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BWW Blog: Eric Ulloa of Goodspeed's THE MOST HAPPY FELLA - Family

Well hello there, my name is Eric Ulloa (pronounced oo- yo- ah), and I am in the cast of Goodspeed's upcoming revival of The Most Happy Fella. I am also your blogger for these next several weeks to give you an inside scoop on the cast, production, backstage happenings and what I'm calling, "tell 'em all you can without getting a train ticket home."

Before we get started though, a few rules of what to expect from these upcoming blogs:

  1. Most every picture will have an Instagram retouch, because let's face it, life looks more glamorous with a filter and color wash.
  2. If you have any specific questions that you want answered in the next blog, you can contact me at my website (shameless plug), again that's (God, I'm pathetic), and I will be more than happy to answer it as soon as possible.
  3. Every blog will be titled after a song from the musical theatre canon. Guess the song and...well...good for you.
  4. The views in this blog are solely mine and do not reflect the views of Goodspeed, East Haddam or the Greater Connecticut Area. I do hope to work here again or at least drive through this state sometime in the future.

For those of you that have never been up here, there is something very magical about the moment you're driving along the Connecticut River and just as the trees start to clear, you see this majestic jewel of an opera house gleaming across the water. I think this was the moment that it set in that I would be spending the rest of the year at the renowned Goodspeed Opera House performing in a revival of a masterpiece.

The first few days, as always, are a whirlwind of names, faces, sheet music and just adjusting to the fact that this will be your new home for some time. The people up here couldn't be kinder and made us feel welcome from the first moment we walked into the building. We are a very fortunate cast in that we have Dave and Lucille Viola as our show sponsors, or as I will call them from here on out, my newly adopted grandparents who spoil me. After our first rehearsal, Grandma Lucille and Grandpa Dave thought it'd be a nice idea to host a dinner for their Grandson Eric and his friends in the show at the Gelston House Restaurant. (I know, I know...indulge me)

It was a wonderful way for this cast to bond and get to know one another over a delicious culinary triumph of a meal (free dinner, Gelston House?). Grandpa Dave and Grandma Lucille instantly won their way into my heart with this kind and generous gesture and the fact that on the way out they said, "Keep drinking, it's on us!" And they say grandparents don't know their grandchildren...

Back in the studio, we were plugging away and by day 2 had learned the entire score, and those of you familiar with the show know what an amazing feat that really is.

Two words, Op- era. Every part of one's range is used and as cast mate Seth Danner calls it, we are "screlting." That's right, Screaming + Belting.

Rob Ruggiero, Parker Esse and Michael O' Flaherty (Director, Choreographer and Music Director respectively) are the dream team steering the ship towards Opening Night and in this actors opinion, masterful storytellers who make the material even that much more beautiful. Costume fittings were had (they're amazing), sets were looked at (stunning) and this 31 year old singing actor was forced to dance like a 22 year old girl fresh out of CCM at her first dance call.

As any actor performing at a regional theatre knows, casts make this incredible bond within 48 hours and become a makeshift family. Packing your bags and heading out for a long contract is tough, as we say goodbye to our friends and family and reassemble ourselves in cast housing in foreign towns and cities. This cast thus far, is shaping up to be a great "family" and people you really do want to be around. So much so that we all packed into our cars and headed up the road to the Chester Fair. Now, I have been to carnivals back in my hometown of South Florida, but those consisted of nauseating rides, roasted corn, deep fried everything and impossible to win games with crappy dirty stuffed animals. All of this was to be found at the Chester Fair, but I soon learned the difference between the words "carnival" and "fair"...livestock. Yes, Old MacDonald had a farm and on his farm he had 50 varieties of every animal (I'm looking at you weird llama chicken straight out of Star Wars). There were pigs, there were cows, there were goats, there were chickens, there were roosters, there were sheep and there were rabbits. I took a particular liking to the rabbits looking at me with their big brown eyes through their metal cages, and the handler was not impressed when I started singing "In the arms of the angel," in my best Sarah McLaughlin impersonation.

We moved on to the main attraction, and sole reason for us going to the fair in the first place, pig swimming races...yes you heard that correctly. Not only was this everything and more than we hoped for - one of them cannon-balled into the pool...yes, a pig! - but our "Most Happy Fella" Bill Nolte picked the winner of the race and earned himself a blue ribbon.

With nauseous bellies full of fried EVERYTHING, equilibriums rebuilding themselves after riding rides built by sadists and the knowledge that a cantaloupe is also called a muskmelon, we headed home an even stronger unit.

Saturday may have been the biggest treat yet, as Jo Sullivan Loesser (The original "Rosabella" and Frank Loesser's widow) came to pay us a visit and sit in on rehearsal. We performed a big chunk of Act One (yeah, we already finished Act One) and watched as she beamed with smiles and broke into tears. Our director Rob asked if she would indulge us and allow the three chefs in the show to sing to her as if she was Rosabella again. She agreed of course and allowed us to have this magical moment and laugh as she slipped right back into character.

(Martín Solá, Greg Roderick and Daniel Berryman serenade Jo Sullivan Loesser)

She then allowed us to ask questions and regaled us in stories of the Golden Age of musical theatre, talking about her good friends Barbara Cook and Lotte Lenya and Bea Arthur. I sat misty-eyed, dreaming of her taking a tour of the house and lanai before sitting down to cheesecake with Bea, Rue, Estelle and Betty.

So, there's the foundation. We are in full gear and driving forward into Act Two as you're reading this. It's easy to be blinded about a show you're performing in and if it's going to be good or not. I can honestly say with this first week as proof, that this is going to be a tremendous revival and a massive artistic triumph for Goodspeed. This cast and creative team, my home away from home "family", are just that damn good.

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