We began to work on the finale of the show which we should actually call the “big finale” because it has complicated and coordinated patterns along with some of the steps we learned as choreography vocabulary in boot camp. Being the end of the week, at a certain point in the day, my mind went completely blank … it’s the damnest feeling … but slowly recall returned after lunch. I guess it’s the results of all the input from these past days scrambling around in our brains which turns to mush by the end of the week.
I truly needed a bit of R&R so my good friend Raina who happened to be free, met me for a glass of wine or two and some lovely food at Telepan … one of my favorite restaurants in New York. After dinner we walked to the AMC Multiplex and took in a double bill – the first of which was By The Sea directed and written by Angelina Jolie, co-starring her husband which is an interesting attempt at a rather retro style of film-making reminiscent of French films of the 60s … long, laborious, with not much of a pay-off. The evening was redeemed by the second film Spotlight, which recalls the Boston Globe expose on priests who sexually abused children. It’s very well acted and a good night at the movies. I really needed a good night out and it was just what the doctor ordered.
Gotta go, GOTTA DANCE.
Friday the 13th …
This date has always had a particular connotation so whether one is superstitious or not the events in France will be a watermark of the negative implications of Friday the 13th. It is a stunning fact that the innocent victims of this radical insanity could be us. I pray, as I’m sure we all pray, for consolation of the loved ones of those innocent victims of this atrocity. I also pray that this plague will not come to our shores. I could not write without acknowledging this terrible event.
As far as our rehearsals … the highlight of our day, no … of our month of rehearsals and boot camp … was a surprise planned by our generous and remarkable caring producers Dori Berinstein and Bill Damaschke. Earlier this week all of us had received an email announcing a cocktail party for the company (cast, crew and music department) on Friday the 13th. This seemed highly unusual and rather spontaneous considering we work on Saturday. Little did we understand the surprise we had in-store. We were assembled on the pretext that we were doing a cast photo and a video with holiday greetings to be used as on-air promotions in Chicago. As we finished those duties Dori announced that she and Bill had something to share with us in anticipation of Chicago … the doors to the rehearsal room opened and they announced the arrival of the original team that were the inspiration for GOTTA DANCE. Dressed in their team uniforms the team ran in and displayed their skills as they can see from the short clip below.
I had the great pleasure of meeting “Peggy” whom my character “Joanne” is based on. Peggy was one of the original team but had to quit after a few years of performing because of business commitments … she is 80.
These people are not only vibrant but they are inspirational and I think all of my fellow cast members would feel as I do that it is an honor to be the vehicles that tell their story and perpetuate their legacy.
Their story is our story and in fact everyone’s story who has the good fortune to find reasons to never stop taking on the challenges of life, and never believing that a number has to define anything!!! Bravo!!! To all of them and all of us who accept this challenge.
Gotta go, GOTTA DANCE.
This morning we filmed interviews and b-roll of us dancing for “NY1” which is the most popular local news station in Manhattan.
We then ran in sequence most of Act II which will be our major itinerary for the next two days. The following week we will begin a review of Act I, eventually running both acts non-stop in anticipation of the last two days before leaving for Chicago, when we will have in attendance a limited amount of invited guests. The audience will probably consist of some of the financiers, and possible potential investors, or as they are called on Broadway “Angels”. I believe the minimum investment is $50,000 so if you have loose change rolling around in your pockets I’m sure you’d be welcome to jump in.
