Well hello again and welcome to the FINAL installment of Broadway West as well as the final blog post for 8 weeks (gulp). I will miss you all so much. Please be sure to check out the Timothy John Salon ad over here --------------> which gives new customers 20% off their first visit if you mention my name. It is easy for me to love Timothy John Salon, they do my hair and they are my friends. They are chic but great on a budget. They are in midtown. They are perfect. Go there. As I write I am still on set and it is still the same day (for me) as when I was writing the previous post. I've moved locations, I'm done with hair and makeup, but I haven't shot yet. I think I'm up soon, so I will be writing in bits and pieces again. They made coffee, I have some and you should get some, too. This is going to be a long blog post. Ready? Let's do this.
So we left off with a decline in tickets sales. The Wynn's press campaign for the show was , "Come see what all the Fuzz is about" and the signs had a big furry Q. They also released a line of "furry" AVENUE Q taxi cabs, that were made out of the same stuff a koosh ball is made of. They were cute for about 3 days, and then just turned a strange grayish orange and looked more like something from a car wash had stuck to the car. Not so appealing. And just to make things worse, no one seemed to want to come and see what all the fuzz was about. They wanted to put us out on the casino floor with the puppets to drum up business, but the actors' union nixed it, so they hired a crop of non-union actors to do it. They would walk around and talk to people about the show while they drank and played craps, but that didn't seem to help either. Unbeknownst to us, a plan was hatching.
Not long after Christmas, we were told the creative team was coming back and there would be a meeting with them and the producers. Fortunately actors are not prone to gossip or speculation, so we just did our jobs and didn't think twice about it.
And I am totally lying.
The most common rumor was that one cast was going to be let go and the number of shows would be cut back. Then the speculation was that they were going to "cherry pick" who they felt were the best between the two casts, combine them, and an "all-star" cast would be formed, with the unchosen cast members given the boot. Everyone had an opinion about who would be kept and who would be let go, and it was endless conversation right up to the moment we were told what was really happening.
They were cutting the show down to 90 minutes, eliminating the intermission, and keeping all of the actors. Apparently the feeling from the Wynn camp was that the reason the show wasn't working is because it was too long. I will tell you that there were about a thousand rumors going on about this, and one of them I've always believed (I have no basis to think this is true) is that the producers and creative team were told that they had to close the show, and they compromised by cutting the show back. There is no way that cutting the show was their idea, and I can tell you, it was painful. I remember at the meeting we were handed scripts and told that we just had to go with it. No complaining, no brilliant ideas about how to fix the script further, this was it and we had to do it. It was hard to watch a show we loved so much get cut down. If you are a fan of Q and want to know what the cuts were, I will give you a quick blow through of the major cuts (lots of little cuts). major cuts: Life Outside Your Apartment--Cut. I Wish I Could Go Back To College--Cut. Fine, Fine Line--Moved to after the hospital scene.
Cutting a show is a lot more work than just making a few script adjustments. The show has to be re-rehearsed in every regard. Sound, lights, orchestrations, puppet presets, everything was different. Even as an actor, some of the plot alterations changed the arc of the character and you had to re-think how a scene was delivered, even if the scene itself was intact. There wasn't a lot of time to think about it, there wasn't time to talk about it, and no one was in the mood to hear about it. It felt a little like bailing out the Titanic with sand pails, but we were trying and trying to do it with as positive an attitude as we could possibly muster.
The worst moment in Vegas that I can remember was after the first performance of the 90 minute show. My cast had been tapped to rehearse all the cuts, and we did the first performance for Steve Wynn and his people. After the show Mr. Wynn came down and gave us a "pep" talk and this is what he said. "You know, I always thought this show was too long, and now it's better! Who needs an intermission?" This was said in front of the TONY award winning composing team and book writer, and the TONY nominated director about their show that won the TONY award (beating WICKED) for Best Musical. That's right. He told us he'd made it better. One of the people who had a TONY award walked away in tears. It was a low point. It was the beginning of the end.
We ran the 90 minute show for about a month before we were told to all come in for a meeting with the producers. Again, because actors never speculate or gossip, we all just assumed it was a raise and didn't mention it again.
And I have some land I can sell you in Florida.
We all assumed this was the big announcement that we were going down to one cast. At this point there was a clear definition of who would want to stay and do the show and who wouldn't and while there was abnormal amount of stress about it, we weren't all totally freaking out. We'd learned that shows in Vegas ran with half full houses. We knew we were making money. We thought we were okay.
The day was February 14, 2006. The time was 6pm. We were all there, and the Blue Bear cast was scheduled to do the 7pm show. We sat. We waited. Finally the stage manager and company manger came in and made an announcement, "The producers are snowed in and were unable to leave New York. We were told we would have a meeting via speaker phone. But then, the meeting started and the speaker wasn't working. Seriously, as in, you could hear teeny tiny voices saying something, but a tin can and a rope would give you better sound. We had to pause the meeting.
And I was just called back to set. Please hold.
It's now Friday night, 48 hours later, and I am putting Beatrix to bed. I also have to put myself to bed because I have a 6:45am van call tomorrow and a final day of shooting.
