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Saturday, July 30, 2011

"The show is closing!"

Well here we are.  Tonight is closing night for our production of "42nd Street."  Tonight I say goodbye to Billy Lawlor.  For now.  

As usual, so much has happened since my last post here just last Saturday.  As I mentioned, some of my family came out to visit from California last weekend.  Though the weather was not ideal and their trip getting here was not a smooth one, they were able to see the show more than once and they loved every moment.  We even got in a quick trip to Marco Island between thunder storms and attempted to watch the sunset after my last show of the week from Sanibel Island.  My family is amazing and there was no lack of eating out while they were here.  It's always extra special to perform knowing that they are watching you loving it completely.  They are the ones who payed for all the dance and acting classes growing up after-all, so I'm always very proud to show off their "investment" to the best of my ability.  I have not seen my mom, and grandparents for almost three months.  It may not seem long, but I'm a Mama's Boy thru and thru.  If you don't believe me, check out the "Mom and me" pics on my facebook.  She's beautiful! 

As far as the show is concerned everything just keeps getting better and better.  As a whole the show just keeps getting stronger.  There's not many nights where I don't leave the theatre thinking to myself that "this one was the best one yet."  I continue to find new acting beats, and other genuine moments with other characters onstage.  I am still surprising myself vocally week to week.  Sometimes I actually even feel like a singer and not necessarily a "dancer who sings."  I have to credit Dawn and Charlie for getting me to where I am performance wise at this point.  And of course, as the choreo has become second nature I find that I am dancing harder and with more "purpose" than I was at the beginning of the run.  I love this show and I never want it to end.

So with the good, comes the bad.  Well not really bad, just realities.  There was one performance last week where I went on for "Getting Outta Town" without a suitcase...whoops!  Offstage, I also find that I have to really take care of my voice, especially while working with the kids most afternoons before shows.  Tea has become my best friend, along with Emergen-C vitamin water packets.  Also because of adrenaline or just plain dancing harder I am soreer than ever and continue to find mysterious scrapes and bruises from different things that I do during the show.  I also still have a major inner thigh/groin strain, so I've modified a couple things to help in the healing of that.  And of course, last Sunday it was pouring buckets, and even leaking onto the stage- so after I took my curtain call and exited the wing one of my taps slipped on the puddle and I went belly up in the wings on stage left.  Funny at the moment, but made for a very painful week.  Oh, and some of the choreo I have to demonstrate over and over for the kids classes during the day for the KidzAct program have taken their toll on my calves and ankles.

Also, in addition to my rehearsal assisting position for the Summer KidzAct productions of  "Wonderland" and "Teen 42nd Street", I started teaching a teen acting workshop in the mornings.  It's just a two week intensive but I am loving it.  I jokingly call it: "The Billy Lawlor School of Acting."  Catchy, right?  I thought so.  More to come about acting class is future blogs...

So here we are.  Just an hour left before I head to the theater for our last show.  I know I'll have so much more to share about this amazing experience after tonight is finished.  I am very lucky to have been a part of this production and I truly do not want it to end.  I guess I'm repeating myself, but I have never bonded so closely with people that i share the stage with.  What a generous and talented group of artists I have been able to surround myself with this summer. 

Okay, I'd better stop typing now before I really start getting emotional.  Tears are not good for this singers' voice.  It's been fun...

..More to come!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Busy, Busy, Billy!

Okay, so I realize it's been nearly three weeks since my last blog entry.  Yes, I'm a little disappointed in myself for not reporting back on here as often as I wanted to during this run of "42nd Street," but I also need to cut myself a bit of slack in knowing that I just really have had no time outside of the theatre on most days.  Anyway, as the title of this post states:  I have been extremely busy.  Monday thru Fridays I am at the theatre usually by 11:30 am (this may not seem early to most, but remember I'm doing a show 'till 11pm most nights) to work with the children's summer theatre program, KidzAct.  If you've been following my blog you probably know what I'm talking about.  This usually goes until 6:30 pm when it is then time for me to shave (I certainly can't be "one of Broadway's scruffiest juveniles" while singing "Young And Healthy," can I?) get into my body mic, scarf some food down, and be ready for mic check/vocal warm ups onstage by 7:15. This is not to say I have not tried to blog, in fact here's the beginning of an entry I began last week but did not find the time to finish:

"So it's been almost two weeks since I've posted here.  Sad , I know.  I was really getting into it on opening week.  There's just been so much going on.  Nothing too exciting- just a lot of little things; add to the fact that I'm never home except to sleep and even than I'm usually guilty of spending some of that time on facebook rather than this blog.   But here I go, as quick and as concise as I can since I have to be at the theatre in just about an hour to fulfill my duties as a KidzAct rehearsal assistant.

