PASSING GASTON. (Getting beyond the role, and focusing on Ensemble.)

Opening night came and went like the wind! Surprisingly there was little brew-ha-ha about it, unlike most opening nights. (Not that I didn’t totally appreciate the cake and balloons provided by Signature….ya’ll just rock!) But, I’m talking idle chatter. Rubbed elbows. Butterflies. Etc.

My wife always gts me an opening night pineapple. I love my wife.

My wife always gets me an opening night pineapple. Why? Long story. I love my wife.

Perhaps it’s because this is the second go-around for the majority of us. I’m sure the touring company of “Lion King” didn’t bust out champagne after a successful “opening” offering city after city. Not that I needed a big “to-do” to give me a booster shot. More so….it’s like watching a GIANT 747 land. The wheels are out, the engines roar…and you KNOW the wheels are gonna make that funny squeaky sound when they make contact with the pavement….and then….they don’t. Hmmm? The 747 lands perfectly…quietly. One might scratch their head.

Our fearless director, in a graceful manner congratulated us in traditional fashions, and then offered insight as to what still needs work. The second performance of the run, Saturday….we all re-approached our collective offerings and attempted to muster up something fresh. And, as a result…last night’s performance of “Beauty and the Beast” was fantastic! Everyone on stage felt better about what they were doing and the audience beamed. Phil, our director….beamed.

So, the question remains….why so icky an Opening Night? I thought about it. Rather, I dissected it. (Something my director tells me I do WAY TOO MUCH when approaching my character.) Could it be the Beast’s hurt back? Lumiere’s hurt knees? Perhaps it is the various forms of sickness being passed back and forth. Were my eyebrows filled in too dark that night? It wasn’t the quick changes…although I nearly lost an eye holding a wig for Belle. (Elbows, people….elbows!) It wasn’t the fact that for some bizarre reason my right armpit sweats a heck of a lot more than my left one during the Beast fight. (Strange.) Hmmmm. I couldn’t put my finger on WHY Opening Night was….Odd.

Gaston and the cutlery.

Gaston and the cutlery.

Finally, I decided to NOT think about it anymore. Of course, our collective directors gave us a lot to think about. Phil, Lisa (our Musical Director), Keith and Stephanie (our Choreographers) often help us to take two steps back in order to re approach something for the first time, so that the story being offered is vibrant and fresh. That’s one thing that is far too often NOT done by many directors: CONTINUED INSIGHT. Opening night…the show is yours, right? Never. It continues. It grows. It lives. And Phil never lets us forget that. He’s the type of guy who will call us early on the day before closing night to run Act 2, Scene 4 because we “something just wasn’t working last night.” I love that about him. He’s a visionary. You never have to understand a visionary (and most of the time you don’t) but they always wind up creating something magical. And most of the time the cast shows up on time…ready to rock that scene, and drop about 3 lbs. of sweat into reworking it so that it reads better to the audience. Ninety-five percent of us involved in this show is doing it pro bono…that says a lot about the caliber of “performer” that is involved in the process.

So, opening night was odd…Phil and the other directors, gave us renewed confidence and we re approached the “BEAST” as we attempted to travel through “uncharted” woods. Saturday, we made something magical happen, and now our show has been transformed.  I love theatre.

Sevyn backstage.

Sevyn backstage.

With that said, I need to be very clear about something. (And to those in the cast…call me a copy cat, I don’t care.) I need to offer acknowledgments to those who help me do what I do. I cannot create anything onstage alone. That’s why theatre (and this show in particular) is so unlike anything else in the world. It forces ensemble…you MUST work together. (My argument has always been: that’s why people pursue theatre. They’re satisfying a void in their life by participating in forced ensemble and embarking on a mission, then celebrating together. All of this reading I’m doing…sheesh. It leads to ideas….and thinking…..Ewwwwww!)

My friends who I have the privilege to share the stage with night after night are the continued inspiration behind what I can offer.

Kari Curletto (Belle) is the most humble, genuine, complete antithesis of what a Broadway Diva is…that’s I’ve ever met. (And I’ve worked with family!) She is a brilliant Belle, and her delicate nature and unwavering support and encouragement sets the bar for me every night. I’m a better actor having shared the stage with her.

Evan Litt, (Lefou) is a continued source of high ideals. He’s physicality, self-discipline and sense of humor, is an inspiration and inspires me. Evan, you are a true onstage partner. Thank you.

