Tuesday, August 15, 2006
JCS Day Five: Show Time!
Hallelujah, we made it! It was a hell of a task, but we pulled off a high quality production in only four and a half days of staging! It's a miracle this thing came together, considering the short time frame and the fact we never had the full cast together until the dress rehearsal on the afternoon of the performance. Ah, you gotta love show biz.
Although the performance was not perfect (it never is), the audience was spectacular and they cheered and screamed throughout the show. We spotted a few celebs in the house, including Harrison Ford, Geena Davis, Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber, and Wayne Brady among others. There were also a few of the TEDHEADS, fans of Ted's and the show. They did a great job of pumping up the crowd.
The show was recorded on HD for possible release on TV or DVD. I do hope something comes of it because I would love to see how it looked. Gary Goddard performed an amazing miracle of getting this production together in just a few weeks. It sure is exciting to work with some of the best artists in the business.
After party at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre
After the show, there was a huge party upstairs in the theater for the cast and crew and the VIPs who had shelled out all this money for the charity. I learned there were more than 70 VIP tickets that sold for $1000 each. By the end of the evening when most folks had left, I was feeling tired and I knew I had to get up early to teach English at UCLA so I decided to say my goodbyes. Then our director Gary invited all the cast over to his Beverly Hills home to continue the party! Oh god, I was tired but I couldn't pass up an opportunity like that so I went and it was very fun. He has a very lovely home with a large living room and a patio and pool, perfect for entertaining.
The Neeley family arrived after posing for hundreds of photos at the theater. Ted is so good about that. I remember our tour bus waiting for hours after each show until he finished signing autographs and talking with his fans. He's such a generous and thoughtful man. Jack Black is also a really cool guy and very good to his fans: he signed hundreds of autographs and took dozens of pictures.
Jack Black and me
It was great to catch up with Ted's lovely wife Leeyan and his charming kids Tessa and Zachariah. I couldn't believe that the family remembered me, especially the kids. I hadn't seen them in ten years. Tessa has grown into a stunning young woman, and Zach is so big! I didn't even recognize him at first. The last time I saw him, he was a little nine-year-old kid playing with his Power Ranger action figures or whatever boys play with at that age.
I finally made my way home after 4:00 AM. You know driving in LA is so much nicer when there are no other cars on the road -- I made it home in less than ten minutes! My alarm roused me two short hours later and I made it to work on time. Then I came home in the afternoon and crashed on the couch for a little while, but honestly I didn't get much rest since I was still wound up from the previous evening's excitement. Reality came crashing back to me when I headed out to do my laundry at 9pm. Ugh.
It was a very emotional experience to go on this wild ride, but I must admit a great sense of relief having completed the process. What I loved most was reuniting with my dear friends from the A.D. Tour, and bonding with new friends and colleagues such as Gary Goddard, Yvonne, Barry, and the outstanding company of actors and musicians in our ensemble.
I don't know what's next for Scottydude's professional performing career. Working in the theater again certainly has reignited my creative energies. Our music director Craig Barna suggested I audition for the national tour of Camelot with Michael York which Craig is doing. I might give it a shot since he told me I could get an appointment with the casting director instead of dealing with the cattle call.
More than anything I would like to perform in Jesus Christ Superstar. I don't know why, but there is something about that show and the music that really moves me. It is a timeless story that will endure for generations to come. As Ted told me as he hugged me goodnight, "We'll do it again." I can't wait!
Scotty and Teddy
Sunday, August 13, 2006
JCS in Hollywood: Day Four
The countdown is on!
It's one day before the show and we still have much to prepare
before the performance. Ben Vereen arrived in the afternoon and
worked on stage for a couple hours with director Gary Goddard
and our Caiaphas and Annas, Chris Carey and Larry Friedman. We
also worked through the Last Supper with Ben and Ted.
Scotty with Ben Vereen
Ben seems like a nice fellow, very talented, but it was surprising to note that he doesn't really know the part! Sure he played Judas on Broadway, but that was 35 years ago and he hasn't touched the material since. Our Judas cover, Chuck DiMaria, was shadowing Ben on stage and feeding him every line during rehearsal. Ben left during dinner break to go rest at the hotel and to study his script.
