BroadwayWorld Coverage: My Big Gay Summer Family Vacation
So I spent the week before the cruise playing catch up and sending out press releases for the FLOPZ Concert, as well as the title announcement press release for the World AIDS Day Concert of The Secret Garden. While playing catch up, I spent DAYS on the phone. At one point, I spoke with Steve Marzullo (a brilliant new composer) about some of his work and a possible future concert of it. We decided to go have lunch soon but not next week, because he was going to be out of town on the Rosie Cruise. Then I spoke with Capathia Jenkins about performing in the FLOPZ Concert she couldn't do it, but we also decided we needed to hang out sometime but no time soon, because she was performing on the Rosie Cruise we had a moment of excited tittering and I explained to her that being on the Rosie Cruise was like a high school drama queen's wet dream. I mean really stuck on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic with Liz Callaway, Rosie O'Donnell, Gavin Creel, Cyndi Lauper and a hundred other Broadway stars. What could possibly be more am-ah-zing (as R Family Music Director, Seth Rudetsky would say)?
And now here I am, packed and ready to go The boat will be departing in just a few hours.
The ship is huge, somehow even larger than I remember it from last year, and the check-in was instant. Everything went smoothly and once on the boat, I was greeted by a dazzling smile and a hug from the lady in charge, Kelli O'Donnell. Kelli had been instant messaging me everyday this week making sure I was as excited as she was And I was. Apparently there are 500 more passengers than there were last year, a true testament to the brilliant job Kelli, Gregg Kominski and Rosie did with last year's triumph.
Me and Superwoman Kelli O'Donnell
The entertainment began right away as we passed by Lady Liberty, the stunning Brooke Elliot (Wicked National Tour) sang the hell out of "New York, New York." I, for one, am ALWAYS happy to start out a week-long cruise with some Kander & Ebb.
The evening performance was none other than the Dragapella show, "The Kinsey Sicks." This is a show which ran rather successfully Off-Broadway last year and to high acclaim. Their well-scripted jabs at the current administration as well as some extremely clever parodies earned some highly-deserved guffaws and by the end of the performance, they had clearly won over the audience with a standing ovation.
Tony-Nominated Taboo Costume Designer Bobby Pearce
At the end of the night, I found myself in the Spinnaker Lounge, which had apparently been taken over by Don't Tell Mama's At Sea. With the brilliant Bobby Peaco on the piano, the uber-talented Anne Steele, Stephanie Harwood and the incredible Jennifer Kruskamp (who make up the girl group, "Tipping with Velvet") were close to wrapping up a set of some major sangin'. Their harmonies were tight on a number of tunes including an entire ABBA Medley (watch out Mamma Mia!) and they delivered on every note. A fantastic end to a beautiful first few hours at sea.
Where else but on a big gay boat do you wake up, only to work out in the ship fitness center with Darius DeHaas, Mario Cantone, Playbill.com's Andrew Gans, Gavin Creel and Liz Callaway? Brilliant.
Today there is an abundance of entertainment, including Rosie's Variety Hour, (which promises to be pretty fantastic) and the one-and-only Gavin Creel performing with his writing partner Robbie Roth. We're certain to hear a few of the same songs we heard in their sold-out BroadwayWorld Joe's Pub appearance from last year. But, before then, time for some sun and canceling out the morning workout with the "Chocolate Lover's Buffet." Woohoo!
The entertainment tonight was unreal!
Gavin Creel blended his silky voice with his poignant songwriting for a perfect set, along with partner Robbie Roth. The two appeared (as stated earlier) in BroadwayWorld's Front and Center concert last August at Joe's Pub. And good news for Gavin fans, he'll be recording his CD which will be wrapping up in mid-September-so keep an eye out! If this set was any indication of how phenomenal the CD will be, we can only pray that Broadway doesn't lose Gavin to MTV soon. His songwriting is very intelligent and his storytelling makes it clear that his background is in musical theatre. Songs such as "These Four Walls," and "Friday Saturday Sunday" were definite highlights, not to mention a cover of Joanie Mitchell's "A Case of You" and Robbie Roth's vocal electric guitar. Gavin is one of a small handful of performers who is able to embrace his audience and truly let them in. Always a pleasure.
Then came Rosie's Variety Hour. The show began with a can-can, featuring Rosie and the r family dancers followed quickly by Ro telling it like it is with a great stand up set. There is no master of ceremonies like her. She loves being on the stage and her magnetic personality flies all the way to the back row. She was even heard at the start of the show to say and I quote, "I love BroadwayWorld!" A swell shout-out confirming her visits-so Hello Rosie!
The show got off to a kick with John Tartaglia, Leo Daignault and Jennifer Barnhart making a splash with Avenue Q's "If You Were Gay," and we then got some sneak previews of other upcoming events. Esera Tuaolo, the first openly gay NFL football player continued the Broadway theme with an astounding "There's a Light" from Hairspray. The r family team then brought us back a few years (joined by Leo Daigneault and John Tartaglia) with the title song from Marlo Thomas' Free To Be, You And Me. Then came r family Music Director Seth Rudetsky in a touch of Deconstructing Seth, showing us what happens when a young man listens to far too many original cast albums. Then, wrapping things up beautifully were the astounding vocal acrobatics of Orfeh and Anika Larsen on Saturday Night Fever's "Blame it on the Nights on Broadway."
Jennifer and Mom Barnhart
For some late night entertainment, a bunch of us stuck around to catch "Mortification Theatre," which was similar to Seth Rudetsky's "Deconstructing Seth," except now he was joined by the incomparable Jack Plotnick. Jack is known for his film work (Gods & Monsters, Girls Will Be Girls, Meet the Fockers) and can be heard as the voice of Xander on Comedy Central's Drawn Together. We traveled back in time along with Seth and Jack to see just what made them what they are today. Essentially, they bravely told completely inappropriate stories about their families and childhoods as the audience snickered and laughed. Some call this therapy, others call it a brilliant short evening of some of the funniest theatre they my ever see. It was clear from the audience's response that several of these stories may have hit close to home.
Okay, off to bed-tomorrow we arrive in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Night!
Hot duck sex in Nova Scotia
What a fantastic day! A brilliant day in Halifax, Nova Scotia, (where I was able to buy some lovely accoutrements for my kilt) and hung out all day with the handsome and talented Jeff Hemingway (from the cast of the ill-fated Good Vibrations). I have yet to hear him sing, as I missed the Beach Boys extravaganza, but I can't wait to hear him in "Seth's Broadway Belters" on Saturday. The evening's entertainment began with a stand-up comedy showcase hosted by the incomparable Judy Gold. Judy hosted last year's embrace! Concert for the Matthew Shepard Foundation and I was thrilled to have the chance to work with her then. She continues to make me pee myself a little with her hilarious stand-up. Tonight she was joined by Jason Dudey (whose jokes about his last name alone, could clearly have kept me laughing for a few hours), and Poppy Champlain, hands-down, one of the funniest lesbians I've ever met.
Good Vibrations' Jeff Hemingway
The true highlight of the evening though, was inarguably Darius DeHaas in "Wonder," a celebration of Stevie Wonder's astounding music and lyrics. Without a doubt, there is not a singer in New York like Darius. If you have never seen him perform live, shame on you. His gift is not just in his chilling vocal acrobatics, but in the warmth and emotion in which he wraps every captivating note. Opening with Stevie's "Ribbon in the Sky," he had the audience in his deep embrace and he never let go. I am not a reviewer, nor can I ever claim to be one, but when you meet Darius in person, he at first appears meek and full of humility. When he is onstage, he is thrilling, and jaw-droppingly sexy, a transformation that astounds and delights me at the same time. Although this is about Darius, I cannot fail to mention his "backup singers." I say "backup singers" in quotes, because although that's the role they take, Ms. Aysha DeHaas (Darius' sister) and the stunning Capathia Jenkins (both from the cast of Broadway's Caroline, or Change) can hardly be deemed "backup singers." Both have individual moments to shine and never fail in their generosity to let Darius keep the spotlight. Due to the rather strict scheduling on the ship, the on-their-feet audience stood and cheered for nearly five minutes before Darius came back out and sadly announced there was no time for an encore. But what an evening!
