You Are Here (and we were there)

You guys. YOU GUYS.
Omg.
It’s been forever.
Do you even remember me?
Quick recap.
My name is Sharon Wheatley, I used to blog all the time in cliff hanging blogisodes and I had dozens (a dozen? Maybe a baker’s dozen?) of loyal readers (shout out to my Aunt Barbara, Creason and my PTBF Mark Motz—ok, maybe I had three loyal readers…) but HEY, HI!

For anyone else, here is a quick recap—I used to blog, I wrote a book, I lived in New York, I moved to San Diego, I was cast in a show, and now I live in New York again.
That’s basically all you need to know.
Oh. And now my hair is kind of red. And it used to be more of a brown-ish-with-golden-highlights situation.
But that looked bad in the show I’m in because my hair matched my jacket.
So they dyed it red-ish.

This is me with red-ish hair. My mother would hate this picture, which makes me laugh and want to post it. Note: red-ish.

Shazam! We’re all caught up!

I haven’t written in over two years? Three years….hold on…Geez, I don’t know. A long time.
I did write one blog last year and it gives you a quick snapshot of somethings that have gone down since we last met up (or if you are new you can skip it or read it or, you know, maybe you are already watching a video of a kitten giving a ducking a bath by this point, so, you know, let’s get on with it.)

Here’s what I’m writing about.

I’m in a show (as I said). The show is called COME FROM AWAY and it’s on Broadway, and you can come and see it and everything (I’m the one with the kind of red-ish hair and I may or may not stand on some chairs). And this show is set in, of all places, Newfoundland. And it’s a true story.
And I am going to tell you another true story, which is how a group of producers took a gigantic group of Broadway people to Gander, Newfoundland to eat a lot of sandwiches and do a concert in an ice rink.
And how it was better than being Beyoncé for a day.
Although maybe it’s not hard to have it better than Beyoncé for a day because, let’s face it, she’s got those newborn twins and has to be all famous and beautiful and still be a mom, which is hard and makes me exhausted just thinking about it. Let’s have a moment of silence and all think about Beyoncé and her babies and how she looked like the Madonna at The Grammy’s. Wait—not Madonna as in “Like a Virgin” Madonna, but instead Madonna as in the Madonna as in Jesus’s Mommy. Like this.

 

You’re wondering how this all relates to Gander, Newfoundland. I understand your confusion and thinking I’ve maybe lost my marbles, but be patient. You’ll see. We’ll get back to Beyoncé in Newfoundland. I promise.

It started as all good trips to Newfoundland should, on a bus out of Manhattan at some unbelievably early hour. Even the roosters were asleep.

But it seems like I need to give you a bit of background on how we got here and what I’m talking about so I am going to do a Reader’s Digest version. Or if you are too young to know what that is, the cliff notes version. Or if you are too young to know what that is, the Wikipedia version. Or if you are too young for that, you are on the wrong web page and should be over on the Minecraft page, so get outta here.

Here’s the basic info you need.

On 9/11 the US airspace was closed. All US bound flights from foreign countries were grounded at the nearest airport. For many planes that airport was in Gander, Newfoundland which is on the northeast most tip of North America. Tiny little Gander has a giant airport because they used to refuel big airplanes as they headed over to Europe back in the middle of the 20th century. Eventually jumbo jets were built which could make the flight without stopping to refuel, so Gander became a tiny town with a giant airport and a population of just under 9,000 people.
On September 11, 2001, 38 planes landed in Gander and the town hosted 7,000 people from all over the world for 5 days.

And David Hein and Irene Sankoff wrote a show about it.
And I’m in it.

And lots of other people are in it.

IMG_2697

 

(Lots of other people. Honestly, these are astounding and great people. And they let me take their picture a lot.)

And we all went to Gander on our way to opening the show on Broadway. And YES, for those of you consulting your calendars, this was almost a year ago, and YES, I am just now writing about it, but hey now, calm down and read and enjoy because, you know, sometimes in this instantaneous world it’s nice to let something percolate. And maybe I use the word “percolate” when others might use the word “procrastinate” but if you are into semantics you should probably read something much more highfalutin with fewer typos.

Most of us have been together since the summer of 2015, when we did the shows first commercial production at the La Jolla Playhouse. We then went on to do the show at The Seattle Repertory Theater, and then at The Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. We ended our run in DC in mid October, came to New York to do a shoot for Vanity Fair (that’s right, you heard me right, we were in Vanity Fair. Just look at us.

Have you ever seen a less likely crowd for a Vanity Fair shoot? We were beside ourselves. (PS zoom in on my shoes, they were awesome looking and almost crippled me) and then we all got a horrible night’s sleep and boarded a bus in Manhattan bound for Gander, Newfoundland.

It was a sixteen hour long travel day that involved two buses, two planes and a gift bag of Grey Goose, but to find out more, you’ll have to join me tomorrow for the next blogisode and find out WHO in our cast absolutely has to have their hand held on an airplane during take off and landing.
As in, if you sit next to this person on a plane and you are a complete stranger, you will end up holding this person’s hand anyway.

It’s fun to be back! Thank you for joining me!

Advertisements
Posted in Daily Dose (No Blogisode), You Are Here (and we were there) | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

YOU ARE HERE (and we were there) Blogisode 6 (The Concert)

Listen: If you’ve never read this blog and are just tuning in, this is the one to read. And truth be told, you do not really need to even catch up because you guys–these are the big ones. That’s right. In two epic and final blogisodes we are going to blast through the two best days in COME FROM AWAY history. There are pictures. There are lots of videos. Grab a bowl of Cod Au Gratin and some fried bologna, pour a shot of screech and settle in. These are the blog of all blogs and we are going long two days in a row.

 

One year ago the cast, crew and our phenomenal band performed two benefit concerts in Gander, Newfoundland for the very people whose goodwill and sandwiches inspired this story. We performed the concert in the hockey rink in Gander, referred to as “the world’s largest walk in refrigerator” if you’ve seen the show.

 

It was awesome.

 

It was epic.

 

I told you we’d get back to Beyoncé . We’re here. It’s Beyoncé day. Here’s us as Beyoncé in Newfoundland.

 

 

The buzz in Gander was palpable. As you guys can imagine, this little town was curious and excited and possibly a bit worried to see how their story might be depicted onstage. As was said to our writers, David Hein and Irene Sankoff by someone in Gander, “You guys are writing a musical about a bunch of people making sandwiches? Good luck with that.” That was not said in a snarky way but instead a sincere “who is going to be interested in that?” kind of way. The Newfoundlanders overall very much have the belief their story is nothing special. They were just doing what anyone would do. That made the excitement even greater for them and us. We could not WAIT to show them the magic of….them!

 

As we stood backstage and heard everyone coming in (a lot of people! Sold out for both shows!) we had a sense we might get emotional. Let’s face it–how often are you performing for the people who inspired the story? Joel Hatch says it best, “None of the reviews in the word mattered as much as what the people in Gander thought.” Agreed. Anyway, someone passed out tissues backstage just incase any of us should need them, and as one of the best stories in Come From Away cast history goes, Lee MacDougall (who plays Nick) famously passed saying, “I’m not going to cry.”

 

We filed up onto the stage and started the opening number and well, just listen. It takes them just a second to realize what we are saying.

 

As you can hear, they heard us singing “I’m an islander” and erupted into applause. It was a shock and awesome and lo and behold who was the first person to burst into tears? You guessed it. Lee. Which was awesome mostly because he a) did not have a tissue and b) was alternately laughing and crying because he could not believe himself. Lee is the most fun.