Our rehearsal studios, the “New 42nd Street Studios”, contain nine floors of rehearsal spaces. Rehearsing a few floors above us is Brian Stokes Mitchell … one of American music theatre’s national treasure … and Audra McDonald … another national treasure … who are teaming up to do a ragtime musical called Shuffle Along. I hope our paths cross because I’m very fond of both of them. Many years ago … many years ago … I did an ill-fated and rather unfortunate revival of a musical called Applause that had not been revived in 29 years … for justifiable reasons we found out. Audra was in the chorus, her brilliant talent was just budding at that stage but it has blossomed profusely since then. Stokes, as he’s called, I know through my friend Katie and the Actor’s Fund for whom he is Chairman of the Board and I have done many a fund-raiser concert. The small world aspects of show business is truly wonderful. In that vein, and also a few years ago, I spent a great deal of time playing Mrs. Anna in the glorious musical called The King & I, which I played in the U.K. and the USA. Both productions had the choreographer Suzie Kikuchi. Suzi’s mother was the lead dancer in the original production in the 1950s and Jerome Robbins, who famously choreographed that spectacle, named Suzi’s mother as the keeper of the choreography, which is not only an honor but a great responsibility because that person has to authenticate every step. Suzi’s mom passed this legacy to Suzi and Suzi has a daughter who is working on GOTTA DANCE as an up-and-coming thespian. This sense of continuity is very special and rare. How fortunate when one can be a part of it.
I now have a hot date with a tub.
Gotta go, GOTTA DANCE.
I can’t believe it … we have gone all the way through Act II in three days!!! The purpose of this exercise is so that the creative powers that be can look at Act II and determine what they need to change, add or take away. Refining will not be possible until we have an idea of what we’re doing. Getting all this information so quickly into our heads has us all spinning and yet action begets action so perhaps this exercise will … out of necessity … cause us to learn faster. It’s important to remember that as originally conceived GOTTA DANCE was intended to be a one act 90 minute marathon which is being transformed into two acts with all these incumbent theatrical requirements such as the “classic 10:00 number”, which along with the finale, is supremely in the structure of all musicals. I’m not quite sure which of the numbers among those we have blocked will take that critical spot.
It’s late so … Gotta Go GOTTA DANCE.
Had a costume fitting this morning. Gregg Barnes, our costumer, is one of the best of Broadway’s costumers and he has his hands full with the challenges of this show. Biggest of which is how we shall make costume changes when we are all on stage most of the time??? Will we have layers of clothing??? Will we have breakaway clothes??? It is going to be quite a trick to accomplish and still maintain the look of each character. More on that in future installments.
From the fitting I walked six blocks through the raindrops to 42nd Street where our rehearsal studios are located. Negotiating 42nd Street is its own kind of challenge. At any given time 42nd Street between 7th and 8th is packed with people all times of the night and day of every size, shape and nationality. These masses of people line up at 9:00 AM to gain entry to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum or next door at the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum. Those who are not online wander around in a glassy daze eating all manner of food from street vendors … I think you have the picture … I would wager you could see every form of human life on this planet with the exception of the primitive tribes of the Amazon or the Kalahari who have better sense than to beat the pavement of 42nd Street.
Rehearsals went well into Act II very rapidly. We have in two days almost blocked the entire act. We are moving fast, lots to keep up with.
Gotta Go. GOTTA DANCE.
(should have been posted 11/09/15)
Monday: The beginning of Act II
Today we start to create the dramatic arch of the story and the characters. When we read this new version of Act II weeks ago at the beginning of rehearsals, there were many new scenes of dialogue which have in the interim been turned into musical numbers. One in particular between Haven Burton and myself is now a scene with music. Since this is, after all, a musical what better than to be able to share more of the exceptional voice of Miss Haven Burton. Haven is a California-born talent with a wide and colorful education in the dramatic arts, including song and dance, both of which she excels in. Her vocal range gives Haven such dexterity as a singer one can almost overlook how versatile she is because it comes out effortlessly. Haven is a joy to work with and I’m thrilled we now have a duet.
Home to study, study, study and more study.
Gotta Go, GOTTA DANCE.
Such a lovely word … Saturday … the end of the week … one day off to allow the brain to rest and hopefully percolate the mental and the physical into the best brew. We did the entire Act I start to finish, and among other chores for tomorrow along with laundry and a bit of food shopping at one of the marvelous organic street markets that have become so very popular in the city furnishing locally grown fresh food … will be studying Act II.
