Saturday, July 28, 2007

6 Months

Saturday, August 4th

All the sudden it's August. This week marks my sixth month Spam-iversary. I left NYC to join the tour on Monday, February 5th. Tuesday night marked my 200th performance and the beginning of my 26th week on the road.

Some numbers:

4700 Miles (Roughly)
20 Friends and Family Who’ve Caught Up with Me on Tour
15 Cities
13 States (FL, TN, GA, MD, PA, CT, NY, IN, KY, TX, OK, IA & MN)
9 Planes
9 Visits from My Wife
8 Rental Cars
7 Cast Changes
5 Baseball Games (and 1 Rain-out)
4 Buses
4 Crew Changes
1 Wife who puts up with the Craziness
Now for the regularly scheduled blog…

Occasionally, I have these brilliant flashes when I realize what a crazy thing life on tour can be. Moments when I look around and consciously think, "You know, I'm really lucky to be doing this." (Sitting in a luxury box, drinking free beer at the I-Cubs game was an extreme example of such a moment.) I was sitting in Mickey's Dining Car enjoying my enormous breakfast Saturday morning, when I had just such an "a-ha!" moment. Mickey's is a magical place all on its own:

The wikipedia entry about Mickey's.

Mickey's is, of course, one of my Roadfood stops for St. Paul. As it is styled as a railway dining car, it's a tight squeeze inside. Three quarters of the restaurant is dominated by the counter with four small booths at one end. That's it. Seating for about 30 folks.

I stole this photo from (I wouldn't have been able to take a picture, it was far to crowded!)

This place was a classic diner, both inside and out. The menu was all staples, and all of them are available 24/7/365. The woman next to me at the counter was eating liver and onions at 11 AM. The "Potatoes O'Brien" were a meal unto themselves: hash browns with diced ham, onions and green peppers. The waitress was the right from central casting (a'la Alice's sidekick: Flo - "Kiss my grits"). Needless to say I enjoyed myself immensely and took a milkshake to go.

While I was there, my father was in Chicago driving in circles. He cashed in the Andretti Racing School gift certificate we got him (Casey, Sheila Marie, Mom & I) and was learning to drive an Indy car. He turned in a very respectable top speed of just over 150 MPH. In both the message he left me and then in our later conversation, he sounded like a kid in a candy store. The gift certificate was a long standing gift idea, but hanging out with Mom and Dad at the racetrack in Indianapolis in May really cemented the idea.

Dad in Winner's Circle

Monday night, I put together a Spamily outing to the ballpark. We invaded the Metrodome and watched the Twins beat up the Royals. The game was fast-paced and really fun. We got to introduce Julie to baseball. She's a Brit, and though she'd played softball, she'd never been to a baseball game. There were 14 of us and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Again, though, it was weird to sit inside and watch a baseball game. (It was a beautiful night for baseball in Minneapolis, but I can understand why they might need a dome in April and October.)

The Metrodome was clearly built with football in mind. The rightfield wall is all weird as it is where the seats have to be retracted to make room for the field. There's the normal baseball fence with a 16 foot plastic sign above. The sign is in play, though it's not rigid - so anything that hits it just dies. They also curtain off a bunch of seats in center and right-centerfields. The sight-lines are also a little weird. The diamond is situated in what would be the corner of the football field, so the seats around homeplate are great. As you move down the foul-lines, the seats are all still oriented toward what would be the 50 yard line. Fortunately for us, we were behind home plate, high up in the upperdeck, but behind home plate. We also got to experience that weird sensation of being "burped" out of the Metrodome. (The air pressure that supports the dome also sort of pushes you out of the revolving doors.) The trip brings my major league ballpark count to 6 (Tiger Stadium, Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium, Minute-Maid Park, The Ballpark at Arlington and The Metrodome). I hope to add Kaufman Stadium in a couple of weeks.

The rightfield "baggie" wall.


I'm so desperately behind in my blogging (I started this post a week ago!) that I'll cut off this post here, just to get it online. I promise I will catch up soon! Sheila Marie's here through Tuesday afternoon, so there'll be lots to write about.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Yet More Photos!