 

Now I am going to let the concert speak for itself and just blast a bunch of videos on here. These are for the die hard COME FROM AWAY fans, but are also mostly pretty short because we did not want to run out of room on my phone–so watch as you wish even if you think “meh, a bunch of videos?” Special thanks to nameless friend for filming these for me.

 

Now because I have been working on embedding these videos for two days to know avail, I am simply linking you guys to youtube. The first one worked because it is short, but from here on out I am sending you over to my youtube page. If my early readers could give me some feedback as to whether or not this is working, I would really appreciate it!

 

Follow the links below. They are only snippets and kind of random, but this is everything I have. It’s more about hearing the audience that watching the benefit, so you’ll see what I mean. If you want to skip to the best one, just go to the finale

 

How about that finale!? Not shown is Mayor Claude Elliot and Mayor Derm and others who climbed up onstage and danced and took bows with us. One of the most incredible moments (there were a million of them) was when the Newfoundland characters were introduced (Claude Elliot, Derm, Bonnie, Doug, Janice, Beulah, Oz) they got ENTRANCE APPLUSE. That’s right. Imagine almost three thousand people bursting into cheers and applause when Petrina says, “This is Bonnie Harris down here in he Gander SPCA.” It was incredible. The most fun. The greatest day. People ask if we are all friends and how there is such camaraderie in the cast and I will point to these concerts. We all loved each other from the start (as casts do), but this trip to Gander and performing these concerts was bonding beyond anything a person can imagine.

 

After the concerts were over and we’d finished the final bow, our trusty and awesome stage manager Jen Koz (as we call her) grabbed us all and yelled “RUN” for the Beyonce moment I’ve been talking about. As we headed back to our dressing rooms we had to pass the crowds as they were filing out and it really was like a rock concert. They were yelling to us and fearful we’d get mobbed–we had to run for it! It was hilarious and fun and everything you dream about when you are 8 years old and playing in your bedroom with your stuffed animals and maybe that is only me, but you know what I mean. Commonly referred to as “Bucket list moment” but even more so–such a complete and total honor to make the people of Gander understand why it was so much more than making a tray of sandwiches. It’s a level of kindness the world strives towards. The story we need to hear in the moment we so desperately need it.

 

Next up we are going to talk about what we did the day after the concert, which was our one free day/tourist day in Newfoundland. It was a jam packed day! Just you wait….

Posted in You Are Here (and we were there) | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

YOU ARE HERE (and we were there) Blogisode 5

Hello, hello, hello.

You guys it’s been two weeks and I have been slowly writing this blog for a while. It’s epic so grab a snack! We’re going long! And it’s chock full of pictures today. We’ve go to finish this thing! FYI I started writing it on 9/12, so that explains the date reference.

We are back at it after a fun filled day of service and performing on 9/11. We were all over the map on 9/11 including Petrina Bromley, our own Bonnie Harris and only Newfoundlander in the cast, who flew to Newfoundland on our day off to participate in a talk with the dreamy Justin Treaudu, Canada’s hunky prime minister. You guys, I have to tell you, when he came to see COME FROM AWAY in the spring there was quite a commotion at the show, basically due to his hunkier-than-thou status (ok and also because of his whole “let’s have good relations with the US and be nice neighbors blah blah blah”) but really because of his handsomeness. And I was pretty much, you know, above it all and a pretty cool cat. I was all, “Wow, ok, calm down everyone, he’s just a person.”

And then I met him after the show.

And his vivid blue eyes locked on mine.

And he smiled so warmly.

And I shook his hand.

And the next thing I knew I was running my other hand up his arm as we shook hands and I was holding his elbow.

And I basically had the Prime Minister in an arm lock to go with our eye lock.

And time stopped for everyone around us.

And then I remembered his secret service detail…and his kind and adorable wife…and I let go.

And I was mortified but it was worth it and I am insanely jealous of Petrina who managed to score this moment with my Canadian boyfriend.

And now, oh no, Joel Hatch, I am so sorry, I did an entire paragraph that was not just vanity but also fantasy so I’d better get right back on track.

Where did we leave off? Are you behind? Go here. Remember, there’s no more recap, we just “hit it” as my Dad would say.

So we left off at rehearsal at the hockey rink where we were definitely not skating but we were for sure freezing. And we had some more sandwiches (so many sandwiches). Here’s the crowd on stage left. This is before we added our winter coats. Please note that Colella is wearing her Annette vest over her layers of clothes, which is my favorite look of hers.

As we rehearsed there were various people milling about at all times. As you can imagine, 120 people from Broadway landing in a tiny town in Newfoundland might get a bit of attention. Most everyone in town had participated in hosting 7,000 people in some small way. All of them were both curious and fascinated about how these young kids (David and Irene) planned to make a whole musical out of “people making some sandwiches”. So if they were driving by the rink and they saw the school bus outside, they’d swing in to see what was happening.

At one point I looked back and I recognized none other than…

Wait. I’ll post the picture. Guess who it is.

Here’s a hint. He’s played by this guy.

Yup! Oz Fudge. The real guy!

I had to get a picture asap, which meant me running the length of the ice and back before Kelly Devine noticed (she noticed).

Oz was there with his daughter Lisa, who plays another important role in this story, but we’ll get back to her in a future blogisode. Geno and Oz hit it off so well that Oz actually let Geno drive his police cruiser and do the siren (say it with me, “whoop, whoop!”). In fact, they made quite a big entrance on Sunday morning when Geno rolled into the Tim Hortons parking lot in the police cruiser in front of everyone—we were having a big event there that morning—and Oz then presented Geno with his very own badge (one of Oz’s), an official uniform patch, and made him an honorary member of the Gander Municipal Police. At Tim Hortons. In Gander. To give you proper perspective, It was so awesome I even put down my honey cruller to clap. Geno sent me this stream of pictures, so let’s just take a minute and look at them all.

Basically, playing a real person has turned out to be nothing short of awesome.

You know what I think? I think I should do short vlogs with everyone and have them describe when they met the people they were playing and what it was like. Wouldn’t that be fun?

But that is for later because for now I want to tell you what happened after rehearsal, and let’s face it, we have GOT to get to the concert. Ok?

After rehearsal, we went home and peeled off our many layers, changed into some nice clothes and headed out to a dinner held in our honor at the—this was a trivia question—The Gander Airport. There were dignitaries to meet we all lined up and met some Canadian dignitaries (do you cutesy? Kiss the ring?)  then we played pool while the rest of the group walked the line. Here’s a shot of the boys. And yes, this is in the airport. Lee=pool shark. I like Chad and Joel watching him like hawks.

Then we headed out into the main terminal (I think it was the international departures wing, but someone remind me) and let me tell you what. For as much as we talk about how it looks like it’s been frozen in time, it really does. The whole thing is incredible, but my personal favorite is the bathroom. Look at this!

The dinner started off with Astrid meeting Beulah Cooper and Diane Davis (I will let her vlog and she can tell you about that), and Rodney met Derm, the Mayor of Appleton, and Petrina met Bonnie Harris, and Kendra met Janice and Brian Mosher (her character of Janice is a composite of two characters, as is Astrid’s). The rest of us had met all of our people and we sat with them for the dinner, where there was a plaque presented to the town of Gander. Here are a couple of pictures from the night. Note how me and Diane are dressed in the same colors, as are Astrid, Beulah and Diane Davis. (Beulah is in the patterned blouse and Diane Davis is in red.) We did not plan this. (Sorry there are so many of me…but…you know…it’s off of my camera. I’ll try to get some more from other people.)

