Check out our new preview video of Ruddigore and get tickets for our three performances November 1 & 2 at NYU Skirball Center for the performing Arts.
Besides well received full productions in Royal Hall, the highlight of NYGASP’s participation in the Festival, for me, was the after show cabarets, held in a large exhibition hall adjacent to the performance venue and named The Utopia Pavilion for the occasion. In keeping with that name, a painted drop for South Pacific decorated the rear of the stage platform set up for these cabaret performances. Audiences and performers from the several venues of the Festival in Harrogate gathered each evening to hear various individuals and groups render different selections (both G&S and other musical material), to sing along in many instances, and, of course, to drink responsibly.
Observing the many talented artists of the NYGASP Company shining individually at these cabaret events was an emotional and thrilling experience for me and reinforced my frequent comment that “NYGASP’s greatest asset is the collective experience of its many talented artists”. Even my daughter Genny, who grew up in the Company but whose NYGASP participation in recent years has necessarily been confined to occasional backstage assistance while living abroad, got into the act - joining Louis Dall’Ava and Stephen Quint in an impromptu rendition of “The criminal cried from The Mikado. Other highlights for me were a touching rendition of the “Vilia” legend from The Merry Widow by long time colleague Richard Holmes, a dynamic rendition of “Lillie’s Eyes” from The Secret Garden by NYGASP “newbies” Carter Lynch and Jason Whitfield, and a hysterical rendition of “People will say we’re in love” from Oklahoma by NYGASP stalwarts Chris-Ian Sanchez and David Wannen. There were too many other wonderful individual performances by NYGASP Company members for me to extol in these paragraphs, including a full Company sing through of Ruddigore -organized with the use of tablets, iPads, and smart phones for acquiring needed musical materials in just a few hours. Ah, technology!
“The criminal cried…” trio with Louis Dall’Ava, Genevieve Bergeret, and Stephen Quint
“People will say we’re in love” Chris-Ian Sanchez and David Wannen
Following performances, costumes are frequently not as dry as one could wish, especially not when performing in un-air-conditioned venues, as is often the case in the UK, and when they must be re-packed in Uncle Maxes for return flights. Fortunately, an additional day at the Festival -when both NYGASP’s original production of our clever cabaret act I’ve Got A Little Twist and The House of Murgatroyd’s Ruddygore Revisited (featuring several notable NYGASP performers) were presented – allowed some airing out time before the trip home. Since Genny and I extended our UK stay with a vacation in London, Paris, and visiting relatives in France, extra thanks must be extended to Stage Manager David Sigafoose and Executive Director David Wannen for shepherding the Company baggage home and unpacking the Uncle Maxes at the warehouse for necessary additional airing.
Costumes drying at the warehouse upon return from the UK
Clearly Uncle Maxes did yeomen work (with the obvious assistance of NYGASP personnel) in getting the Company to the UK and back – an extraordinarily rewarding experience for all involved – a little worse for wear but ready to assist in the next round of exciting adventures as NYGASP enters its fifth decade!
- Albert Bergeret
Photos by David Macaluso, Elisabeth Cernadas, and Albert Bergeret
With the assistance of local wardrobe personnel, Annette and I (Gail did not make the trip) were pleased to find that all of our equipment, save for a couple of pirate sherry glasses and a teacup, had made the trip safely and that nothing was missing. As we unpacked we also labeled each Uncle Max with its exact contents so that the return trip packing would be as close to the original as possible. A dearth of hangers and very slow laundry machines were challenges to be dealt with, but items we could not transport and that were planned to be provided by the Festival upon arrival were more problematic.
We could not travel NYGASP’s dimensional scenery, but the Festival frequently provides wing and drop sets (nicely painted flats on the sides of the stage with a scenic back drop and minimal elevations) to visiting companies. Our Pirates set was waiting for us and our most helpful UK tech coordinator and lighting designer Ken Robertson-Scott (who had worked with us at International Festival productions in Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Buxton, England years before) began organizing matters at the theatre with the friendly and cooperative local crew while the NYGASP Company rested up from its travels.
Pirates from backstage
Our fastidious packing practices were not matched by the Festival and, through a series of mishaps, several expected items arrived late or not at all. The most problematic was the absence of some orchestral parts for The Yeomen of the Guard, our first performance in Malvern, until the last 15 minutes of our only rehearsal with the Festival orchestra. Our professional experience prevailed and the audience response to all of our UK performances was truly gratifying. Seeing the Company’s performances elevated by the element of assimilation into the culture and mannerisms of the Gilbert & Sullivan homeland was an added thrill for me.
Rehearsing Yeomen on stage in The Great Malvern Theatre
After our four days and three performances of Yeomen and Pirates in Malvern, we loaded ourselves and our equipment onto lorrie and coach (yes I too became assimilated) bound for Harrogate and the over 200 planned activities of the 21st International G&S Festival between August 2 and August 26, 2014. I was delighted to find NYGASP board member Alessandro Sousa waiting to greet me in Harrogate and later the same day was surprised by the early arrival of my daughter Genny who traveled to join us from her current home in Holland.
Harrogate’s Royal Hall exterior
The lovely and historic Royal Hall of Harrogate, designed as a concert venue not a theater, presented its own challenges to overcome, but once again professionalism and good spirits prevailed. Interestingly, all of the stages on which NYGASP has performed in the UK (in Buxton ten years ago, Malvern, and Harrogate this year) have built in raked stages. This slight slope from the back of the stage to the front can be a bit disconcerting to those not used to it, especially for dancing, and we have never encountered any other venue in the US or Canada with such a stage. One had also to be careful not to drop a prop that could roll into the orchestra pit!
Royal Hall Pirates and seating
- Albert Bergeret
Many years ago NYGASP discovered garment travel bags as a way of carrying costumes. After one nursing home program such a bag, slung over the shoulder of a cast member, elicited the question “Who’s in the body bag?” The clever carrier replied, “Oh, that’s Uncle Max. He didn’t make it this time.” Henceforth these garment bags have been referred to, in NYGASP parlance, as Uncle Maxes. The Company uses Brown Maxes, Gray Maxes, Green Maxes, and several Blue Maxes (which might bring to mind a certain World War 1 flying ace’s medal). Along with seven suitcases of props and accessories, one sword box, and one ski bag of pop up screens, seven Uncle Maxes carried all of NYGASP’s costumes to and from the UK for the recent 21st International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in Harrogate and Malvern, England.
