One night in Vegas we had an amazing party. Well OK, there were LOTS of parties. But this one was a cut above the rest. It was Dec 20. I won’t tell you what happened, because “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, but I will say it’s the kind of party that could only happen in Vegas. The next day, I came to work, walked into the guys’ dressing room, looked at my buddies, and proclaimed “Best. Night. EVER!!” Which was met by wild cheering and rejoicing.
I think I can say that We Will Rock You was... the Best. Experience. EVER!!
It started with a bang in June, going off to live in a crazy new town with 30 or so awesome and talented and sexy people in an apartment complex (some liked to call it Melrose Place), rehearsing with some real heavy-weights during the day, and partying like rock stars at night.
Rehearsals were a blast. The process of finding the right balance of comedic timing on stage and personalities off stage was awesome, to say the least.
One thing that was sort of sad was that after a while, I realized I just couldn’t be best friends with everyone in the cast, and I sort of had to fit into a smaller group. Not to say that everyone didn’t like each other, because we really did, but that’s the way it goes. I guess that shoulda been obvious, but it somehow didn't dawn on me til I'd been there a while. So I sort of had to mourn the lost opportunity of getting close with some really awesome people who ended up being, for no particular reason, sort of 2nd-tier friends. Fortunately though, even people who I didn’t talk to as often were people I loved being around, so anytime we went out, we all had a great time.
Opening night was ridiculous.
Doing the show every night was a real blast. The first couple months, there was the excitement of doing this new show and working to get it just right. As that wore off, there was the comfort of knowing we had an entertaining show we felt comfortable doing. As that wore off, there was a sort of re-commitment to the show, a re-dedication to making sure I was doing my best every night, making sure I was giving my cast my best and working hard to make them as proud of me as I was honored to be with them. One of my two most trusted partners was Will Swenson, who played Prince (Rosalind Brown as Aretha was the other). (I still find it remarkable how after just a few months of working together, I know we’ll be friends for life.) Will and I talked all the time about minute details in our performances that we could have fun improving. A couple weeks before our last day (he and I had intended to leave around the same time, so we just coordinated to make it the same day), I was asking for Will’s advice on a particular moment, as usual, and as I walked away, our other friend Megan asked him, “What are you guys doing? Aren’t you leaving soon?” To which Will responded “...This is what we do.”
One of the most amazing performances ever was the night Brian May of Queen performed onstage with us. When he came up the hydraulic lift, the energy from the audience was overwhelming. It instantly brought me to tears. I remember one audience member was completely entranced. It was hard-core. Performing with one of the true legends of rock and roll was truly a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
The social aspect of the show was truly... intense. Not since college have I worked with and socialized with the same people 6 days a week. It’s like a relationship crucible; in a different situation, it might take years to develop such a bond -- here it takes months. Most of my castmates were used to that, because they were mostly experienced musical performers, but while I’ve done my share of theater, I’d never before done a tour or a long running-show. I’m used to film/TV where you work with people intensely for a week or so and never see them again.
These 7 months, I learned so much about people in general and about myself specifically. Vegas truly is a desert, so all you really have is yourself and each other. That's it. So every day, you learn more about yourself and each other, and that either drives you completely insane, or it makes you a healthier, happier person. And while I did have some insane/unhealthy/unhappy days, I came out of the experience a better man.
The last month or so in the show had some real highs and lows. There was a nagging in the back of my head about how much I was going to miss these people and this experience. And several people left the show during my last month, so it was a month full of goodbyes, culminating of course in one last big one. But throughout the goodbyes, I was doing all the things that made me love the experience so much. We partied hard, I had serious QT with a few really wonderful people, and I rocked it out in the show. One week before my last day, I got a chance to go on as Pop. (As we’ve discussed, the show is strikingly similar to The Matrix, so the Pop equivalent would be The Oracle). It was an incredibly fun night. Also in that last month, I participated in my last understudy rehearsal. It was both inspiring and sad. It was my first chance to see some of the new understudies and cast members in action. The thing is, people say "we'll miss you" and "it won't be the same without you", and that's self-evident, but watching other people do your roles and the roles of others who've left, it really gives you a sense of life really going on without you, the impermanence of our profession, and I guess, ultimately, our own impermanence. And oddly enough, in those moments where you see "hm, they're really gonna be fine without me," it's somehow both reassuring and disappointing.
My last day in the show was fantastic. My character is derided by the others in the show, but that day, I've never felt such loving derision. It was overwhelming, frankly. Ros and I had a few adlibs, Will had a couple surprises for me, and I cherished every chance I had to make eye contact onstage for the last time with my friends. I even had a few fans come to see me the last weekend, which was extremely heartwarming.
So now it's over. I went to see the show one more time before I left town, and again, it was wonderful and awful. The show is so much fun, and everyone in it is so unbelievably talented and charming that to watch it was just thrilling. And then I went backstage, and sort of waited around and twiddled my thumbs while people got out of costume, something I used to do alongside them just 1 day before, and it just felt WEIRD. Someone invited me to go see it again a week or so later, and I thought, you know, it's sort of like a girlfriend that you just broke up with -- you need a little space before you can see them again "just as friends". So although I love those people and the show with all my heart, I'm not goin back for a little while. (though I have called at least one cast member every day since I left!)
As for LA, it's been surprisingly easy to pick up where I left off. The very day I came back, I had a recording session for an episode of Family Guy, a callback for 24, and I met my new Equity co-agent. And I had a commercial audition the next day. Really, very little rust as far as screen acting was concerned. And it's awesome to be back in the same house as my brother and near my old LA friends.
It's so strange because in so many ways, it seems like just yesterday I was starting WWRY, but in other ways I feel so much happened in Vegas, and I'm such a different person than I was when I started. I went to Vegas completely expecting a spectacularly surreal and artificial experience, but because of the people and the environment I put myself in, I ended up feeling more completely human than ever, feeling completely at home in my work and in my skin. Who knew?