I guess I left off around the 4th of July.   Our stalled car sat in the parking garage next to the theatre for the holiday.  Tuesday we had it towed and it was repaired (at an unexpectedly low cost) by Wednesday.  Thanks to our friends, the Federico's and the amazing Debi Guthery, we are able to conduct our regular routines while the car was being repaired.  I'm very lucky to have some very generous show people in my life who I can call on when I am in need.

 Wednesday I arrived at the theater extra early to go over my "track" onstage before I began my day with the kids.  I did this more a couple reasons.  One:  It was our first night back after not doing the show for eight days straight and I know that my brain/body requires a review and a lot of focus if I'm going to give the audience the performance they paid to see.  And two:  as a warm up for the day and night ahead.  In a nutshell, playing "Billy" requires more brain power and more physical stamina than any other role I have played.  In reality, most of us are onstage the majority of the show and when we are not we are most likely offstage changing costumes or reviewing choreography or lines in the wings.  It's a show that moves very fast and requires a demanding amount of focus.

Aside from our regular performances at night, it was also tech week for the children's show I've been working on during the day in our black box theater, "The Ever After."  The kids were amazing and everything went off without a hitch as far as I knew.  I got to see the daytime preview (their final dress rehearsal) and the last performance immediately following our matinee of 42nd Street.  Needless to say there was a lot going on under one roof that I was dually involved with.

Following the Sunday evening performance of "Ever After"  I was able to meet parents and exchange hugs with many of the kids.  It was very touching- I even received a couple small gifts from students and their families.  I had know idea that by helping out with the kids that I would learn so much and that I would really become quite attached to many of them.  Consequently, I've been getting quite a few friend requests from parents on my facebook.  Just one more reason I feel even more proud to be a part of the KidzAct program.  Oh, and the kids turned it out.  The show turned out to be a great success, all four performances SOLD OUT!  A special congrats to our Anytime Annie (Jessica)  who directed this special show and who made me feel so welcome while I helped out with the whole process."

 Byron's view from the spot operator booth up in the catwalk.

So here I am a week later.  So much has happened, but I'm gonna keep it short since my family is waiting in their hotel room for our arrival in just a bit.

The show has been going so well.  I'm STILL having the time of my life.  I love the theatre, the orchestra, the cast and crew, and our creative directors, Dawn and Charlie.  I'm continuing to find new moments and acting beats every night.  So far I haven't really blanked on any lines or lyrics that I can recall.  Most everyone who is working is this show gives a very consistent performance.  Not even any major costume or scenery malfunctions.    I did go on for the second act one night with one tap show and one character shoe on, but not a huge deal since I just stand on a ladder and sing "Sunnyside."  One night during the ballet near rthe end of the show when my character gets shot, I went down weird and busted my knee open and although it didn't really hurt at the time I walked off stage and the blood was having a good time spreading through the leg of my wool soldier pants.  Not to worry, Marc stripped them off of me and got them soaking in some cold water to prevent any permanent staining.  It was funny though because it looked like I really did get shot in the knee.  Speaking of the ballet- I actually really hurt myself last week.  My inner right thigh or groin muscle is not doing well.  here's hoping the icing will help.  So far, it's still pretty bad.  I know I've been dancing harder and harder but it's beginning to take its toll.  'Tis a dancers life.  I've actually been extremely lucky over my career with minimal injuries during performance.  I just need to be careful for the rest of the run with this one I think.

