They are what this whole show is hooking on and if they were assholes, we wouldn’t have much of a time.  Let me just say that the three of them couldn’t be nicer or more open or more into being part of a company.  And this is not just show-biz speak.  I’ll be specific.

Let’s go newest to most seasoned.

The young, crazily beautiful Nick Adams.  (He may hate that I’ve used this picture but I think he looks so pure and joyful.)  I was told before I met him that he’s known for having one of the hottest bodies on Broadway.  And I won’t lie to you, yes, yes, he does.  It’s pretty ridiculous.  But that is an obvious thing.  What is not always obvious is who someone really is and Nick is such a genuinely friendly, nice guy.  He has lots to do in the show and he is just jumping in and working his ass off.  Oh yea, I figured some of you might like to see him in some kind of make up (or just with his clothes off).

I’ve been giving him some training tips . . . . Jesus!!

Then we have the fascinating enigma that is Will Swenson. 

The more I find out about Will, the more I like him.  He is so striking in person, it’s almost off-putting.  He can look so broading and intense and he has such an intensity in his eyes but as soon as you talk to him or approach him, you realize he is so thought-ful and kind and warm and I’m getting a bit of  . . . what?  Not shyness but something like that.  He just isn’t all in your face trying to be funny or working for your approval.  I really think I’m going to enjoy being around him and getting to know him.  Plus it’s really great watching him rehearse.  He is the real thing.  Searching for truth, realism in all of the kookiness.  I really enjoy him.  Here is a shot of Will in Hair. (I just like including a photo of each of the guys in some kind of show mode.)

Which brings us to the truly extraordinary Tony Sheldon.

Tony is a star in Australia.  Then he did Bernadette again in London – again huge hit for him.  And here he is 6 months after he left the show.  He is an amazing man.  Always chatting to find out about people.  He did all kinds of research online about people and he will talk about bits of info he’s found out.  My God.  Truly.  Plus he is amazing to watch. He has done this show for  3 or 4 years in total. And he is still so fresh and open to the ideas of his co-stars and the director.  It’s quite fantastic.  But what is so wonderful is that he is completely open to helping me with little hints as his understudy.  A true marvel.  Here is a shot of him as Bernadette.  It’s my favourite (or favorite, for my new and old American friends).

Now about rehearsals.  So what is very exciting is that there are several significant changes in the show so if anyone has seen the show before, you’ll be surprised to see many new things. Several songs are gone.  Several new songs are added.  Now I won’t lie to you, this bodes well for a Broadway recording of this production (oh please, oh please, oh please).  But what is great for us and the creative team is that there is a real newness and freshness to the piece because of it.  Plus some new and some altered scenes.  Apparently, a lot of the beginning and end have been rewritten.  I won’t tell you what has been taken out or what has been added.  You’ll have to come and see the show and find out out.   We’ve choreographed about 3 group numbers so far and almost finished the fourth.  The are pretty fun.  One is not my favourite yet but that’s only because it feels so relentless but once I get it under my belt, it will be fun . . . I think . . . I hope . . . kidding, it will be fine (or I wouldn’t write about it – my momma didn’t raise no fool)

What’s been really fun is when the creative team tells us about things that will be happening during a certain moment . . like. . . “oh, so this is where the bus is revealed and comes downstage and it will be almost the whole width of the stage so be careful grapevining around it.” or “you won’t be able to stand so close to him because your skirt will be too big.” or “why don’t you sit down on that line and watch the roadkill go by on the travelator.”  Come on .  We get to do this for a living.  What??!!

As for the rest of the cast.  I love getting to know each of them day by day.  A lot of them know each other already.  But they are welcoming and lovely.  I gotta be honest, not everyone has been instantly ready to welcome a newcomer but even that one or two people are coming around.  I never worry about that kind of thing.  I’m usually pretty good at bringing people around eventually.  It’s going to be fun to spend all of this time with them in the next 6 months to a year.

As for New York.  AAAAAAhhhh!!!!  Love it.  I walked home yesterday; the whole 19 blocks.  It was great and fascinating. You pass through what feels like 4 or 5 different neighborhoods.  Cause you start with . . heehee . . . Broadway which is where we’re rehearsing (43rd street) then you hit 38th-ish which feels like a little less glitzy but still business-y; then you hit the sudden upscale looking 34th street which feels like Eglinton and Cumberland combined; then you hit 29th/28th and it becomes local neighborhood but with uptown perks, then you hit my area around 26th which feels like Rosedale meets Church and Wellesley meets a lick of Queen Street.  It’s awesome.  All of these little restaurants and big stores along the way.  I haven’t done much extra in these past few days as we have had 9 hour rehearsal days for the last 5 days.  But tomorrow, though still a rehearsal day, most of us aren’t called – me being one of those.  But I’m still going to go in in the afternoon as I want to see Bernadette rehearsals.  I love watching Tony work and hearing what our director has to say about the scenes.

