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Back on the road

By: - Columnist
/ 12:12 AM July 11, 2019
Back on the road

The author (left) with Simon Bowman

You may take that title literally; I’m writing this on the tour bus going from Cardiff to London, the day after the kickoff performance of my very first UK tour. We have a three-hour drive ahead, so it’s as good a time as any to write.

The tour began at Wales Millennium Centre on Sunday night, July 7. It’s a gorgeous venue with an almost 1,800-person capacity. Despite that, the space felt intimate, as if the farthest audience member was only a few feet away.

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On Saturday night, we had a lovely rehearsal with Larry Yurman, my musical director and pianist, and our UK-based band: Adam Dennis and Martin Riley (keyboards), Chris Allard (guitar), Elliot Henshaw (drums) and Dan Ezard (bass).

We went through the entire repertoire like fiends in only a couple of hours, but allowed for enough time to spend on trickier songs. There will always be that one song that needs repeating, either to set the tempo or delivery just right.

I’ve been looking forward to this tour. Kismet couldn’t have timed it even more perfectly. Perhaps the forces of the universe conspired to break my leg earlier this year, because it forced us to postpone it to this summer.

Besides it meaning much nicer weather (I’m not a fan of the damp, bone-chilling British winters), it also meant that I would be able to celebrate an interesting anniversary: that of our first rehearsal in preparation for the opening of the original production of “Miss Saigon” in the West End.

Needless to say, I found myself getting a little verklempt just thinking about it. I mean, 30 years almost to the day that this adventure began. Who wouldn’t get slightly emotional at the thought?

Near the end of the night, we gave the audience a sweet surprise in having Simon Bowman come up onstage and sing “A Whole New World” with me. This wasn’t a planned thing, and we did it without even one rehearsal. He just happened to be in Cardiff (his hometown) caring for his mother and wanted to come see the show. We then asked him if he would be OK to sing one song with me, and he thankfully said yes.

As usual, Simon is an incredible duet partner, as well as a very cheeky man, so we spent a few minutes onstage teasing each other, as we always do. The song itself felt so lovely (singing with him is always a treat), and the crowd seemed to really enjoy it.

Our next stop is Nottingham. I wonder what will be in store for us then!

To our audience in Cardiff, thank you so much for your warmth.

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A season of closing nights

It’s one thing to experience the closing night of a limited run, much like we do in Manila (congratulations, by the way, to the company of Atlantis Theatrical’s “Beautiful” on their closing last Sunday night). Sure, there is separation anxiety and floods of tears, but it’s a closing night you could, in one way or another, prepare for. You knew that it was coming.

However, in the case of those open-ended Broadway runs, when a closing notice is posted, there are other emotions that come into play, aside from the ones I’ve listed above.

There’s anger, resentment, resignation, sadness, grief, heartbreak and disappointment. I know these feelings only too well, as I’ve been in a couple of shows on Broadway that—my opinion only—closed far too soon.

In the case of “Allegiance,” which closed on Feb. 14, 2016, I remember the day the company received the news like it was yesterday. It was after the Wednesday matinee on Jan. 6.

Over the backstage monitor, we heard our production stage manager, Peter Wolf, announce to everyone in the building that after the performance, we’d all be having a “company meeting onstage.” It seemed ominous enough to a few company members who expressed, “I think I know what this is about.”

After the audience had left the building, we all gathered on Longacre Theater stage. Lorenzo Thione, one of our lead producers, started to speak with tears in his eyes. “We all know what this is,” he began, clearly getting more emotional as he continued. A bunch of us hugged and huddled, but felt resolute in wanting to tell this story for however long we still had.

Thankfully, we had a luxurious six weeks left. I then headed to Telly Leung’s dressing room for a few drinks to numb the impact of the announcement, then proceeded to Lincoln Center for dinner and “The King and I,” where some of their own company members heard about our closing.

When I went backstage to visit with them, there were plenty of hugs. “I’m sorry … we heard…” Clearly, these were folks who knew only too well the bitter sting of that bit of news.

I numbed my night with these friends at The Smith with even more drinks and a pot full of steamed mussels. Around 1 a.m., I walked myself home, still saddened but feeling bolstered by the kindness of understanding friends.

So, to the companies of “Pretty Woman,” “Be More Chill,” “The Prom,” “The Cher Show” and “King Kong,” I raise a glass to you all. Have fantastic final performances and know you are not alone. There is an entire community that knows exactly what you are going through, so know that we are one with you.

Break all the legs!

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