I wish I could convey to you how loudly I want to scream right now, but it might hurt you. Last night was one of the most awesome nights of my life. Unbelievable.
(Warning, this is LONG.)
Let’s start early. I arrive at the Paris employee entrance around . It’s like I’ve walked in to the Macy’s Christmas Parade. Everywhere you can see, there are bouquets of flowers, gift baskets, bottles of various spirits, faxes of kind wishes from the Australian / British casts of WWRY, gifts from the producers and Brian May, and of course, notes/cards and presents from fellow cast members: customized shot glasses, a “hand of black jack” (2 $5 WWRY playing chips from the Paris casino), candy, chopsticks, baked goods, and more. Truly, truly touching. All these people, in the madness of previews/opening, with rehearsals, relatives coming into town, and the never-ending search-for-the-perfect-opening-party-outfit, have taken time out of their busy schedules to buy/make gifts expressing “I enjoy working with you” “Have a great opening” and “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, looking forward to spending more time together.” Again, truly touching. I start to well up just seeing people hug each other and thank each other and read each other’s notes.
“Hey,” I hear, “did you know there’s a red carpet outside?” WHAT? Some of us go out front to look, and whattayaknow? A big red carpet from the hotel lobby to the theater, complete with random people standing behind velvet ropes and gawking (who are those people?), reporters, photographers and TV cameras, people lining the red carpet handing out champagne glasses, a huge WWRY backdrop, and one of the Paris Hotel’s “human statues” dressed as Freddie Mercury. As I’m going back into the theater, I bump into my parents, who have just walked down the red carpet and are giddily taking pictures in the lobby. So cute.
Then the cast is called onstage to block the swings into the finale, so tonight, the whole cast can be onstage together at one time. And after we do that, Ben huddles us up for a final speech. His words are, as usual, funny, inspiring, and of course from the heart, but unlike usual, they have an added weight, bc we know it’s the last time he’ll ever address us this way. One part that strikes me is when he says, “chances are that this will be the last time I ever see this exact company do this show” (because by the time he comes back from mounting the show elsewhere and his various other commitments, it’s likely one or more of the company members will have moved on to other projects). He concludes shakily that more than anything, tonight will be a very sad night for him. Well, I was gone. I mean, I’m pretty emotional to begin with, but it’s hard choking back tears when ya hear something like that. But we all suck it up and continue getting ready. Rumors fly backstage about which celebs will be in the audience. Deniro? He’s gotta be. Jennifer Saunders? Confirmed. Meatloaf? He’d better be. Garth Brooks? Robin Leach? Delta Burke? Jessica Simpson? We’ll see.
In the madness, Chris the PA (who is 18 but looks about 9) hands me a piece of paper from Ben the director detailing 2 new bits we’re putting into the show tonight, one for me and Will, and one for me and Rosalind. Will and Ros and I find time to rehearse so we can nail the jokes before we show them to Ben. Will and I spend a solid 10 minutes talking about it and massaging it (and each other), discussing possible ways to play it, reworking what’s on paper to fit our personalities as perfectly as possible. We show it to Ben, and he’s impressed. Ros and I go over it twice and never have a chance to show it to Ben, but it’s pretty straight forward and really, a home-run of a hilarious line/actress combo, so I’m sure Ben’s not worried. Still, bc of Equity rules, whether they work or not, these are the final versions of the jokes. So… they better work.
I realize that Will’s new joke will affect the entire ensemble, and I know they haven’t been warned. But they must be, in order for all hell to not break loose when Will does his thing. So I take it upon myself to announce to the other guys what’s going on, and then I gotta go tell the girls. I imagine I’ll just crack their dressing room door, yell inside, and then leave, but when I knock, Ros says, “Come in Amir!” Now normally, this would be pretty sweet. But the thing is, I am wearing nothing but my Fruit of the Looms – I didn’t think they’d be looking at me. But I don’t wanna go back and get dressed and come back again, so I kind of tiptoe in and stand by the door, expecting them to be getting ready with makeup and stuff while I tell them. But then Ros shouts “Amir’s in his underwear y’all!” So now 15 girls drop what they’re doing and crowd around to look at me and listen to what I have to say. So there I am, in my underwear, trying to just concentrate on telling them what I’ve gotta tell them and then getting the hell out. Someone takes a picture of me, but I’m too bashful to do anything about it. So I hurriedly explain the joke and then run away. (Side note: fortunately, none of the girls says “awww, cute!” -- I think I hear a “woo!” and/or a “yay!” but that may just be wishful thinking.)
