Last weeks – Do Not Eat Whilst Hungry!

I had a light load on Monday night (the 12th) for rehearsal, so in the afternoon myself and a few castmates went to the Steam Whistle Brewery for a tour and some beer! This relatively young pilsner-brewing company set up “shop” in an old historical train station depot, where engines were brought in for cleaning and maintenance. Three previously fired employees of a corporate takeover endeavor had a few beers over a campfire and decided to start their own brewing company. They started calling it “Three Fired Guys Brewery,” but later reflected upon the need for local Torontor-ian workers to have a 5pm “whistle” to break them from their 9 to 5 jobs and reward them with a beer; thus, “Steam Whistle” became their name. I highly recommend their tour, which is “basically” free. For $10 you get a tour + a souvenir bottle cap opener; for $15 you get the same tour + a six-pack of their pilsner to go. And they give you before and after and during tastes of the beer, so in the end you get a lot more than what you paid for.

Three Disney amigos cheering with Steam Whistle!
Bottled the day-of, and imbibed 5 hours later.

On Tuesday night, we headed out as a cast to have dinner at O Noir, a specialty restaurant with a sensory twist – the diners eat in the dark, served by blind waiters. The waiters themselves are nonplussed about the experience, but the diners get to experience what it is like to eat while blind, or certainly let all their other senses take over during the meal. We couldn’t use our iPhones or digital watches to take pictures or check the time, and if a restroom was needed we had to be led out via a waitstaff member. They have a full three or two-item menu, but you can also order each item as a “surprise,” and tell them if you are allergic to or don’t like any particular food.

The experience was unique. We were led in by the waiter, kindergarten-style with one hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us. It was pitch black save for the tiniest glow in two corners of the room. But I could literally not see anything, even my own hand. I could feel the place settings, which were just as you’d expect. Real glass and ceramics with metal forks and knives. Eating with them was totally different, for you had to make note of each item as you put them down, and I tended to want to hold on to the stem of my wine glass for fear of knocking it over. Some forkfuls would come up to my mouth with the right amount, some with too much, and quite often nothing at all. The conversation amongst my table was hilarious, and it was amazing to 1. not know the exact passage of time 2. have the ability to be expressive oneself physically without anyone seeing you and 3. try to make sure your needs or questions were made known just verbally. And there was the odd foul play amongst my fellow diners (I had fun blowing on the neck of my castmate immediately behind me). We had the whole room to ourselves as a party of 28 or so, so the volume in the room reached a few crescendos and there was a tiny bit of group singing. The food itself was simple American fare, but very well done. I had the surprise appetizer, a Filet Mignon with potatoes and green beans, and a surprise dessert. The surprises turned out to be a mixed green salad with (we think?) cooked parsnips in feta, and later some cinnamon & caramel-covered vanilla ice cream on a small slice of apple pie. Eating something that is not only visible but completely unknown is thrilling, but we admittedly used our fingers to make sure we didn’t miss anything on the plate. Remarkably, I didn’t emerge (blinking furiously even in the low-lit lobby) with food on my blouse, and because I was careful I didn’t drop my fork the way I usually do. I highly recommend this experience, which is available in the states at a restaurant called Dans Le Noir.

Later in the week, I had dinner at Fresh, a heath-conscious lunch and dinner location with a puppeteer friend Nicholas Lemon ( I had a delicious kale salad and some honest-to-betsy Ginger ale, then Nicholas & I walked around the area, stopping at the CBC Building. He pointed me in the direction of a small museum, which I later visited to see puppets and old machines from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.

I’m writing the end of this post on Embarkation day, November 24th. We are in Houston, and will drive to Galveston this morning to the terminal and set foot on The Magic at 7am!!! I’ll soon blog about Houston, the wet drill, Thanksgiving, and my first week or weeks on the ship The Magic!

So long!

Dreams With My Mother, ROM, and Joy from America

With my husband safe in New York again and the sugar taste of candycorn brushed off my teeth, I was again alone to continue rehearsals with Disney and spend more time enjoying Toronto. We did a few runs of “Villains Tonight” and went on to “Disney Dreams,” a lovely (and most popular amongst audiences) pastiche-style musical featuring vignettes of a number of Disney movies. I can’t give away too much of it, but in one sequence I play a Mom catching her young child reading under the covers late at night. Instantly, I was reminded of myself as a young kid, who did the exact same thing. My Mom would knock on my door an hour after bedtime and commandingly say “Sierra…time to go to sleep!”, knowing full well that I was yet again reading an “OZ” book or “Alice in Wonderland” under the covers via flashlight. Rehearsing the scene put me right in my Mother’s shoes, and I thought that as an English Professor and an enthusiast of literature of reading, the term “reap what you sow” was applicable to her way back when. It was easy for me to step into that scene and find the humor in it.