I want to end by saying there was a choral group running a coat check for all of us at the dinner, and they were raising money to try to come and see the show in New York City. Many of us did not have cash on us and could not contribute, but I think there may have been an anonymous donor or two who helped them reach their goal. When they came to New York we did a talk with them after the show and I took a little video of them. It was an awesome, incredible night for all of us. Look at these cute faces. Welcome to New York, Gander kids!!!

Our cliffhanger/trivia question of the night is this. What is extremely easy to collect in Newfoundland? What does everyone hand out? Hint: We all came home with a giant collection of them.

Next blog leads us into probably the greatest day any of us on Come From Away ever experienced. We’ve done some extremely cool things, but this takes the cake. Tune back in!

Posted in You Are Here (and we were there) | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

YOU ARE HERE (and we were there) Blogisode 4

Welcome back, and how fitting we should all be together on 9/11. If you are behind, this is our fourth installment, go here for the previous blogisode.

Our own Joel Hatch, who plays Mayor of Gander Claude Elliott, is reading this blog and as we were getting ready to enter the stage he said he’s read my blog. I commented that I had to get on with it–we have so much story to go–and he said (essentially) Too much vanity, not enough story!

I respect Joel on about a thousand levels and he’s right. We need more story faster.

We left off with a cliff hanger, which is right where we will pick it up. I said we had a surprise waiting for us when we woke up in the morning, and for it to have a real impact, you should know we were in Gander last October. We’d been told it would be chilly and to bring warmer coats and maybe a hat. I think I found a scarf and tossed it into my bag but I do not think I really took the warnings too seriously–after all–we were in Washington D.C. at the time and enjoying a blistering Indian Summer, so the idea of putting on socks seemed warm enough.

So I was completely unprepared when we woke up to:

 

That’s right. It snowed. Not a lot, but just enough to give me a rush of delight as I waited for the elevator in the motel and snapped this picture to send my kids. I was, naturally, headed to where? Where do I start the day? Have you seen the show? Mayor Elliott tells you…correct. Say it with me. “I starts my day at Tim Hortons.”

To give you the lay of the land in Gander, there is one major road, Airport Boulevard, and on it are all major businesses, including our motel and the Tim Hortons. I was extremely excited to get to Tim Hortons (or Timmy’s as it if affectionately called) and I snapped this picture before I even walked in:

 

and then this one when I realized I was not the only member of our group with the idea to starts my day at Tim Hortons:

Note. That is Joel Hatch in the middle, so yes, I am now including him in this vanity. Joel and I not only start our day at Tim Hortons, we also start every show at Tim Hortons when he orders a Pepsi from me, Crystal the Tim Hortons cashier. Apparently this is true, the real Claude (according to my research) does have a Pepsi with a cup of ice and the same breakfast sandwich every day and they have it ready for him #perksofbeingthemayor. By the way, Claude Elliott is stepping down as the mayor of Gander after being the mayor since 1996. I am pretty sure Joel Hatch is a shoe in. #JoelHatchformayorofGander

Tim Hortons in Canada is our Starbucks/Dunkin’Donuts in America. They are everywhere.

Now for a public service announcement:

You guys–GO TO TIM HORTONS AND GET THE HONEY CRULLER. DO NOT PASS GO DO NOT COLLECT $200, GO IMMEDIATELY AND GET A HONEY CRULLER.

I’ll wait.

Tim Hortons has some good food, but for this blogger there is nothing better than the crunchy yet goopy, light yet dense sweetness for the honey cruller. I have started a bit of a movement in the Come From Away company. In fact, even Santa brought honey crullers at one point. Santa knows what a good donut tastes like. Don’t worry, we’ll talk more about Timmy’s later.

Back to the story! Once I’d had my body weight in honey crullers and timbits (these are the delicious donut holes, much adored by our writers’ daughter, Molly) we head over to the venue for rehearsal for the concert.

A few things about this.

They told us we could walk there, but because of the snow sprinkle and the distance, so we were instead boarded onto a bus. And not just any bus, but a school bus. Yes! Just like in the show! Hold on, I had someone take a picture, let me find it.

 

We took school buses all weekend and it was too much fun. I love that you can even see our director, Tony Award Winner Chris Ashley (far right) in this picture. We were all there and happy to be on the bus, but let’s face it, Chad Kimball needed to be driving if we want to be true to the show.

So we drive over to the arena and this is where I need to really lay it out for you because you are not going to believe it.

Seriously.

We were doing two concerts, both on Saturday, and basically all of Gander and surrounding towns and most of Newfoundland was going to be there. So they needed somewhere big. So if you are thinking big and you are in Canada, what do you think of? Think. Come on. You’ll get it.

Bingo!

We were doing the concerts in–yes. The hockey rink. The very same hockey rink they converted to “The world’s largest walk in refrigerator” when they needed to keep the perishable food cold for the 7,000 people they hosted over the week of 9/11.

So if they say you are doing a concert in a hockey rink, if you are me and from Ohio, you picture a large arena that does not have any ice in it because they drain it when there is a concert.

Right?

Anyone else think that?

Ok, only me.

So yes. We were in a hockey rink and while the ice was covered with protective covering, it was cold, dear readers. Like….sing with your coats and hats on and stamp your feet a lot kind of cold. Fortunately we DO stomp our feet a lot, and besides.

IT

WAS

AWESOME.

Look.

That’s what we walked in to (note the coffee cup–there was more Tim Hortons waiting for us when we got there.) I do not know if you can blow that picture up at all, but there were giant projection screens on each side of the stage, and our crew had put together fabulous projections and cameras and lights and the whole sound crew was there. I mean–basically–we were gobsmacked.

I cried.

Everyone cried.

The best was Sue Frost, one of our lead producers who basically walked around with a giant open mouth smile the entire day. And I can’t leave out Randy Adams who talked and laughed so much that weekend he developed almost complete laryngitis, which did not stop him from talking (croaking) and having the time of his life.

We were slated to rehearse all day in the arena, getting the sound and lights right, as well as our harder than it seemed chair to microphone choreography. I guess I should explain that. We were not doing the full show. We were doing a concert version. That means we had 12 chairs and 12 microphones and one choreographer and one director, and they both have assistants….and, well, we wanted it to look as close to the show as we could without the set, so we kind of…made another show. The actors-at-the-microphone version of the show.

It was hilarious at times. Jenn Colella came up with a way you could strike a pose that looked sort of like standing and sort of like sitting–a not-too-deep squat, if you will, that might get you past the keen eye of Kelly Devine, choreographer to the stars and Tony award nominated for Come From Away….but guess what? She saw it every time. I got one thing wrong so many times, she got mad at me (deservedly) and I had so much Tim Hortons coffee streaming through my blood and was so jacked up that I retorted, “Stop yelling at me!” Which sent her into peals of laughter.

We do laugh a lot. All of us. All the time.

At one point we were on a break and being called back to the stage (read–the far end of the hockey rink where the goal would be) and you’ll never guess who was walking around being all official in the back (and by “back” I mean the other end of the rink near the locker rooms).

Just guess.

Here’s a hint.

It was a guy.

And he was on duty.

Oh-oh-ooh….cliff hanger! We will get back to this soon!

And a bonus cliff hanger.

Guess where we had dinner that night? It was an official dinner with dignitaries. Where would that happen in Gander?

More soon!

Thank you for reading!

Crystal from Tim Hortans says HONEY CRULLER.

Life changing.

