The Avalon Theatre, in Easton, MD, is long established as the premier performance venue in these parts. With the recent addition of the Stoltz Listening Room, increased opportunity exists for both local/regional artists, and those whose audience is more targeted (for example, a solo pianist, who isn't George Winston, will very likely not draw the same number as the popular rock or country artist). Saturday December 11 could be bittersweet, with that beautiful grand piano on the main stage, but not bitter at all. Happy to bring my Roland along, and sweet to debut at the Avalon with my solo concert: "Spontaneous Joy". Can't wait!
An unexpected addition to this year's performance itinerary were concerts on the American Star (pictured), and the American Spirit, for American Cruise Lines. This summer, Chestertown, MD was added, on a trial basis, to one of the (many) itineraries ACL offers. The combination of my relationship to the Prince Theatre, and old fashioned good timing, gave me the opportunity to be part of the Chestertown experience for the new visitors. My part in this "experience" was just a piece of a much larger effort by the town planning and tourism officials to create a warm and compelling welcome for our guests. By all accounts, it was a thorough success. As for me, when Chestertown stops were completed, I was retained by ACL to perform at the Cambridge, MD port, where the touring season continued through last week. Now, the season closes on the northern destinations, as all the ship head south. The ACL schedule shuts down completely in Jan/Feb, after which the southern runs resume. In mid to late Spring, the ships again enter the Chesepeake Bay, and (by all accounts) I'll be back in the saddle. It's been a good run.
And now the Church Hill Theatre changes the subject. Our concert will be the first performance (for the public. Rehearsals are ongoing for the theatre's upcoming schedule) in the space after the Rocky Horror show (someone has to do it). "Happiness ... A Thing Called Jazz" will begin at 8pm on Saturday, November 13. We will perform (solo and trio) instrumental selections from my new CD of the same title, along with a wide variety of happy stuff, including beautiful vocals by Beth, and some fun surprises. Learn more in the News links of the Church Hill Theatre website.
...and now the dust settles. It was over a year ago that Steve Arnold shared with me the news that, once public, would be sure to rock the foundations of the local arts community: the Rocky Horror Show would be coming to the Church Hill stage (as the fall musical for 2010). As his musical director (for "Once On This Island" the year before, and "Trimuph of Love" in production at that time) he was excited to let me in on the scoop. Not sure that he was prepared for my response, though, which was, essentially, a blank stare. Other than the memory, as a teenager, of the marquis at the local movie theatre, suggesting that this was some kind of midnight gathering for creatures of another realm, I knew nothing. Perhaps a willful, and blissful ignorance. After recovering from the shock, Steve began explaining the plot, which didn't get much beyond the "sweet transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania" (because the plot, or what there is of it, isn't really the focus), before I began receiving my education on the Rocky "experience". Though I have participated in the arts as a (full time) performing musician from the time I could drive myself to gigs, it wasn't until my late 40's that I began making a connection to the theater. On top of this, my movie education, in general, is rather abysmal (guess I have never been able to sit still for very long). My "education" intensified as the news became public, and the "buzz" quickly grew into a roar. As all of this swirled around, I had to confront the reality that I was able to dodge for the prior 2 years: that my performing schedule could no longer accommodate carving out 3 consecutive weekends, especially in the middle of the fall. Undaunted, Steve made it clear that he wanted me involved in as much of the process of this production as I was able to accommodate. Piece by piece, the puzzle was assembled. I would participate in the audition and rehearsal process as vocal music director, then hand off musical responsibility to the instrumentalists who would perform the show. It couldn't have worked any better. Phillip Dutton became the vital link in all of this, as he stepped into the process in the final weeks of rehearsal. A fine pianist, sensitive musician, and a quick study, Phil (in a skillful way) navigated the ropes, and in just a few rehearsals, I (reluctantly) released the baton. In the final week, the locally based band, THC in the Sex Lounge, and go-to reed man Ron Demby joined Phil to provide an appropriately tasteful, and solid foundation from which the cast would launch, and create an experience unlike this region has ever experienced in live theater. I did not anticipate how difficult the "hand off" would be, as I wanted to continue to be there in support of the amazing contributions of our (amazingly talented) cast. At the final dress rehearsal, the night before opening, I sat myself in the middle of the theater (one of only 3 in the audience), knowing it would be my one opportunity to take this all in (prior to the midnight closing show, as my own performing conflicted with all the others). It was everything that Steve envisioned it would be, and more. The commitment of our cast and crew (moving and working as, essentially as single unit) was as deep as anything I've seen, and summons my sincere respect for everyone involved. Now, we move on, but with an indelible mark left on the local arts community, and most especially, I'm sure, on the cast and crew, who turned the dreaming into being. Click on the "In the News" link of the Church Hill Theatre website to read the review of the Rocky Horror Show.