Monday, July 14, 2014

The Last Moments of This Moment

“Thank you , five.” 

This is whispered in a dozen voices. The voices come from dark corners and from behind scrims and curtains. They are the voices of the young actors in Lucky Boy, in response to our stage manager, telling us that we have five minutes until the first note is played by the band.

Once that note is struck, the show is on and nothing short of a meteor striking the Robert Moss Theater can stop it. But, for now, it is still yet to be.

Three teenaged actors giggle over something on a phone.  Another sits alone, prepping a prop that will be needed at some point in the next two hours. Two Punky Cheer Girls sit on the floor, stretching and shaming those of us in the cast who have absolutely no hope of ever being able to make our legs do that.

Costumes are on, most props are set. These last five minutes are usually just for waiting, centering oneself and mentally preparing to be exposed to the criticisms and whims of the audience. But, even that gives way to the thrill. 
I’m going out there and I’m going to do what I came to do. 
Love me, hate me… I’ll deal with all of that later. Right now, this is it. Here I am.

Everyone feels it, and everyone deals with it in their own way. All of that mental energy arcs and snaps around the backstage area, filling the air with the ozone of hopes and dreams and fears. Some actors smile and whisper “excuse me” as they move around in a space not quite large enough for the amount of people in it. Others barrel around, blowing annoyed breaths through their noses as they make their way from wing to wing. But, it’s all the same feeling. Just different in the way one deals with it.

Even the excitement mixed with a bit of dread pales, however, to the sense of enormity in what we’re doing.

John Ryerson, author, musician, composer, has been working on this project for more than a year. Drawing inspiration from a life well lived, it could be said that this project is much longer in the making. But, I first heard of it a year ago, as I was working with John on a different show. “Listen to this,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been working on.”

A year later, and months of rehearsals, tweaking and blocking have been done. Decisions great and small have been made. Space is secured, tickets arranged, programs designed. The first of four sold out shows goes off well. The second, even better. The third show produces a comfort level in the cast that emboldens even the most jaded teenager. Coming together to help someone realize their creative vision may not be the sole focus of every actor’s thoughts, but, for this cast, it is never far from their minds.

It doesn't matter what happens after this. No matter if this show goes on to be become the toast of Broadway, or performed a million times hence. This was it. This was the thing. These four shows are the culmination of all of that work, all of those decisions, all of those Sundays at White Pond. Everything after this is just that... after this. This is Lucky Boy.

Bonnie Halligan, our director, appears backstage. She steps around a cluster of set pieces and whispers to the stage manager. She turns and strides away, leaving encouragement and smiles in her path.


Here we go.

Lucky Boy played four sold out shows at the Robert Moss Theater in NYC. The show was roundly considered as no less than a wonderful example of the future of musical theater. #luckyboy

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Real Theater from a Newbie’s POV

As a dad to two theater kids, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that seeing literally hundreds of rehearsals, dozens of shows and helping to create scenery, programs, etc. makes me an expert. I’ve been in a few productions as well, which only heightens the sense of ennui when the subject of theater comes up.

One thing that helps stave off such listlessness is being surrounded by incredibly talented people who have a much broader experience base. When one of those “old pros” is younger than me, it gives me the chance to see the world through their eyes, and a much cooler world it is.

Another thing that helps to turbo charge that excitement level is to be in a real, bona fide New York production.

Like me.


Tonight is opening night for “Lucky Boy”, the new rock musical by John Ryerson that debuts at the Robert Moss Theater in NYC.

I feel like I’m wrapped in a downed power line, (you can just imagine what that means as far as touching me, coming in contact with me, etc.).

Granted, my character is onstage for about four minutes, and the rest of the evening has the focus where it belongs… on the young actors in the lead roles and on the “Punky Cheer Girls”, which serve as the Greek Chorus-style muses for the piece. But, that’s ok… Ryerson deftly adds characters and scenes where they need to be without overdoing it, or making the audience feel overburdened with exposition.

It’s a powerful story delivered by people with power to spare… the four leads burn with an intensity that can only be described as fully charged. The Cheer Girls are, at once, whimsical and prophetic as they prowl the stage, cueing the audience in to the plight of our heroes.

So, after my four minutes, I’m backstage. I‘m helping the crew move set pieces on and off, which gives me an even deeper look “behind the scenes”. If you’ve ever watched the Tony Awards and thought, “Wow, this is such a glamorous life!”, well, maybe it is, but when you are sitting on a box, waiting for the next blackout so you can help carry a table onstage, it seems less like Hollywood fantasy and more like real work. That is, if real work was fun and exciting and cool, instead of a soul-sucking drain hole for hopes and dreams.

Watching the band, cramped together in a space no “worker” would tolerate, adds even more to the feeling of coolness. These are not people who maybe like to play. These are people who are professionals, masters of their craft. Who, by the way, have come together, not to take center stage, but to support the ensemble of actors, dancers, writer, director, stage crew, light techs and sound techs who make up such a production.

“We’re all in this together” was never more true than it will be for the next four nights.

“Lucky Boy” A NEW rock musical. Book and Music by John Ryerson. Directed by Bonnie Halligan. Choreography by Kayla Hamilton. Musical Director - Jaime Fox.
Get your tickets soon @, we're selling out quickly! @luckyboymusical ‪#‎LuckyBoy‬ ‪#‎GettingLucky‬ ‪#‎musicals‬

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Day Unlike Any Other

To some, this day in June is much like any other. That day on the beaches of Normandy was long ago and far away, and the stain long since washed from the sand. The coming summer, the end of school, even National Doughnut Day all hold more importance, more excitement, more pending joy. To some, D-Day means almost nothing. Just another date, another moment in the vast interwoven pattern of bloodshed for the capitalists. Another string in the tapestry that lay across the terrifying world we will leave behind.

For some, for those who remember, D-Day was a big deal. While it's importance to history can be debated, and it's effect as a part of Operation Overlord can be shredded and examined, it can't be pushed aside. No matter how many historians say that Stalin was already on his way to defeating the German War machine, there will always be those who say that none of that matters. There will be those who say that D-Day was important.

Because they were there.
It won't be long now. Sooner than any of us would like to admit, time will march past us. Those that leapt into the ocean, crawled up that beach and fought for something they believed in, in spite of their fears, will soon be gone forever. The last of them will be gone. Their efforts, their blood, their brothers... all will be washed away. Sanitized and swept into the dustbins of history. Sure, there will be museums. There will be memorials. But, that's not who they were.

They were there. They believed that what they were doing was right. It was horrible and dangerous and terrible and ridiculous... but it was the right thing to do.

There will be those who scoff at the patriotism of World War II and America's involvement. To be sure, there is room in that debate for many views. And, that debate will only grow meaner and more coarse as time moves on. The story is sure to change. The gilded glory of the American G.I. could easily become the tarnished reality that faces us when we discuss more recent conflicts.

When the last of them has passed through the final gate, the talking heads will reign. The pundits and politicians will wrap themselves in flags and bunting and take up sides. It will be safe, then. There will be no one to deny them their positions.

But today, while some of those who were there in Normandy still live and breathe among us, we can see a little clearer. Not the whitewashed image of a hero. Not the tarnished silhouette of a killer. Just the sight of a soldier. A green kid from the sticks who was scared shitless and went anyway.

For myself. For my family. I say... thanks.