Posted in You Are Here (and we were there) | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

You Are Here (and we were there) Blogisode 3

Omg you guys, hi. Hello. This blogisode comes to you from high above, uh, let me look….somewhere green and farm-y…Indiana? Anyhoo, it comes to you from an American Airlines flight and while it is the “prettiest plane”, I do wish my pal Beverley Bass was flying it. Note spelling of Captain Bass’s first name. She’s got that tricky additional e tossed in there, making her name bigger than a normal Beverly, which is very Texan of her, as Texans like things big. Shout out to Sue Frost for spell checking for me. Here is a favorite photo of me and Captain Beverley Bass and Diane.

I’m currently flying back to NYC to do the show tonight after driving my daughter Charlotte to Chicago for school. That’s right. I said drive. We split in the car immediately after the matinee on Sunday and drove all the way to Youngstown, Ohio where we smuggled in her cat (That’s right, we drove with a cat), and then we slept for 5 seconds, loaded up on coffee and drove the rest of the way to Chicago yesterday (Monday). I am now on a plane back to NYC and Martha, that good egg, is driving the car back to New York. I am not the only person to do such a crazy thing on my one day off from the show, we all have to live our lives as best we can, and since theater only has one day off (generally a Monday) we have to make hay while the sun shines, as they say. Or at least look at hay as you drive cross country.

 

There is no better time to write about a bus trip then while on a plane, right? Oh—but before we start I want to make sure you all know how perfectly beautiful Astrid is since I posted that hilarious but not-the-most-flattering picture of her (which we will get back to, as you might remember). Here we go. Let’s all look at the lovely Astrid.

 

See that last picture? That is from the very first day off in the very first week of rehearsals in the very first city (La Jolla, California) where we ever performed COME FROM AWAY. I took all these beauties on a hike around Torrey Pines, and now, just as I made up to Astrid for the fish picture, well, now I am probably going to blow it again by telling you about my very favorite moment EVER with Astrid, which happened on this hike. The defining moment where I immediately knew, this Canadian is bonkers and I love her.

(Sidebar: Turbulence happening. If Astrid were here we would be holding hands)

As we hiked we all ooooed and awed and marveled at the gorgeous views of the ocean—we saw a WHALE—no joke, it was amazing and despite me hiking that paths zillion times I’d never seen one before (or since). As we came down the final path to the beach, with the ocean stretched out all around us, Astrid said, “I’ve never been in the Pacific Ocean before” and while I was expecting her to…you know…take off her shoes and wade in the surf, she instead stripped down to her bra and panties and barreled right into the waves.

In April.

In the freezing cold Pacific.

Without looking back or giving a hoot if anyone cared.

Without a towel.

Look. I was so shocked and IMPRESSED that I knew immediately, this chick is in for life. She’s my “let’s have a blast” spirit animal.

I defy you to not have fun with Astrid. It’s impossible.

Oh well now look. I’m a million words into this blog and I have not even started about the Gander trip. This is terrible. But I can’t delete all that stuff about Astrid, it’s too awesome, so you have to put up with me and my side trips from Gander. Let’s get back to it. Ready? Grab a snack. I’ll wait.

So we’re on the bus and I left you with a little cliff hanger about the band which I will sort out in a minute.

If you’ve seen the show or listened to the cast recording you already know that we spend a decent amount of time singing about what you can see from a bus window in Newfoundland (this is a good time to play “Darkness and Trees”, “On the Bus” and “Darkness and Trees Reprise” if you want to fully immerse yourself) and let me tell you—Newfoundland is dark. Seriously. Now we weren’t all scared and nervous like the characters we play (we were all either drinking, sleeping, or if you are me and Lee MacDougall, you are sitting in the back of the bus by yourself reviewing the “Concert Choreography” which seems easy but it isn’t).

Here’s a picture of me and what I was doing on the bus. Lee was right in front of me doing the same thing.

Me and Lee at the Vanity Fair shoot (just so you know who I am talking about)

 

Last year at the time when we were in Newfound, Pokémon Go, the game you play where you hunt down and capture little Pokémon creatures on your phone, was all the rage. Both of my kids were obsessed so I downloaded the app to see if I could capture Pokémon in Newfoundland, hoping they would have some kind of super special and rare and exotic Newfoundland creatures which I could capture and then impress the kids. I will now use a screenshot of my Pokémon Go screen to give you an idea of how deserted Newfoundland is.

As a reference:

Here is a current picture of what it looks like to play Pokémon Go (I am in my apartment in New York City, but it looks like this most everywhere you might ever open this game).

This is what Pokémon Go looks like on a bus in Newfoundland.

Needless to say, when Chad Kimball says in the show “I look out the window and all I can see is trees and rocks and…nothing.” That is an accurate statement.

So to put things in perspective in the just-how-tired-we-were department, remember we’d been up since before the roosters, been on a bus to La Guardia, been through customs in Toronto, flown another 4 hours or so to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and then boarded a bus to Gander for a three and a half (or so) hour ride. Not 45 minutes, ya’ll. Three and a half hours.

As you can imagine, things started out pretty crazy with Grey Goose consumption, crazy laughing, visiting from seat to seat, and the eating of the first of what would be many sandwiches. So many sandwiches. But eventually, as the long travel day caught up with us and the giant schedule for the weekend loomed, we all settled down and slept.

After a bit there was some movement and I saw Ian Eisendrath, our music supervisor, heading towards me in the back of the bus along with August Eriksmoen, our music arranger. August was along for the trip and playing some of the guitar and mandolin book. This was a first for him and he and Ian decided to talk through things. Eventually, other musicians joined, and you guys….it turned into this…the adorable Ben Power is on the pipes. They did this for a long time, as we drove through the darkness and trees of Newfoundland and while I tell you I will take away many memories of this trip, this memory will stick with me for a long time and I had a great seat for it. Enjoy. This is the real Darkness and Trees music. https://www.dropbox.com/s/in15ax3oplkygan/Bus%20Recording%20Rolling%20Into%20Gander.%20Ben%2C%20Ian%20and%20August.m4a?dl=0

We listened to this as we rolled into Gander, checked into our motel, and were greeted by our generous and delighted producers and most importantly, the real Mayor of Gander himself, Claude Elliot. We ate and drank and fell into bed.

You’ll never guess what greeted us the next morning!

Well…..you’ll have to guess. Because this is where we are signing off!

Good stuff coming you guys.

So glad you are here with me!

 

Posted in You Are Here (and we were there) | 10 Comments

You Are Here (and we were there) Blogisode 2

You are all hilarious and thank you for reading and for sharing it and for commenting on my very first blog post in 937 years. And you guys, ENOUGH about my jacket color. It’s a great jacket and it was built for me and is super fancy and Broadway. You can’t order online, so don’t even try, although I know you want to. And hey–I get this snazzy new hair color, so all is good. Here is a picture of me on TV in a cab (which is just about as exciting as it gets) and you get a good look at my jacket and my hair and more importantly, I get to show off that as a New Yorker, this is just about being as famous as being a Yankee. Just saying.

 

Here’s what made me nervous about other comments from blog one. “I’m so excited to read your next installment tomorrow!!” Uh oh.  Tomorrow? No can do. It’s been 562 years since my last blog post and I am already creating expectations and disappointing. I will try to write everyday, but blogging is kind of like going to the gym. I get up—I get dressed to go to the gym—and then I wear my workout clothes to Target where I then buy more gym clothes and also a cake pop and a coffee from the Starbucks inside.