And for now, that’s it.  I’m ti-red, my peeps.  More to come.

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Published in: on August 30, 2010 at 2:27 am  Comments (1)  

DONNABLOG #4

So, no, I’m not going to be doing one every day.  But I thought I had to at least drop a note about the first day of rehearsals.   It was pretty laid back. There was an equity meeting to start the day that involved so much information, I actually felt my brain turn to a slurry, leak out of my ear and slither out of the room.  I’m still not sure what it was all about.  That’s a lot of stuff, people.  But then we did the ‘meet and greet’ which is where you get to meet the team, the producers, etc.  Just casually at first then the head producer and director will usually make speeches which is what happened and they were both hilarious.  They had some costume sketches up on the wall, and some shots of some of the scenes to give us an idea of how the major scenes will look.  Unreal.  They actually have a mock up of the bus in the rehearsal hall.  More the floor plan than the full, you know, full . . . cabin cruiser motor home deal – ie. no walls.  It’s more for the boys to work on spacially.  But it is HUGE.   It’s most of the room.  But clearly when the bus is on stage, it is another character.

Time for a word about our musical supervisor and musical director.  The musical supervisor is “Spud” who did all of the original arrangements and has changed some things for the Toronto/Broadway show.  This is his musical baby.   He is a crazy, wonderful, funny, specific artist/man.  I really love him.  What I mean when I say specific is the fact that he hasn’t just arranged these numbers to be fun and kooky and fluffy.  He would talk about why the vocal does something or why it has to be sung stylistically a certain way to tell the story.   For instance, the number, I Love The Nightlife, which could just be a number about those ‘zany gays’ that will simply give homophobes more fodder to not look at the human beings behind the costumes,  but Spud gave us a wonderful plea to give humanity to the intolerant locals in the number who, through their understanding through the number, can lead the intolerable in the audience to some understanding of their own.  That sounds a bit high-falutin’ (is there such a thing as low-falutin’? And what exactly is falutin’ and why can it never have a “g” at the end?) but it was so wonderful and thought-ful.  He had me at hello.

Now our musical director/conductor, Jeff, is such a great guy.  Relaxed but professional.  Warm, funny.  He keeps things light but we get things done and he’s thorough and has such a great ear for what’s happening with the group. It’s going to be a joy to work with him on the show and specifically on the understudy stuff.

It seems like a great cast.  A lot of them knew each other so it was fun to watch their short-hand with each other.  What a beautiful group of people. Good lord.  And I became so aware of how small a group it is.  It’s a cast of  25 people (and eventually a couple of kids – one on at a time) and 5 of those people are swings which means there are only ever 20 people on stage at during the show.  But there are soooo many characters.  Craziness.  So many costumes.  There are about 320/340 costumes worn in the show – not counting any understudy stuff.  Do THAT math.

Today we just did music and we’ll do the same tomorrow, aiming for a read/sing-through on Friday.   It will be so good to hear the show out loud.  I can’t wait.

And on another note.  I discovered the most amazing market about a block from where I’m living.  Natural foods, health foods, but huge.  They have pre-made foods so if I don’t feel like cooking, I can just go grab something.  Fresh organic vegetables, eggs, grains.  I may be living there.  Gorgeous gourmet cheeses, dips, home-made pastas (pumpkin ravioli – what?)  My God.

I am so ready to live this, you guys.  I look forward to discovering this city, for real.  It’s going to be a bit crazy.  It’s looks like we now go for the next 10 days without a break.  And for the next 4 days we are doing 9-hour days.  But then we have 2 days off in a row (at the end of the 11 consecutive days).  I’m not sure that is a true consolation but hey, we’ll live.  Whoever said show biz was all glamour  needs their asses kicked.    LOL

Published in: on August 26, 2010 at 3:49 am  Comments (2)  

DONNABLOG #3

Oh my, y’all, what a crazy couple of days.  I’ll try to start from the beginning.  So we were a little late getting out of Toronto on Monday, which horrified me a little bit after my Saturday’ missed plane’ incident.  But all was fine.  We were about a half hour late getting into New York (about 1:20) which was great because it meant I could still meet Dathan, my friend who had organized the place for me.  He had the keys and everything I needed to know (garbage, which key opens what, laundry, etc.)  I guess this is a good place to say that the apartment I’m staying in is AMAZING. It’s so near everything.  I’m literally 2 subway stops from going to work. The subway is 1 block from my apartment and work is 1 block from the subway on the other end.  Come on!!!  Amazing.

