Broadway takes to the Sea: Jamie McGonnigal

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Jamie McGonnigal took to the high seas with Rosie and R Family Cruises. Below are excerpts from his journal and his adventures on the Norwegian Dawn

DAY 1, Sunday, July 11, 2004

Arrived at the pier at 2:30 and proceeded to wait in several lines. With credentials in hand, we got on line to board with our friends Julia Murney, Gavin Creel and Jen Bender - shortly to be joined by Anika Larsen and Brian Nash. Looking at the talent surrounding me, I knew it would be a hell of an entertaining cruise.

So after a few more lines, we're on the boat. It's FREAKIN' HUGE! Several children and their gay and lesbian parents. I mean a LOT of kids. It's kind of exciting since I'm someone who's so interested in activism, to see so many 'non-traditional families.'

Before we departed NYC, we went through the 'Lifeboat Emergency Drill.' We all proceeded from our staterooms in huge, rather bulky, and always ridiculous-looking life jackets. I'm sorry, but NO one looks good in one of these. On the way to the lifeboat however, Mick and I are accosted, hugged and kissed by a small African-American woman who was THRILLED to see us! 'It's SO good to see you guys' you look WONDERFUL' This really ain't my crowd-- all these lesbians..HAHAHAHA'Get me the hell outta here.' It wasn't until we both noticed the smell of liquor on her that we realized neither one of us actually knew her and that the party had already begun!

We left the dock and started our journey down the Hudson, passing the Statue of Liberty (breathtaking) and then going under the VerrazzanoBridge. We quickly left the city behind and it was time to explore'

Taking in the vast ship, I bumped into some more pals, Billy Porter, Seth Rudetsky, and the ever-Scottish Euan Morton. I found SEVERAL hot tubs located on every other corner of the Norwegian Dawn. I could get used to this'

After dinner at the Garden Cafe', Mick and I were entertained by Jean Ann Ryan's BOLLYWOOD. The only traditional cruise entertainment we would be receiving here on the ship. It was cheesy as all get-out , (what you'd expect) but I must say, it was all rather impressive. The acrobatics and stunt/trick work was really top-notch ' it was kind of a Cirque do SoGay meets Bombay Dreams meets Moulin Rouge. Overall REALLY well-done.

After that, we stopped by the lounge area to hear Bobby Peaco and Jennifer Kruskamp. This girl is SO brilliant. I met her in January when I directed the Nightlife Awards at Town Hall. If anyone has the chance to EVER hear her, consider it a blessing that you live in NYC, where the greatest talent in the world can be heard for the price of a martini (or two).

I finished the evening in one of those hot tubs I had scouted in the front of the board earlier in the day. I just couldn't wait to gaze up at the stars - a sight you don't get to see in New York City that often. It was amazing to be surrounded by darkness, with nothing but the sound of the ship cutting the water. I would have stayed in there all night, but unfortunately we found out that the hot tubs close at 11pm. After leaving the deck, we headed back to the cabin and ordered up some room service before going to bed. Not a bad first day, at all. I'm looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings!

DAY 2 MONDAY, JULY 12, 2004

Today was VERY relaxing. We woke up late, and went to get some breakfast. The view from our balcony when we woke up was out of control. It was the first time I've been in the middle of the ocean and not been able to see any land around us.

I found the internet cafe', which allowed me to email some pictures and my Day 1 journal back to BroadwayWorld, for the discounted rate of $25 for 33 minutes. I also got to get online and read up the latest on the strike. All day part of me spent wondering how the BARE concert was going? By the time people read this, I am sure there will be message posts and pictures on the site. I'm sorry I had to miss the brilliant and incredible crew of performers for the first concert, but am glad I'll be back before the 2nd one. Kudos in advance to the lovely and talented Kristen Hanggi, not to mention producer Robert Diamond, ably assisted by Craig Brockman.

Mick and I went to spend some time in the hot tub towards the front of the ship, where we met a couple of boys from Connecticut. One was a teacher and the other a principal. And then a lesbian couple came and joined us and struck up a conversation about being parents very serious discussion for a hot tub on the bow of a ship heading into a storm, but more on that later. These women had two sons, brothers who were part of the foster care system for two years before they took them about 4 years ago. They were really excited about them. Their eyes lit up whenever they'd mention their kids. It just reminded me of all these moms and dads on this ship who are simply FILLED with joy that they are parents. This brought me to the decision that these are people who deserve to be parents. They WANT to have kids and in most or all of these cases, they worked very hard to get these children. And the kids are all the more fortunate to have two loving parents who have already proven they are willing to fight for them.

Tonight we went to ROSIE'S VARIETY HOUR which opened with a standard Rosie musical number where she was dragged around onstage by the chorus boys and watched their lips intently to repeat the lyrics. On anyone else, this would seem amateurish, but Rosie's charm somehow carries her through and it was great to see her onstage.

