I was in Naples, Florida for nearly a month but, to quote the character of Judy Garland in The Boy From Oz when Peter Allen comments that she must be rested after her 15-hour coma, "It wasn't a holiday!" Getting a musical up on its feet in nine rehearsals is no mean feat, so a good bit of my "off" time was spent practicing whatever choreography, blocking, or harmony parts I'd been assigned and continuing to explore my circa-1964 Judy characterization and approach to the songs in the show — which were challenging because Judy never actually sang them.
That said, our Actors' Equity-approved housing — the first floor of a mansion on a bay — was across the street from a pristine private-access gulf-coast beach, which I managed to run intervals on nearly every day. The additional reward at the end of the run was passing by a whole hedge of deliciously-scented jasmine. When I was too exhausted to run, say, on the morning after a two-show day, looking for shells was most restorative. Here's a picture of the beach the first time I saw it:
Although TheatreZone is a really well-run operation, there were still unexpected surprises during the sold-out run. For example, on the opening weekend of Boy From Oz (which followed alarmingly quickly upon our arrival!) we were all waiting backstage for Larry Alexander, playing Peter Allen, to give the cue line to go on for the final number, "I Go to Rio," glittery maracas in hand, when it sounded as if the show had stopped. As it turned out, two real Rockettes who had worked with Peter Allen at Radio City Music Hall had begun talking to Larry from the theatre balcony as if he were actually Peter. Completely unfazed, he chatted with them in character (complete with Australian accent) then smoothly made his way back to the cue line, Michael Raabe brought the orchestra back in, and we all sambaed to Rio and finished the show. The incident made the Naples Daily News, along with some rehearsal photos of the show:
T.V. personality and journalist David Spicer, who administers the rights for The Boy From Oz and had flown in from Australia to see us because ours was the first professional production since the 2003 Broadway run, also was there at that performance to interview Larry & I and shoot some live footage. In this feature segment he filmed for Broadway World, you can see the Rockettes, in addition to Larry & I, in interviews and performance. You'll see me beginning at about 2:07. The link is not embeddable, so here it is: http://BroadwayWorld.com/viewcolumn.php?colid=1242826
Once THAT show had opened (and was still running for another weekend), Mark and I had to turn our attention to settling production details and resuming rehearsals for our theatrical piece, Love Finds Judy Garland, which played for one night only to a full and enthusiastic house after Boy From Oz closed and which was filmed, so stay tuned for some HD footage in a later post. When I revisited the younger Garland material and vocal style after immersing myself in the idiosyncrasies of her concert years so intensely, I realized that I was noticing all kinds of details that I'd missed before, hopefully bringing some freshness to several songs I'd been singing for years.
On a more personal note, the highlight of the Naples trip had to be the thoroughly professional and meticulous, yet thoroughly friendly and warm bunch of people I got the chance to work in (very!) close proximity with. Everyone in the cast, crew, and artistic team was lovely through-and-through. It was a rare privilege to share the stage with them.
As we arrived in our Cartersville, Georgia hotel room at the end of the first day of our 21-hour drive homewards, I opened my email to find one from Boy From Oz director Mark Danni with a link to the long-overdue review. This, for which I'm so grateful, was the cherry on top of the Neapolitan ice cream: