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

Last installment, I left you with word of a surprise this week that I wouldn't tell you until today. Never in a million years did I think the week would end up the way it has and that I would have so so so so much to bring you...but alas, I do.

So let's start at the very beginning because it's a very good place to start.


Matthew Amira, Eloise Kropp and Danny Lindgren

Kevin Vortmann, who plays "Herman", has had the week off dealing with a personal family matter and so last week we prepped his understudy Danny Lindgren to go on and prepped the male swing, Matthew Amira, to fill in for Danny's track. Superstars Brad Spachman (our PSM) and Eloise Kropp (dance captain) got them both ready and seamlessly inserted into a cast that had been performing their same roles since August, and after Friday's "put in" rehearsal, they were both ready and going to be wonderful.

The weekend soared by, the days off back in NYC went even faster and I found myself driving back Wednesday morning looking forward to a quiet week. I even said to my car mates, "It's going to be so nice to have a relaxing week. No rehearsals. No early morning press calls. No theme parties. Just sleep, and the shows."

...I have only myself to blame.

Wednesday's matinee went off without a hitch. Danny couldn't be more charming as "Herman" and sang all the (very high) songs beautifully and danced the hell out of "Big D." Matthew blended into the show as if he had been there since day one and landed every moment/move asked of him. This was the perfect example of how it is supposed to be when someone has to call out of the show and we were all so very proud.

The evening show began and we started to notice that something vocally wasn't right with Bill Nolte, our "Tony", as notes that usually soar out of him were coming out strained and hoarse. We knew he was battling a head cold, but it now seemed that the cold had made its way down to his vocal chords. There is nothing more terrifying (and I know this feeling personally) than being onstage and unsure is your voice will hold up for a performance. The entire show is a blur of fear and you are just praying that at least some on pitch sound comes out of you, so you can bow, go home and stop singing.

The time does come though where you know that you just cannot continue or you will simply do more damage...and so came the announcement at intermission, "Ladies and Gentlemen, due to illness, the role of Tony Esposito played by Bill Nolte, will now be played by John Payonk."

Welcome to Live Theatre kids!


John Payonk

The word "impressed" only cheapens the performance and confidence that John Payonk exuded as he stepped into the role with 15 MINUTES (I repeat, 15 MINUTES!!!!) notice with only the words, "Where are my understudy costumes."

The audience coming in that night had no idea the ride they were about to embark on and by the end of the show were up on their feet cheering John's work and professionalism.

This is theatre. This is why you do it. This is a lesson for all of us to learn from.

I went home excited and exhausted from what had transpired that evening and ready for bed knowing tomorrow all would be (somewhat) back to normal.

Like Miley Cyrus on the VMA's, what was I thinking?!?

Bill would definitely be out the next day still battling this cold and we had never gone through act one without Bill...as in, even MORE understudies would be on...as in, I would now be opening the show as the cashier (the understudy part I always kind of forgot about as I concentrated on my "Joe" material)

Thank God for put-in rehearsals because for both shows this past Thursday, I was on as the "cashier", James Zannelli was on as the "postman", John Payonk was on as "Tony", Danny Lindgren was on as "Herman", Matthew Amira was on as "Jake" and Daniel Berryman was taking on all the set changes that were left without anyone to cover as we moved things around.

Confused? You should be.

Yet as I said before, this cast is truly something remarkable and if you came in not knowing anything, you would NEVER have known that there were 5 understudies on. Payonk only grew more nuanced, Zannelli was great, Danny and Matt continued to impress, Daniel filled in the gaps seamlessly and my cashier was a 'revelation in storytelling' - (from "The Eric Ulloa Times")


Daniel Berryman, Eric Ulloa, Matthew Amira, Danny Lingren, John Payonk and James Zannelli

What have I learned from all of this? Keep your damn trap shut and never mention how lovely it will be to have a nice relaxing week.

What can you take from this? If you're coming to see us this weekend, we can all use a round of shots...stat!


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Eric Ulloa is thrilled to check “Goodspeed” off the life goal list. Eric has performed at North Shore Music Theatre, Signature Theatre, Fulton Opera House, (read more...)