In case you are curious how that manifests in a writer’s life, it looks like this: I get up, I drink coffee and read all of your comments, I maybe check my stats to see if I have more than three loyal readers, I drink some more coffee, I charge up my iPad, and then I carry it around with me all day thinking about what to write. At some point in there I maybe I take my iPad to Target where I then buy a new book to read. (PS I just read In a Dark, Dark, Night, which is a modern-day Agatha Christie-esque story. Enjoyable.)

And then I go do the show and come home and talk to Beatrix and then watch The Americans (so good—obsessed) and I think as I drift off to sleep, I will definitely go to the gym and/or blog tomorrow.

The good news is I have a better track record for blogging than I do for going to the gym although I may or may not be dressed for the gym as I type this.

So here we are, back again, not the next day but the day after. I guess the point is, I will write and finish this blog series, I promise, but be loving and patient with me.

Ok—Martha says I used to recap too much so I am not recapping anymore.

If you haven’t read the first blogisode, go here, and then come back. Hi again. We left off (as you now know) with us boarding a bus in midtown bound for Gander, Newfoundland. And unless we have some kind of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang situation, you know we took a lot of other vehicles to get there.

So. I get to the bus and everyone is all, you know, looking the way you look when you get on a bus at 5am, which looks like…a lot of hats (Colella always has an adorable stocking cap thing) and no makeup and stretchy clothes…and people begging for coffee (Chad Kimball). This is standard early morning travel etiquette, I’d say, and we were all in silent agreement to ease into the day with no pictures or loud sounds. Exceptions are made for one cast member who is alarmingly bright and cheery and connected to social media at even the earliest of hours, and that person is…..drum roll please….(I will get to the trivia question from the last blog in a minute, this is a slight diversion)….Rodney Hicks. Rodney Hicks showed up looking adorable and well groomed and in—I feel like saying, and I am not sure if I am right—maybe he was in all white and ironed and shined shoes and a not-intended-for-warmth hat that he alternately wore perched on his cute bald little head and suavely perched on a nearby ledge.

The thing to know about Rodney is he is INTENSE, he loves you in a complete way, and he does everything full-out. So. When he pulled out his camera at the airport and started taking pictures of us (selfies) we all said, “Uh, ok, well, but I don’t have any makeup on or anything” and his response was a sincere, “You are beautiful” so we all just, well you’d do it too, we all posed and smiled.

I think when he started doing multiple Facebook Live posts at about 8am we got a little testier, or at least I did, and I remember hiding in the bathroom at one point in a swirl of my own vanity before finally giving in and putting on some makeup to make my mother happy (even though she is no longer here I still hear her voice in my head, and she’s right). PS the runner up for best dressed at all times goes to Kendra Kassebaum who always looks both chic and cozy, my forever goal in life. She is my wardrobe spirit animal.

Basically—from the get go—we were excited, but tired, and quickly aware that this trip was not one you were taking alone or with one dear friend, but instead would have a camera presence akin to The Amazing Race. So basically, although no one ever looked as snatched as Rodney, we all upped our game pretty quickly. I’d say that idea was solidified by the press team’s announcement of what news organizations would be covering our trip (just about all of them).

One of the most fun and interesting aspects of this show, as you all probably know, is our characters are based on real people. Many of us had met our real life counterparts early on including me. The real life Diane, who is a lovely woman from Texas, came to the production in La Jolla and we met in the lobby prior to her seeing the show where she and Nick regaled me with the stories we tell pretty much verbatim in the show. “I’d never had more than one beer at a time before” and Nick finished her sentence by saying, “So I bought her two more beers”

I listened and said, “Really?” Knowing full well that exact scene would be played out before their very eyes in mere moments. We were never supposed to do direct impersonations of our characters, but regardless, we are portraying them with an eye towards responsibility. Except for Diane’s accent, which I couldn’t do justice to if you paid me a gazillion dollars. It is a perfect and awesome Texas drawl. I always tease her because she puts an “r” at the end of the word idea. Say it with me. “Idear” Really lean into it with your best Texas accent. “Idear” I begged David and Irene to add a line for me where I was able to use the word idear–like maybe, “I have an idear, let’s Stop The World!” But oddly they said no (?? But why?)

I adore this woman, Here is a picture of me adoring her at the legion in Gander, ripped from a Canadian newspaper. Which seemed like a good idear.

As if the trip of a lifetime could not get any better, not only did all of us go on the Gander trip, but so did our real life people from all over. Nick and Diane were there and Beverley Bass and her husband Tom came, as did Kevin Tuerff (played by Chad Kimball). The rest of the gang we met while in Newfoundland, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Once we flew out of New York (after a sizable delay) the gang of us (including cast, band, stage managers, company managers, and press people, we landed in Toronto. Oh–and since we are now talking about flying, I will answer our trivia question from blogisode one.

WHO IS THE CAST MEMBER WHO WILL HOLD ANYONES HAND, EVEN A STRANGERS HAND DURING TAKEOFF AND LANDING?

The answer is: This girl.

Astrid Van Wieren.

And because this picture is awesome in every way, it will be coming back in a later blogisode with an explanation.

But you should also know that if you were on a plane and sitting next to Astrid you would hold her hand happily, even if you are the Grinchy-est get away from me person because Astrid is adorable and loving and vulnerable and you would hold her hand and be honored to do so. Besides. She would take your hand anyway, so you’d have no choice. And then she would buy you a drink.

Anyhoo, we land in Toronto, grab some food and by food I mean booze, and we board our next flight, this time to St. John’s Newfoundland. Here’s what the map on the plane looked like.

 

 

 

 

 

Once we landed we meet up with Beverly Bass and Tom, and they open a giant suitcase filled with care packages for all of us to enjoy while we are on the four hour bus ride to Gander.

That’s right. We drove to Gander despite being in a musical based in and around the giant airport in Gander. Correct. We did not fly into the famed Gander Airport. Apparently it is hard to get a flight to Gander these days and given the size of our crowd it was decided to bus us there instead in two giant party buses with booze brought to you by Captain Bass. Look how cute the little care packages were, and yes, that is Gray Goose as a sweet nod to the lines in the show about the particularly coveted libation.

(You guys, I feel compelled to point out I know some of these pictures are coming in a giant size, and while I am trying to make them smaller, I have not yet been successful. So bear with me. I’ll figure it out, hopefully by the next blogisode. If there is a wordpress doctor in the house, please make yourself known.)

The bus ride and our arrival deserves a post all of its own, so I will end it here for now. But I leave you with this question.

How do you think the band kills time on a four hour bus ride?

This answer and more coming up in the next blogisode!

Thanks for joining me and for all your support. This blogisode is in memory of Beulah’s son, Aubrey, the firefighter she talks about in the show, who passed away last week. We love you, Beulah. And a shout out to Nick and Diane who are okay but do live in Houston which is (as you know) flooding from Hurricane Harvey. We love you guys, too. Stay safe.

Posted in You Are Here (and we were there) | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

The End of Shiva (A new blog about new things)

Oh you guys, it’s been a long time. Three years, in fact. Sometimes people ask me when I am going to blog again and I laugh, “Never!” I say. Followed immediately with, “Okay, in all seriousness, I’ll blog when I have something to say.” I guess I assumed I would know when I was ready to blog again, sort of  like how Martha Stewart knows when her tomatoes are ripe, but a few days ago two different people asked me about blogging in regards to some life changes I’d made. One was Rob, who said, “Why aren’t you being more out there about what’s going on? I’m surprised!” and then my dear pal and blog follower and founder of our fake weather channel on Facebook, Georga Osborne, said, “I think you have something to say about all of this, and I want to hear it.”