July 26th

Two more rolls of film have posted on Snapfish. (Bringing me up to date). The first roll is of Dallas (a lot of the Hell Party). The second roll is of Des Moines. Some highlights:


Erik and Mitchell IN HELL

Jeff celebrating his birthday (that's make-up making him look like he just rolled in the mud)

Des Moines:

This picture encapsulates Iowa for me. A pick-up truck full 'o corn.

Couldn't pass up the "Strudl Haus"

My "arty" photo of the Iowa State Capitol reflected in a nearby office building

A more traditional picture of the Capitol

Ken contemplating the "Mind Eraser" shot - you're supposed to drink it through a straw...

Erik sums it up: Des Moines: Hell Yes.

St. Paul has been lovely. The presenters welcomed us with some delicious, pudding-filled cupcakes on Tuesday evening. Then they threw a nice party after our opening night. The theatre space is huge - plenty of room for us to spread out - and the auditorium is beautiful and warm. There's lots of wood trim in the house and the backstage spaces. Really has a good vibe.

Our load-in lunch was at Cossetta. Ken remembered this tasty Italian joint from his last trip to St. Paul. The food was served sort of cafeteria style with enormous portions. Every one liked their meal (I liked it enough to return for dinner again last night). Their asiago bread sticks were cheesy bits of light, airy deliciousness.

There seems to be plenty to keep me entertained here in Saint Paul, though I haven't taken advantage yet. Yesterday afternoon we put Brian O'Brien into Kevin Crewell's former track. He did a really great job last night in the show. Today, I read all day. In the past 24 hours I have consumed 500 pages of Harry Potter. (NO SPOILERS ARE COMING.) I'm really enjoying it, though I'm worried I'm flying through it too fast. These are my last pages with Harry et al, but they're so good I don't want to slow down...


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Picture Pages, Picture Pages, Time to Get Your Picture Pages...

Picture Pages, Picture Pages, Time to Get Your Picture Pages...
Tuesday, July 24th

Snapfish strikes again. Photos from Dallas and Des Moines are here.

Some highlights:

Aw Shucks (in a converted Orange Julius!)

Hey, Erik, enjoying your meal?

You can almost make out Jeff on the Jumbotron...

Spamily in the Skybox:
Graham, JV, Michael, Jeff, Siobhan, Robert & Nigel

With the Iowa Cubby!!!

The second in the JV and plushy mascots series

The Spamobile (complete with Holy Grail)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Corn, Soybeans & Windfarms

Corn, Soybeans & Windfarms
Monday, July 23rd

This morning, we boarded a charter bus in Des Moines and a few hours later we emerged in St. Paul. It was an easy trip (4 hours or so). The bus was pleasantly full; there was someone in every row, but nobody had to double up. The scenery was pretty.

We passed, of course, miles upon miles of corn fields broken occasionally by a soybean field. I was happy to notice a couple of windfarms dropped in amongst the crops. The big windmills whooshing around in their slow circles were pretty. I have to think that the windmills make sense for the farmers. Their footprint is relatively small, so they can plant around them. Sheila and I recently changed the electricity for our apartment to 100% wind power. (Con-Edison makes it easy, they gave us the choice of conventional power, "green power" - a combination of hydroelectric and wind power, and wind power. The wind power is going to cost us about about $3 a month more than the conventional. New Yorkers, you can check out your options here.

We also passed several casinos. Am I imagining that this is such a big change in the American landscape just in my lifetime? While I'm certainly not opposed to casinos, I do wonder what this says about us. It seems that nearly everywhere we go, there are casinos near-ish. (Just inside Indiana from Louisville, an hour east just into Louisiana from Houston, just over the state line into Oklahoma from Dallas.) I'm sure that the explosion in interest in poker (which, again, I have to qualms about) is a part of this. Not all of them belong to the Indians, either. The casino just outside of Des Moines is on a state owned horsetrack complex. Anyway, just noticing.