Gary Goddard, Barry Dennen, Ted Neeley, Ben Vereen
Outside the theater, beautiful show posters were displayed with every cast member's name and photo included! They look really great and I'm sure they were very expensive. Gary Goddard does everything first class. For a few minutes most of the cast was outside taking pictures and then a few media photographers and fans saw us and it turned into a real photo shoot of the cast on the red carpet!
"Look Ma, I made it!"
Da Boys and the paparazzi
Gary also gave us each a show poster and a souvenir program for the show, and my goodness they are so cool. The program has photos and bios of everybody involved in the production, plus a memorial page for Carl Anderson. It's a wonderful keepsake. All the cast members signed one another's posters; these will look great framed.
Inside the theater, the set has really come together. It looks beautiful with all the lighting and dressing. The crew has been working 24-hour days non-stop to get everything just right. We also have big TV cameras at the back of the house and on the balconies. They will record the performance in HD with direct sound and video feeds to the trucks outside. Then they can mix it down for the DVD release. Gosh, I hope they really do that 'cause it would be cool to have this recorded, especially since none of my friends or family will be at the performance.
Gary directs "Damned for all Time" on stage
During the afternoon staging rehearsal, I was positioned downstage when I suddenly saw the theater manager positioning a very elderly man in a wheelchair right in front of the stage just a few feet from me. This frail old gentlemen seemed very interested in observing the action on stage and he had several assistants around him with water and snacks, making sure he was comfortable. The old man looked vaguely familiar and then I recognized him as Ricardo Montalban! Of course - he wanted to see what was happening in his theater.
During a break in the action I sneaked down to take a picture with him. I told him my favorite movie of his was the Planet of the Apes movie he did. "Oh yes, I remember that one," he replied in his familiar Spanish accent. He was a very kind gentlemen and gladly posed for pictures and signed autographs for people throughout the afternoon. I was surprised that he stayed for several hours, sitting and watching everything. The house manager told me later that Sr. Montalban really enjoyed himself. He felt invigorated by all the activity. It made me sad to think that this once vital actor/singer/dancer from Mexico City who has performed in hundreds of movies, TV shows, and stage productions is now reduced to an elderly invalid. Getting old sucks.
Scott meets Ricardo Montalban
One very cool addition to the production today was the musicians. We rehearsed with the rock band in the evening and they sound awesome. I'm delighted that our old guitarist from the A.D. tour, Kim Norton, is playing the gig. Kim knows the show so well, I noticed at one point didn't even have the right music on his stand while he was playing! The band is actually upstage of the set so the actors have to be very careful not to disturb any equipment or instruments as we make our entrances and exits. The conductor and musicians got quite frustrated though since their music stand lights are controlled by the lighting designer and he kept dimming them during scene changes. "We can't see the music!" screamed the conductor many times during the rehearsal. I can't wait to hear the full orchestra with strings and brass on Sunday.
Scott hangs with Yvonne Elliman
During dinner break, I had a chance to hang out with Yvonne Elliman, our Mary Magdelene. Yvonne is such a clown and she had us all in stitches. She's also quite a flirt! She introduced us to her lovely daughter Sage, whom Yvonne obviously adores. Sage has completed a Master's Degree and is planning to go for her PhD. Yvonne told us that as a little girl Sage loved school and would come home and finish her homework and then ask her mommy for more! Smart young lady.
Jack Black as Herod
The evening rehearsal saw the return of Jack Black as Herod. He ran through his number about four times and all the cast sat in the house to watch him work. All I can say is: genius at work. Jack is amazing and hilarious at Herod. He is perfect and his scene will undoubtedly steal the show. If you don't know the show, Herod's Song sounds like an old ragtime vaudeville burlesque number with Herod mocking Jesus and taunting him for performing miracles. At one point, Ted was away from the stage so Larry Friedman, Ted's cover, stepped in and Jack played the whole number to him! Larry said later, "I can't believe that actually happened -- Jack Black was right in my face!"
Jack Black as Herod gets close to Jesus
Gary finally finished blocking all the scenes late in the evening, and then we tried a full run-through. It was rough, but we got through it and the cast members haven't done the show before got a better sense of the overall picture. It was so funny, after each scene I'd have about four or five people come up to me backstage and ask, "What's next?" Luckily, I could always tell them the right answer. This is exactly why Forbes and Ted needed me and other Superstar veterans: to help the newbies along.
