The Better Than Expected Tour
Volume 4 Book 5 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(Part 2)

Jim at Sardi's.

[ Book 4-4 ] --  [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ]
[ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] - [ Book 4-6 ]

September 20-21, 2005.
The Better Than Expected Shows.
Before I continue our experience in New York, I thought you might enjoy two more vlogs I cut together just before we left home. I had been having trouble uploading them and now they're up.

The first is a very short comic clip of Jim doing a bit called "High Holy Days, The Musical!" at The second is a clip of legendary director Michael Kidd telling a story about David Burns, Jimmy's mentor in the theatre:

I mentioned having met Mark Janas, the musical director at the musical about the Vicious Circle called "The Talk Of The Town" (which we really enjoyed, btw -- very clever lyrics and wonderfully tuneful period-sounding songs). This is a picture of Mark with Jimmy and Justin Depuidt helping Mark on keyboards.

Mark Janas, Jim, Justin Depuidt.

One Tuesday, it was time for us to begin "teching" The Big Voice down at Dodgers Stages. This is where our "Better Than Expected Tour" continues:

First of all, you have to understand what we were "expecting." In most cases, when we're doing a staged reading, we go in with very low expectations. All we really NEED to do the show is some lights (on and off, plus flickering during the big "Ethel Moment") and some sound for the sound cues. (Remember when we played the UU convention and had our friend Larry Dusich in the back of the room holding up a boom box?).

So, we consider anything above that to be "extra."

Well, talk about extra! The first thing we did right was to enlist Jana Llynn, our stage manager from NYMF last year. Since she knows the show backwards and forwards, we knew she would get all the cues right. Then, for this reading, Murphy Cross and Paul Kreppel, our producers who have optioned us for a full New York production, rented stage five at Dodgers Stages, brand new facility at midtown. On stage five is a terrific new show called "Musical of Musicals."

When we got there, this is what we saw:

Dodgers Stages exterior.

Dodgers Stages is actually an underground facility that is decorated in industrial concrete. The directions are painted on the floor. If you look at the picture below, you'll see that on this wall were hung three huge mirrors. Look in the mirrors and you can see the yellow stripe on the floor telling you which way to walk.

We entered Stage 5 and this was our set-up:

Our stage.

Seating for almost 200.

Murphy Cross on stage.

Another view with Joey Morano, our ASM.

At first I was not happy about using an upright, which is what they use in "Musical of Musicals." But they actually have the seat elevated so that I could easily see over it and be seen. Also, the piano was in perfect tune and had a wonderful bright sound. For the reading? It would do nicely. I was sitting so high, that Jimmy sat on a stool so we'd be equal. "King's head must not be lower than subjects!"

But the REAL "better than expected" moment came when we met lighting genius B.J. Forman. Because "Musical of Musicals" doesn't use a spotlight, every single inch of stage space has multiple lighting instruments overheard. I looked up and it was like seeing a space ship landing. There must have been HUNDREDS of lighting instruments.

So, for the next two hours, B.J. sat with the Assistant Stage Manager, Joey, and completely lit our show, designing it to within an inch of it's life. It was SO BEAUTIFUL!

Jim, B.J. Forman, Joey Morano.

In fact, it was probably the best lighting design of any production we've done so far -- and this was done in two hours! (Better than expected!) Another great element was that Murphy and Paul had hired Carl D. White and Tom Smedes of Martian Entertainment -- Carl was one of our original Last Session producers -- to come aboard as General Managers of the upcoming off-Broadway production.

Carl D. White looking good!
Someone's been working out.

Carl's partner, Tom Smedes with Murphy Cross.

The performances themselves ROCKED. In a situation like this, where you're basically setting up a free show for investors and others, you never know how many people you're going to get in the audience. We sent out the word through email and through discussion boards. But we were also aware that the wonderful New York Musical Theatre Festival was happening around us, so all around the city, there were lots of choices for people. I was expected maybe 50 or so at each show if we were lucky.


Both shows were PACKED. People were in the balconies. People were crammed into the seats in the orchestra. The first show was one of those dream shows. I suspect we had a lot of "fans" there because they started laughing from the first line and we experienced explosions of laughter and applause all through the show.

One of the best things that happened was that B.J., our lighting designer came up to us afterwards with, literally, tears streaming down his face. He said, "You guys don't play fair." Remember, he hadn't seen the show before he lit it. Our process was that we described where the lights would change and he gave us "looks" that we asked for, but he hadn't really had a chance to SEE what it was he was lighting.

He said, "Can I go in a change a few things? Now that I've seen it, I want to make it even better."

We beamed at him. "OF COURSE!"

The audience at second show was a bit different. There were MORE people than at the first show, but they held back just a little bit at first, making us work. I have a feeling that these were mostly new people who had heard about the show and were now "checking us out" to see what the hubbub was all about. "How dare my friends tell ME what's good. I'll just go check this out for myself. Harrumph,"

Remember, this is New York. New York theatre audiences see EVERYTHING. They don't give you any quarter for showing up. They don't want their time wasted. If you can't give them something good, then forget it.

Well, after five or ten minutes, we started to hear them warming up. The laughter began hitting hard. The applause started to hit and then, by the end of the show, they were ROCKING the house, on their feet, shouting at us. It was GLORIOUS! And yes, BETTER THAN EXPECTED!

Friends Arthur and Dickie at dinner afterwards.

With Jim Caruso of "Jim Caruso's Cast Party".

Another shot of Columbus Circle.

In the office with Mitch Douglas, our agent.

Jim playing Santa Claus with Joey, our ASM.

Dinner at Sardi's with friends.

[ Book 4-3 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ]
[ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] - [ Book 4-6 ]


© 1996-2005 by Steve Schalchlin.
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