The hotel here in St. Paul is nice. I'm spending the next three weeks as a guest of the Hilton Garden Inn City Center. It's super convenient to the theatre (though, it's hard to beat last week's hotel: I could see the theatre out my hotel room window) and there seems to be some life downtown. While it's no Residence Inn, my room is spacious and came equipped with a fridge and a microwave. I'm being a bit of a homebody this evening. I made a run for groceries and ordered in. I'm in baseball heaven with the Yankees on the radio (the soothing sounds of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman calling a game made for radio) and the BoSox on the TV (muted). (Check out the wikipedia article on John Sterling if only for the list of his player nicknames - the man is a certified crackpot genius. )

Sunday was Kevin Crewell's last show with Spamalot. He was one of an increasingly small group of original cast members for the tour. There were some classic backstage shenanigans to send him off. Cuz (our sound man) appeared in the back (open) side of the large wooden rabbit dressed only in his kilt. Yikes. Kevin leaves us to touch base in NYC and move into his newly purchased apartment before taking off on the Drowsy Chaperon tour. He will be missed. We'll put in his replacement, Brian O'Brein, on Wednesday afternoon.

JV & Kevin (Fran snapped this one on our opening night in Des Moines - just in time!)

I've stolen a couple more photos:

Nigel snapped this one: There was more spare pyro to be disposed of on Sunday. Ken is impersonating the Statue of Liberty. The loading dock at the Des Moines Civic Center is right near the main entrance for the theatre, so we drew quite a crowd firing off pyro a half hour before the show. In true "carnie folk" tradition, Ken barked: "That's only a taste of what you'll see inside, folks!"

The ad for "Brave Sir Robin's Blonde Ale". In addition to serving the special beer at the opening night party, it was on sale in the lobby of the theatre. Can this explain the wild reception the audience gave us every night?

I post this picture for two reasons: (1) This is Cuz (picture him in just a kilt.) (2) This is life on tour. Cuz is asleep on the floor of the Tulsa airport having just loaded the show out of Tulsa and on his way straight to the theatre in Des Moines to load-in. (Thanks, Fran)

Fran took this next genius set of photos. Harry Potter-fever hit the company this weekend. These are just a few of the folks spotted with copies.


Darryl & Akilah




We had a similar run with the I-phone. (There are now 3 in the company.) One could have taken similar photos in Dallas of everyone drooling over the latest bit of must-have technology. (In fact, the pyro photo above was taken on Nigel's I-phone...)

I'm told that my copy of Deathly Hallows is winging it's way across the country toward me right now. Fear not, there will be no spoilers here - I'm working hard not to know what happens and won't ruin it for anyone else.

St. Paul is shaping up to be a lot of fun. We're headed out to the Metrodome a week from today to see the Twins take on the Royals. At the end of next week Sheila will drop in for an extended weekend visit! The two of us are having dinner (two weeks from today) with Kari & Paul who'll be in Minneapolis to work on the Target Industrial. There's also a model railroading museum here! First things first, we'll open the show tomorrow and do a put-in on Wednesday...


Saturday, July 21, 2007

“Hawkeye Iowa: Dubuque, Des Moines, Davenport, Marshalltown, Mason City, Keokuk, Ames, Clear Lake…”

“Hawkeye Iowa: Dubuque, Des Moines, Davenport, Marshalltown, Mason City, Keokuk, Ames, Clear Lake…”
Saturday, July 21st

- With Apologies to Meredith Wilson -

“So what the heck, you’re welcome,
Glad to have you with us.”

Not only did the presenters here in Des Moines treat a handful of us to the I-Cubs game on Monday night, they threw us a nice Opening Night Party at a brewpub here in town. We celebrated a successful Des Moines opening at Court Avenue Restaurant & Brewing Co. There was plenty of food, wine and beer. The bewmaster even came up with a special flavor (Brave Sir Robin’s Golden Ale) to welcome us to town. With our early 7:30 show, we were celebrating by 10 and we stayed past midnight to toast the arrival of Fran’s (one of our beloved/embattled wardrobe crew) birthday. A round of shots and a loud chorus of Happy Birthday left little doubt that Spamalot was in town.