Sevyn Mindoro is a big teddy bear. He’s an amazing Beast. He’s sensitivity mixed with brute force makes for the most unique Beast I’ve ever seen. I love sharing a dressing room and daily thought-provoking conversation about our collective crafts with him. I also think that our renditions of early 90’s hair-band songs, could go on tour! You’re an amazing talent, my friend.

Steve Huntsman (Lumiere) is one of those actors you just can’t take your eyes off. He’s dynamic, funny, graceful, and quite brilliant. And you’ve got to hand it to him…he spends 95% of the show sans hands! I share many of the same theatrial philosophies with Steve, so it’s always a treat to watch him execute those passions.

Joe Hynes (Cogsworth) is a very funny guy. That’s a blanket statement….perhaps. But, I’m serious. Quick witted, sharp, and poignant. His gun is always loaded with a glance, or a quirky gesture, or a smart remark that lightens the scene or moment. He’s a great singer, actor and all around nice fella. I’m very glad he’s part of the cast.

Let me take a moment to talk about the thrilling Shannon Cook. (Mrs. Potts) What a bloody talent. She’s got a powerhouse voice, she adds warmth to Potts that helps bring our story around full-circle, and she genuinely loves what she does. All the while, she’s trapped (in Elephant Man like style) in a shape-shifting pose the entire show. She may be a little tea-pot, but her “poor” spout….dang… I could never do what she does.

Jennifer Del La Torre (Babette) is just delightful. Aside from the fact that we’ve been in two shows together and have never had a scene together!…it’s the discipline she offers that I admire. She’s poised, friendly, and never one to sweep things under the rug. She’s a hard worker and will go to every length to ensure that her character is as fleshed out as it could possibly be. Her interactions with Lumiere are very funny. (There’s always something new…a little glance…a tiny pout…..every night. I love watching that scene.)

Brett practicing for his day job.

Brett practicing for his day job.

Brett Buschell (Chip)…Brett and I go way back. The long car rides together to the warehouse and making fun of that darn golf course banner…and Bar-B-Que sauce man! Ha! For a 6th grader….this guy is somethin’ else. Now, I’m not going to go on and on about him….(Because he has to fit that head of his into a teacup each night)….but I will say that as a 6th grader, he has more onstage instinct than some adult actors I’ve worked with. Bloody talented kid.

Inara Michele (Madame de la Grande Bouche) is another newcomer to the cast, and I’m so very glad! She’s got a beautiful voice, an amazing presence, and her shoot from the hip humor backstage is something I look forward to every night. It’s my pleasure to help her ROBE, and DISROBE her WARDROBE during costume changes! Ha! In all seriousness, she’s become a very good friend and I love watching her perform.

Inara and the famous Bouche "fish face."

Inara and the famous Bouche "Fish-Face."

Josh Meurer (Maurice) is a charming Maurice. Aside from having a great wig (ahem) he adds a sentimental element to the show that helps any audience member connect to that one family member that we would all lay it on the line for. He’s classy, funny…and stinkin’ talented. I love working with him.

Chris Hermening (D’Arque) shares my favorite scene in the show with Evan and I. Talk about a class act. Chris is a quiet, patient, “silent…but deadly” actor. Seriously. He’ll be in the room, quiet as a mouse….but what he offers onstage is as big as the world. He’s kind, sensitive, generous…a very good friend, and a heck of a performer.

Teresa Fairweather, Mikey Phillips and Lauren Basch (Silly Girls) are some of my favorite people in the world. Each of them has a different approach…a different vision….and a very genuine, kind and sincere nature. First and foremost, they all have crazy good voices. They are all collaborative workers and constantly are working with me on how to make our scenes better. On top of that…they’re nice people. Teresa, it is my pleasure to throw you around the stage! (You’re like, pocket-sized….no, no…FUN SIZED!) Your smile, positive words, and energy and friendship……it’s such an inspiration. Mikey…even though you talk about football all the time (a language I don’t speak), you continue to brighten my day by making the tiniest nuance of every scene come to life, even if it is backstage while we wait to go on! (Be Our Guest…c’mon, girl. Bring it back!) You’re amazing fun to work with. Lauren…when we’re not collectively throwing up on things (you have to be there) you are a bloody wonder! You’re the definition of a crazy talented actress, who just doesn’t know how talented they are! You’re funny, exciting, and very good at what you do.

The Silly Girls and I in rehearsal on the back loading dock. Good times.

The Silly Girls and I in rehearsal on the back loading dock. Good times.

ENSEMBLE – Courtney Broadbent, girl, your wry wit is always fun to be around. You’re a leader in the truest sense of the word. I appreciate your help, your insight and your talents. This Sharpie marker is for you!