Anyway, Dathan shows me the place and then he has to go more or less to the same area I do, so he “escorts” me to my wig fitting which was at 3:30.  It’s a studio they are using for hair and costume fittings and measurements, etc.  It’s all sort of happening in the same room.  I walk in and meet the designer, Tim Chappel, and he is a sweetheart, and his associates – totally friendly.  It’s just a passby for them as I’m just going to see the hair designer, Richard Mawbey, who also turns out to be completely funny and warm and a great time.  He doesn’t actually have wigs there, which is what I figured.  He had to make a mold of my head so he can make the wigs fit.  I’ve had it done several times before.  What they do is put some clear plastic on your head, then take strips of scotch tape and cover the whole head (down to the hairline) so it forms a firm mold of your head.  Then they take if off.  They can then put this on a wooden wig stand and fill it with tissue or paper of some kind to fill it out.  That way, they have a perfect shape of your head to make sure your wigs fit. It’s more about when they make you a wig just for you.

Then we started talking about the sort of stuff I’d be wearing.  He looked at the sheet that had all of the information of who is what in what scene and smiled and said that I have a “fun” costume track.  WHEEEEEE  Apparently everyone plays male and female (drag) at some point in the show but he said I almost literally go from male to female from scene to scene.  What??!!  Bring it.  Then he called the designer, Tim,  over to talk about when I go on for Bernadette (heehee) because in the design, Bernadette is blond.  Now, I was blond for 4 years and it’s a cool color on me  (notice my American spelling of “blond” and “color” – when in Rome).  Tim said, he didn’t see why I couldn’t still be blond.  Just change the shade of blond to something more appropriate like a honey blond.  Woohoo I’ll be all Crocodile Mary J. Blige.

Now I must mention here that while I’m doing this session, we are sitting in the same room as a fitting that is going on.  A young (well, younger than me – as most of the cast seems to be from the pictures I’ve seen) performer in the show is there having a fitting.  He is quite tall and he is being fitted for the “Les Girls” number.  It’s a number where most of the ensemble men play showgirls.  (There’s more to it than that but this blog is already going to be longer than my career.)  It’s this incredible pink ‘little’ sort of bathing suit looking number with a bustle and will eventually have a huge headpiece.  So this young dancer singer and, I will assume, actor, who’s name I won’t share yet since I have asked him, is basically in several states of undress.  Okay, . . . . let me just say that I have rarely seen a body like that up close.  There is something I’m noticing about these Broadway dancer/singer kids.   They don’t just have dancers bodies.  Seriously, it’s like an incredible dancer’s body and a body builder’s body had a dirty, sex-filled weekend together and these boys are the offspring.  Amazing.  Ripped, hard, big, yet long, lithe and supple.  It’s insane.  And it looks like most of the male ensemble has an average body fat content of about 4%.  God give me strength.

After my wig meeting, I went back to the apartment and got groceries then met my friend, Danielle – fantastic singer and actress – for sushi.  We could not have laughed harder.  She happened to be in the neighborhood rehearsing a workshop of a new musical.  Then to bed.  Not with Danielle, just by . . alone  . . . in different . . you know what I mean.

So, comes Tuesday (today) and I have to find my way to the studio where they are going to make a mold of my face for the masks in the show.  11:00 is my time.  SO COOL!  As you guys would know by now, there is a lot of drag in the show, so people are wondering how the makeup changes happen. Well, they came up with a brilliant idea.   The make up is done with masks that are molded to our faces and are painted with the make-up and lashes.  Just over the eye area.  I would imagine we just have to add lipstick.  This studio does all kinds of special effects.  They do all of the Saturday Night Live stuff and Law and Order bits, etc. So I had to go and have them make a mold of my face.  It was so fascinating.  The guy (damn, I forget his name, but so nice) mixed up this pink paste then basically after telling me what he was going to do, glopped this stuff all over my face.  Everywhere but my nostril holes.  Then he left it for about a minute, then he took strips of quick-dry plaster and put it over the mask, then let that dry for about a minute.  Then he took the whole thing off.  It was wild to see my face in the negative.  The added bonus was that my skin felt so smooth when it came off.  We were laughing about how I need to tell my agent I need to play a dead body on CSI twice a month so I can get the “face-mold facial”.  When I left, he was filling the mold with liquid plaster. Love it.