“Such as Marian … Madam Librarian.”
Wednesday, I took a walk up Locust Street, over the river toward the State Capitol. The capitol looks a little like the Connecticut State Capitol – like a castle. I took a tour of the building. The inside is quite grand and actually, very pretty (in a governmental kind of way). Much of the building looks like you think a capitol built in the late 19th century would: there are big House and Senate chambers. There are 22 different kinds of marble. The bench in the former Supreme Court Chambers is carved from a giant piece of mahogany. The law library was the most breathtaking room in the building, though. It was a four story room with stacks surrounding the room on all four levels. In each corner, there was a spiral staircase with a dumb waiter next to it for the transport of heavy volumes. The main floor was the reading room with long tables and reading lamps. Very civilized.

The Iowa State Capitol

The Law Library

“But it’s different than it was. No it ain’t. No it ain’t. But ya gotta know the territory.”
On my way back from the Capitol, I stopped off at the State Historical Society of Iowa. In the main hall, the skeleton of a Wooly Mammoth was on display. Pieces of a mammoth skeleton were unearthed as a new parking garage was being built for an insurance company downtown. They also had some interesting exhibits on the history of Iowa from the time of the Native Americans through the more recent past. There was an especially large section devoted to the Civil War. I had to leave when I encountered the surgeon’s tool kits – it brought back the awful scene from Gone with the Wind.

“Whatayatalk? Whatayatalk? Whatayatalk?”
After the show on Thursday, we convened in the hotel’s bar to continue celebrating Fran’s birthday. We completely overwhelmed the bar, ordering food, drinks and even a cupcake for a candle and another round of Happy Birthday. It was nice to have most of the company in one hotel and gathered together for some socializing. In Houston and Dallas, so many people got apartments, that we were spread all over town. In Tulsa, the miserable conditions at the downtown hotel, again, spread us out. While too much togetherness can be a bad thing, it’s also fun when we can easily hang-out.

“To sit with me in a cottage somewhere in the state of Iowa.”
Thursday, I laid relatively low. I was able to listen to the Yankees’ matinee game against the Blue Jays (we failed to sweep the Blue Birds in the last game of the series). I also finished reading Al Gore’s “Assault on Reason”. I’m currently tearing through “3 Nights in August” hoping to be done before my new “Harry Potter” arrives on Tuesday…

“Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here…”
The audiences at the Des Moines Civic Center have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. The wall of loud applause during the curtain calls is almost enough to knock us over. The backstage ghosts and gremlins have been less welcoming, however. A weird series of problems have cropped up here all week. On opening night, the lightboard froze during The Song That Goes Like This. The lights bumped up to super bright cue, the chandelier gag tripped and the fog machines went crazy. Mark was able to solve the problem by the time we got into Camelot. Friday night, after I had put in the warns for the end of Fisch Schlapping Song, the cue lights all went dark. The fly rail took that as their cue and flew out the drop. Fortunately, no one else took their cue. Last night, there was also a problem with Tim the Enchanter’s staff and its pyro failed to fire. All sorts of other minor technical problems have plagued us to some degree all week.

“If you get a squeeze back, that’s fancy cookin’.”
Friday, I headed out of the hotel in search of my Des Moines dose of Roadfood. Just around the corner is Java Joe’s. Roadfood wrote up their “Dutch letters” and cinnamon rolls. I went for lunch and was pleasantly surprised by their Rueben (served with Fritos!). I wrapped up my meal with a Dutch letter (mine was an “S”). A Dutch letter is a flaky pastry filled with almond paste and topped with sugar. Tasty stuff! I hope to get over there again before we leave to try the cinnamon rolls…

Java Joe's

I became a full fledged member of this week. This allows me to suggest restaurants for review, to write my own reviews and keep an on-line logbook of all the establishments I’ve visited. (I’m working on the backlog from 4 months on the road.) I also downloaded a file that marks the location of the all the listed roadfood restaurants on my version of google earth! It’s a big help when trying to find a place in a new city.

“But what the heck, you’re welcome,
Join us at the picnic.”

On the plaza outside the theatre, there was a big lunchtime party going on. The fountain had been turned off and a band was playing on the upper level. The local radio station was hosting a free lunch! Though I had already eaten (so I didn't dig in), they were handing out an entire free lunch (chicken, fruit, etc.). The weather was cooperating in spades. It cooled off on Friday (to the low 80’s) and the humidity went away entirely. The last couple of days have been perfect.