Joel Abersole, first and foremost…DON’T LEAN BACK! Secondly, your sense of humor, selfless nature and flair onstage and off is contagious. Our ritualistic chest bump before each show is something I rely on to pump me up every night.

A sideways picture of Joel. (I couldn't figure out how to rotate it.)

A sideways picture of Joel. (I couldn't figure out how to rotate it.)

Alison Haeberle is just SWEET. She is the kindest person you’ll every meet. I love her style, I love her continued encouragement, I love her voice, and I love her sugar bowl! Allison doesn’t get much credit, but if you’re looking for a cast member who is 100% loyal to the vision of the show…someone who will always commit, and follow-thru….Allison is your girl!

I admire Jeremy Bowen for his vice-grip lock on focus. He’s a great talent, a funny guy offstage…but the way he rehearses is something else. He’s so focused. (And if he truly isn’t….than dang….he’s a good actor.) Keep it up, dude. Love workin’ with ya!

THE GAR-GOILS: Jacqueline Melendez and Vicky Best. Jack, you are a very good friend and a constant source of encouragement, I appreciate that so much. You have a brilliant voice and a drive to succeed that is unequaled. You’re a snazzy dresser too! Vicky…your sarcasm is NOT appreciated! (Did you catch that? Irony.) You’re a delight and a CRAZY good dancer! I also LOVE your laugh. (She’s like a little, tiny thing….but her laugh fills the room!) It is a pleasure unzipping your Gargoyle heads each night.

Spooky.

Spooky.

Jason Bailly, you are always there to offer that “pep-rally” word of encouragement. After each scene you buzz around to make sure everyone felt good about what they just did. Who does that?? You’re a gifted actor who is so amazingly consistent! I admire that. Thank you for your continued support.

Christian Escobar…let me just say that no one wears that CORKSCREW HEAD like you.  No one! You’re a bloody talent performer dude, and I’m so glad I got the chance to get to know you during this run. You have this uncanny ability to speak mountains with just a glance, and your support, talents, and delicious produce is a blessing.

Ashley Nunes and Kristen McKusick…let me just say that you two are SO DAPPER! I mean that. You’re Dapper-licious. Dapper-lightful. Dapper-Lapper-Woo-Woo! We could be passing in the hall or passing off my blunderbuss…whatever…you two are always so very cheerful and kind. I’ve never hear either of you say an unkind word about anyone! What an amazing positive influence. I appreciate that. (And the muffins your mom brought one night!)

T.J. Thomas….you are great fun to have around, even if I have to keep reminding you that I’m the NUMBER ONE HOOK. (Got it!!!) Just kidding. You’re energy, talents, (including piano…holy smokes!)….and friendly nature is a delight to be around.

Kate Harris…my fellow schoolteacher! You are such a wonderful inspiration. You share so many similar philosophies with me, and your perseverance, forward thinking, and amazing voice exemplifies what I teach in class everyday. Thank you.

Finally, Glen Riggs. I left you for the end for a reason. You see, a lot of outsiders will never know this…but Glen is the SUPERGLUE of the show. He understudies every part (I mean….EVERY part.) He builds sets, constructs props, conducts vocals backstage, picks up U-Haul trucks, etc., etc. There isn’t a think he HASN’T done for this show. On top of all that, he is a very genuinely kind man with a big heart. He’s talented but never let’s it get to his head….he’s supportive without making you feel small….and he’s a good friend of mine. I look up to him. (And I’m taller by two inches.)

Me and the "Superglue."

Me and the Superglue.

There are many people involved behind the scenes too…and because I referenced the acting element of the show in this post, I’ll tip my hat to them all (directors and crew alike) and say a blanket “thank you” in the hopes that you can read into the sincerity of my words.

You see….you can have flashy costumes…a wild rotating castle set….talking deer heads. You can have it all! But, if you don’t have that ensemble, that trust….you won’t be able to create effectively. Now, I’m not saying “Beauty and the Beast” is the end all, be all as far as perfect ensembles are concerned. But I am saying….we’re a DARN good ensemble. We like one another and like working with one another. We all have fun with the show. And that’s what it’s all about. Shows may offer tales as old as time, and songs as old a rhyme…but if you don’t add that something special night after night…that ensemble effort….you’ll never be able to create magic onstage.

I’m certain. (As the sun…rising in the east.)

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One Response to “PASSING GASTON. (Getting beyond the role, and focusing on Ensemble.)”

  1. Our school is putting on BnB next week. We love your gargoyle costumes, our rented ones are horrible (they just came in today and they are also several sizes too large). Do you rent yours out?

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