After that I went to say hi to my New York agents which was nice as I hadn’t seen them in a while.  Then I headed for my 1:30 costume fitting.  It’s here I have to talk about one of my favorite (once again, note American spelling) things about New York.   For those of you who know about this, you know.  For those of you who don’t, let me tell you.  They have these . . . what would you call them? . . . . corner stores that have these salad and hot food bars.  You just pay by the pound.   Some are modest, some are enormous.  But they are FANTASTIC.  You can eat as little or as much as you like.  You can have a bunch of great vegetables and salads and sushi with hot foods like mashed, or roasted potatoes, hot vegetable dishes, roasted turkey, baked chicken, meatballs, roast beef, fish – –  I LOVE IT.  It’s fantastic.  So en route to my fitting, I stopped off and got some lunch and just ate it as I walked the 16 blocks.  It was so cool.

Now the fitting.  GUYS, I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO START.  We started with my costume for the number “Go West” which is when the three guys leave on the bus and their ‘friends’ send them off.  There is a bunch of crazy characters but among them, there is a handful of guys dressed as versions of the Village People.  I am the Cop.  So they had a mock up of my costume (which means a version of the costume in muslin so they can test the fit before cutting into the material – often done when the material is unforgiving and/or expensive) and they had to do a lot of alterations.  Well, they had to do a lot of alterations on everything.  As I mentioned in an earlier e-mail, I had some weight I wanted to lose and I lost most of it so they had to do a lot of taking in but they were amazing about it.  So they altered that one and told me that it will actually all be . . . are you ready???  Silver Leather.  Stop me!

Then they got me into the outfit for the funeral of Bernadette’s young lover near the beginning of the show.  How do I even describe this?  I call it the “Executive Mermaid”.  It’s all black, of course, but it’s a fitted jacket with puffed shoulders and long sleeves.  The skirt is fitted over a fake ass and hips and down to the knees, then mermaids out but the bottom part has tool and a hoop under it so it spreads about 2 1/2 – 3 feet in a circle.  On the right shoulder and around the neck is a huge floral spray.  Then apparently, I will have a wig that will actually be styled into a crucifix on my head.  A CRUCIFIX!!  hahahahahahahaha I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, LOVE IT.

Then we moved on to the “Les Girls” number that I mentioned earlier.   All I can say is full showgirl . . . and pink.  Nuff said.  It actually really looked amazing, and it wasn’t even done.

There were other small bits but not really worth mentioning right now.  Nothing else was that ready.  But it looks like I have about 11 costumes.  Seriously.  Every time I leave the stage, I change.  I actually love shows like that.  I’d rather be busy.  We didn’t even talk about the Bernadette costumes. She has about 11 or 12 costumes as well which will all be made in my sizes too.

After the fitting I had an early dinner with my friend, Jeffrey Kuhn and we laughed and laughed.  I’ve known Jeffrey since I did my first professional show at Rainbow Stage in 1988.  As we finished eating, I decided I needed to see a show. And what better show to see before starting the biggest drag show to hit Broadway, perhaps ever?  La Cage Aux Folles.  So I went and got a ticket and saw the show.  It was totally the right choice.  It was just what I needed.  Huge spirit, great costumes, great performances.

So now here I am, (I should have been in bed about and hour ago but hey, I’m in New York) reporting to all of you wonderful people who read my blog.  Living it for Donna and her ilk.   Tomorrow we start for real and I’m not really nervous.  I’m really excited actually.  I want to start learning music and hear the creative team talk about how the show works and meet the cast and see how this great energy continues.

Thanks for coming on this life journey with me, y’all.

Published in: on August 25, 2010 at 6:28 am  Comments (3)  

DONNABLOG #2

Here we go, my peeps.  So I’m at the airport as I write this.   Just waiting for my flight.   Things have been relatively smooth but the universe is still playing little jokes on me to make my life  . . . interesting  . . . just so I know that Priscilla is going to be soooo great and such a wonderful time.  It has to throw me a little drama to warm me up.  Examples, you ask.  Oh, allow me. My final show of JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT at Rainbow Stage in Winnipeg – it had been a little cool for a week or so and then started to really warm up.  By that Friday of my final day, it had gotten up to 27 degrees.  Woohoo.  Just before the show it had started to rain a bit, no biggie.   The first scene (a choreographed overture) started and we noticed it seemed unusually dark onstage, even for a rainy night.  We all realized that, although the lights at the back of the stage were on, the lights coming from the front of the stage (above) weren’t on at all.  We finished the first scene and the stage manager had to stop the show because there was something wrong with the lighting grid/instruments/something.  Fine, not an unheard of incident, even though we have not had one bit of trouble with them all summer but there was a storm.  During the hold . . . that’s when the hail started . . . the HAIL!!!!!!!  Chunks of ice the size of jawbreakers!!!!  It was 27 degrees out.  Suddenly the hail stopped, the lights started working and off we continued.  The cast was joking that the universe was unhappy that I was leaving.  Hahahaha, funny. “The universe can stall all it wants.  My ass is on a plane at 9:00AM tomorrow morning”