Over the past couple weeks of shows I've had students from the KidzAct program in the audience, a few friends come down to see the show, and this weekend my family is even here from California.  A separate blog will have to describe what this experience is like.  All good I assure you- but stressful and they had the worst travel day getting here, no thanks to American Airlines.  Also we've had a great mid-run cast party and regular gatherings at TGI Friday's- usually on Friday nights actually.  And our facebook fan event was quite a success.  There was a small reception in the studio theatre followed by photos onstage with patrons who were there specifically for the event.  There was food and wine, and many sweaty dancers.  The following Sunday immediately following the matinee we had a shorter version of "photo call.'  We posed in our "Dames" garb and also got a photo with the complete cast and crew- even Byron, our #1 spot op!  And journalist Chris Silk continues his articles following our journey via the Naples Daily News.  Find his articles here:

"Billy gets Galinda-fied "

Posing with one of the best props from the show, one of the girls' wand from "Dames."  It's absolutely gorgeous- and handmade, especially for this production.

Aside from the show, I'm still having a great time helping with KidzAct during the day.  We are currently working on "Wonderland" with the younger kids, and the teen version of "42nd Street" is pretty much on it's feet- pun intended.  I've also been asked to take on teaching a two week teen acting workshop beginning this Monday, so... expect a special blog post just about that.  I'm thinking the title might be "Billy Lawlor Goes To Acting Class."  Or something ;-)

I hope everyone is having a great as summer as I am having, and I look forward to posting on here more regularly before our show closes on July 30th.  So sad that it is so soon.  What will Billy do next?  Actually, more like what will Jake and Byron be doing next?  We really would like to stay in the Naples area at least through the end of the year.  I'd love to help out with the KidzAct Christmas production (Nutcracker Goes Pop)  and there appears to be a lot more professional theatre in this part of Florida than one might realize.  We certainly have a few pizzas in the oven, or whatever the phrase is.  Oh yes, "irons in the fire"- whoops.  So basically we're looking for an apartment of our own, and maybe even a part time day job just for good measure.  We'll see.  Here's hoping the stars align for us for all of this.  What we do know is that we are done with both NYC and Cali- not for good, just for the time being.  Plus, we really do love it here.  It's so clean, and I'm loving the tropical weather.  The beach is like right here, and it's pretty damn affordable in the eyes of this theatre gypsy.  Oh and did I mention we're in the same state as Disney World!?  For those who don't know, Disney ranks up there as much as my life long love for theatre.

Here we are, just one week left 'till Closing Night.  So much to do before then...

 Me and Debi Guthery (Dorothy Brock) performing "You're Getting To Be a Habbit With Me."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Independence Day (from the show and for the USA)

I hope everyone had a happy 4th of July!  I'm thoroughly enjoying my first day off here in 8 days :-)

I haven't blogged since the morning of opening night. So much and yet so little has happened since Friday night-simply because my life basically revolves around the show these days.  This is not a complaint, in fact I couldn't be happier.

When I arrived at the theater Friday morning there were a half dozen yellow roses in a beautiful vase on the center table in the green room that were sent from my family in California.  Yellow roses have a special place in my heart for a very personal reason, even though they are not my favorite color. At any rate,  I heartily shed a tear or two out of sheer appreciation for the importance that those roses had.  They are very beautiful and are now on our dining room table.  I even went as far as sticking a small American flag in the arrangement today for obvious reasons.  Special thanks to my family whom I miss very much.  Not to worry- my mother and grandparents will be out towards the end of July to visit and see the show- more than once I am sure ;-)

At this point, I also need to thank Mr. Byron for acting as my personal assistant for most of last week and through the weekend.  He worked very hard to keep me happy (Starbucks runs, CVS runs, sandwich/water runs, bringing me changes of clothes, etc.)  He was my saving grace this week and I love him so much.  His support will not be forgotten- I am a very lucky man indeed :-)

Byron: Best Assistant Ever

 Just before curtain on opening night, our Julian Marsh, played by David Goguen, presented Dawn (our director) with an original 42nd Street playbill from 1980, autographed by the original Julian Marsh himself: Jerry Orbach.   Needless to say it was a very touching for all of us.  So in a sense, Jerry was with all of us on this very special night.