“There were horns of ev’ry shape and size.”
Everyone told us to check out the Des Moines Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning. Even the hotel’s guide book mentioned it. I dig farmers’ markets, but that sounded like a weird tourist recommendation. I’m so glad I got up and around early this morning to check it out! As soon as I stepped out of the hotel, I could here the crowd and the music. This is no ordinary assemblage of local farmers hawking their veggies. Mixed in with the produce, are arts and crafts, prepared foods, wine and bands. They close a half dozen blocks every Saturday for the market and lots of people turn out. I enjoyed some goodies from the “Strudl Haus”, an ear of roasted sweet corn (served by an old man with a crock pot full of melted butter), an Italian sausage sandwich and a piece of blueberry cake. It was really a fun way to spend the morning and a one of a kind experience! Their webiste.

“They were followed by rows and rows of the finest virtuosos, the cream of every famous band.”
Between shows today, Graham and I headed over to the Hessen Haus for dinner. I love German food! The sauerbraten was delicious (as were the potato salad and red cabbage that came along with it). The beer cheese soup (with bratwurst) was velvety. The black forest strudel was intense. It was too bad I had to go back to work tonight, as I had to limit myself to an iced tea rather than the appropriate German beer. It worked out well, though, as the beer on top of all that rich food would have undoubtedly put me out for a post-dinner nap. Graham and I were seated underneath a bunch of pictures of happy looking older men who composed the “Iowa Polka Music Hall of Fame.” AWESOME!!! As we were eating, a polka band began setting up their tubas in the rear of the room. Curse Spamalot making me leave this corner of heaven!

The Iowa Polka Music Hall of Fame!

“Ya can talk, ya can talk, ya can bicker, ya can talk.”
On my way to the capitol on Wednesday, I passed Barak Obama’s Iowa Campaign Headquarters. It turns out that Hillary’s is just a few blocks from my hotel. My preferred candidate (Dennis Kucinich) has an office just a little too far away to walk over for a campaign sticker. Today at the Farmers’ Market, I ran face to face with Chris Dodd (Democratic Senator from Connecticut). How it is that the good people of Iowa are favored (along with the folks in New Hampshire) with so much power in the selection of our next President, is beyond me. The just less than 3 million people of Iowa get to meet all the candidates for President on their street corners and diners while the 8 million residents of New York City only get to meet the candidates at fundraising dinners. I think they see more of Hillary Clinton than we do AND SHE WORKS FOR US! Crazy.

“There is just one place that can light my face.”
I have really dug our week in Des Moines! The people have been super friendly. The food has been great. I was sufficiently entertained. The audiences have been wild for the show. AND I got my picture made with Spammy the Spam mascot.

Eric Hayden bought a shirt that sums up our experience here. It reads: "Des Moines: Hell Yeah."

“Now goodnight, my someone, goodnight.”


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

You Really Ought to Give Iowa a Try

You Really Ought to Give Iowa a Try
Tuesday, July 17th

I've been in Des Moines 24 hours, and I already have seen more than I saw all week in Tulsa.

After we arrived yesterday afternoon, I struck out from our hotel (which is right across the street from the theatre, hooray!) in search of food. I found several restaurants nearby. I ate lunch in the Royal Mile, an English pub. The guinness and steak pie was delicious. I was already much happier in Des Moines.

Last evening, Jeff Dumas (our Cubs fan in residence) was invited to sing the National Anthem at the Iowa Cubs game. I, of course, posted a sign-up sheet inviting other members of the Spamily to come to the game. The local presenters reserved a sky-box for the game and invited us as their guests! Seven of us ended up going to see the I-Cubs take on the Round Rock Express in AAA action. Not only were the seats great (right behind homeplate, glassed in, air conditioned, with a view of the Iowa State Capitol just beyond the centerfield wall, and free), but there were food and beverages catered! Quite the Iowa welcome. Jeff did a great job with the Anthem and we had a really fun time at the park. (Look for a picture of me with the Iowa Cub in a future posting...) The I-Cubs soundly beat the Express, and the thunderstorms stayed away 'til after game time.