A bit earlier, a member of the Mamma Mia company (now playing at Mandalay Bay) had dropped off a “gypsy robe” for our company. The gypsy robe, as it was explained to me, is an old Broadway tradition that was inherited from the Vaudeville days. Nowadays, how it works is that each time a new show opens, they are passed the robe from the most recently open show, with a little something sewn onto the robe. The Mamma Mia folks sewed (I think) a piece of some hot pants that are worn in their show onto the robe. Then for good luck, someone in our cast needs to put it on, and we form a circle around her, and as she walks around the circle 3 times, we all have to touch the robe. When the next Equity production opens in Vegas (Avenue Q?), we’ll attach something of our show on the robe and give it to their cast.
So then – it’s showtime. Well, almost. Of course, we go up 20 minutes late, bc certain “confirmed” celebs are not showing up, and we’re waiting. But the show does finally start. There’s an electric energy. Of course we’ll all hyped, everyone has loved ones in the theater, and oh yeah, there are a ton of raucous Queen fans from the official fan club in the cheap seats. It’s so great. Everyone’s waving glowsticks. Every joke is getting laughs. Every song is getting a huge ovation. Everybody is SO ON.
My scene is fast approaching. The “Heartbreak”, as it’s called. We get in. We enter the scene to the rockin “Headlong” and we’re off. Every single joke lands. It could not go more perfectly. We are approaching Will’s new joke – it has to do with his character name, which has changed ALMOST DAILY. Then, he does it. All I can say is, SLAM DUNK. He does it funnier than any of the times he did in the dressing room, and it’s just perfect. So much so that I almost have trouble doing my name after his. And BTW, the moment after I intro myself, long a source of consternation and fiddling, goes off pretty well too. I think that’s pretty remarkable considering how well Will’s name landed right before me. And the adlib which Ben let me keep is now, bc of Equity rules, LOCKED IN. woohoo! So the scene continues, and here we come up to Rosalind’s new bit. Now Ros, unlike me and Will, has not had her lines changed on a daily basis. Rather, she just keeps racking up new lines. Everything she does is so funny and on the mark, Ben just keeps padding her part. One great thing here about her newest line is that we didn’t warn the ensemble about it. And I know it’s gonna get a big laugh. And I totally underestimate it. It is HUGE. Go Ros!
Now this next part may not make a whole lot of sense, it might be one of those had-to-be-there moments, but I have to tell you, bc it’s now one of my favorite theater stories ever.
Here’s how it is in the script: I’m talking to Galileo, and I say something about Brit (played by Ty Taylor), motioning toward him. He stoically makes a rock-and-roll “devil horn” gesture toward me, and then I go back to talking to Galileo.
But what started to happen once we started previews is that my line / Ty’s gesture started to get a sort of extended laugh, so I decided to fill the pause by doing my own stoic devil horn gesture back to Brit. For me, it’s become a moment of connection btwn me and Brit, which is fun in a sort of I-admit-it-I-take-myself-seriously-as-an-actor moment. But I’ve grown to like it so much, and Ben has liked it so, that I now do it even when there isn’t a big laugh to hold for. But tonight, there’s a HUGE laugh. HUGE. But, same as always, I do the gesture back, and then I turn back to Galileo. But the thing is, the laugh isn’t dying down. So I keep holding, but then I’ve gotta turn back and look at Brit again – it’s taking too long! So I do, and Ty and I lock eyes, and then, at the same time, we do the gesture to each other AGAIN. It is fucking comedy magic. I spot one of the Bohemians behind Ty breaking, and as Ty tells me later, he feels like everyone onstage is on the brink of laughing. I of course am worse than anyone in that respect, so I do actually crack a smile, but fortunately, Tony Vincent (our Galileo tonight) has missed it all bc he’s behind me, so he’s not cracking a bit. I know if he does break even a little, I’ll be gone, but fortunately, I get my wits about me and push on. I have to say it’s the best joint ad-lib I have ever witnessed.