The process began at the NYGASP warehouse in Newark, NJ where all of the Company’s equipment is stored. Annette Dieli, along with my wife Gail Wofford and I, carefully inventoried, packed, and weighed all of the needed items on the large paint floor of the warehouse in preparation for assigning each item to an individual Company air traveler as a second piece of checked luggage – at $100 per bag!. You can imagine the nerve wracking ordeal of not only checking that we had packed all of the necessary items, but also that each piece of baggage would meet the size and weight limitations of the airline while keeping the number of $100 bags to a minimum.
The NYGASP “morgue” at the warehouse
From the warehouse the entire complement of Company baggage was loaded into the NYGASP minivan (with all rear seats removed) and driven to JFK airport by David Wannen and myself, where it was unloaded and stacked on rental carts and dragged (with the assistance of cast members who had arrived early for check in) to the check in area and assigned to individuals. Though somewhat chaotic, the bags were all accepted and passed through.
Where’s Gray Max? Me and Matt Wages at Heathrow Airport
Uncle Max gets a ride (no domestic violence involved)
Arrival at Heathrow presented further concerns with understanding the British baggage handling system and finding the chartered bus sent to pick us up. After a long wait, our friendly coach driver was finally able to clear entrance to the airport from the parking area where he had been held, and off we went across the English countryside, with Uncle Maxes and all, to the charming town of Malvern where we were housed in a dormitory of Malvern College - what we would call a prep school. To the dismay of many jet lagged NYGASP passengers our rooms were not ready for us, but that was quickly “sorted out”, as the British would say, and those who had not slept on the plane were able to collapse while the Company gear went straight to backstage at the Great Malvern Theatre.
- Albert Bergeret
We are the very model of the touring NYGASP Company
We’ve played for many countries and fanatics who could stump any.
We’re on the plane to England to perform the works we’ve done before
With Pirates, Yeomen, Ruddigore (with no rehearsal and no score!)
(a Ruddigore sing through was organized impromptu at the Utopia Pavilion Cabaret in Harrogate)
James Mills, Matt Wages and Albert Bergeret on the flight bound for LHR. Photo by James Mills
We’re very well acquatinted, too, with coach rides long and rational
(If you say ‘bus’ instead of ‘coach’, they’ll know you’re international!)
David Auxier de Loyola has his Busby Berkeley dreams on the coach. Photo by Elisabeth Cernadas
We arrive at last in Malvern, which is stunning in its greenery
And check into our dorms, then go admire all the scenery
Carter Lynch, Seph Stanek, Annette Dieli and Emily Wright Ricciardi Photo by Elisabeth Cernadas
Day 2 we have the morning off, Dave Wannen leads a hiking group
At 4pm we’re on the stage for Pirates of Penzance recoup.
“And WHO are YOU, sir? Speak!” First Pirates rehearsal with our brilliant UK orchestra, on our new UK set. Photo by Chris-Ian Sanchez
Grand was the hall and English sets, which Al will tell you more about!
Superb the English orchestra and dressing rooms with views throughout.
Malvern Theater dressing room. Photo by Emily Wright-Ricciardi
On August 5th we packed the house, our Yeomen was a great success
On August 6th both Pirates shows sold out and were just marvelous. (Well it almost rhymes)
On August 7th we drove northwest, 3 hours ride to Harrogate,
To grand hotels in Yorkshire, each lovelier and fairer yet.
The Majestic Hotel, opened in 1900 has been the preferred address of visitors such as Winston Churchill, Edward Elgar, Errol Flynn, GB Shaw and several Prime Minsters. The Majestic served as an RAF Reception Centre during the Second World War.
The 8th we spent the morning in the tearooms and the Turkish spa
Then 4pm at Royal Hall – rehearsal for our Pirates, ahhhh…
The beautiful Royal Hall, built in 1903. Photo by Emily Wright-Ricciardi
The 9th we staged our Pirates twice, the audience was blown away,
Then strutted all our talents at the after hours Cabaret!
David Wannen emcees as David Auxier prepares his brilliant Katisha/Claudia mash-up. Photo by Elisabeth Cernadas
The 10th was Yeomen’s closing day, our shows were very well received!
That night our second Cabaret, a perfect tour had been achieved!
Festival Founder Ian Smith, Albert Bergeret, James Mills and Stephen Quint in The Battle of the Patter Men! Photo by Elisabeth Cernadas
In short, in matters musical, theatrical, we’ll trump any,
We are the very model of the touring NYGASP company.
Rehearsal for Pirates on the stage of The Royal Hall, Harrogate, England. Photo by James Mills
- Elisabeth Cernadas
Thursday: My first day of staging Ages Ago, which we’ll perform 4 days from now! Luckily, Stephen Godward and Joan Self are great colleagues—they keep on track and move forward quickly. We get about 2/3 of the show blocked in a marathon session. NYGASP people start to appear by evening, having journeyed up from Malvern (it doesn’t HAVE to take 10 ½ hours I guess!). And I start to see wonderful New York friends, supporters and Board members, such as the lovely Liebermans. How great to have built-in NYGASP fans in the vicinity!. Dinner with Stephen and Joan, and then it’s back for our one and only musical rehearsal of Trial by Jury, to be performed on the triple-bill with Ages Ago. We meet our delightful judge, Graham Weston, a true sweetheart of a man, and some of the rather shy young folk who are performing roles in Trying A Dramatist, the middle part of Monday’s triptych. And then, off to bed!
Friday: This is our LAST day to stage Ages Ago! We meet at the Village Hall in Dacre, the size of a small apartment. One can tell that we are all getting nervous now—the next time we are all together it will be the day of the show as Nick and Sarah have other engagements! We try a run-thru, but it takes 4 hours (for this 80 minutes show)! Instead of a second run-thru, I suggest simply running our lines, which are giving everyone trouble. Agreed! We adjourn to Harrogate for dinner, making each other hysterical with laughter. And then, off to bed (not together)! I check my email. Uh-oh. I had forgotten that I had volunteered for a pot luck performance of the score of Ruddigore at the after-show cabaret. So, I get out of bed, get dressed, and drag myself to the Utopia Pavilion, where NYGASP proceeds, at 10:30PM, to give a lesson in how to knock an audience dead with no rehearsal. The opening chorus alone—those ladies’ voices! All the principals are in top form. David Auxier and I share Despard and have fun doing so, changing many an “I” into “We”. The cabaret audience, noisy on other nights, is rapt and responsive. It’s midnight, and we have triumphed! NOW then, off to bed!