The only major component still missing is Clint Holmes as Simon Zealotes. He has only one solo number in the show, but it's a big one with a lot of movement and choreography. I sang the song during the run-through -- damn, they should just give that solo to me! I also helped conduct the cast during the chorus numbers since without video monitors we can't see Craig Barna conducting since he's behind us upstage. Shoot, I could do this whole show by myself, couldn't I? (hee hee)
Not to toot my own horn too much, but I had a realization last night on my way home: I'm a pretty talented guy! I can sing, act, and move on stage. I understand stage production, I read music, I'm a conductor, and I'm a pretty nice guy, to boot. Shit, what am I doing teaching English?! I hope Gary Goddard recognizes my talents and remembers me for future productions. He is one of the most talented and successful artists in the entertainment industry, a good guy to know in this business.
It's been a long time since I've had these creative juices flowing and I really miss it. Teaching English is a fine job, but it does very little to feed the soul. Perhaps something will come of this to inspire me back into performing more regularly. Ted has already connected me with some of his friends who run the successful Rubicon Theater in Ventura and they said they would love to have me on their team. That's a real nice thing to hear in this town.
Well dear reader, there's not much left to say. Tomorrow, the show!
Saturday, August 12, 2006
JCS in Hollywood: Day Three
The Ricardo Montalban Theatre marquee
Another whirlwind day in Jesus-ville. Today we had the addition of Deep Voice Guy, Chris Carey, who was born to play Caiaphas. It was so funny at the afternoon music rehearsal when we practiced the "Jesus Must Die" number and Chris opened that basso profundo mouth of his -- all the kids in the chorus nearly fell out of their chairs with surprise! I'm so used to hearing Chris sing the role that I had forgotten what a shock it is to hear that deep, deep voice.
We rehearsed music for a couple of hours in the afternoon, then there was a one-hour break when Jack Black secretively arrived for his private rehearsal on stage. You would have thought the President was in the house or something because all entrances to the auditorium were blocked by velvet ropes, chairs, and burly stage hands keeping everyone out. Signs were posted reading: Absolutely NO Admittance. I guess some people take themselves too seriously.
During the break, Larry, Chris, Chris' friend Trish and I walked down the street to get a sandwich at Caffe, Etc. It was really delicious food -- now I know why their sandwiches cost $10 a pop!
Larry, Chris, Ted, and myself
Back at the theater, Jack Black surprised us by popping upstairs to the rehearsal room to meet the cast. Turns out he's a pretty nice guy. He was rather humble and softspoken, and he looks exactly like he does in the movies: longish hair, scruffy beard, and chubby belly. Ted told me later that Jack requested a private rehearsal because he was so nervous about making mistakes in front of the cast. I guess it's difficult when you become a big star because everybody expects greatness from you at every moment. As a kid, Jack participated in the YouTHeatre organization, which is the beneficiary of this charity performance, hence his involvement.
A young Jack Black on stage for YouTHeatre
The cast was sent on dinner break from 5:00 - 7:00 pm, but just as I got home and was about to nod off on the couch for my afternoon nap, the telephone rang. It was our stage manager Phil Rahn asking if I could come back to the theater because the director, Gary Goddard, wanted to work with me, Ted, Yvonne, Barry, and a few others. Well certainly I snapped to attention and rushed back to the theater.
Unfortunately when I got there, no one else was around except Ted. So Ted and I went up into the balcony and sat down together. It had been so long since we had had the opportunity for a nice, private chat. We talked about the show and the upcoming tour he's preparing for. He was frustrated with the tour production company because they hadn't hired any of the people he recommended for the cast or crew, mostly because the company didn't offer enough money for people to leave their day jobs.
Ted also spoke about his wife and kids. They came with him from Houston to see this production, and in fact I saw them at the theater later in the evening. My god, I couldn't believe how much the kids had grown! The last time I saw them, ten years ago, they were both little kids. Now they are beautiful young adults. I can't believe how tall Ted's son Zach has grown. The kids want to go to school here in California, so Ted is seriously considering moving back here.