Her opening monologue was charming and very sincere, discussing how happy she was to be here with all sorts of families, and how thrilled she was to be bringing the talent she was bringing to the ship. The show featured Euan Morton, Seth Rudetsky (who later in the cruise will be doing his shows 'Deconstructing the Brady Bunch' and 'Rhapsody in Seth'), Liz McCartney sang 'Talk Amongst Yourselves' from TABOO, and finally, Super Diva Julia Murney performed 'All That Jazz' with a bevy of chorus boys dancing around her. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with her on CHILDREN OF EDEN. This girl is GIFTED.

Tomorrow we are landing in Port Canaveral, FL and Mick and I are heading to Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios. WOOHOO!!!


DAY 3

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. All I can say is WOW! After docking in Port Canaveral, we jumped a bus to Universal Studios, Orlando. Quick aside - heading toward the bus, who did we run into? A rather tired Euan Morton. Apparently he had lost the woman who was taking him to Disney World. No worries though because he must have found her because when I ran into him later that day he had donned a Minnie Mouse wedding veil.

These theme parks are infamous for their lines, and Islands of Adventure was no exception. There were definitely rides I was excited about, but I must admit that even the rides we thought would be a little lame were amazing! Poseidon's Fury was our first show/ride. The effects were fantastic and I found several things like the tunnel of flowing water, that I would like to have installed in my apartment. Other incredible rides included 'Dueling Dragons,' 'The Hulk,' and my personal favorite 'Spiderman.' SO cool.

After the adrenaline-filled day, it was back to the ship for dinner, the Coors Comedy Showcase and Liz McCartney's cabaret. The comedy showcase was apparently family-oriented tonight, saving their racier material for later in the week. Liz McCartney's show was fantastic she and Euan Morton lit up the stage of the Spinnaker Lounge, and might I add that Liz's baby girl is clearly one of the cutest little girls I have ever met. After Liz's show, Gavin, Darius and I went to get a late night snack and bumped into my friend Matt Stokes, who was in the 'Bollywood' show earlier in the week. So we all sat and chatted business-y things and had a lovely bite to eat.

DAY 4

KEY WEST. I woke up and stepped out onto our balcony and gazed upon the greenest water I have ever seen. After a pretty relaxing morning, there was some announcement about getting something called a 'Tender Ticket.' I probably should have paid attention to that because'

'A few hours later, we arrived, but looking out I realized we weren't at a port, yet the boat had stopped moving. 'How are we going to get to Key West?' I thought. I got to the lobby and saw several dozen people there waiting and talking about 'Tender Tickets.'

Apparently, you needed to go get a ticket to the Tender, which are the little boats that shuttles people back and forth from the Island. I'll have to remember that next cruise. I immediately went to go get a pair of tickets for Mick and I - #549 and 550

They began calling off the numbers printed on the Tender Tickets so you could board the Tender and head to the island. As you can imagine, it wasn't until 2 hours later that they got to 549 and 550. Ah well.

Stepping off the Tender, the first thing I noticed was how the people of Key West were extremely sweet. They handed us presents and beads and more stuff that we didn't have room for in our luggage. There was also a major theme going on. People were wearing shirts and giving out bumper stickers and even mosaics on the street that all said 'One Human Family.' No wonder they gave Rosie the Key to the City!

Those that have never been to Key West, let me tell you' one of the things it's known for is shopping. It also happens to be the Southernmost Point in the US, with some of the most beautiful foliage I'd ever seen. We walked about 45 minutes to this street fair they were having just for us. Passing the street fair, we were led to the Southernmost Point, where they have a big colorful buoy stating just that (and also that we were 90 Miles from Cuba.) Now I can swim to escape the oppression of the American government! WOOHOO!

Quick aside (I was just so amused by this I had to share). Each night when we got back to our room after dinner, there was always a funny little animal made from towels and holding our mints. Tonight's was the first I really couldn't figure out what it was. The first night was quite clearly a bunny and the second night, almost certainly was an alligator. Tonight it would have been an elephant because of the ears, but it didn't have any kind of trunk. I've included a picture maybe you can figure it out.

After dinner we headed towards the big Stardust Theater for Christine Ebersole and Billy Stritch. She put on a fantastic show complete with political banter and trumpet impressions. Rosie came on and warned us that once we reach the Bahamas, there would be some protesters and we should be prepared to smile and nod.

After Christine's show, I was conflicted. Do I go to the Making of Taboo Documentary or Rhapsody in Seth? I went to see if the Taboo Documentary would have another showing. The theatre was packed and they announced that another showing would happen on Saturday at 1! Decision made easy! I must confess I love Seth Rudetsky. He is an amazing musical director with an abundant talent for music. I was able to work with him when I produced the Snoopy Concert with Sutton Foster. I was so moved by his story and his work as a writer and director here, that for a moment I'd forgotten what an amazing musical director he was.