Saturday: Right back to the Utopia Pavilion to meet the “witnesses” in Trying a Dramatist, which is Gilbert at his very best (it’s about a trial of a playwright whose offense is writing a “dull and tedious play”). I slip into the matinee of Pirates NYGASP’s Harrogate debut! A smallish audience (a problem at all matinees at the Festival), but they are with the company and loving it all the way. I leave feeling immensely proud. Dinner with Stephen and Joan (we are now inseparable), and I poke my head in to see NYGASP really come alive in the evening Pirates. Large audience, rapturous reception. I push myself to sing one number at the cabaret. The talent (all NYGASP) is amazing. Stunning is the only word. My contribution is “Vilja” again. Tonight, with my friends and a warm audience right in view, I sing my heart out. It’s what a condcuctor friend of mine calls “Richard’s Judy Garland moment”, where I give it all. And the kind audience responds! David Wannen even gets a second round of applause for me—thanks Dave! I listen, awestruck, to the rest of the concert from the back of the hall. NYGASP has had a good day.
Singing “Villia” at the Utopia Pavillion
Sunday: Yeomen matinee and evening! Many of us are not quite over Saturday yet, but we pour our hearts into the beloved show. Now we can really let go in the evening show! And we do. Just as with Pirates, the evening audience is larger and with us every step of the way. Midway through Act II, the prop gunshot goes off, and I run onstage, followed by the crowd. Wannen and Quint start singing “Like a ghost his vigil keeping”..and we hear the noise of an alarm. How they keep on singing, I don’t know. Suddenly a voice tells us all to quietly and quickly evacuate the theatre! We do so, and find a fire truck already waiting outside. But there is no fire—the darned alarm has gone off again! So back we go onstage. We’ll resume from the gunshot, and I am inwardly beaming, because I know what’s about to happen. Applause as the curtain rises once more, a gunshot, and I get to walk straight downstage and in my best American sing, “Hark, what was THAT sir!” The audience cheers. My next line is even more fitting, “Strange, and at such an hour!” and they go bonkers. For the capper, Auxier, as instructed by Al, comes on singing, “Who pulled that alarm?” and stares down the audience. But now, we must settle down to the fates of Jack Point, and Elsie and Fairfax, and we do, in a heartfelt performance. You can feel the love from the audience. Wiped out, but very happy, we leave. I beg off the cabaret tonight, since I have an even more taxing day tomorrow, but NYGASP’s younger members put on, what I hear was, a great show.
The beautiful Royal Hall in Harrogate.
Monday: Last day in Harrogate, but a killer. Orchestra rehearsal for Ages Ago at 10AM—oy! It goes very well. Then into the theatre to see the set. It is our first view of the famous portraits, made from our photographs. They are simply wonderful, life-size renderings which really look like paintings. We start our final dress rehearsal—the first time we have ever gone through the pieces non-stop. It is a triumph of will over fatigue. I actually relax a bit—my convoluted lines come out pretty easily—hours and hours of home practice works! Then on to Trying a Dramatist—Stephen Godward and I simply make up our blocking, since it has never been staged. Stephen has a genius for the pompous British barrister, and I do a good variation on it. Short pause, and we are on to Trial by Jury, again with all of us bringing our own staging. Louis Dall’Ava and Amy Maude Helfer, bless their hearts, join us to beef up the chorus. We get about 10 minutes from the end, and time is up—the orchestra will not stay a moment longer, and we will have to guess our way through the final minutes tonight. Terror sets in. But I can’t allow it to show.
Ages Ago set being constructed on stage
We have a quite good-sized audience for the show! And they are wonderfully responsive! The surprise of the evening, perhaps, is Trying a Dramatist, which nobody in the audience knows, but which gets the biggest laughs of the evening! Thrilled, we move on to Trial, hoping that we all still have voices after 12 hours. No problem! The evening ends joyously. We would all like another go at it, but we are all so happy it went well. We adjourn to the Utopia Pavilion for drinks. Most of the NYGASP crowd is there, but nobody wants to leave. The trip has been a big success for the company, collectively and individually, and none of us want to call it a day.
Tuesday, August 12: Au revoir, Harrogate! The bus to Heathrow is quiet—we are all pretty much destroyed. The trip goes quickly, and before we know it, we are saying goodbye at the airport. Some are going to London, to Amsterdam. I envy them, but I had my vacay in London in July and it’s time to get back to work in New York. Will we ever forget the past ten days. I can safely say none of us will!
My portrait from Ages Ago
- Richard Holmes
Monday: I stumble back to the Utopia Pavilion and meet up with Nick, Sarah, Stephen, and our delightful mezzo-soprano, Joan Self. We try on our costumes, two each, as we each portray a present-day character as well as a portrait from an earlier age. The costumes are sumptuous. We adjourn to the village of Dacre, in the hills outside Harrogate, to rehearse at David’s lovely house. An outdoor lunch in the sun, with beautiful views. I am in a terribly talky mood, and regale the cast with (too) many stories of my life at the Met Opera. They egg me on, but I sense that we might be chatting all day, and we move inside to read through the show. Nerves! It isn’t EASY being in a cast of all English-accented actors. The rehearsal goes very well, much laughter at the each others’ characterizations, and they only find two words of “Amurrican” accent—pretty good in a long, talky role! Early dinner and off to bed, as I have to leave at 7:30a.m. to rejoin my NYGASP buddies. On to Yeomen and Malvern!
Tuesday: I doubt I will ever forget this nightmare of a day. Neil Smith picks me up at 7:45 to go to Malvern for an 11:30 rehearsal of Yeomen. But first, we drive to his home town of Hebden Bridge, an hour away (and along th e way, I see the actual location of “Wuthering Heights”—gorgeous!), to pick up the Pirates tea cart, which we are bringing to Malvern for Wednesday’s Pirates performances. On the road again! Now we drive another half hour to pick up a rock piece for the NYGASP Pirates set. On the road again! Now we drive another 20 minutes to pick up a second rock section. On the road again—finally!—Malvern-wards! We get on the M6 motorway, and pass by Northwich, my mother’s home town in Cheshire. I wave to it fondly as we speed by. I’m getting worried about making the 11:30 rehearsal.