So we finish the scene, and we get to the end of the show, and we’ve got a standing ovation even before the finale. It’s really fun too having all the swings be in the finale; one big happy family. The finale kicks ass, the encore is awesome (except for one little tech glitch), and then we bow. And the curtain comes down, and then up again, and we bow again, but this time Brian and Roger from Queen plus Ben join us onstage for one final bow, and the curtain comes down. The End.
...Of the show.
We’re on our way to the dressing rooms, starting to get undressed, but someone’s says “Back onstage! One more photo”. Ugh, whatever. But then I see why we need to do it NOW. It’s a photo with the Man. Bobby D… Yeah, HIM. He slowly makes his way to the stage, and I can’t help it, I stick my hand out and say, “Mr. Deniro, it’s an honor.” And he mumbles something like “Good job” (I think. Maybe it was just “muhr”). But we take the photo, and that’s it.
We head to the showers, and now the glamour starts. People have been talking about their outfits for weeks, months even, and now we see them. Holy crap, everyone looks amazing. Amazing. Leather everywhere. Black. Bling-bling. Chaps. Mohawks. Shades. Mesh. Tina Turner hair. Yo, you give 50 people license to get creative, and expensively creative, you better look out. I had really wanted to go all out, and spend hundreds on a new outfit, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And besides, I’m an awful shopper; I would’ve driven myself crazy. I had decided a week or 2 earlier to go with stuff I already had, a simple black button up and some pin-stripe pants from Banana Republic. My pal Sarah in the cast had assured me it looked great, and Ty agreed, but he recommended I get some jewelry too. I had called mom and asked if I had possibly left any jewelry back home in SF, and she said she’d look. To my surprise, she went out and bought me 2 awesome bracelets and a necklace, and gave them to me as an opening night present. So I put them on and head out. I feel great. I love you Mom (And Ty)! One bracelet is a simple, shiny silver, cuff-style, and the other is a silver cuff-style as well, but it has designs of statues from the Persepolis in Iran on it. The necklace is a simple silver chain with a tag that has an image of the Koran on it. Oh, and the shoes are by J Crew, shiny and black, sorta squared at the toes.
The party is at the Paris pool, lots of free food and drinks. But the main event is STILL to come. Queen will be performing, accompanied by Jason and Kacie (the Galileo and Scaramouche who were not in the show tonight), and many others. Finally, Brian May gets it started. He introduces some people, and they launch into “Tie Your Mother Down”. Holy Shit. I have never loved rock and roll music more than I do during the 50 minutes that they play. Jason is every bit the rock star, wailing away like there’s no tomorrow, and lookin like a stud in his dark shades. I scream “You’re a fucking rock star, Jason!” Kacie, a soulful sexy siren, if there ever was one, is just… perfect. I scream “Marry me, Kacie!” Brian and Roger, awesome. At one point, Brian asks “Is Mr. Loaf here? Mr. Loaf?” And Meatloaf walks up, short hair, leather jacket, and a tie. He looks… like… a regular guy. And then, it happens. He. IS. INCREDIBLE. For me, the high point of the show. He is like a man possessed, singing “Johnny B Goode”. It is freakin religious. He looks crazed. When people have guitar solos, he gets inches from their ears and shouts at them, egging them on, saying “Yeah Motherfucker! Do it! C’mon! Do it!” His energy bleeds into the crowd, and we are right there with him. I am screaming at the top of my lungs. “Marry me Meatloaf!” It is unforgettable. Then Roger comes down off the drum set and says, “It’s been a LONG time, since we’ve rock and rolled!” YEEEEEAH! And they launch into Led Zeppelin’s classic “Rock and Roll”, with Roger on vocals. The whole thing is so awesome. Incidentally, at one point during the concert, Ben comes up and accidentally stands right in front of me. He apologizes, then takes it back, jokingly saying “I guess that’s as it should be.” He then says, “We do have a special relationship, don’t we?” and I say, “I’ll never forget it” to which he replies “It ain’t over.” What a guy.
Well, soon after the concert, it is over – the party, that is. We then go to Risque, the club at the Paris, which is just hilarious, because normally, the Paris “prefers us not to go there” (don’t ask). But we have a great time, and I don’t think anyone embarrasses themselves, and we close the place down, continue to hang out past sunrise, and finally go to sleep.