Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Up to Christmas Break...

We spent a week in Orlando and I was so excited because I was able to visit with my friends Ellen Kahne and Brad Frost who are both working down there. We stayed at a hotel right downtown and went to dinner one of the first nights there. Seeing friends on the road is just such a refreshing thing. It reminds me that there is life outside of this show and that I have a community of people supporting me along the way.

Later in the week we planned a trip to Disneyworld! If I am in Orlando I will do ANYTHING to get to Disney. It’s one of my favorite places in the world! A couple of cast members hadn’t ever been to Disney and we all contacted as many friends and family as possible who work at the park to get some tickets! My great friends, Karen and Chris Baker, are both working there after having met on our cruise ship. They are such sweet and talented, hard working people. They were sous a chance. generous to get a big group of us into the parks and we spent the day exploring Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

The biggest part of my week in Orlando was that I went home for a few days to be part of the wedding of Matt and Catie Castleman. I had so much fun being in Cincinnati for a couple days and it was great to see so many friends from college, high school, church, etc. We just had a great time and I was so happy to be there to support two people who I admire so much and are so wonderful together. I can’t wait to be in the same city with them for a longer period of time. Our last day in Orlando was a whirlwind of me traveling back, doing two shows, and then we had a big party thrown for us! Brad and Ellen were able to come out and meet the cast (Ellen saw the show) and party a bit at a great little spot where the had food and drinks. We also got together and had a little cabaret night where we all sang Christmas songs and stuff that we had with us. It’s always great to get a chance to do something DIFFERENT than our show every night.

The last week of tour before break was a week full of one-nighters. We started in Rockford, IL where I decided to plan a little outing. The night before in Orlando we had so much fun singing together and singing Christmas songs and I thought it would be a terrible waste to not share that holiday joy with others. I found an assisted living facility nearby to our hotel in Rockford and called them. We ended up having about 20 of the cast plus our violinist, Chase, come along and sing from the show, Christmas carols, etc. I played piano, Chase improvised beautifully on the violin, and we threw together about an hour’s worth of music that the residents seemed to REALLY enjoy. It made me so glad to be able to use our talents for something bigger than ourselves. We performed that night at a really great old palace theatre. It is always fun to see the varying architecture of theatres all over the country.

The next day we were in Evansville, IN. It was crazy to think I was so close to home, but the day flew by and the next day was a travel day. We drove through rain past downtown Louisville. What a tease! I just wanted to jump off the bus, but we had a few more days. That night we stopped along the way in Charleston, WV, a city I never thought I would randomly spend so much time in. This time we were in a hotel that was surrounded by… nothing. There were no restaurants open or anything, so we ended up having a bit of a pizza party in our hotel room. All sorts of people came by as we watched old Christmas movies on TV, played Catch Phrase, and Celebrity and had a grand old time. We have definitely learned how to entertain ourselves on the road.

For the first part of the weekend we played Richmond, VA. We performed in a HUGE theatre, the Landmark Theatre, which had history as a Masonic lodge or something. I have never seen anything quite like it. It was nice to be in a pretty fun town. There were lots of shops and things around. Between shows on Saturday I ended up taking a group to a restaurant I found called The Black Sheep. It had been on Man vs. Food and was one of the best meals we had on tour. It was just so incredible; warm, RICH, and delicious. Our last stop before break was Charleston, WV, where we actually performed. We were in a beautiful performing arts center, but the highlight of being there was that my parents came to see the show! It was such a nice treat to have them in the audience and then we had a late drive to get me HOME! For someone who travels constantly for a living, I just CRAVE being home in the Louisville/Cincinnati area. To my friends and family there: I am so thankful for the loving community you are to me. It makes all the difference to have people surround you that build into you, invest in you, and care for you the way you all do. It is because of you that I love to come home. Can’t wait until next time!



Sunday, January 8, 2012

When the Saints Go Marching in... to NOLA!

Returning after Thanksgiving break we knew that we only had 3 weeks, so it was a really exciting time to get geared up for the holidays. I am so thankful to be so close with my family and friends, but on the road these people are truly your family. We make sure to watch out for each other and take care to make life as happy as possible, especially during a season like the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when we all just want to be home.

Our first week was spent in New Orleans, a city I have been dying to visit for a long time. It was a great welcome back to tour, all of us out dancing and excited to see one another in a city so full of history and culture. We spent the week rehearsing quite a bit because we had a new addition to the cast. Ann Northern joined us for a few weeks to fill in Jenny’s track. We were so happy to have her and her personality meshed so well with our whole group! Rehearsals certainly never stopped us from exploring, though, and I had a lot of time to do just that. The main event of town is just walking around. The architecture, the music, the food… it is all so overwhelmingly colorful and vibrant. I had so much fun just easing my way through the days there. Wandering through the French Quarter I found lots of fun shops, viewed interesting churches, etc.

One of the first days we went exploring through one of New Orleans’ famous cemeteries and explored all the mausoleums of voodoo queens and mayors. I started day one having classic food from the area. Between red beans and rice, jambalaya, gumbo, po boys, crawfish etouffee, etc. I was in heaven! I had more incredible seafood in New Orleans than is fair. I also stopped for the donut-like dessert of beignets a couple of times, both at Café Beignet (my favorite little hole-in-the-wall) and at the renowned Café Du Monde.

Katie Reid’s good friend Aimee is from New Orleans and was in town, able to show us around! We ate at her restaurant, which was fantastic. Later in the week Katie and I also did a master class at a school near the 9th Ward, which was so terribly damaged by Katrina 7 years ago. It was amazing to see the progress that has been made there, but this is still a city in major recovery of that time. It was so rejuvenating to be around students who were very talented and so eager to learn and listen to any advice we had to give. It was a wonderful, fulfilling afternoon and I was glad to share it with Katie. We went to Mother’s for lunch and had the best jambalaya of the whole trip.

The nightlife in New Orleans is unbeatable, of course. We explored Bourbon Street, but our favorite spot was Frenchman Street where there were many little dive bars with great jazz music playing. We had a big night out hearing all sorts of great musicians, young and old. It was cool to see the musicianship of the community still being passed down through families and generations. We also went to a unique place called Carousel Bar where there’s a carousel inside the bar and the bar stool move around the bar in a circle. It was so fun to find spots like that throughout the city.

Our last night in town we went to the Ritz-Carlton and to the Davenport Lounge. I had been given a tip to head there because Jeremy Davenport was an excellent trumpet player and entertainer. He had played in Harry Connick Jr.’s band for years and now is the resident lounge singer at this hotel. I was also excited to see my friend, Ramon, again. He was a dancer on my ship and I was able to meet him in Jacksonville earlier on tour. I love the fun times we have together. We went upstairs to a BEAUTIFUL room, decorated for the holidays and packed with patrons all in great moods to hear Mr. Davenport’s music. He played all sorts of standards and we had fun dancing throughout the night, but the highlight was certainly when we were all dancing to the Louis Armstrong classic “What a Wonderful World.” It truly is a wonderful world and a wonderful city. We were so blessed by our time in NOLA.