To top it all off, we all went up to the 12th floor Spinnaker lounge for dancing. Capathia, Darius, Aysha, Jeff, Jesse Vargas, Kate Pazakis, Anika Larsen and all their friends broke it down to George Michael's "Freedom," while the Duplex's brilliant Brian Nash stripped the grand piano of it's cover and joined in, bringing the evening to a rousing climax. A definite highlight of the cruise thus far.
Kate Pazakis and me dancin up a storm
Apparently I will be giving a tour of Boston to several of the kids in the morning, so time for some shut-eye.
What a relaxing day I had intended on being a tour guide around the lovely city of Boston for the day for some new and old friends from the boat. It turned out everyone decided to sit by the pool for the day, I decided to join in. This is what vacation is all about.
Gavin takes a break from the sun to smile for the camera
Not much to say about the musical theatre portion of the entertainment this evening but it was one of the most fantastic evenings I have ever had in a theatre. The incomparable Cyndi Lauper took the boat by storm. Cyndi has become vastly known throughout the gay community as a friend and supporter for most of her career. Having a lesbian sister, Cyndi quickly became a straight ally, becoming a champion for several organizations, including New York's own Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
As a very young man, I saw Cyndi open for Tina Turner she was several months pregnant and sang mostly acoustic material. She was magnificent, and her poignant songwriting quickly became apparent. As I watched her tonight, making her way through songs such as "Money Changes Everything," "She Bop," "Time After Time," and the haunting anthem which the gay community has adopted as their own, "True Colors," Cyndi sang without abandon. Her passion was unbridled and her voice has not changed since the 80's when I first fell in love with her. The range in which she sings, starts low and ends in the clouds and speaking of clouds a new song (which one can only pray will end up on her new album) is titled "Above the Clouds." It's a soothing lullaby of a song written for a friend initially, but easily accessible for this community, and in particular, her own young son.
Brian Nash Sweatin and Singin in Gatsby's Lounge
Following the entertainment highlight of the cruise, we made our way down to Gatsby's lounge, where the Duplex's Brian Nash was hosting/accompanying. He quickly invited "The Sexless Years'" Kate Pazakis to sing the hell out of Footloose's "I Need a Hero," and then her own parody of Wicked's "Defying Gravity." Kate is one who is always certain to impress.
Next stop, Provincetown.
The Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown, MA.
Marathon day spent the day in Provincetown. It was GORGEOUS out, and I got to wander the whole town with the lovely and talented Donna Drake (from the original cast of A Chorus Line and 10 other Broadway musicals). I escorted Donna to see the Provincetown Theatre, where she will be directing a production of NEWSical at the end of the summer. I quickly discovered that my friend Stacia Fernandez (Swing, Tom Sawyer), was starring in a new Dusty Springfield musical there. I went to the box office to drop her a note and who's behind the window? My old friend Joe Guglielmo whom I'd known through friends while I was in college-odd coincidences. Then Donna needed to use a bathroom and all the bars said "Restroom is for patrons only." I decided I'd buy a quick drink while she used the loo. In the first bar that we went into, the handsome bartender asked me if I want a drink-sure enough, it was Mike, a man whom I'd worked with in Boston's Shubert Theatre while Rent was playing there. I love coincidences, whether I believe in them or not! Tonight, we have a lot to look forward to; first at 7, we have former NFL superstar, Esera Tuaolo in concert, followed by the incomparable Liz Callaway, John Tartaglia's AD-Liberty, and finally the brilliantly funny Judy Gold. And if that's not enough, Gavin Creel and Robbie Roth will be doing a midnight concert on the roof of the ship!!! I need a nap.