Following that, I stopped by the Spinnaker Lounge to hear the tail end of Bob Smith's comedy showcase. I've known who Bob Smith was for several years, in fact his book, 'Openly Bob' was the first book I ever purchased in a gay book shop. If you have the opportunity to see him do stand-up or read one of his books, I highly recommend it.

DAY 5

We spent the day today on the beach at Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. This is a privately-owned island, belonging to Norwegian Cruise lines. Many people went snorkeling while others explored the island or just sat and got tan.

After arriving back on the ship, we were greatly looking forward to a huge evening of entertainment! First off was Billy Porter. Billy sang accompanied by the lovely and enchanting Seth Rudetsky, who learned Billy's show in under a week! The performance was flawless. It was amazing to see so many showstoppers in a row and as each song came and went, I kept thinking 'How is he going to top that?' He sang an enchanting 'Last Midnight' from Into the Woods, and closed his set with an evocative, compelling 'Sunday' from Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. One of the many incredible things about Billy is that the warmth in his voice makes anyone listening, feel as if they are sitting in his living room, having a chat. It's rare that you get the opportunity to see someone as talented as Billy perform live.

Billy's show was followed by Seth Rudetsky's frighteningly obsessive 'Deconstructing the Brady Bunch.' Seth, as I've said before, is a fantastic entertainer. In this 60-minute display of affection for those four men living all together and the girls with hair of gold, like their mother, Seth manages to completely rip apart the Brady Bunch Variety Hour spin-off. The spin-off had only 6 episodes, but Seth managed to find plenty to say about each and every one, from Ann B Davis's incredible dancing ability to Mike Brady's lack thereof.

The final act of the evening had also been moved into the larger Starlight Theater, to accommodate the audience. Ms. Judy Gold, standup comedienne drew a screaming crowd to the room. I'm far from being a comic critic, but I have to say, it has been a while since I laughed till I cried. Judy was truly in her element - a gay cruise filled with 'fat lesbians and their kids.' She had performed earlier in the week as part of the Coors Comedy Showcase, but this evening allowed Judy to let down her hair a little (until she saw a 5-year old in the front row, which carried several more jokes through the evening). If you get the chance to see Judy in NYC, don't miss her - you won't be disappointed. I first met her at the 2004 Nightlife Awards, which I was directing. She caused quite a few jaws to drop that evening with her particular brand of humor. But I must admit, despite the legends that were there that evening, her taste and style brought a flavor to the awards show, which let everyone breathe a little easier.


The Boat!


Day 5 - Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas-While I sat on the beach and/or snorkeled, Mick did some sightseeing on the island...


Day 1-The Departure - The city is really quite beautiful when you gain some perspective.


Day 1 The Departure - Lady Liberty waves us on our way.


The pool and party deck on the Norwegian Dawn.


A view of the lobby from the glass elevator


The Starlight Theater -- Where all the larger performances played including Rosie's Variety Hour, Seth's Broadway Belters, Billy Porter and Christine Ebersole.


Jamie and Darius DeHaas take a moment to hug right before Billy Porter's big show.


Day 1 The Departure -- The Verazzano Bridge from a very different perspective.


Day 4 Key West -- Mick likes the foliage so we thought we'd share one of the amazing beauties of Key West, FL.


An abandoned home in Key West that Jamie wants to purchase and turn into a summer cottage.


Jamie at The Southernmost Point in the Continental USA (Jamie stood a few feet away and cropped out the girl on the other side of this monument, so he wouldn't have to stand in a long line to have his picture taken with a big metal dingy).


Jamie with his snorkel gear...but for some reason, he's wearing it while in his beach chair and not actually IN the water. We don't ask questions...


Jamie with one of the many unidentifiable towel pets left on the state room bed when the room was made up for the evening.


Day 1- The Departure, Another very interesting view of the Verazzano Bridge as we waved goodbye to NYC.


Day 4 Key West -- The street fair welcoming Rosie, Kelli and the guests of RFamily Vacations' cruise.


Day 5 - Great Stirrup Cay -- This one's a stingray...while snorkeling on Great Stirrup Cay, we saw quite a few stingrays swimming around with us...little scary.


Mick and Pianist/Singer Brian Nash who entertained us regularly at Gatsby's Lounge...and is also known for playing Sunday nights at The Duplex..he's great-check him out!


Day 6 Nassau, Bahamas -- This is the marketplace where Jamie had his rather unforgettable experience. We took this picture when we first arrived there, earlier in the day.


Day 6 Nassau, Bahamas -- This is one of the beautiful pink buildings in Nassau.


Day 6 Nassau, Bahamas -- Some young men sell Jamie a conch shell in Nassau.


Day 4 Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas This is another picture from Mick's excursion on the island owned privately by Norwegian Cruiselines.

 

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