Finally Ted called Gary on his cell phone and said, "Scotty and I are sitting in the house. Are you ready for us yet?" Gary was on stage with Yvonne Elliman, who had just arrived and was singing with the musical director (the excellent Craig Barna), so we went down and Ted introduced me to her. She's a funny and charming lady and we had a nice meeting together. After Yvonne sang her solo, we practiced "Peter's Denial" and and as Gary promised, I get to be Man by the Fire: "But I saw you too/it looked just like you." Barry Dennen was also there so I snapped some pictures.
Barry Dennen and Yvonne Elliman
Scotty Spalding and Barry Dennen
The evening staging rehearsal got started over an hour late, but we finished most of the second act. I'm proud to say I'm on stage singing and moving in every chorus scene. We had a nice moment with Ted during the lepers scene when we all grab at him and drag him down and beg him to heal us. Ted really gets into the part at times and his body was quivering with energy during that moment leading up to his scream, "Heal yourselves!"
Afterwards, he asked the cast to sit close with him on stage and he told us in his soft whisper of a voice how much he depends on and appreciates the emotional and physical connection between the performers on stage. Ted's a touchy-feely kind of guy and a real sweetheart, and in that moment he bonded with the cast. Everyone was instantly smitten with him -- it was a classic Neeley moment. Like one of the young chorus girls told me later, "He's so cuddly!"
I started to get a little choked up at two point during the evening. The first time was when Yvonne and Ted were on stage for "I Don't Know How to Love Him." I was standing in the wings next to Barry Dennen, and we were both watching and listening to Yvonne sing to Ted and I suddenly thought, "Is this a dream?" This music and these people have been such a strong part of my life for so many years; it was a surreal experience to be standing in the same space with them instead of watching them on screen or listening to the records.
I also felt the tears welling up during the Last Supper, during which I play one of the Apostles. Gary has staged it nicely so that as we sit down for the meal with Jesus, we recreate the poses Leonardo da Vinci used for his painting of the Last Supper (I'm third from the right). I think they did that in the movie too, right? It will be a really nice moment for the audience. I started to get really sad when Ted started singing about "the end" and then his argument with Judas ensues and I flashed back to all those great moments between Ted and Carl during this scene. I was often on stage as an apostle during the tour and it was always an emotionally-charged moment because those two guys really let it rip.
I miss Carl a lot, but I'm eager to see what Ben Vereen will bring to the role. I don't think Ben's performed the part since the original Broadway run more than 30 years ago. He's supposed to join us Saturday, so stay tuned!
Friday, August 11, 2006
JCS in Hollywood: Day Two
Although I wanted to drive around and explore more of the studio lot, my presence was expected at rehearsal so I quickly made my way over the hill to the theater in Hollywood. The afternoon was spent in a music rehearsal. There are a few lyrics which are different from any version of the show I've been aware of, particularly in the Temple scene and in the Trial Before Pilate.
In the Temple, the last verse before the instrumental break has been replaced by a completely different lyric: "What you see is what you get/No one's been disappointed yet/Don't be scared, give me a try/There is nothing you can't buy."
And in the Trial, just after Pilate's line "He's a sad little man/not a king or god/I need a crime" the chorus suddenly breaks into a syncopated spoken section: "Kill him/he says he's god/he's a blasphemer/He'll conquer you/and us and every Caesar/(random shouts)/Crucify him." Then Pilate continues, "Behold the man/behold your silent king..."
Whacky, huh? I think it sounds stupid, but maybe that's just 'cause I'm not familiar with that section. Is it from the Broadway verion? Perhaps the movie? They did add some different things for the movie. In fact, we are singing the extra verse in Hosanna where Jesus says something like, "Sing out your song, but not for me alone..." and I can't remember the rest of it. That was written for the movie, I think. Oh well, it just means I have some new lyrics to learn, but more likely I'll just be lipsyncing in those new parts!
Music rehearsal with the Priests
I sang Pilate's lines for the Trial music rehearsal, but Barry Dennen arrived for the staging rehearsals and he did a fine job. He's a surprisingly small man, but he's very sweet and I had a chance to chat with him several times throughout the day. I reminded him of the time we met at the Egyptian Theater for the JCS movie screening.
