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!


Sherea said...

I'm waiting with bated breath for the conclusion to this magical event!!

stennie said...

How was the show??!!