At 11:23, the car slows down. Neil asks if I smell anything, and as we pull over to the shoulder, I see smoke coming from the hood of the car. Neil opens the hood, and we are engulfed in smoke. The car is kaput, at least for today. Now begins the nightmare. Neil calls for help. 90 minutes later a truck pulls up with a young man who doesn’t really know how to fix the car, and can’t tow us. I beg Neil to call someone in Malvern to let Albert know that I will not be making the 11:30 rehearsal, but my fears are that I have with me the Yeomen orchestra parts for the woodwinds and brass. I sit on the side of the M6, being blown by wind, sneezing from the roadside allergens, going over the Yeomen and Ages Ago dialogue in my mind. Nothing happens until 2:30p.m., when a towtruck finally arrives. We persuade him to take me to a taxi stand so that I can take a cab to Birmingham, and then a train to Malvern. My cab driver barely speaks English and doesn’t have a working GPS system in the cab. I explain that it is terribly important for me to get to Birmingham in an hour, when the next train to Malvern departs, and I tempt him with a huge tip.
In vain. He drives well under the speed limit and gets completely lost when we finally arrive in Birmingham. I am starting to really lose it, after having been in transit since 7:45. It is now 4:15. I’ve missed the train I targeted, and will have to wait until 4:49 for the next train to Malvern. I gulp down a sandwich and call the theatre in Malvern to let Al know I will be even later than expected. Finally, I get on the 4:49 and travel to Malvern, arriving at the theatre at 6:00PM. The performance begins at 7:30. Al meets the taxi I take from the station and grabs the Yeomen orchestra parts—he only has another half hour left of orchestra rehearsal, but, being the Intrepid Albert, he plows on!
My colleagues are wonderful to me. Louis Dall’Ava has figured I will be a basket case, and gets David Wannen to trade dressing rooms with me, so that I can have a little space. James Mills gets me some extra make-up, everyone is being helpful, and before I know it, it’s CURTAIN TIME! Time for magic! Well, it happens. Thanks to G&S and my great colleagues, I forget all about my travel nightmare, and the performance is a huge success. Time for a beer, and Amy Maude Helfer and Laurelyn Watson Chase provide me with bits of food, bless them. I stumble home, led by Angie Smith, Steve Quint and others (stumbling home seems to be my lot this week), and realize I have no idea how to get back to the train station in the morning for my 8:00a.m. train back to Harrogate, but Michael Connolly offers to get up and lead me there. Do you believe how helpful NYGASP people are? It’s now 2:30a.m. Time to get a LITTLE sleep.
Wednesday: after Tuesday, this travel day is, thankfully, anti-climactic. Michael stops by my room, bless his heart, at 7:20, and we walk the mile to the Malvern station. Probably sensing my fragile mental state, he stays with me until the train arrives. He has earned his place in Heaven! The trip goes easily: Malvern to Birmingham, change there for a train to York, change at York for Harrogate, and I am home by 12;30p.m., a mere 4 and a half hours! Back to the Utopia Pavilion to change into my Ages Ago portrait costume, an extravagant get-up from 1713, for a quick photograph session. The chosen photo will be photoshopped a bit, then blown up to life-size to make my onstage portrait, from which I will emerge. The session takes only 3 minutes, but the photographer does brilliantly, getting several very good shots, even though I have no make-up on. That accomplished, I am whisked off to David Wilmore’s house in Dacre for another musical rehearsal of Ages Ago with the cast, who treat “the invalid” (me) gently. Back to the hotel, dinner, and now I REALLY crash. Hopefully, the rest of the stay will be easier!!
- Richard Holmes
My Harrogate experience is different in some aspects from that of the rest of the company. In February, I was asked by Neil Smith, who runs the Festival in tandem with his father Ian, to take one of the five roles in Gilbert’s Ages Ago (a fore-runner of Ruddigore), sing in a World War I tribute concert and participate in a “close-up” interview about my long life in Gilbert and Sullivan. Naturally, I was thrilled, and agreed!
Saturday, August 2: Off to JFK in the afternoon! I arrive and greet my NYGASP friends, all punctual to a fault. Group travel. Ugh. Not my strong suit. I am, as a traveler, a loner, and had only just come home from a wonderful solo vacation to London. Al and David Wannen are getting the multiple people and extra bags we all must tote (costumes, props) organized. Hopefully my companions will understand if I take refuge in the Delta Sky Lounge for some quality time with a glass of wine and my Ages Ago script?
Sunday, August 3: Despite dreadful Delta food, a lovely, easy flight to London’s Heathrow—I even slept a tiny bit, which is rare for me (“if I fall asleep, who is keeping the plane up in the air?”). We arrive at Heathrow—early, hurray! We stumble off the plane at 7:30a.m. I accompany the group to the bus waiting area, and then I am back to being solo: they are all off to Malvern in Worcestershire, while I am off to Harrogate in North Yorkshire, and a World War I memorial concert I would sing that very night. Bye bye, dear company, see you on Tuesday!
Now I feel more like my usual traveling self! Heathrow Express to Paddington, and a quick taxi ride to King’s Cross railway station for the train up north. It’s now 9:15, and I have time for a quick coffee before my 10:03 train. Whew! Everything is going so well. I get in the 1st class carriage (I paid extra for the space and calm). Life is good, and I can feel I have enough voice to sing a couple of numbers in my concert, which is now 9 hours away. I email Neil at the Festival (as I have twice before) to remember that I will arrive in Leeds at 2:20, and will need to be driven to Harrogate from there. Leeds, next stop!
Drama # 1. Nobody is waiting for me in Leeds! But, not to be dismayed, I ask when the next train leaves for Harrogate. In half an hour, is the answer, and I resolve to take it myself to Harrogate rather than wait all day in Leeds. I get on a seedy local train, grit my teeth and move on.
So now, I have arrived at Harrogate Station. It is 3:30 p.m., and I have no idea where to go. To Newby Hall, where the concert will take place? No, a taxi driver tells me it is 20 miles away. I decide to check into my Harrogate hotel, The Old Swanm and cab it there. Harrogate sure looks chi-chi for a little spa town! Lots of pretty London-like shops and parks.