During the evening rehearsal, Teddy arrived and walked on stage to give me a big hug. He rubbed my cheek with his hand and said, "Scotty, I'm glad you're here." HE's glad?! That's just the kind of generous, loving man Mr. Neeley is. Watching him mill amongst the cast with greetings and hugs for everyone, it struck me anew what a unique individual he is -- so warm and kind. He truly embodies all the great things about the character he plays.
Ted's a very nervous flyer and today was doubly bad because of the terrorist plot foiled in London, which has made airport security even more oppressive than before. Ted phoned the producer and said he was going to skip the flight and drive to L.A. from Houston instead. It's a three day trip, which would have placed his arrival just about show time on Sunday! Rather than risk it, they hired a private jet to bring to Ted to Burbank airport. He was much happier with that, I'm sure.
Ted didn't rehearse this evening, but he did meet with the producers and went for his costume fitting. Larry stood in his place and wowed the cast with his pyrotechnic vocals. The man can sing REALLY high! We rehearsed the Temple scene and the Lepers all evening and finally broke a little after 11:30pm. It was so hot in the theater, everybody was drenched.
It's a little scary to think we haven't even finished blocking the show and we go on in two days' time. Our director Gary said we'd finish blocking on Friday so that we can add the stars in Saturday and Sunday. I'm not sure when Jack Black is arriving, but I've already heard negative things about him, or more specifically his representatives. Don't know many details but it seems some diva-esque attitudes have been copped: insisting on a private rehearsal before joining the cast, and something about balking over the contracts regarding video and audio recording of the show. The cast signed contracts for that yesterday. Seems Universal wants to film the performance for possible distribution on CD and DVD, plus a PBS broadcast. That may be in jeopardy if Jack or any of the other stars decide not to sign.
I'll keep you posted, dear reader! In the meantime, enjoy some pics I took with my new camera.
Larry Friedman (Annas) and Phil Rahn (stage manager)
The cast gets psyched for the Simon Zealotes number
Who's that sweaty guy?
Thursday, August 10, 2006
JCS in Hollywood: Day One
Today was my first day of rehearsals for the special one-night-only performance of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood. The cast is mostly young and hot (I love LA) and pretty talented as far as I can tell.
I was expecting a music rehearsal today, but in fact the music director is out of town until tomorrow. There was an earlier music rehearsal last weekend before I was cast, so today was a staging rehearsal. We got through most of the first act of the show, skipping a few sections that will depend on the star actors in the lead roles. Most of them won't be here until closer to show time....which is only four days away!
Today I was reunited with a couple guys from the national tour I did ten years ago. This afternoon I saw Chuck DiMaria, who was our Judas replacement when Carl Anderson was away from the show. And this evening Larry Friedman, our wonderful Annas and Jesus understudy, arrived with his lovely wife Debbie. Larry is a darling man and we were quite close buddies during the tour, even roommates for a while. We laughed all evening remembering some of the funny stories from that time.
Things will get even better tomorrow when Chris Carey, our Deep Voice Guy who plays Caiaphas, arrives. I think Barry Dennen, as Pilate, arrives tomorrow as well. It's pretty crazy to put together a show in only a few days, especially when we won't have the full cast together until show day. It's pretty exciting, though.
I like our director Gary Goddard. He's a very talented man and he obviously loves this show. I think he likes me too, 'cause he's keeping me on stage and up front for most of the stage blocking so far. Because I joined the show after it was cast, I wasn't assigned any particular roles, but Gary told me tonight I can do the "Man by the Fire" character who recognizes Peter after he denies his association with Jesus.
The set design is really cool. It's all welded iron railings with stairways and platforms reaching three levels high. They're also adding video screens to show clips of the original movie during some of the sequences. This is turning out to be a rather involved production, all for one night, and I think it could be a really good show. Besides the talented cast on stage, we will also have a 30-piece orchestra playing Sir Andrew's original orchestrations, and the producer announced today that we will be joined by the choir from the Agape Church, Carl's house of worship. I attended his memorial service at Agape and the music was incredible.
I'll post some pictures here in the next day or two. I bought a new digital camera just for that purpose. It's after 12:30 AM so I must get to bed....another long day tomorrow!
Monday, August 07, 2006
Jesus is coming to Hollywood!
Jesus Christ Superstar in Hollywood!