Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Weekend Update - Part 3 (it's a long one)

So, where was I????



The first half of the evening was over and soon we were sitting back at our table, waiting for the [title of show] gang to take the stage.
When they did, it was VERY exciting.
The piece they performed was titled ‘And Now This Is Happening’.
We soon found out that they had come up with that title that very afternoon (or maybe Saturday night?) but either way, it was a very new title.

I think the best way to describe the show would be to say it was a ‘group cabaret’. If that’s not an existing term, it is now….and they can thank me for coming up with it. What they did was take existing songs, some new songs, and their own personal stories and mash them all together in order to help us all learn a little bit more about the [tos] gang and what makes them tick.
It’s difficult to describe the show and do it justice, but it was absolutely fantastic.

I don’t want to go into too much detail, since not knowing what to expect made the evening soooo much fun.
I will say that in addition to discussing their mutual love for the film ‘Tootsie’, their passion for coming up with new and exciting drag names, their creation of new words (a la ‘cramazing’, ‘hangry’, etc…) and describing their own, personal ‘hot moments’ there were a couple of specific moments that really stood out for me.

One of those moments was when Jeff talked about growing up in Florida and how (like so many gay kids) he used his personality, humor, etc…as a way to fit in and/or ‘hide’ in the straight world. They described it as ‘Dazzle Camouflage’. Dazzle Camouflage (also known as ‘Razzle Dazzle’ or ‘Dazzle painting’ – Wikipedia that shit, Heidi) was a “camouflage painting scheme that was used on warships in both World War I and World War II”. It basically allowed these giant warships to ‘hide’ right in the open.
What started out as a very funny song, going into detail about the MANY girls that Jeff dated and how ‘frustrated’ they were, ended in a completely different place. Jeff described coming home from his high school talent show (where he performed a perfect Ed Grimley) and how completely exhausted he was, not from the show itself, but from constantly having to keep his ‘secret’.
I’m not at all doing it justice with this quick description, but trust me - it was such an incredibly honest moment, it was great. Listening to him describe how he was feeling at that very moment, immediately made me think back to when I was a kid and felt that exact same way. It’s that feeling of knowing you’re different....knowing that all you want is to be happy, yet having to spend an incredible amount of time and energy trying to keep your secret and be what every one else expects you to be. Going through it was truly exhausting…..and Jeff’s delivery hit me like a ton of bricks… was awesome.

Another amazing moment was when we got to ‘see’ what was going on in Heidi’s mind while she sang.
Susan served as Heidi’s inner thoughts/subtext as she belted out Pat Benatar’s ‘We Belong’. What started out as a very funny moment between Heidi’s singing and Susan’s speaking quickly became more serious as we learned that Heidi….this incredibly talented woman who can sing her face off (“and sang for the president….the dumb one”) battles with an inner ‘monster’ every time she sings in public. Susan informed us that Heidi’s ‘monster’ can sometimes be the size of a hornet but can also be the size of a border collie…which is how Heidi described it when Susan asked how big the monster was that night.
Heidi then took a brief moment to speak to the audience about how much singing means to her, and how although it sometimes terrifies her it’s something that she HAS to do, and the fact that she is able to sing while being surrounded by the people she loves so dearly makes it all worth while. As she came to the climax of the song, you could totally feel the audience rooting for her, wanting her to sing, wanting her to be amazing and not at all be afraid of anything, because everyone there was behind her 100% and no matter what she did, it was going to be ok.

Being in the audience at that moment was sooooo weird, and cool, and like nothing I’ve been a part of before. It’s weird to think about it now…..because I think we were (at least I was) so wrapped up in that moment, that all we wanted was to see her be awesome.
Needless to say when she finished the song, I was totally crying and I joined the rest of the audience in giving her an immediate standing ovation.
Like I said…it was so odd, yet great to be a part of that moment. I totally felt like we had all come together and helped her kick her monster’s ass.
Now, if you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that I’m the LAST person to get all ‘theatrey’ and talk about getting into my acting space, finding my inner-whatever, and all that acting crap. I’m the type who’s inhaling a Ring Ding off stage left as I’m stepping out of the wings to make an entrance (just like Uncle Richard!) – but that moment, listening to her totally bare her soul and share her ‘monster’ with us all was a really cool theatre ‘experience’.
It was just awesome.

As I’ve said several times before, I think these [title of show] peeps (Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen, Heidi Blickenstaff, and Susan Blackwell) are crazily talented and so much fun to watch. That being said, my enjoyment of their newest endeavor doesn’t surprise me in the least.
I have to give a quick ‘shout out’ to Larry Pressgrove who was their musical director and arranger, and apparently he helped write some of the original music and was also a co-creator of the piece. Another shout out has to go to (Broadway hottie) Michael Berresse who was their director/choreographer and did an amazing job as well.

As Jim and I discussed on the ride home, they are such a great group of storytellers; and everything they do is so incredibly honest and real that it’s such a joy to watch them perform. I truly hope they keep writing together and working together for a long, long time to come.

If you ever get the chance to see them perform do not miss the opportunity….you’ll be happy you did!!!

Michael, Susan, Hunter, Heidi, Larry and Jeff

PS - One more moment of musical theatre ‘geekery’ for me……Jim and I went out to dinner before the show and Joanna Gleason (daughter of Monty Hall), Tony Award winner for playing The Baker’s Wife in the original cast of Into the Woods sat a few tables away from us, with her husband, TV and theatre actor Chris Sarandon….I was totally star-struck, but resisted interrupting their dinner to gush.

Joanna Gleason and Chris Sarandon


Anonymous said...

I cant believe you didnt tell Joanna you played the Baker. GOOD GOD!


cb said...

That sounds like a really cool show!