Fast and furious
HOLLYWOOD—From the first day of rehearsal until the last day of performances, it’s just two weeks. From Day One, everyone hit the ground running, trying to learn a lot of information in a short amount of time.
“Annie” follows many other musical hits staged at the Hollywood Bowl, such as “Rent,” “A Chorus Line,” “The Producers,” “Carousel” and “Spamalot.”
For many summers in a row, this has been a tradition—one that began with the same two-week preparation process, but for only a single performance. Thankfully, there are now three performances that audiences will have the chance to see.
I arrived in Los Angeles after a relatively uneventful flight from Manila. Although rehearsals began in the morning of July 16, Monday, I only joined on July 18, Wednesday (I had a previous engagement to fulfill first).
Once I got to the rehearsal venue, I was off to the races in a scene with Ana Gasteyer, who’ll be playing Miss Hannigan. This woman is hilarious without even trying, and her voice is just stunning. She is most well-known for her stint in “Saturday Night Live.” She has also played Elphaba in three productions of “Wicked,” so her pipes shouldn’t surprise me, but they did in only the best way.
Next on my agenda for the day was my first scene with Oliver Warbucks, played by David Alan Grier. He is truly of the musical theater world, having been on Broadway as Jackie Robinson in “The First” (which garnered a Theatre World Award and a Tony nomination), “Dreamgirls” as James Thunder Early, and most recently as Sportin’ Life in the revival production of “Porgy & Bess.” However, I know him most from his time in “In Living Color.” He was (and still is) side-splittingly funny.
On my first day, I also got to meet the incredibly talented orphans, as well as the young lady playing Annie, Kaylin Hedges.
She has a clear voice and an insane ear, which make for impeccable intonation. She sings right in the middle of the note, exactly where she should.
On Saturday afternoon, we had our first run through, which is terrifying given that we’d had less than a week to stage and choreograph the entire thing.
With the exception of the children (because, let’s face it, musical theater kids know everything), we were all struggling. We’d ask for lines, forget our marks and entrance locations, or just feel like our brains were running on fumes.
Merle Dandridge (currently playing Papa Ge on Broadway in “Once On This Island” had played The Lady of the Lake in “Spamalot” a few years before) told me that this was a tough gig. Because of the truncated process, this was going to be difficult.
Thank goodness I got the heads-up, because I could then somewhat properly prepare for this. I was also thanking the heavens that I didn’t have to do the biggest role. My head would’ve probably exploded.
On many of my evenings, I did opt to see friends and family for dinners in the area, the most notable of which was when my goddaughter Katrina Willis picked me up, accompanied by her husband Dustin and her son, Dorian.
We headed to Osteria Mozza in Hollywood, where we had incredible food. This was the first time I got to see Dorian in person, and it was special because of how close his grandmother Betsy is to my mother.
Back in the day, Betsy spent many a day at our house in Angeles City (she lived only a couple of streets away at the time).
My mom was like a second mother to her. Betsy was also my first voice teacher, teaching me the popular songs of the day, playing her guitar. She and her family will always be special to me, so I felt so happy to finally meet Dorian and spend the evening with Trina and Dustin.
Monday the 23rd was our first day on the Hollywood Bowl stage, and it’s quite the venue. It holds a capacity of 17,000 audience members, but it’s not a stuffy place by any means.
If you’re sitting in a box, you can bring a picnic basket with some wine and food, and watch whatever show happens to be playing. I’ve sung there already on a few occasions. However, this is my first musical here. I guess there’s still a first time for many things.
On Monday, too, we held our sitzprobe (or orchestra rehearsal) at Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown LA. This would be the first time we’d get to work with the full band, and they sounded glorious.
I’m trying not to be too stressed out or crazed, trying to get my ducks in a row, however, I can. We all try to throw lines while waiting around, checking entrances and exits with one of our director Michael Arden’s associates, or asking questions of Eamon Foley, our choreographer. There are costume and wig fittings scheduled, and still so much to do before opening night.
Please wish us only the best of luck. Our first performance is only a day away.
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