Between rehearsals this past week, I’ve taken advantage of the cultural and creative treasures of Toronto. This city is a great Entertainment capital, and there are Broadway-caliber (and even pre-Broadway runs of) musicals to see. I had missed “Sister Act” in New York, so I was thrilled to see the production here. It was adorable and funny, with great pop-belted singing and 70’s funk. Plus, a lovely collection of character ladies and older women to play for me now and into the future! I also took a morning (I had it off from rehearsals) to visit the Royal Ontario Museum, which is very much like the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The ROM has a great collection of ancient Chinese ceramics, stuffed and mounted creatures, recreations in real scale of a number of plants and animals, skeletons of Dinosaurs and million-year-old mammals, plus a gallery of textiles and gorgeous dresses in a special “Textiles and Costumes” area. One beautiful section contained gems and minerals of the world, including a sheet of copper in its original form, and the gorgeous “Light of the Desert” Crussite Gem. I was excited to be able to see ancient Egyptian mummies, actual gold-leaf circlet crowns from Greece, armor and guns/swords from Europe, a piano from the Elizabethan era, and a fantastic collection of carvings, clothing, and beautiful beaded work from the Canadian First Peoples collection. My iPhone picture gallery and my head was full by the time I left 4 hours later. Here are a few shots I took:

The front of the older section of the ROM building; the entrance has a more modern flair.
ROUS’s exist!!!
(That’s a “Princess Bride” reference)
First Nations exhibition
This Chinese ceramic is of a Torture Demon
Pelt of a symbol of Canada, the Beaver. This one is none too happy.
Myself and Megalogaurus, the bigger brother to T-Rex, if you can believe it!

That was on Tuesday morning, November 6th, and by the end of rehearsal in the afternoon I was happy that I had spent the day distracted from my country’s Election Day. I had already sent in my vote via Absentee Ballot (for the first time!) and hunkered down with dinner and CNN on TV to watch the results unfold. In the later hours of the night, I began Skyping with my husband and as the “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report”‘s Live coverage began, he “watched” with me. Suffice it to say, and not to get too political, I was happy with the results, especially with the President, LGBT-equality laws, and the election of so many women to Representative roles.

Skype date for Election Night is going really well!
One of our thrills of the evening…we love Elizabeth Warren!

We have a week left, just a week, before we leave for Houston, TX, for our final training and a tiny Thanksgiving Holiday break. And then, two weeks from yesterday, we will embark on The Magic. We will “shadow” the current cast, tour the ship, get to know the rules and joys of what we have available to us, and I’ll take over completely the role of Vocal Captain. I’ve truly enjoyed the preparation of being the Vocal Captain – sitting in on rehearsals, hearing people’s unique voices and skills and how they morph into each role vocally. It’s been truly an honor to be privy to these rehearsals, which are usually closed to the rest of the cast.

Chinese fortune cookie opened this week. This happens almost every day. So lucky.

These next coming weeks look to be quite busy too, starting with yet another visit to the CN Tower this afternoon. More to come: O Noir Restaurant, “Jekyll & Hyde,” final rehearsals and final runs, and Thanksgiving in Houston!

Two Upcoming Marquee Five Performances – GO SEE!

Although I’ve been up in Toronto rehearsing with Disney, I left part of my heart with Marquee Five. My award-winning vocal group has plowed forward in my absence, adding female swing Lynsey Buckelew to keep the Alto line flowing, and the five of them are kicking butt in New York City this month! There are TWO opportunities to see Marquee Five in November, and I highly recommend you go see them, since the shows they are performing in are stellar entertainment events!

First: "They Write The Songs" November 18th

“MAC Presents They Write The Songs”: a night of music featuring some of New York's best songwriters
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Red Cross to aid the victims of Hurricane Sandy
The Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs is proud to announce a new annual show to be held each fall, called “MAC presents THEY WRITE THE SONGS.” The inaugural show will be held Sunday, November 18th at 4pm at Baruch College’s Engelman Recital Hall (Lexington Avenue at 25th Street). Each year, this show will present the work of selected songwriters, highlighting both those who are well-established, as well as those who are on the rise. Songs written by these outstanding songwriters will be performed throughout the show by singers who have previously either won or been nominated for MAC Awards, or in some cases, by the songwriters themselves. The songwriters selected for the inaugural show of this new annual series are Jeff Blumenkrantz, Barry Kleinbort, Johnny Rodgers, Mary Liz McNamara, Nate Buccieri and Scott Evan Davis.  The host for the evening will be Grammy award winning songwriter Julie Gold.  Nate Buccieri will be the musical director.
With performances by: Penny Fuller, Rebecca Luker, Karen Mason, Alysha Umphress, Liz Lark Brown, Marquee Five, Colleen McHugh, Lennie Watts, and Jonathan Whitton.
Sunday, November 18th, 4:00PM
Baruch Performing Arts Center
– Engleman Recital Hall
55 Lexington Avenue (at 25th Street)
Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 day of. Purchase them here.
After party reception: free for MAC members.

Non-members may attend the reception for $10 collected at the door.

