BWW Blog: Eric Ulloa of Goodspeed's THE MOST HAPPY FELLA - The Bitch of Living
Okay, yes the title is a bit dramatic, but allow me to paint you a picture that may prove a worthy defense of this choice.
Opening Night. The magic, the energy, the champagne toast after curtain call and a catered meal/ open bar.
Full open bar.
After a lengthy preview period (three weeks) we finally opened The Most Happy Fella up here at Goodspeed (which you know from my last entry, but I'm feeling redundant this morning). The show was fantastic and the audience was with us from the start, as you could feel their energy spilling over the footlights. After the show, the producers had a champagne toast awaiting us and Donna Lynn Hilton gave a beautiful and heartfelt speech that left most of our glasses with a few salty tears in them. Next, it was off to the party where we dined on an array of appetizers and had whatever one wanted at the open bar. I repeat, open bar. We laughed, we ate, we drank our double Makers Mark on the rocks, celebrating opening a show that we are all so truly proud of. Eventually the crowd began to dissipate and in a haze of good cheer everyone went home to bed, knowing they could sleep in and be lazy all day till their 7pm call. Everyone except the handful of us who had understudy rehearsal the next day.
My name is Eric Ulloa and I am an understudy (Hi, Eric). I understudy the role of Joe, Tony's foreman and Rosabella's antagonist. Joe has some of the most beautiful music in this show and gets to sing one of the best baritone ballads ever, "Joey, Joey, Joey," which was also the first song Frank Loesser wrote for this show. So, who wouldn't be thrilled to get to sing all of these classic songs and live in the world of the "Don't Cry" scene and the power it has? This also marks the first time I understudy a role and so I came to this a complete novice who was curious as to how it all worked. Was I to learn everything from watching Doug (who plays Joe) and write down the blocking? Do I go home and learn all the music before my music rehearsal so that I am ready? Are we to be off book by the first rehearsal? Well kids, the answer to all the above is a definitive YES! So now let's layer that into the morning and how I was running around my apartment like a crazy person begging my roommate Noah to run lines with me while he made breakfast. Followed by me in my bedroom singing the full score to my dog and making sure I knew all the words (he barked with approval for my "Joey, Joey, Joey" but thought my "Don't Cry" needed work)
The morning naturally flew by faster than I had ever hoped it would and off we went to our first rehearsal.
Rachel Rhodes-Devey, Elizabeth Berg and Sabrina Marlene
Like my former college self, I had last minute crammed for my final and was ready to get it over with. It's amazing what the mind subconsciously contains, as the more we just walked through the blocking, the more I already knew what to do and what my lines were. I was going to ace this final...well, perhaps a solid "B+".
During the first blocking rehearsal, our stage manager Brad will take you through your show, moment to moment, and will play ALL the roles that you work opposite of. This is extremely helpful for spacing and helpful for character, as Brad is 100% committed and a great scene partner. If you are not familiar with the show, Joe has some very passionate romantic moments (I'll leave it at that) and let me tell you that I thought for sure Brad would break into laughter during this part of rehearsal...nope...not even a glimmer of a smile. (Brad= 1, Eric = -20) My rehearsal came to a close and I went home to look over all the material before that night's show because we had a "put together" rehearsal with the full understudy cast the next day.
Noah Aberlin and Stage Manager Brad Spachman as "Tony"
I was once one of those people who would groan when I saw the "At this performance..." slip fall out of my Playbill, knowing I was going to see the understudy and not the performer that all the reviews raved about. Time and continual theatre going showed me that understudies are always pretty damn fantastic and in some cases even better than the performer they cover.
You can leave all cynicism at the door when you come and see us, for in the unlikely case that an understudy is on, I can assure you that everyone is really quite wonderful. The voices are stellar. The acting chops are there. And everyone has their own unique take which made watching the understudy rehearsal such an unexpected joy. Trust me, none of us want that call at half hour saying, "You're on," but should the need arise, there are a handful of actors that are rehearsed and ready to go.
So perhaps my title should be amended. Maybe "The Bitch of Living after an opening party where you enjoyed two too many Manhattans, talked too much and wanted nothing more than a Golden Girls marathon and a warm couch to lay on all day," which is actually the original title that was subsequently trimmed during "Spring Awakening's" previews in New York.
Enjoy the rest of the week readers!