Footballer Esera Tuaolo with husband Mitchell and son and daughter Mitchell and Michelle pause for ice cream on a fantastic day in Provincetown
The Fabulous Donna Drake poses for a shot
Seth, Jack, Seth's Mom and Michael Warwick catch the sights of P-Town
What a night! It started with NFL great, Esera Tuaolo singing his heart out and telling his story in the Stardust Theatre. With golden vocal chords, Esera maneuvered his way through about ten numbers for the enthusiastic crowd. My favorite was his chilling rendition of "I Can See Clearly Now..." Whenever he would dance and recall the traditions of his native Samoa, I was utterly captivated. It's always amazing to see someone speak of something they are passionate about. And when Esera smiles, the whole room lights up and you can't help but want to hug him. I was also asked to be Esera's casting director. He needed 5 hot young men to appear in one of his numbers about fantasies. SO I asked 3 friends that were with me-Chris Heider, Jason Zimmerman and Denton Tarver. They were all THRILLED to be a part of it (as you can tell on Chris' face) and then I went looking all over the ship for two more hot young guys (NOT AN EASY TASK ON THIS BOAT). I managed to enlist two of the ship's dancers, Roman and Dan (both from Hungary...grrrrrr). They all did a fantastic job, and one could tell they were all very happy with the results!
Next up, the legendary Liz Callaway singing some of her favorite songs of the 60's in the Spinnaker Lounge. Liz shared several songs from her album (including the title track) "And the Beat Goes On " Along with brilliant music director and accompanist Steve Marzullo, Liz navigated her way through pop, rock and even a couple showtunes from her favorite era. "You Don't Own Me," put her captivated audience right where they needed to be-in the palm of her hand while her thoughtful "Leavin' on a Jet Plane," left a smile on everyone's face. A simply haunting arrangement of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" was a personal favorite of mine - blending the simplicity of the lyric with her ever-clear and present tone gave this song the poignancy the song deserves. As she wrapped up her set, Rosie rushed the stage and invited Liz to sing a few more songs, at which she took some requests-luckily Seth Rudetsky was in the audience, as it turned out several of us (despite the inappropriateness of this song in the set) really wanted to hear her sing Stephen Schwartz's "Meadowlark," (which Liz sang in BroadwayWorld's own Standing Ovations 2 Concert last year). She was stunning as she maneuvered her way through the last-minute request.
Unlikely couple, out NFL Player Esera Tuaolo and Capathia Jenkins
Then it was on to the extravaganza known as John Tartaglia's AD-Liberty. While it was difficult to find a seat (as Mario Cantone had stolen the one saved for me), I was thrilled to finally see the show after all the great buzz Johnny generated from his run at Joe's Pub. I had directed his more intimate Ars Nova show, so I know full-well the talent this boy has -- in spades. If ever there was a venue for Johnny's big gay showcase, this big gay boat was it. As I'm sure many would agree, the show's strongest moments lie in the over-camped, over-glittered, and simply overstated moments. When his cast of "Johnettes" are all onstage (with the assistance of Jamie Harris' simple yet brilliantly fun choreography), the audience can't get enough. Kudos to the uber-talented music director, Mark Hartman - his arrangements are great and his playing is unrivaled in the city.
And, finally, to wrap up the evening (as Gavin and Robbie's extra show was cancelled due to inclement weather), we had the hilarious Judy Gold. Having seen her several times now, I heard a lot of the same material that I'd heard before. The difference though between Judy and any other comic that I've ever seen perform live is - I don't care. I could easily hear this woman tell me the same joke a dozen times in a row and I'll find it funnier each time. She is just one of the best in the business and I was so thrilled to have shared another cruise with her this year. To put it simply, she makes me pee.
Comedienne Judy Gold in line at the Garden Cafe buffet
Spent a lovely day on Martha's Vineyard. Several of us rented bicycles and rode over to a beach a few miles from where our boat was docked. Then some fun in the sand ensued while John Tartaglia (ably-assisted by Chicago's Denton Tarver) made a whale out of sand (along with the whale's backup-dancing turtle and dolphin).
Jason Zimmerman flops his tail in Martha's Vineyard
Johnny T rides his sand-whale Sally
Aisha and Capathia at it again...
A few more souvenir shops and a sunburn later, we were back on boat for a few more shows. The simply thrilling Orfeh rocked the Spinnaker Lounge with her vocal acrobatics. Accompanied by Bare's Music Director, Jesse Vargas, Orfeh made her way through some of her favorites including none other than a cover of Britney Speare's "Oops I Did It Again." It's always entertaining to hear a real rock singer do a song like this. Orfeh's interpretation added the tongue-in-cheek required to really make this song work. She managed to beautifully maneuver through several rock tunes (many of which I don't know the titles to as I listen to cast recordings primarily-sue me). She then wrapped things up with a phenomenal rendition of Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart."