So I thought about it. And thought about it. And then thought some more.

And here’s the deal. It’s scary to talk to you guys.

This is a new emotion for me. I’ve made a habit of making my life an open book–I mean seriously–I literally WROTE a book, and have made a habit of sharing intimate details about my life and my feelings public. But then my Mom got really sick and my life turned upside down, and I started to question my ability to share in a wider forum other than my closest friends.

A few words about my mother. She died January 5th, and I was there with her, as was Charlotte and my sister and my aunt and my Dad and my brother in law and my cousin, and I will never be the same. It was–in one day–the greatest and worst experience of my life, but that is another story for another day. It does pertain to this blog post because what I said to Rob was that I think I have been waiting to post anything because I am loathe to change the conversation away from my mother’s death. I want to respect her memory and her life and celebrate it and mourn her, and not talk about anything else for a long, long time. I want to call her and run this blog post by her. I want her to make coffee and then we’ll go to Macy’s all caffeined up and use our coupons and buy clothes that we’ve dug out of sale racks. I miss her. I miss her. And I think I have not written anything because I haven’t been ready to change the conversation away from the fact that my Mama died. As Rob said the other night, “You’ve always liked the idea of sitting shiva.”

So let’s all take a minute and think about my mom.

One more minute.

Ok. Now.

I have something to tell you. And let’s be CLEAR. Most people would not do this. But I am not most people, I have all of you loving people who read my posts for a long time and read my book, and to not share this feels like I am hiding from the truth and I can’t do it anymore.

I can’t do it anymore.

Have I mentioned?

The weather is nice today.

I should probably wash some dishes.

Or brush my teeth.

Because I have a stomach ache and I am nervous.

Ready? Here’s the Reader’s Digest version.

Rob and I are getting divorced.

He knows I am writing this blog, in fact he approved it.

We are totally still friends.

The kids are alright.

It’s been almost a year now.

We’re both happy and in other relationships.

I’m in love with a woman. Her name is Martha Donaldson.

Ok! Gotta go! Hope everyone’s fine! BYYYYYEEEEE!

(Whew, that’s over. Hopefully no one will notice or care and they’ve all gone back to their lemonade and contemplating if they should mow their long summer lawn.)

Is anyone still here?

Can I say one thing? If you are a person who is super offended by what I just said, can we avoid confrontation? Maybe just…unfriend me on Facebook and walk away? Because I’m going to tell you, I’ve had quite a year and as Theresa Rebeck once said in one of her plays regarding being thin-skinned. It’s not even that I’m thin skinned right now. “I have no skin.” So, you know, this is your chance to split and I’ll give you a hug goodbye and say, I get it, I understand, and let’s agree to disagree but stay cordial.

Now…let’s wait for the unfrienders. I’ve had some this year, that’s for sure.

For those of you who are left, I’ll tell you a few things. Rob is great and good and we are just FINE and friendly. Beatrix is currently with me in New York City and she will go back to San Diego and go to school while I travel for a short time before coming to New York for a spell to do a show (more on that in a minute.) Charlotte is great and working on a vegetable farm getting muscles in her arms and sunshine and prepping to go to DePaul in the fall. That’s in Chicago, by the way, which is usually the next question. Oh, and she’s a pre-med/science-ish kind of major (That  is usually the next question).

Martha and I met last summer while we were both doing a show and, I don’t know what to tell you, it just….was. Martha later said to me, “How did you know?” and I told her, it was the clearest thing I’d ever experienced. Despite never being in a relationship with a woman, or wanting to be in a relationship with a woman  (although my book readers know I did, in fact, have a moment in seventh grade with a girl. So yes. Once before. When I was 12.) meeting Martha was a total game changer.

When I told Charlotte about me and Martha, she said, “I’m not into labels, but do you consider yourself bi-sexual?” And I said, “You know honey, I don’t know. I’ve thought a lot about it, obviously, I had to question myself pretty hard before making this decision, and all I can tell you is that if I were to break up with Martha I don’t know that I would turn around and immediately seek out a woman. To me, it’s about the person, not the gender.”

And Charlotte thought about it for a minute and then said, “So you’re gay for Martha!” and I said, that’s right. I’m gay for Martha.

And then Charlotte asked if she could be in the wedding and I was like, hey, hey, hey, hey let’s all slow down a minute but thank you for the enthusiasm. (And Beatrix keeps pointing to dresses that she can wear as the flower girl–my children–they are cute and sweet but pushy.)

Full disclosure on the above story–Charlotte knows I am telling you and approved the above. Rob also knows I am writing this. Martha knows I am writing this. Beatrix says no to everything as a sport, so I am not telling her. But the deal is this. Their stories are their stories.  And as Rob said recently, There is no point in going back and rehashing what happened. Let’s all move on.

I’m moving on. I’m working my way back to happy after a lot of loss.

Let’s end this post on a good note!

I am back in New York, I am living in midtown, and I am going to be in a fantastic Broadway show. My mother, just before she died, knew this was happening and she cried with happiness. My Mom never wanted me to move to California, and never wanted me to give up theater. I was WITH HER when I got the call that I got the job. She was the first person I told, and my news followed a very devastating meeting she’d had with her oncology team. As I pulled her up in her hospital bed I said, “Jo (I called her Jo), I know this is all truly awful, but I just got news and I want you to be the very first person to know.” And then, like happens in cartoons, tears flew out of her eyes in a shower and she kept saying, “I’m so happy! I’m so happy!”

And then we cried more.

So even though my Mama, my sweet Jo, Mary Jo, Josephine, Jo Jo, Joanne, Mother, Mommy might have a very hard time initially with all that has transpired with me in the past year in my personal life, I hold on to these moments. And with a very clear moment when she sat up in her bed with an NG tube in her nose and said, “Be happy. NO matter what. Go be my happy girl.”

I am Jo. I am.

If you’d like to meet Martha, here is a great video of her doing her thing. Or, if you’re in my life and want to meet her in person–hey–I’d love that!

Or, if you’d like to see someone talking a little bit about what I’m feeling and going through, Cynthia Nixon does an interview for an HBO documentary called The OUT List that pretty much sums up a lot of how I’m feeling. If you have HBO or Netflix you can watch it. She’s the very last interview, so fast forward to the last 5 minutes and you’ll see it. Or, here is a pretty crummy recording of it from youtube.

I’ll probably write more soon, but this seems like enough for now. I’m not sitting shiva anymore.

Thanks you guys.

Love,

Sharon

Posted in Daily Dose (No Blogisode) | 18 Comments

A New Vlog!

Hello Blog friends!

 

It’s been so very long since we’ve last seen each other, in fact, I kind of forget how to even make a post. Isn’t that a sad, state of affairs? Oh technology…always evolving and I was about 23 updates behind (truth), including that somehow I’ve lost the ability to embed a video in my post. Translation, you’ll have to follow a link to youtube and then watch it there. Sorry!

Anyhoo, I’m back in New York City for a hot second and ran into my old friend and Vlog busy Jacob Brent, so we decided to do a quick check-in blog. I hope this finds you all well. I am doing great, and the kids are wonderful. Can you believe from our first days together when they were 13 and 3, they are now 16 and 6? (truth).

Enjoy our vlog, we had fun making it. Click on the link to connect.

xo

Sharon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptUG0VOwBKI

Posted in Vlog (Video Blog) | 4 Comments

Kristin Chenoweth Down Under, an interview with director Richard Jay-Alexander (and a surprise guest appearance!)