Load-in seems to be going smoothly here at the Civic Center. We have plenty of room backstage for all our gack. Hopefully, this translates to a smooth show tonight. In other exciting Spam-a-news, the Hormel Spamobile is parked outside the theatre! So, hurry on over to Des Moines for free Spam-samples. (You can keep track of the Spamobile and all other Spam-related news at

At first glance, the schedule this week seems less crazy than last week's, so I hope to be able to see some more of Des Moines.

Suzanne must have heard my complaints about not seeing an armadillo while we were in Texas, because when she arrived at the theatre this morning, she presented me with this:

AN ARMADILLO CANDLE HOLDER!!! Please enjoy that he is holding the candle in his cowboy hat and he is also wearing a gun belt. Hi-larious. He's sitting on my desk, hidden behind my pictures of Sheila Marie (as Ken declared him creepy and asked that I position him so Ken can't see him). Thanks, Suzanne!

Before we left Tulsa, there was some extra pyro that had to be "disposed of". (We can't travel unused pyro.) So, Mike took the three SMs out onto the loading dock and we fired it off! Francesca took pictures:

Mike's Pyro-Room Signage

Mike Loading the Pyro

Boom Boom, Jr.

Mike fires a gerb

Sheila Marie sent me a virtual care package from NYC last night. She's been taking pictures of our neighborhood and her adventures in it lately. She included some of the new businesses and construction, so I can keep up on the comings and goings. She also took some of the changing seasons in Fort Tryon Park. So great to see a little bit of home. A few of my favorites...

Andrew D. Dog hangin' out in Fort Tryon Park

Our Corner of NYC

Sunset through the George Washington Bridge

Also want to take some space to congratulate Jessica and Mark Drewry on the sudden arrival of their new baby! Jess was all set to come and see me in Tulsa last Friday. When I called her to arrange our meet up, she said that their adoption agency had called and wanted to see them right away, so she'd have to leave our plans up in the air. Later Friday afternoon, she called back to tell me that she wouldn't be able to make it to Tulsa, as there was a baby waiting for them in Fort Worth! Last weekend, they went to pick up their new daughter, Georgia Rae Drewry (born July 6th). A couple of photos:

The hand-off. The foster Mom presenting Jess with her new daughter.

And baby makes three.

Georgia Rae Drewry

Congratulations to Jess, Mark & Georgia!


Saturday, July 14, 2007

O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A (Yow!)

O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A (Yow!)
Saturday, July 14th

So, Tulsa. Yeah.

While the car show has been inconvienent, it's about the only thing going on in downtown Tulsa. This is also the first city on the tour where I have literally not seen anything of historic or tourist value. I have seen the theatre, a rehearsal studio, a few restaurants, my hotel and Target.

Tuesday we loaded in all day. Wednesday we put Andrew Fitch into the show (congratulations Andrew!). Thursday and Friday we rehearsed the newest member of the company, Brian O'Brien (welcome!). Saturday and Sunday are two show days. We're off to Des Moines on Monday. That's how a whole week gets by without venturing out to see Oral Robert's University.
Wednesday, I did make it to the local hot spot: The White River Fish Market. It's a fish market and restaurant all in one! You order from the glass fish cases, and they prepare your meal fresh and on the spot. I had some very tasty broiled scallops, but the real stars of the meal were the hush puppies. I went with Piper, Amy and Siobhan - there was something for everyone on the menu. The showgirls took some dessert to go; the chess pie and cheesecake didn't even make it back to the theatre...

Ken and I are planning an excursion to visit the Cherokee Indians tonight, and hope to return with some of their money...

Snapfish posted an ancient roll of film (there are photos from Houston and Dallas). The link is here. The customary highlights follow:

At the Astros' Game w/ Tony, Patrick, Nigel & Jeff

Francesca's Birthday (Jonathon made cheesecakes)

At the Rangers' Game w/ Michael, Jeff, Cuz, Matt & Mike

w/ My Uncle Colin

And My Aunt Melody

This is the lone picture in my Tulsa file, thus far. Tony snapped this one of Ken shooting some excess pyro out on the loading dock - the perfect load-in stress releaver.

Amusing aside: I was attempting to pull out of the parking lot last night after the show when I was cut off by a minivan bearing the following bumpersticker: "If you don't see God in all, you don't see God at all." Was someone trying to tell me something?