Well, y’all, famous last words.  I went out for a drink with some of the cast, not late and only one drink.  I had packed most of my stuff so I didn’t have to go home and spend hours doing that.  I wasn’t particularly overtired.  But for the first time in MY ENTIRE LIFE, I seriously overslept and missed my flight.  As I said, my flight was at 9AM.  I woke up at 8:30 – the cut off for checking bags. So now I’m in full yellow alert trauma – shocked awake trying to figure out what to do.  I had grown a full Van Dyke for the show (mustache and goatee) and had cut it off in chunks before bed, meaning to shave the rest properly in the morning. So here I now am, shocked awake, trying to figure out how to get to the airport as fast as possible to get the next fight, I look in the mirror and see what I can only describe as an upscale “uni-bomber”and have images of the faces of the airport service personnel as I walk up to the counter and ask to get on the next flight to “anywhere”.  So I have to shave, finish packing bits, get a cab to the airport, only to find out when I get there at about 9:20am that there isn’t another flight out until 6pm that night.  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  There are no words to aptly describe the emotional pain, disappointment and heartache that riddled my body at that moment.  Oh, did I mention it was $50 dollars to change my ticket?  I actually, for the first time in a while, had to sit down and weep a little, I won’t lie.   I was tired, I wanted to go home, I only had a day and a half turn around before heading off to New York.  I’m pretty good at letting thing go but this was a lot.  Luckily, at that moment, my best friend Krista happened to call to leave a message about something else and was shocked to hear me answer the phone.  She didn’t even hesitate, she came and got me and, since she had a rehearsal for a reading she was doing that afternoon, she dropped me at the library which was fine as 1. I couldn’t face having to talk to anyone and 2. I had some stuff I needed to do on the computer when I got home anyway so I could use the time.  I managed to get my stuff done, go to see the public reading of the play (which was a gift since I haven’t seen Krista act in years) and then she and her wonderful husband drove me to the airport since I was determined not to miss the next flight.

Is that all, you ask.  Of course not,  just for one last giggle, I get to the airport and up to the desk.  Did you know that Continental Airlines charges you for your checked baggage???   I didn’t!!!!!  Not the third baggage and beyond but the first and second bags which you’re allowed to check.   $35 for the 1st bag and $25 for the 2nd bag . . . plus $7.80 in taxes.  I literally must have just had that amount on my credit card cause  it went through, and I was pretty sure it was more or less full.  My God.

But the light in all of this is that the universe plays games I have found.  This is all just a warm up to prepare me for the good times ahead.  It’s the universe saying, “I’m going to have some fun with you and you have to suck it up.  But I’m only doing it because the next journey is going to be so rewarding.”  So I’ve just laughed and rolled my eyes.  After breaking down at the airport.  I managed to talk myself off the ledge.  Thank you Krista and Matthew.  Always my angels.

But now to the New York part.  I land at 12:50 something and hit the ground running.  I go to my apartment where I’ll be staying and meet my wonderful friend Dathan who found me the place and has been a total Godsend in taking care of stuff there, then I’ll take him for a lunch to thank him for his help.  (There will be a glamorous dinner to follow at some point as he has gone above and beyond but it’s a start).  Then I go for a wig fitting at 3:30.   Then on Tuesday, I have a mask fitting at 10:30 and a costume fitting at 1:30 for an hour and a half.  Then on Wednesday rehearsals begin.  Let the games begin, my peeps.

Published in: on August 23, 2010 at 2:17 pm  Comments (3)  

WARM IT UP, PEOPLE

Again, been very quiet but never did get internet in my room.  But here we are on the brink, my friends.  Four more days, four more shows here in Winnipeg.  Then back to Toronto for two days and then on to NYC.  What???!!!!!  Let the DonnaBlogs continue in all of their resplendant glory!!!  I can hardly wait.  But for now, I will probably not do another blog until I’m done here in Winnipeg so wish me luck for a smooth closing.  Monday morning.  Off I go.  Hope all is well in your worlds.  And thanks for coming on this journey with me.  I’ll try to keep it interesting.

Published in: on August 17, 2010 at 5:13 pm  Comments (1)