I arrive at the Old Swan, a grand old-fashioned hotel, large, gracious and oaken. This is the hotel in which Agatha Christie hid out during the bizarre period when she was “missing”! There IS a reservation for Holmes, but no message as to where I should go next!
I run quickly to find the Royal Hall, where we will perform later in the week—luckily, it is only a 5-7 minute walk from the Old Swan. But there is no sign of Neil Smith, or our musical director for the concert, Andrew Nicklin. A fire alarm suddenly goes off in the theatre, and I am asked to evacuate.
Such drama goes on in Harrogate!
I race back to the hotel and settle into my room, after leaving Facebook messages for Neil and Andrew. I am just about to indulge a quick nap. The phone rings. It is Neil: “I’ll pick you up in 20 minutes, please be dressed for the concert, as we’ll stay out at the venue.” I am relieved, but dismayed. 20 minutes? I haven’t napped, showered, or even unpacked! I quickly throw on my concert attire, and am soon speeding out to Newby Hall. Downton Abbey has nothing on this place—enormous grounds, enormous country house, deer grazing on the lawn.
I meet my fellow soloists who are rehearsing on the “back lawn”: Nick Sales, wonderful tenor I had met in Gettsyburg, and his beautiful partner on and offstage, soprano Sarah Helsby-Hughes, Stephen Godward, a delightful baritone who will be with me in Age Ago (as will Nick and Sarah), Jessica Nicklin, Andrew’s talented daughter, and the famous Gilbert and Sullivan baritone, Richard Suart.
The orchestra prepares at Newby Hall.
And in about five minutes, still fighting to keep my eyes open, I am singing on this outside stage, doing my baritone rendition of the soprano aria “Vilja” from Lehar’s The Merry Widow and my 2 millionth time through “Fair Moon” from HMS Pinafore. I am suddenly very glad that I only have two numbers to sing. Two hours later, the concert begins, and by this time I can barely stand up, but the concert goes very well, with a very happy and responsive audience. I ride back with Neil to the Utopia Pavilion, the airplane hangar-sized hall which serves as a giant lounge, meeting place and cabaret hall for the Festival, hoping to find some food. No food, but two wonderful friends, Caitlin Burke of NYGASP, and the excellent young British baritone, John Savournin.
I stumble back to the hotel—thank God it’s not far away—and order a sandwich while checking email. I am hoping to have a good morning off to sleep, at least. The final email is from David Wilmore, our Ages Ago director: “let’s all meet at 9:00a.m. tomorrow for rehearsal”. Sleep is overrated. See you tomorrow!
- Richard Holmes
Henry Lytton as the Duke of Plaza-Toro in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers
We have just completed our final two Pinafores of this fantastic Midwest tour, and now are at the Comfort Inn, in Van Wert, OH, where they are SO good to have a breakfast room they are letting us use to spend a little bit of time unwinding together — our little closing night after-party.
We, the beleaguered, befuddled blogging trio of Cousin Hebe, Cousin Ruth and the Captain, have decided to combine our efforts for one final blog posting as we prepare to set sail for home!
Our final two shows were in Danville, KY and Van Wert, OH. (In Danville, we thought it particularly appropriate that Dan Greenwood went on as Ralph … in DANville.) However, I ask you, WHAT are the odds that our performance in Kentucky would manage to land dead on the ONE night that BOTH KENTUCKY RIVAL BASKETBALL TEAMS are playing in the NCAA Semi-finals!! Now THAT is truly March Madness!! (However, it did provide excellent fodder for my 2nd Act drunken-improv bit with Sir Joe.) But it was MOST gratifying was that we had a remarkably full, VERY lively and appreciative audience, and they ALL stayed for the 2nd Act even though the tip off for the Louisville Vs Kentucky game was at 9:45 – I took that as the ultimate Kentucky compliment that we had really ensnared them with the brilliance of Act I!
Our final show was in in Van Wert, OH – a venue we played a few years ago with The Pirates of Penzance (I know, because I found the picture on the wall we all signed).
It was another excellent show, and and Kate Bass (Josephine’s) grandparents came to see it. Talking to them the next morning, they told me the just couldn’t stop smiling they loved it so much. in fact, the whole audience was again wonderful, and we felt like we were going out on a particularly high note (like, Josephine-high-note high) — but it was also a bittersweet end. We are so proud of the work we have done and the show which has become so sharp and polished, happy to think we will get to come home so soon, but yes, Little Buttercup, we’re sad and sorry to leave a show we love so much with a group we have been traveling so closely with. And especially to leave our friends in the orchestra. (Cue music “Kiss today goodbye…”)
You know, as I sit here trying to come up with the perfect summation of the last 2 1/2 weeks, it strikes me the interesting push/pull relationship with touring and traveling.
Traveling on a tour bus, with a busy show schedule and a location that changes daily, can be grueling.
Sir Joe catches a few ZZZs
We make the best of it, we sleep on the bus when we can, we watch movies and joke around, and we drink a lot of coffee before the show. (And usually bourbon after.) It’s not always perfect living (and it’s not always a vacation, either) but it’s a temporary rhythm that we settle into, like any other job, and we do it as professionally as possible. Sure, we get cranky and tired and battle stiff muscles and deal with broken down tour buses and people’s elbows jabbing us if you’re in the aisle seat and yes, it gets annoying.
However, we are living the life we have sought out for ourselves! We put on costumes, we get onstage in front of enthusiastic audiences, and we take our curtain calls to a standing ovation every time because we put on a darn good show. We grow incredibly close in ways that other professions can’t comprehend, we become a family, we rely on each other and we laugh harder than anyone else does.
And just like anyone else, even though I’m glad to be off that tour bus (especially this time…) I miss everyone like crazy when we are apart. And I can’t WAIT to get out there and do it again.
Can’t believe we did our last show of the tour! To borrow some lyrics from the musical Baby: “…What a journey, what a ride!..” and it could not have been with a nicer group of people: we so fortunate…and now I’m off to say hi (hear festivities near the lobby)…and re-pack for the journey home.
