We’re closing in on the end of Broadway West, and as you can tell I still have a ways to go, so expect these last couple of posts to go long. Do you have your snacks? I am currently blogging on my iPad from a Subway Sandwich joint (not the A train version of subway) in Long Island. I want you to know that I am sacrificing the free catering on set and paying a whooping $7.35 for a combo just so I can have a table and some peace and quiet. All for you, gentle readers, all for you. I hate small talk, so really, it’s good for me, too. I’d much rather be in here talking to you then sitting around listening to actors compare resumes. When they get to me I always say, “I write a blog!” and everyone looks away thinking the next thing I am going to do is try to get them to read it. I don’t care if they read it. Truthfully, it’s better for me if no one on this set reads it because I live in fear that I will get busted for revealing details of Lifetime. Don’t ask me to keep a secret, I suck at it. Don’t ask me to sign a confidentiality agreement, I am such a rule breaker that I will just try to find a way around it. Like right now. It is absolutely killing me that I can’t tell you what is going on. Seriously, I’ve got a million things to comment on. But, alas, I have zipped my lip and thrown away the key.
Quick Beatrix update for anyone who might know that she is sick. She is still sick. Okay, well, now that we are cleared up, let’s keep going. I will have to write in fits and starts today because we are shooting at several locations today and I don’t want to miss the van. That would be bad. I could go to Lifetime jail for life for telling you that. This blog post will self destruct as soon as you finish reading it, so please wear protective eyewear. Let me make sure the van is still here. Yep. And everyone is eating free food except anti-social me.
Speaking of free food, back to Vegas! So we’ve covered in pretty good detail that life in Vegas was fun and cushy. Seriously, the biggest crisis was having to pause LOST so someone could go to the bathroom. Once we opened–I could write a book about the opening night party–okay there were two parties–they did give both casts a celebration, but the “official opening” party is the one I am talking about. Wait–I can’t skip it. Okay, a quick blow through of opening night.
As happens when any show opens, we spent a lot of time shopping for opening night dresses. This was easily done because basically all you can find on the strip in Vegas is slot machines and malls that specialize in every variation of slutty, shiny clothing.
Please hold–the van is leaving.
New location. This one is even better than the last one. Without telling you where I am, I am going to include a picture of where I am blogging because it is so disgusting.
Back to Vegas. Everything in Vegas sparkles, especially women’s clothing. By the time I left my eye was so used to sparkle that if I was wearing a pair of jeans and a shirt with absolutely nothing sparkly on it, I would add rhinestone earrings to look normal. Imagine a city full of Real Housewives. That’s Vegas. Not being a person who aspires to be a Real Housewife, finding a dress that was
a) big enough to fit me and
b) not bedazzled within an inch of its life was a bit of a challenge.
The opening night party was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, so let me break it down for you (how am I EVER going to get this story finished?):
1) The guest list was an astounding display of whoever they could get to attend and I wish I could remember all the b-list celebrities there. Hold on, I will text David Benoit, he has a better memory for that stuff. All I remember is the guy who played Luke Skywalker, Mark Hamill? Is that his name? This in from David–Mimi Hines was also there. I feel like maybe the Sigfried and Roy guys were there? Vegas royalty.
2) Steve Wynn decided that because we were a “puppet show” the opening night party had a carnival theme. Let me explain exactly what that means. I’d flown my parents out for the opening thinking this would be a great opportunity for them to see a fancy shmancy opening night party at a top of the line casino in Las Vegas–I’m promising my father filet mignon and instead we had food on a stick. You think I’m kidding? Corn dogs and cotton candy. Desert was full sized candy bars. My parents were good sports, but we were all a little over it.
3) My father (unbeknownst to me) came with an agenda. He had invented a building that was powered by wind (there
is now such a building–probably several–but at this time it was a new idea) and all he wanted out of the evening was to meet Steve Wynn and pitch his building idea to him directly. Oh is that all? I had a better chance of introducing him to the president, but considering that I’d flown them out for my fancy opening night and I hadn’t performed in the show AND the promised filet mignon was a hot dog wrapped in corn meal on a stick, I felt like I had to try. On the one hand, I was seriously annoyed with my Dad for making the party all about him and his needs. On the other (and more honest) hand, chasing Steve Wynn around with my father-in-tow was much more entertaining than watching the “press” cast take picture after picture and get to meet celebrities. We never met Steve Wynn, but Chuck (my Dad) and I laughed a lot and my mother watched us and held her head in shame at our antics.
So with the fancy opening nights over with, most of the creative team left town. Not all of them though, a few people remained and got to see me go on as Kate Monster a couple of weeks later when an actress went down with a wicked kidney infection. I’d had a little rehearsal, I knew the lines, and while I was absolutely scared out of my mind, I also managed to have a teeny bit of fun. I did well enough that years later when a job opened up in the Broadway company, I got it, helped by doing well when thrown on at a moments notice. Moral of this mini-story? Sometimes traumatic moments pay off.
So let’s get down to what the problems were, because you all know it is coming. While the cast and crew and my family were having a blast in Vegas (I know, I know, not everyone had as much fun as I did, but I am here to remind you that we DID have a good time in the beginning), going on day trips to LA, Disneyland, Zion national park, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, and Death Valley–also swimming in pools in the fall while everyone on the east coast was pulling out their scarves, having rip roaring parties in the spool (a large sauna the size of a pool that we named the spool) and at David Benoit’s house (the details of those parties will stay in Vegas), the show itself was limping along.
Ticket sales were weak. We did 10 shows a week (5 per cast) and we all noticed right away that things were…..off. It’s hard to think things are going well when the audience is routinely half full and the laughs are…..limp. We’d all seen the show on Broadway and we knew the laughs were usually huge. Somehow in Vegas the audiences seemed behind the show. What does that mean? A really good audience seems ready to laugh. They’ve heard the show is funny, they paid a lot of money for the opportunity to have a good time, and the show is the big event in their day. The audiences in Vegas seemed tired. They seemed like exactly what they were, people who came to drink a lot and gamble, and some how got talked into seeing a Broadway musical with what are those things? Puppets? They seemed surprised we kept our shirts on (not in a good way), and the proof of that is that many times the first big laughs were in the nude puppet sex scene. You could almost hear the audience breathe a sigh of relief. Finally some nudity.
They also seemed disappointed that they had to listen to words. What do I mean by that? Vegas has three kinds of
shows. Let me break them down.
1) Cirque Du Soleil, an avant garde European circus show that involves a lot of watching beautiful imagery, death defying acrobatics and lovely music. No thinking involved.
2) Nudie shows. No thinking involved.
3) Specialty acts like magic shows, comics and singers. Sit back and enjoy, no thinking involved.
Let’s talk about AVENUE Q. It has a script. It is funny in a smart way. It requires listening. Considering that half of the audience was trashed before they walked in the door and the other half sat and drank during the show, we didn’t have a chance. Almost all of them were jet lagged. Avenue Q in Vegas became a nice place to take a nap.
It became obvious pretty quickly that something was going to have to change.
(More Broadway West tomorrow!)