THEN:Sondheim Unplugged” November 25th at the acclaimed 54 Below!

Join Marquee Five in our 54 Below debut! A celebrated New York event since 2010, the Bistro Award-winning series “Sondheim Unplugged” features some of Broadway and cabaret’s most dynamic voices, accompanied by piano only.
“Sondheim Unplugged”
Hosted by series creator Phil Geoffrey Bond with Musical Direction by Joshua Stephen Kartes
Sunday, November 25, 2012, 6:00pm (Doors open at 4:30 pm for 6:00 pm show)
54 Below – “Broadway’s Nightclub”
254 West 54th St, Cellar
New York, NY 10019
Near the 50th and 59th A/C stops
Cover charge: $20 – $30
Food & Beverage Minimum  $25
Tickets can be purchased online here (use code SONDHEIM for $10 off the cover price in the main dining room seating!)
With special guest Sarah Rice, Sweeney Todd’s original Johanna.
And featuring Jim Brochu, Stephanie d’Abruzzo, Darius de Haas, Hilary Cole, Marquee Five, Molly Pope, T. Oliver Reid, Julie Reyburn, and Lucia Spina!

A Week of Visits and Villanous Behavior

It has been quite a week – lots of joys, a lot of work, and a lot of heartbreak. My husband came to visit from New York, which was a great joy! During the days, I was heavily ensconced in rehearsals for “Villains Tonight,” which is probably my favorite of all the shows since it’s a huge number of Disney villains rolled into one…and I get to be the one with two arms and six legs. I can’t wait to play with that costume when I get on the ship. We did a few runs of “Villains” yesterday for the first time, and it’s quite solid already; hilarious, frightening, and a lot of fun.

Of course, this week in history will have the names “Sandy” and “Frankenstorm” forever associated with it. My husband was kept from flying back to New York for another two days, and we watched CNN and carved pumpkins on Monday the 29th as the storm hit New York and New Jersey. It may sound callous to carve a pumpkin while watching the waves creep onto my Manhattan island home, but it was actually a good thing to keep my hands busy, and I took out a lot of nervous energy onto the gourdes in front of me. The Canadian winds (which added to the overall strength of the storm) whipped around our building as we watched. I’m thankful our New York apartment is in high grounds, and that the person taking care of our cat was resourceful and responsible while we both were away. I watched Facebook and Twitter, seeing reports from my friends as their power went out (luckily no extreme tragedies) and then back on again. Pete took pictures during his journey back on Thursday, flying back into La Guardia Airport, and then on Friday walked around the city to capture eerie footage of 14th street in total dark. Check out his site to view these.

Sandy and “Baby” Sandy, the pumpkins inspired by Monday night’s storm. Note the pipe cleaners for “windblown” hair.

But we did have fun while he was here in Toronto! I took him around the Disney Rehearsal halls so he could see how I worked and how big the stage taped out on the floors were. We took the time to go to the CN Tower (had a great time at great heights, and he took pictures both with and without his zoom lense). We saw “Frankenweenie” in 3D, which I loved since it was like an old-fashioned Tim Burton movie and had a great message of why not to be an ignoramus. We also walked around Toronto a bit, got a friend a Hard Rock Cafe Toronto pin, and bought ice cream.

Pete & I standing on the “glass floor” portion of the CN Tower…it goes against every human instinct to stand on it, even though it’s perfectly safe.
Lying down on the glass floor and “falling” like a “Die Hard” villain!

On Wednesday, we rehearsed a full day then were released into the HALLOWEEN night! Halloween is my favorite holiday, and in the midst of being in a different country I had to think of something that would be cheap and that I wouldn’t have to lug back to the ‘states afterwards. So, I grabbed inspiration from an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and went as a sexy floor of a movie theater, or a “Cinematic Diva” as it eventually was called. It was fun – garbage bags sewn to a bra and a skirt taped together in a bustle, with candy wrappers/boxes and strings of popcorn, plus strategically placed cups and 3-D glasses from the “Frankenweenie” visit. I painted a film strip on my face, dolled my hair up, and had a blast. And in the end, the large Diet Coke at the movies was the most expensive item – the whole thing cost me $10! And I won “Most Creative” at the cast party’s costume contest that night. Was a bit sad to throw it away…

The front of the “Cinematic Diva” costume.
The back, with bustle.

We go into rehearsals for our fourth full show during these final weeks! I can’t believe that in a little over two weeks we will be traveling to Houston, TX to finish training, then heading out on the 24th to The Magic, which will be my new home for the following 1/2 a year. Surreal to think about, and I still have so much to see here in Toronto before I leave! More to come…

PS. Those who wish to read another Magic 29 castmember’s blog about her current experience can go to Let The Magic Begin by Alissa Wilsey. You can see a cast shot of all of us in costume at our Halloween party, a pic of the “Soup Party” we had on Friday, as well as her lovely “jar” art – I have a black and red one she made for me with imagery of trees on it. Talented in many ways, this lady!