What a ride is right! We’ve done 3500 miles, 18 days, 14 hotels, 12 venues, 8 states, 6 buses, 2 sets of tires, 2 times zones, and 1 great show with an amazing company… and I’m ready for the next adventure. (Just let me pull this last load of laundry out of the dryer first!)
COUSIN HEBE (our own Barbara Walters):
To finish out the tour, I did a final mini-interview, this time with our 3rd, fun bus driver — this Sat. eve, approx. 4:45 p.m.; (he met us in Cape G., MO and came to see the show TWICE!!):
Vicky: Al, thanks for doing this interview, pre-show boarding tonight. Where are you from?
Al Smith: Detroit, MI.
Vicky: That’s great! — and for our popular question (with thanks for joining us later on the gig) - what has been your favorite part of the tour?
Al Smith: Observing the play. (v. did not prompt this response - so very honored he feels that way).
Vicky: Wow - great to hear! What did you like best about the show?
Al Smith: It was different from other shows I’ve seen; it was relaxing and hilarious. I enjoyed the Sir Joseph/Captain scene, the dancing and the costumes.
Vicky: Everyone will be so glad to hear that; thanks! I’m guessing that you do something else, in addition to driving, yes?!
Al Smith: I’m a drummer. I play with various groups.
Vicky: Fantastic! What kind of music?
Al Smith: Latin, religious and jazz, etc. I’m self-taught.
Vicky: What are your favorite things to do when you’re not on the road?
Al Smith: Cooking — and spending time with my 3 year old son, Carlon!
Thank you Vicky — I suppose it is only fair to admit that, being our final show, this usually proper Captain got a little loose behind the scenes and started trying out this “backstage selfie” thing I had heard so much about. Turns out it is pretty fun (bear in mind, my phone is a Blackberry apparently from 1879, we’re lucky it gets email.)
The Captain and Josephine, inside the Cabin, waiting for our first entrance.
The Star-Crossed Lovers – Buttercup and I as she waits to “Hail man-o-war’s men, safeguards of our nation”
Cousin Hebe conducts the Sisters, Cousins and Aunts as they sing “Over the bright blue sea” from offstage
Gratuitous Bustle Shot … Shall we submit?!
Really, I have no idea … these things just happen sometimes.
Here is my final collection of anonymous quotes as we head for home:
”I love New York!”
”There’s no place like home!” (we did visit the Judy Garland museum after all…)
”What the _____?!!”
”The roof is leaking!”
”Why are my feet sticky?!”
”Heigh-diddle-dee-dee - an actor’s life for me!”…
Thank you Al, David Wannen, David Auxier, Ben, Annette, Andi, Gail, and every hero behind NYGASP for giving us the opportunities that you do! We appreciate what you’ve created and hope to be part of many more creations in the future. And special thanks to Joseph Rubin for his hard work in organizing this tour blog!
And finally, before signing off, we have to give three cheers (“I’ll lead the way - Hoorah, Hoorah, Hooray!”) for the final set of NYGASP unsung heroes. Many of us on the tour bus have left behind wonderful, supportive and (thankfully) strong and independent partners, spouses, fiancées, significant others, or otherwise committed (in the good way) individuals. In many cases, they are left to tend to homes, pets, and children on their own. And while a few days’ absence will most certainly make the heart grow fonder, when that absence becomes 2 and a half weeks, it can really take a toll. And so, our last shout out will be for those Mighty Winds Beneath our Wings, keeping a light in the window and the home fires burning, who who we all can’t wait to get home to again!!
So, let’s lift up our hearts and our voices to:
Val and Lucy
Jame, Cole, Sam and Olivia
Lauren, Anwyn and Declan
Sanita, Isabelle and Audrey
Joel and Imogene
John and Sophia
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN!!
Sarah (the Hutch) Hutchinson, aka “Cousin Ruth”
Vicky Devany, aka “Cousin Hebe”
David Auxier, aka “Dance Captain Cocoran”
and Sailor Seph “Guest Blogger” Stanek
So long everyone!
As you well know, the HMS Pinafore has experienced rough traveling waters in the past few days, wreaking a case of mal de mer upon several denizens aboard our hearty ship; thus our own Captain Corcoran, Cousin Hebe, and Cousin Ruth “seek the seclusion that a cabin grants” tonight by taking a break from blogging themselves.
Thus, an introduction must be made for today’s gallant, sea-faring wordsmith:
Blog-mates, ahoy! My name is Sailor Seph. I come to you as the newest member (along with leading lass Kate Bass) of the NYGASP touring company.
This is my second season as a member of the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players and my first year on the road. On board the H.M.S. Pinafore, I swab the deck, indulge in Buttercup’s succulent peppermint drops, and cantillate pitches far below the bass staff. Pleased to meet ya’!
While we’re on the subject of introductions, I’d like you all to meet our stouthearted new bus driver, Al.
Al is our fifth bus driver thus far on our voyage and will steer us through uncharted waters aboard our sixth (yes, SIXTH) bus vessel. We are glad to have him on board!
I enjoy numbers, and if you do too, let’s indulge together in this next section:
Total miles traveled so far from NYC: 3,834
Total hours on bus: 59 hours, 30 minutes
Total stranded time: 8 hours, 45 minutes
Total time on the road (including stranded hours): 68 hours, 15 minutes
Total words in H.M.S. Pinafore libretto (including NYGASP encores/improvisations): 8,622
Total words spoken/sung on stage so far on tour (approximate): 86,220
Total words left to perform on tour: 17,244
Now that we’re up to speed, let’s continue.
My day started with a visit to the Kirchdoerfer Dairy Farm in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, located conveniently across the highway from our hotel. My roommate, Sailor David Macaluso, and I have several new bovine bosom buddies after our pre-bus excursion.
Our bus ride today included travel through three states (Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky); cow, American bison, chicken, donkey, and horse-drawn buggy sightings; and a momentous passage o’er the Ohio River.
After a short travel day, we arrived in Madisonville, Kentucky, and quickly made our way to the beautiful Glema Mahr Center.
Our dressing rooms were intimate, and since we’ve been spending so much time together on the buses, we were fully prepared to invade personal space!
Despite all of our traveling woes and mishaps, every member of our lively troupe of minstrels pitched in to make our stay in Madisonville, Kentucky, the best experience possible! Here’s dear little Buttercup taking her turn swabbing the deck:
And we gave Madisonville a show to remember. Check out Kate Bass owning the spotlight, the stage, and her effortless high B-flat.