Hello blog friends!

I am writing from Maine where I am finally starting to catch up on work (while I am on vacation).  Last year I wrote a blog post about working with the terrific singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth, and I am happy to say that my association with her continues.  This time I was working with Kristin and her team (including extraordinary music director Mary-Mitchell Campbell) on her Australian concert tour.  I was writing and working with her on a sketch with the Avenue Q puppets.

Those cute little puppets love to say really horrible things to shock her, and going to Australia led to a slew of inappropriate Australian themed jokes.  So much fun.  Even better is handing material to someone as funny as Kristin Chenoweth and watching her mine it for additional laughs.  It’s a “pinch me is this real?” moment as a writer.  I’m proud to report that she received rave reviews across Australia and if you want to see the show in America, you have one more chance when she plays the Hollywood Bowl later this summer.  Fingers crossed that she will find her way to New York again with this fantastic show.

Providing me with this terrific opportunity was friend and mentor Richard Jay-Alexander.  Richard Jay gave me my very first job in 1992 as a “swing” in the National Tour of Les Miserables and after years of directing that show around the world, his career exploded in the concert venue.  Read more to find out about Richard Jay’s long career, about Kristin touring Australia, and about his life as guru to the divas.

As a surprise to Richard, I e-mailed Kristin before her opening night in Sydney and asked her what it was like to work with Richard Jay and how the puppet sketch was coming along.  One quick thing, I have to tell you that one of the most charming things about Kristin is her hilarious use of her Blackberry.  She types quickly and doesn’t always edit, so you get funny notes that you sometimes have to read twice.  My personal favorite was last year when the space bar was broken on her Blackberry and I got emails that read like this.

hisharonithinkthesketchisgoingoverwell!!sorrybutmyspacebarisbroken,canyoubelieve??

This is her adorable (and unedited) response about Richard Jay and touring in Australia:

Hi Sharon!  I just lol at the puppets sketch everytime we do it.Tonight is the “first night” of the actual show. Im nervous bec I wanna knock it out of the ballpark for australia.
Rja and i have been together a year now. How hes given me confidence to let certain material “go”. And pushed me to even greater heights. I will never be able to thank him enough!
And u xcan quote me! 

Hilarious, right?

Richard Jay took the time to answer the following questions even as he was preparing to open Barbra Streisand’s European tour.  You think you are fancy?  Richard Jay is fancy.  Two divas on two continents and the show he directed for the hottie Italian pop-opera boy group Il Volo debuting on PBS, and he still answers e-mail.  Fancy.

Hi Richard Jay! We know Kristin had a great tour across America last year.  Why is Kristin touring in Australia?  Does she have a large fan base there? Interestingly, Kristin has a world audience due to her success in television, in films and on Broadway. We are touring because the demand has been great and for the first time in a while Kristin actually has some pockets of time available and we were able to plug in appearances, as it’s something we love doing.

Has Kristin been to Australia before?  Is she excited to go? Kristin is very excited. It’s her FIRST time in Australia and needless to say she can’t wait to hold a koala bear. I know she is particularly excited about playing the Sydney Opera house—because it’s so legendary, but she was also really flattered to be asked to headline this years Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The other cities are Melbourne and Brisbane.

Did you change the show for Australia? The show isn’t essentially changed from what we toured in North America except that we have Australia-centric references. The great thing about being an American star and coming to other parts of the world is bringing what she does to the people who fell in love with her for that very thing.

Many people know Kristin had a serious head injury last year.  How is she doing? Kristin’s injury last year was a shocker for all of us and it’s a long, slow heal.

We know you’ve worked with many “divas” (in the best sense) such as Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters and many more.  How do you like working with Kristin?  Did you know her before? If you’re asking me what I love about Kristin, I would have to say everything. We sort of knew each other, only through our profession, up until we began working together a year ago… but I have loved every single minute of it. And for me, she’s like playdough because she can do anything and everything.

What is something people would be surprised to know about Kristin Chenoweth? What would surprise people about Kristin is actually her talent. She seems so down to earth and normal and fun and then when she kicks into gear and displays the versatility of all her gifts… it’s absolutely mind-boggling.

Kristin sings for almost 3 hours in the show, which is incredible.  How does she prepare for show days?  Does she have any special needs?  Kristin takes her work very seriously, which is a pleasure for me. She is incredibly diligent about preparation, she does her homework and she treasures the gifts of that voice that she’s been given with proper vocalization and everything else that goes along with well-being and able to endure the length of a show like this and the versatility of the material.

You travel with her on tour.  What are you doing an hour before the show?  What are you doing during the show? When I travel with Kristin on tour, half-hour becomes bible and I don’t even go into her dressing room unless she asks for me. During the show I watch along with the audience, in awe, and then after I usually thank her for hiring me and we sort of revisit the evening’s performance with laughter and tears (good tears). Then she might have a sip of something… and off to bed.

You seem to specialize in directing the great divas.  How would you describe your job and why are you so good at it?  I seem to have found myself in a niche of working with great concert artists, but if you look at the type of people I work with (Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, Lea Salonga, Kristin Chenoweth to name a few from a long list)  they are actually all from the theatre, or have done theatre. I love working with people who have tools and gifts and interpretative qualities… which usually means actors who sing. I’m pretty lucky but every time I get a job I always call Bernadette Peters to thank her, because she actually launched my concert career when she asked me to do her Carnegie Hall debut back in 1996.

How did you segue from theater to big concerts? Segueing from theatre to concerts (or for that matter to cabaret or television studio or recording studio or a soundstage) aren’t really that different. You just focus on the task at hand.

You are directing Les Miz this summer at The Muny.  How does it feel to come back to this piece after all this time? Les Miz will always be one of the highlights of my career and my theatrical life. When the history books are written, it will simply be—the greatest musical of all time. Doing it at the MUNY this summer will be my last time with this piece but I love every single one of those characters on that stage from the Victor Hugo novel brought to life so vividly, musically by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil.

You know I’m a big Bette Midler fan, and you directed her (sensational) KISS MY BRASS tour.  What is she like to work with? Doing Bette Midler’s Kiss My Brass tour was another highlight, as I was a huge fan of Bette’s and used to get stoned to The Divine Miss M all the time. When you work with somebody like her you realize why certain people are stars and others aren’t. Her talents are so unique and she has so many different styles of singing in her and unparalleled pathos. Again, here’s an actress who sings. If you listen to early albums and hear pieces like “Surabaya Johnny” or “Hello In There” they still work every single time… and still devastate.

Describe your relationship with Barbra Streisand.  My relationship with Barbra Streisand is now in its 14th year and I don’t think I can talk sensibly about her because it’s too many things to comprehend. But I will say this… every day I go to work with her I am thrilled and come out re-inspired by her level of work ethic and the creativity that happens in the room. Rehearsal is always a safe place, she’s so talented at so many different things that one can only aspire to. And I always say that I like her so much, I forget she sings… and then when she opens that mouth and raises her voice… I die.

Many people would love to live your life.  What is on your to-do list today?  If you think people really want to live my life they should try my list on for today. Video bank meeting, re-editing a show piece, having a meeting about another job before work at the hotel, signing a contract that needs to be sent back to America, answering emails, trying to find time to eat, making sure I’m not late for my pick-up to the rehearsal venue, rehearsing a choir and vocalist before tonight’s rehearsal, arranging theatre tickets for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, reading the papers, get my ticket requests in, shower, shave and look nice, check in with every department on the floor to make sure everybody has everything they need, oh yeah… and post on Facebook.