I am going to indulge myself with a night out for dinner with friends … laughs, good food and good friendship is the best in life. Hope your Saturday night is enjoyable too.
Gotta go. GOTTA DANCE.
Since we are on a six day work week tomorrow is the end of the week, not today, and in anticipation of our theatrical weeks in Chicago of having 2 shows on Saturday and 2 shows on Sunday, making our “weekend” on Monday … clearly there is nothing normal about our schedule. So we best get used to it now.
Today many points in Act I were refined, which is in fact a process that will only end when the director and the creative team have “locked in” the technical, the music, the dialogue and the dance. This “locking in” may happen in Chicago, but historically freezing the production with no further refinements can even go all the way through previews to opening night … please God may we congeal in Chicago.
Next week we begin to tackle Act II. So tomorrow we will do a full run through of Act I and not revisit it for a while, so it is crucial we all embed in our brains as fully as we can all that we have learned. In that light I accept all your prayers, lit candles and crossed fingers.
Gotta go. GOTTA DANCE.
So here we are … Thursday … After a long day yesterday many of us accepted the generous invitation of our director to see his new show ON YOUR FEET which tells the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan … their love, their lives and their music. One thing is for sure you cannot leave the theatre in anything but a happy, Latin euphoria with a bit of a beat in your step. The musical numbers were sharp, precise and beautifully danced. We all took special note of their performance and their energy, something most of us were lacking in today. I guess it is the end of the week slump but all of us seemed to drag today and our body parts that had been functioning rather well at the beginning of this week are showing the results of exertion. I treated my body to a long soak in a herbal bath, ibuprofen, and early to bed, after looking again at lines and videos of the choreography. Another glamorous and exciting night.
I understand that over 90 tickets have been sold for our Chicago run to members of my fan club and I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can.
Here’s a link to an article about the ON OUR FEET premiere last night with photos.
Gotta go, GOTTA DANCE.
We are moving on well into act one, blocking as we go and refreshing what we already know which seems to periodically slide out of my mind like a sieve. Still some muscle memory is kicking in, or maybe it’s the old survival instinct.
I noticed today that our director, Mr. Jerry Mitchell, very much likes to use diagonal lines in his blocking of a scene or a musical number … and it recalled a story the great actress Maureen Stapleton told me when I was driving her home after filming on a tv movie I had written and was producing. Maureen’s theatrical career was legendary. She had a special friend by the name of Mr. George Abbott who was himself not only legendary, but was an icon of the American theatre. Mr. Abbott, as he was referred to by all who practically genuflected at the mere mention of his name, was a theatrical producer, director, playwright, screenwriter, film director and producer, whose career spanned more than 9 decades and who died at the age of 107. His awards were too numerous to mention but they were the most prestigious of their kind. Mr. Abbott’s uncanny sense of the theatrical, of what worked inside the framework of a proscenium was second to none. So when Maureen was having trouble with a line in the play she was doing, a line that should have stopped the show with the audience’s reaction but was only getting a polite response, she rang her good friend, mentor, and … well, she was never so indiscreet as to divulge the nature of their intimacy but her eyes told the story. Mr. Abbott obliged by coming to see the play. At supper after the performance Maureen asked the inevitable question of what she was doing that killed what should have been one of her greatest moments on stage. Mr. Abbott’s answer sounds simple, he said, “you’re doing the line stepping straight downstage (downstage meaning toward the audience) … you should try it on a diagonal”. She did and the rest was glorious history. People called Mr. Abbott a theatrical genius, he certainly understood how to use the space of a stage to its best advantage. One day when the dust clears I will ask our director if his employment of the diagonal has anything to do with what Mr. Abbott knew.
Tomorrow after rehearsals we will all tidy ourselves and attend the pre-opening performance of Jerry Mitchell’s latest Broadway offering “On Your Feet”. The new musical tells the story of Gloria Estefan and her remarkable survival after a near fatal tour bus accident. It may be too late to write the blog, but I will try.
Gotta go, GOTTA DANCE.