I don’t know about any of you, but I certainly count myself lucky to have the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players in my life. Being a part of this world-class family has renewed my love for the stage in ways that I didn’t think were possible. Let’s all keep an eye out for a dynamite review from Madisonville, like the one we received from St. Louis (check it out here: http://kdhx.org/arts/theater-reviews/h-m-s-pinafore-this-saucy-ships-a-beauty).
Time for Seph Stanek to set sail. I now hand the blog-torch to one of our stalwart regular writers. Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy every step of the rest of our journey as much as we will!
Good morning, stalwart readership-mates!
My day to blog has happened to land, once again, on a day with “No Show” … However, let us not confuse this with a “Day Off”. When spending 9+ hours on the bus driving from one town to another, it is its own kind of “work” day.
But today has been another extra-challenging bus day. If you’ve been following so far, you know that Bus #1 broke down in Columbia, MO, and after a 6-ish hour wait, we got a temporary bus to take us to Salina, KS and then on to Hays, KS. In Hays, another bus (Bus #3, if you’re keeping count) picked us up, and this morning we left at 9AM on Bus #3.
I am writing this message now from Bus #4, which just picked us up in Topeka after a three hour wait. Like Bus #1, Bus #3 was also having mechanical problems related to acceleration, which (after already having been stranded roadside once on this trip) was too much risk for us to continue and “just hope”.
Chris-Ian Sanchez, Amy Maude Helfer and Seph Stanek – who knew those Pinafore Semaphores would come in so handy!?
On the bright side, it is good to have the company’s Executive Director on tour with us to take up the reigns and handle things.
David Wannen has it all under control.
However, bus #4 is only taking us an hour to Kansas City where Bus #5 awaits us. Will #5 be our final bus? We cannot say. Since this Bus #4 has several leaks (it is raining now, by the way) we will be happy to move on to #5, but what we will be getting on, I won’t hazard a guess given recent luck.
Waiting “patiently” in Topeka for Bus #4
PS - the wind in Kansas today was outrageous, and that is what we’ve been waiting in!!
BUT, back to our regularly scheduled story! I started my morning happy, hopeful, and exercising, as many of us try to do regularly, but this is always dependent on what the hotel has to offer in the way of fitness facilities (and how late we’ve stayed up the night before, of course. ;) In some places, there is a fully stocked gym/exercise facility with multiple cardio machines, free weights and more.
Elisabeth Cernadas gets her cardio on.
Other places have indoor pools and whirlpools. And then some have minimal or no fitness room at all … or as a recent stop showed, a room with 1 working treadmill, 2 broken machines, a broken clock, broken scale and a 20 year old bowflex.
I believe this things is really more work than workout.
But regardless of what we have to work with, you may trust that we’ll find a way to stay active and ready for duty!
That’s right, the Captain is ALWAYS prepared!!
The Stalwart Morning Exercisers — me with orchestra member Steve and Amy Helfer
In the pic above, you see Steve, our trombone player for this trip, with Amy Helfer and me, and it occurs to me that I should keep my theme going of “off-stage shout-outs” and focus on the final sets of unsung Pinafore heroes.
Meet our Midwest Tour Orchestra!
When the NYGASP cast performs in a location that requires significant travel distance from NY (in short, when we fly) we sometimes are specifically contracted to perform with a local symphony or orchestra (such as the recent Pirates bookings where we were with the Colorado Symphony in Denver, and with Opera Columbus accompanied by the Columbus Symphony). But with multi-city tours, we more often work with what is called a “pick up orchestra”. These bands of musicians are usually assembled by a local contractor who is located in the general vicinity of our first show on the tour.
Connie Markwick, Concertmaster/1st Violin, Orchestra Sub-Contractor and reluctant model
Our “pit monsters” (my term, used affectionately) for this tour hail from the Detroit area, and are as lovely a group of people as they are musicians.
Bobbie Adams (Violin), Irina Tikhonova (Cello), Denielle Buenger (Violin), Kay DeLuca (Violin), Catherine Nicolia (Violin)
The scores for the show were sent out ahead of time (in this case about 3 weeks) and distributed to the musicians so they have time to look over/practice/learn their music before we arrive.
Mierca Cure (Viola), Phelan Young (Bassoon) and Mike McGillivray (Violin) look over their scores in this totally candid, not-at-all-staged picture ;)
But aside from that individual review, the only time the orchestra gets together and works with each other (and us) on this 2 and a quarter hour show, is a THREE-hour rehearsal at the first venue, in the pit with us on stage, on the DAY of the performance (whew!). Those hours are the concentrated amount of time that Maestro Bergeret and the orchestra have to become accustomed to each other’s styles and idiosyncrasies, go over the special parts of the score where tempos and dynamics change (sometimes drastically and suddenly), and the musicians learn how to interpret and execute 35+ years of penciled-in markings related to unique musical moments that happen on stage in our production. It is an amazing thing, how quickly everything is absorbed, polished and culled into a well-oiled musical machine. But then, that is why we are called “professionals”, right? :)
Jeff Markwick (trumpet), Steve Molnar (trombone), Wendell Mullison (French horn), Gillian Markwick (bass)
Personally, I’ve spent a lot of time on the bus sitting near and getting to know Lisa (clarinet), Dennis (flute), Joni (oboe) and Kristen (percussionist). All four have toured with us previously in the Midwest and have become part of the NYGASP family.
(clockwise from left) Kristen Tait (percussion), Dennis Carter (flute), Lisa Raschiatore (clarinet) and Joni Day (oboe)
As of this point, we’ve all been together a full 2 weeks, through performances and workouts, early morning bus calls and long bus rides, breaks and breakdowns and 2am arrivals. It is no wonder that we are all, ultimately, one big, happy, mildly-dysfunctional family — and whatever happens on tour, the good, the bad and the ugly — we are all in it together!!
(PS - for those still wondering, Bus #5 was actually very nice and we got back on course, arriving in Cape Girardeau shortly after midnight. However, the bad news is, there WILL be a Bus #6 tomorrow … and no more Larry, our favorite bus driver L Tune in tomorrow for a special GUEST BLOGGER to find out how things go next!!