The opening night performance went on without a hitch- no technical glitches as far as I can recall.  The audience was amazing- thanks in part to the 30+ cast members in attendance who will be appearing in the teen version of 42nd Street later in the summer.  There was once again that magical feeling of togetherness among the cast as the overture started and we all took our places behind iconic red curtain.  Hugs were exchanged.  A couple of us were definitely fighting back tears.  I glanced over to Mark Vanagas, who plays our Andy Lee- but just for a short second as we were both trying to keep it together.  There is a special bond I have with this cast, and that we have for each other that I have never experienced before.  I feel that I may even be making friendships that may last long after our final curtain goes down.

"We're in the Money"

 After the performance was over, while getting back into my street clothes for a night of celebration, I realized that David and I chose identical shirts ( Paper Denim & Cloth Brand) for this special occasion.  It seems that Billy Lawlor and Julian Marsh may have indeed have more in common than we all thought.  At any rate, a very funny coincidence, and just one more thing  for us to bond over.

Twins:  Billy Lawlor & Julian Marsh

After post-performance exchanges and hugs commenced, Byron and I headed over to The Cheesecake Factory to have our first real date night out since we've been in Naples.  It was both romantic and celebratory at the same time.  Speaking of bonding- we certainly did our share, over Avocado Egg-rolls, French Country Salads topped with Goat Cheese, and Spicy Cashew Chicken.  Yum, yum, yum.  An added perk:  because we arrived so late (nearly midnight) we pretty much had the whole restaurant to ourselves.  Romantic indeed.

After dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, we ventured across the street to join the rest of the cast at T.G.I. Friday's.  Once again- more bonding, more celebrating, and more food!  I love our cast.  Seriously, everyone is so genuinely nice and talented it's almost scarey.  Almost ;-)

Saturday came, but all too early.  The loudest thunder I have ever heard woke us up at around 8 A.M., just a few hours after we finally called it a night (in a Broadway Baby fashion, of course).  The whole apartment seemed to shake and we even lost power for a bit.  It was very strange and a little bit scarey.  Oh well- I had to be up for a hair appointment anyway.  Carol, our hair and makeup designer for the show trimmed me up and afterward I stopped by the market to replenish my herbal tea, honey, and throat spray supply.  I'm not sure where the rest of the afternoon went but 6 P.M. came and it was time to head to the theater, but not before a quick drive-thru Chic-fil-A, just another one of my many guilty pleasures ;-)

I was especially nervous for Saturday nights performance as we were informed we had reviewers in the house.  Add to that a childhood friend I grew up with (yes from little Sebastopol, California) was also in the audience with her husband.  She also happens to be personal friends with Dawn and Charlie, our director and maestro, respectively.  Quick background story:  We grew up doing children's theater together.  Cut to:  She is now a resident director and choreographer of a very well known theatre company I really would like to work for again.  Honestly, it was hard not to mentally think of that nights performance as an audition, even though I have worked with her professionally as an adult.  At any rate, I was fairy pleased with my performance- sans some tech issues with my body mic during my opening song, "Young & Healthy."  I blame my sweat for that one.  Anyway, it was nice visiting with her at the stage door after the show.  Also post-show, an elderly patron fell down the steps of the performing arts complex, yielding an ambulance or two.  Nothing too major- we were told he'd be fine, but my heart sank as he passed on the stretcher.  Melancholy I know, but true.

Battle with the body mic ;-(

Sunday came and we had our first matinee.  Traditionally matinee Sundays are usually harder to get through, but it turned out to be our best performance yet.  I had a small accident in the tap ballet at the end of the show (taps are slippery and my choreography requires a bit of jumping around). It was bound to happen sometime. Needless to say I fell on my A**!  I didn't get hurt thanks to the fact that I fell right on my butt and no where else.  I shot back up on my feet faster than a speeding bullet and just prayed that people thought it was supposed to happen.  Okay, they all know it wasn't supposed to happen- who am I fooling?  LOL.  A few minutes later when I'm actually supposed to fall on my A** when my character gets shot, there was a large audible gasp from the audience, probably due to the fact that they were already a little uncomfortable and on edge from the accidental fall a few minutes prior.