I almost just quit writing and decided to make this a two part-er, but I'd rather finish. So let's haul ass. Ready? Get some snacks. We're going to finish.
We absolutely could not hear them and I want you to have a really clear picture of what this looked like. It was Valentine's Day. Several people were dressed to go out, and we had a curtain in an hour. One couple who'd started dating during the show had gone to a fancy meal, but weren't served in enough time, so they were eating dinner out of to-go containers as we tried to listen to the producers on the el-crappo speaker phone. There was a lot of hustling around by the stage and company mangers trying to find a way to project the sound, but finally, we were moved into the laundry room because that had the best speaker phone. We waited for the phone to ring. It didn't. Then the stage mangers who was calling who? It was a comedy of errors.
Finally, the call came and they started to make an announcement again--but--again--we couldn't hear. All the dryers were turned off and they started again. This time we heard it.
They were closing the show. Completely. As in. You're all fired. As in. Pack up the puppets.
There were questions. We got some answers, and the most important information was the official closing date: May 31st. Since it was only February 14th, we did all breathe a sigh of relief. At least we had a lot of notice. (As a side note, not long after, the HAIRSPRAY cast was given a week's notice and closed. Thank you to the producers for giving us time. It helped.)
I'd like to tell you my personal reaction to this news. I cried. Full out, in front of everyone, and then cried more in the hallway. The thing is, I'm not much of a crier, so it was weird, but the truth is, I was devastated. I called Rob and broke the news, because by this point he was playing the show pretty regularly, so this impacted him as well. Maybe I was the very last person in the cast to hold onto hope that the show was going to run, but I really didn't see it coming. This is an example of a downside of a positive outlook, I suppose. Bad news hits you hard. The funny thing is, it wasn't just that we were losing jobs. It was a multitude of reasons, and they hit me in waves.
Wave one: Oh shit, we're back to being unemployed.
Wave two: I really loved being the one making the majority of the money. Rob had saddled that responsibility almost entirely since CATS had closed and I was thrilled to give him a break. He'd gotten a lot of sub work in Vegas--just enough to keep him busy, but not so much that he had to alter is hiking schedule. He'd done a week long service vacation in The Grand Canyon, he'd hiked Zion and Brice and Death Valley and taken Charlotte all over the place. He fallen head over heels in love with the west.
Wave three: Where were we going to live? It a rotten turn of events we'd been evicted from out NYC apartment for an illegal sublet, so all of our stuff was in storage.
Wave four: Where was Charlotte going to go to school?
Wave five: Were we going to stay in Vegas?
Wave six: No way.
Wave seven: Back to New York, then, must find an apartment near Charlotte's school.
Wave eight: Would Charlotte's highly selective public school let her back in?
Wave nine: What had happened to Steve Wynn's 18 month guarantee?
Wave ten: Creep. Rumor had it that he was tearing down the theater to make the golf course bigger because he could make his fancy gold course bigger because he could make more money off the golf course than the theater.
Wave ten: I hate golf.
Wave eleven: OH NO my book is coming out on June 1st, and it says "now appearing in Avenue Q" on the cover. There is a whole press campaign that involves me being an actor. A WORKING actor.
Wave twelve: If we moved back to New York I'd be able to get cheap mani pedi's and good Chinese food again.
I felt better.
Because we had so long to process the information, we were all able to save money, make plans and prepare for over three months. People started flying back to New York on auditions, and Rob even got the job as Associate Music Director for the last month of the run because someone got another job. It all helped. We sold our cars. We figured out a game plan to get Charlotte back in school in New York. My publishing company had enough time to take off the Avenue Q promo on the front cover. Life went on, and slowly we adjusted.
As the closing shows grew near, my publishing company went into full swing to set up a media blitz. I was able to do a lot more publicity then we'd originally planned because--let's face it--I had much more free time. We made a plan that Rob would drive the car back to New York (we bought a more sensible car) with a cat as a co-pilot, because he'd accepted a job on the LITTLE WOMEN national tour for the summer. Charlotte and I would stay in Vegas one day after we closed so I could do a book signing at a local store. The cast had parties that lasted until dawn. Charlotte finished second grade. The show closed.
We all cried, even those of us who were really ready to go. The most moving moment of all of Las Vegas were the final two shows, when each cast watched the other cast and cheered. I have illegal footage of it which you will never see, but I will always cherish. The Broadway West chapter had ended.
So the day after we closed and just hours before my book signing and then red eye departure back to New York City, there was a knock on my door. Without saying who, I will tell you that I was asked if I was possibly available for the summer months to continue doing Avenue Q at the Wynn, because Steve Wynn was saying he might keep the show going.
This was the day after we'd closed.
This was said to me at the exact moment I taped the 25th of 25 boxes shut.
This was as Charlotte was listening in, this kid who had made all new friends in a new school, in a new city and was told we were moving back.
This was as my publishing company was planning a publicity tour for me.
I said what any self respecting actor would say to the question of, "Are you available?"
Maybe. (For enough money).
The show was not continued.
We came home.
Have a wonderful summer and I will see you in September, when I will (hopefully!!) write the story of my Lifetime shoot (I think I can get permission).
Until then, stay cool!
Thank you so very, very much for reading, my dear friends.