- David Auxier
We had a fantastic audience tonight, and were delighted to meet the lovely parents of our Josephine, Kate Bass, aunt and uncle of Laura S’s, and some local school fans, who photographed some of us at Applebee’s! Angie, Kate and I shared a green room / dressing room, so fun camaraderie was had, and later, with the whole cast — once we were dressed — and the 1,100 seat Memorial Union is a gem. What a joyous eve!
Here are some one-liners from company members pre-travel a.m. bus departure, a (?3/23) few days ago (you will understand the question mark if you read Sarah’s blog yesterday):
Angie S.: “I’m good.”
Louis D: “It’s a lovely day in the neighborhood!”
Amy H: “What day is it?!”
James M: “How many more days?!”
Matt W: “Happy Birthday, Gail!”
Chris-Ian S: “I need water!”
Alan H: “Five more shows to go!”
David M: “Are we there yet?” (in the parking lot at that point )
Amy H: “This is still fun.”
David A.: ”Can’t believe I am here again, and still didn’t try the gooey butter cake!”*
* (this will be a clue to the city — for those doing on-line research!)
Here is my interview from Monday morning - in the hotel lobby w/ David Macaluso:
Vicky: Hi David! Since we’ll be waiting for the bus for a while, thanks for doing this now — and Congratulations again on being this year’s Asimov Award winner! Where are you from originally?
David: Long Island!
Vicky: I’m guessing that you started performing at fairly young age, yes?
David: I did: I was Baby Bear, in a musical version of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” in nursery school - so about age 4!
Vicky: Fantastic; sounds similar to my journey and love the casting! Any other family members in the arts?
David: Yes: my mom was a music education teacher, played trumpet, and taught privately.
Vicky: Do you remember what piece you chose for your first NYGASP audition?
David: Yes: I asked Alan Hill for advice, and sang “Our Great Mikado…” and “Prithee, prithee Maiden”!
Vicky: What are your favorite G&S roles to perform?
David: Ko-Ko (The Mikado) and Grosvenor (Patience).
Vicky: What has been your favorite part of the tour thus far?
David: Seeing the full backdrop being unfurled next to the purple “H.M.S. Devany”….hadn’t seen that in NYC yet…
Vicky: Thanks for the credit / for dubbing that ship….got to see the Act II rope test for the first time in a while which was fun! I love your double patter shiver in Act I by the way….! So how are the Asimov preparations coming along?
David: Well; thanks! Matt Wages, Dan Greenwood and I are creating blocking for “Cox and Box” on the bus!”
Vicky: Well planned!
A sick tour bus. 40 musicians and actors. A bright, sunny morning in Springfield, Illinois.
An ordinary travel day gone wrong.
It was supposed to be just another 9 hour bus ride. You know… standard trip from Springfield, Illinois to Salina, Kansas. We were scheduled to leave our hotel at 9:30am this past Monday, 3/24, and arrive in Salina by 7:00pm or so with lunch and dinner breaks.
But our tour bus, unbeknownst to any of us, had plans of its own.
We knew our tour bus had been feeling a little… well, off, to say the least, when on Sunday evening we had to stop every 100 feet on our way to the theater to turn the bus off and restart. Our driver, Larry, determined that the transmission was too full of fluid and needed to be drained. Hence, the conclusion was that Larry would bring the bus to the mechanic early Monday morning before our 9 hour drive to take care of the problem. Larry brought the ailing beast out to the mechanic at 6am, only to find out that they weren’t open until 7am. Already it was turning into “one of those days.”
These things take time, and there were inevitable delays, so our 9:30 departure got pushed back to 10:30. Captain Galante was getting anxious about the day stretching out too long, but we made the best of our morning by getting our extra coffee, bathroom breaks and morning walks around the local, er… scenery.
We finally boarded the bus around 10:30/11:00am and began the day. But the bus was not having it… and made it very clear about an hour into the trip (near Columbia, Missouri) when she began to blow smoke out of her side.
This turned into a quick pullover and emergency disembark. Larry raced to the side of the bus, yelling, “I know this is gonna make your blog!” while he dialed the fire department. We scrambled away from the bus at a safe distance and naturally, took pictures and video… for posterity and of course, the blog.
David Macaluso and myself
The fire truck came to examine the bus and set up traffic cones along the highway behind the bus. It can now be said that NYGASP quite literally STOPPED TRAFFIC!
James Mills, Matthew Wages and David Auxier
One incredible surprise was that a local neighbor saw the activity and came down to bring us blankets and offer us a warm garage to stay in while we waited. Good ol’ Middle America hospitality… nothin’ like it!
At this point, it was around 2:00 in the afternoon.The fire truck tailed us to the nearest exit, which was the Midway Truck Stop. David Wannen and Michael Galante were putting their heads together with Larry, and contacting our tour bus company. It was determined that the bus was not in suitable condition to continue to travel that day. Thankfully Monday was a travel day only (no show) but we DID have hotel reservations in Salina, KS… and a show on Tuesday in Hays, KS! So our original Detroit bus company chartered another bus from the closest bus company they could find (based out of Kansas City, MO) to take us the rest of the distance to Salina, KS. But it would be hours before we would be on the road again.
Unsure of exactly when the new bus would arrive, we set up camp on the current bus with movies and set about making the best of our situation… which is a NYGASP staple on tour. “Ooh, check out the kitschy convenience store!” “Oh, cool… a gas station!” “Neat-O! ‘Larry’s Boots’? Heck YES! I needed new cowboy boots!” And so on, and so forth.
Our boys at rest, at Midway Truck Stop
Rebecca O’Sullivan acquiring souvenirs at the Midway Truck Stop
Many beers, beef jerky sticks, souvenirs from the truck stop, two movies, and a surprisingly delicious dinner at the truck stop diner later (with some of the friendliest people we’ve met so far) we got the rallying cry from our captains Galante and Wannen that the new bus was coming. At this point, it was 8:00pm, and we still had about 6 hours to go until we got to Salina. But in spite of frustrating travel circumstances, everyone remained calm, upbeat and humorous!
The temporary bus was fabulous and comfortable. We quickly settled in and got on the road with a movie. We all slept as it got later, and we disembarked at our hotel around 2:30am, quiet and ready for beds. Our original morning bus call for the following day was pushed back so that we could all get a full nights’ rest without interruption. Hurrah, hurrah, HOORAY.