 Photo by: Steve Pozgay

Once again, we received a standing ovation, and afterward I was surprisingly greeted at the stage door by some German tourists who had waited for autographs and photos.  I know it sounds like a joke and talk about catching me off guard, but I have to tell you it was a wonderful and new feeling.  All these years I have been the one waiting at stage doors for pictures and autographs from performers I had never met, and here I was actually being greeted by patrons I had never met.  I know, and you know that I'm far from famous or a celebrity of any sort, but let me tell you- for about five minutes I felt like a star and I have to admit it was pretty damn fun!

After I gathered my belongings from my dressing room and the green room, we headed over to Trulucks, the neighboring Steak/Seafood House & Piano Bar.  We put together a small group headed by my new BFF, Lisa Federico.  Her two sons were there- one of them, Joe is in our show.  Jessica, Craig, David, Carol, and of course, Byron were also there.  You can't beat half price drinks and appetizers after our final show of the week.  Jessica savored her lychee martini while I inhaled two bacon cheddar sliders, an order of warm goat cheese, oh, and two cupcakes!  I justified it somehow...

When we got back to the parking garage we found that our car wouldn't start.  Not really a surprise as we've been having some minor battery issues with it since we arrived in Florida.  To make a long story short, the Federico's gave us a ride back home, and we'll have to have it towed and fixed up tomorrow morning before I head in to the theater to help with KidzAct.  We left it in the garage for the holiday- not a big deal, we checked on it today.  It was actually kind of nice to spend most of the day at home taking a much needed rest while catching up with "Weeds."  Pay day is tomorrow so if we were going to have car troubles, now is the best time.  As I've learned from the Act Two opener of 42nd Street, "There's A Sunny Side To Every Situation."  Awww...gag me with a spoon- I know ;-)

Also Sunday Night, our first review came out online.  Not sure when the print edition will come out- sometime later in the week I suppose.  I have very happy with the review to say the least.  I had a brief but appreciated mention: "As would-be boyfriend Billy Lawlor, Jake Hanson whirls a perfect dollop of Broadway vanity into his agility and boyish charm. He plays a hilarious scene with Dorothy Brock (Debi Guthery) trying to honor the restrictions Brock’s jealous boyfriend is putting on staged affection."  Not bad, right?  No complaints here ;-)

On that note we have one more day off from the show.  We return Wednesday with a performance at 8 P.M. sharp ;-)

See ya there,

Love, BILLY :-)

Our first full review here:

A recent article that profiled me in The Naples Daily News:

Friday, July 1, 2011

It's the day of the show y'all...

Well here we are:  OPENING NIGHT of 42nd Street!

I literally have no time to be blogging right now, but here's the latest:

Our preview went on without a hitch last night.  There were moments when I felt more like a pop star than a musical theatre performer as the audience was literally ROARING.  I even got exit applause- um, I can't even type this without tearing up a little...OK, a lot.  I seriously am the luckiest guy in the world right now.  For once, I am truly LOVING my life.  We had an audience most actors only dream of.  Curtain call was amazing; a standing ovation naturally, LOL.   I can't even begin to describe the feelings that were flowing out of my soul last night and the comradery that we all shared just as the overture began. I can only shout out to the world how exciting this journey has been for me and how grateful I am to have crossed paths with everyone involved.  Most importantly, Dawn and Charlie, Debi Guthery (for giving me a place to stay while doing the show here in Naples, and being the best co-star ever!), and my partner of four years, Byron, who has come to spend the summer with me and support me fully for this experience of a lifetime.

Immediately following the electric performance was a reception in the lobby sponsored by the producers.  What an amazing and enthusiastic team they are.  The food was top notch, and the atmosphere evoking that of the real 42nd Street in Times Square.

I wish I could write more right now, but it's time to rush out the door.  As I recently tweeted: Coffee has never tasted THIS good.  Needless to say, I hardly slept last night.  Though I appreciate a healthy dose of nerves and adrenaline- they are not my friends this morning.

Um, one last item before I sign off.  While I was onstage for vocal warm ups last night, Mr. Byron snuck into my dressing bearing gifts 'o plenty so that when I walked in my station was overflowing with goodies- including one plaid blue tie that I've had my eyes on for months.  I love him so much.  Family is a good thing.

So here we are: Nine hours before that big red curtain rises to reveal that great big chorus of dancin' feet.

Love to all...Break a leg everyone!!!