My Mommy was in TABOO, can YOU guess who she is?
Finally this evening, Rosie hosted a screening of "All Aboard," an HBO Documentary filmed on last year's r family cruise. Broadway fans will have lots to be excited in the film, But most importantly, seeing the movie tends to put this whole experience in perspective for me.
Last year's cruise, for so many, was about finding a safe place. The documentary is a testimonial do what a brilliant , life-altering experience this event is.
Actress Sharon Gless, (who hosted a Q & A on Showtime's Queer as Folk) with one of the many families featured in HBO's ALL ABOARD Documentary
While I am anxious to get back to the city and get work done on some of my upcoming concerts, I am sad to see this week coming to an end. While I've had a great time seeing the best entertainment I could possibly ask for and hanging out with some of my best friends, I have also enjoyed being in Brigadoon for this week. It's a magical place that appears, makes your wishes come true, and then disappears the difference here is-it doesn't take 100 years for it to return. ell-we've even got a Scottish Cruise Director!
Overall a nice laid back day taking in the final sights of the boat. Some friends and I went to watch the ALL ABOARD film again and it affected me even more the second time.
The evening's entertainment somehow miraculously managed to top all that had occurred the rest of the week.
Seth's Broadway Belters hosted by none other than the somehow-still-standing Rosie had the audience on its feet for a good 2/3 of the evening. From selections from The Actor's Fund Hair Concert (including Gavin's superb "Goin' Down" and Darius' sensual "White Boys"), to a Anika Larsen and Aisha DeHaas on Rent's "Take Me, or Leave Me," the evening continued to amaze.
The two highpoints clearly were Liz Callaway's thrilling "The Story Goes On," (the song which carried her to instant Broadway fame) and newcomer Ledisi. Ledisi was introduced by Rosie as Seth's newest discovery singing "You Make Me Feel " the audience was clearly in shock. Had I been closer to the stage, she would have been hit by both my sandals. After the number, the audience refused to let the show go on until she came back to do another number. She followed with a stunning "God Bless The Child," appeasing the belt-thirsty crowd. The belting portion of the concert finished (or so we thought) with Darius, Orfeh, Gavin and the whole cast rockin' out to Hair's "Let The Sunshine In."
Darius de Haas and Theatermania's Michael Portantiere
Quickly following the Belter's concert was a movie collage (by Rosie) of some of the best photos taken on board all week. We relived some great memories, looking at stirring pictures accompanied by what we'd assumed was a pre-recorded guitar track. Then as the collage continued, it seemed more and more like we were listening to something live happening behind the screen we could make out a lyric here and there as well. Then, as the collage came to a close, the movie screen lifted and revealed none other than rock superstar, Melissa Etheridge on her acoustic guitar. The crowd was on its feet and somehow this mass of people that had shared this incredible week had been overcome by that teenage fandom that you come to find only at NSYNC and Britney Spears concerts. Melissa opened a set with her hit "Lucky," and continued with "Come To My Window," and another great tune (which I don't know the name of because I spend far too much time listening to show tunes). She ended the evening, and thus the entertainment portion of the cruise with a cover of Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart." Unreal.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS...
Over the course of the past week, I have met dozens of people with hundreds of stories. For one week, we swam, we slept, we ate, we woke and we dreamed of what might someday be. Someday our children will live in a world like the one on this ship; a world where a parent is a parent, and where love is love. It breaks my heart to think that these children will be going back into a world that isn't as safe and welcoming as this but now...now they'll be armed with the most valuable weapon they could have against the hate and fear they face the hope and vision required to actively transform this world into whatever they wish it to be.
Rosie, Kelli and their youngest daughter, Vivi
Thanks Kelli, Gregg, Rosie and the whole r family team for making so many people's dreams come true, for sharing your vision of the world with the 2000 people on this boat - and for being living examples of what we can all someday be.