Many thanks to Richard Jay-Alexander for the opportunity, and to his assistant Amy Shaughnessy for facilitating the interview.

But before we go, here is one more e-mail from Ms. Chenoweth as a wrap up for the Aussie experience.  Again, I didn’t edit it because her emails crack me up.

Sharon
Your wit and genius was SO appreciated here! The crowds went nuts for avenue q. I was so proud.
Ive had an incredible time here. Sad to leave.
The audiences were am-az-ing. I feel so honored to have played the Opera House. A bucket -lister.
Thanks for helping make the show suCcessful!!!!!
Much love from “down-under”.
Kc

To learn more about Richard Jay-Alexander, please read his bio here:  http://broadwayworld.com/people/bio/Richard-Jay-Alexander/

To learn more about Kristin Chenoweth at the Hollywood Bowl, please visit here:  http://www.hollywoodbowl.com/tickets/kristin-chenoweth/2013-08-23

Posted in Let Me Tell You What I Like About It | 1 Comment

SMASH Fact or Fiction Episodes 13 and 14 ("The Producers" and "The Phenomenon")"

%%wppa%% %%photo=20%% %%size=0.5%% %%align=left%%   SMASH’s second season is winding down and we all wonder if it might be the last.  No matter, actors all over New York are thankful for another season of potential TV work, hopeful for a third and I’m delighted to host our favorite blogosphere TV gameshow.  We’d better play while we can because as we all know, SMASH is much more fun when you play Fact or Fiction.  Did you miss last week?  Go here to do your catch up reading.   Everyone, get your buzzers out.  We have big prizes behind door number one so I hope you spent your week studying up on theater facts and fictions.

Please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.

I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact, a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary. Right? Right. Good. Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______. We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world. Based on the success of A Chorus Line and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway. Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog. Right? Right. If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place, tough guy, and maybe you should go here instead.  Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number seven and is probably a wrapped copy of The Great Gatsby.

My name is Sharon Wheatley, I’ve done some Broadway shows, and I will be your host. Be sure to read the comments after the blog because that’s where I will be debated and corrected by all my insider-y Broadway friends and it is half the fun.  Reminder that we keep things clean and informative here on My Own Space.

Cell phones off.  Game buzzers on.

Here we go. Lights up…cue theme music….

I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”. You play along. Get your buzzers ready.  We will cover two episodes in this blog post, but they were pretty skimpy, so no need for snacks today.

1) Press is part of the actors contract.  Fact or Fiction?

Fact.  I thought this might be a good time to talk a little bit about how much press is expected of actors during the run of a show and whether or not they are paid to do it.

The answer, you do a lot of press and you are only paid for it if the press you are doing pays.  What does that mean?  For example they mention that Ivy is booked for The Tonight Show.  Since The Tonight Show is filmed on the west coast and Broadway is in New York, it is fairly rare for a Broadway actor to appear on that show.  Jimmy Fallon?  David Letterman?  Yes.  But now I am just nit picking.  THE POINT IS, you get paid to be a guest on that show, so the actor would be paid whatever the union rate is.  Same is true for all major TV shows and things like The Macy’s Day Parade and The Tony Awards.  But basic press like personal appearances and interviews (non-filmed) are un-paid.  There is an interesting rule that I didn’t know about that mandates you must be paid if you appear in costume.  It reads as follows from the Actors Equity web site:

(1) In Costume. When Actors participate in live publicity appearances in costume, the Actors shall be paid not less than one-eighth of the weekly minimum salary;

(2) No Costume. When Actors participate in live publicity appearances without costumes, no payments shall be required. T-shirts, caps and show jackets shall not be considered a costume for purposes of this provision. However, any clothing purchased by the Producer to be worn by Actor(s) in promotional events, other than T-shirts, caps or show jackets, shall be considered a costume for purposes of this provision. Producer may reasonably request that an Actor appear in Actor’s own clothing, excluding “black tie,” without incurring a payment under this provision; 

Interesting, huh?  No wonder we always do press in show t-shirts!

My friend Jimmy who is on Actors’ Equity Council would kill me if I didn’t mention the media payment, so let me make sure I explain how Equity figured out how to charge for all the new social media stuff.  It is a long rule, rule #39, and can be found HERE.  Basically (and I mean basically) actors get 2% of the minimum salary and that covers a boat load of media.  You get the pay weekly and you get it whether you ever appear on camera or not.

“This payment is in addition to contractual salary and shall be paid for Actor’s entire employment period whether or not the Actor appears in any captured material. The payment is subject to pension and dues.”

2)  Regarding Jimmy arriving at the theater at 10 minutes before curtain it was said, “You’re late.  If we were on Broadway you’d be fined.”  Fact or fiction?

Fact.  (This is a correction that came in from a former stage manager of mine.)

There is a monetary fining system for being late to a Broadway show, but more often it you will be “written up” and it will be placed in your file.  A paper trail of write ups can lead to your termination.  In addition there is a protocol for allowing an actor to appear onstage if late, but I can’t find official paperwork on it.  Here’s what I think it is, please weigh in if you know the exact rules.

I *think* that after half hour it is the stage manager’s call as to whether or not the late actor will do the show or be sent home.  After being 15 minutes late the understudy is put on automatically.  Even as I type that I can think of exceptions where stars were put on right up to curtain.

Here is the rule book guidelines from Actors’ Equity, brought to you by the excellent stage manager, Tom Taylor.  I’d written you could not be fined, but I was (in fact) wrong!  

According to the Production Contract – Rule 50 (G)

(G) Lateness. If Actor is late for “half-hour” more than twice within any six month period, Actor will be fined the following amounts for each lateness 
commencing with Actor’s third lateness: 
(a) $75 for Actors earning $2,500 per week or less; 
(b) $150 for Actors earning more than $2,500. 
All fines will be remitted by the Producer to the Actors’ Equity Foundation and will 
be deducted from Actor’s salary on a pre-tax basis. An official and accurate clock 
will be designated. Written notice of lateness will be given to both Actor and Equity. This rule shall apply uniformly. If it is determined in grievance or arbitration 
that the rule has not been applied uniformly, Producer must remit all fines assessed 
within the six months prior to the fine that is challenged. 
It is understood that this will not affect Producer’s right to send Actor home and 
reduce salary accordingly. However, if Producer does send Actor home, Producer 
cannot also fine Actor. The foregoing does not waive or alter the Producer’s right to 
terminate Actor for just cause in the event of chronic lateness, including any 
lateness for half-hour or rehearsal. 
(H) Where practicable, Producer shall endeavor to provide advance notice to 
Actors of their required attendance at a rehearsal to be conducted during a 
performance.

3)  They dim the lights on Broadway after the death of a Broadway veteran.  Fact or Fiction?

Fact.

Robert Simonson just wrote a terrific piece about this on Playbill.com, so I will link to the article.

http://www.playbill.com/features/article/142873-ASK-PLAYBILLCOM-The-Dimming-of-Broadways-Lights-

So that’s it.  I didn’t have a lot to write about in these two episodes, but I wanted to talk about a few things, so here you go.  I still haven’t heard SMASH got its notice, but I am assuming it has?  Anyone know for sure?

I can give my cancellation notice for sure.  Even if there is a SMASH next year, there will be no SMASH Fact or Fiction.  Even so, I’ll finish out this season,  and maybe we’ll talk a little about what caused the show’s demise (in my opinion).

See you next week!

Posted in Smash | 18 Comments