Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween has always been my favorite day of the year. One of my first shows was on Halloween night. Harry Anderson and I used to take over the Comedy Magic Club in Los Angeles and produce a Halloween spectacular each year. Those shows featuring the “Bubonic Players” are now legendary. We once “produced” a haunted house that was so good David Copperfield flew in just to see it. He was most impressed by the demonstration of Lycanthrope. With a special moonlight-emitting flashlight, anyone shining that light on a severed head could watch it change into a Werewolf before their very eyes. It is an original illusion Harry and I created. I expect to see it in a Copperfield show someday.

It could have been just another evening tonight. A Halloween performance, but not the themed show or Halloween Haunt I am used to doing. Not to say I will ever forget the night I performed on Broadway for Halloween.

It quickly changed when the silent partner of the team of Penn and Teller turned up in the audience. I am a huge fan of Teller’s work and he came backstage to take pictures and sign my guest book. It became a Penn and Teller routine when we could not get the camera to work. We tried five times, each person in the room taking their turn to try and fix the problem, we would strike our best pose, but the camera let us down every time. Teller actually spoke and said, “I am beginning to think I have no soul”.

We finally gave up. I suggested it would be quicker to get a Times Square sketch artist to do a pencil drawing. As he was leaving one of the ushers offered up her camera, we posed again, but it would not work either.

Finally Linda and Abby saved us with their cameras. We finally got the picture. It was a thrill and a gift that I will always remember, one of the most famous magicians of our time, coming to see my show on Halloween? Wow. He signed my book with these words, “If I ever talk I want you to do my voice.”

Thanks Teller you made this Halloween even more special, and once more I am indebted to the Helen Hayes house staff. You all are the very best, every night. Thank you, Thank you.

Waiting outside was Jo and Richard. They are friends and fans of Scott Bacula, and were at the benefit performance at Los Angeles Hamilton High School three years ago when the team of Kreppel, Cross and Johnson began. It was great to have that circle completed. Fans and friends who support this show are a continually blessing. Thank you for your tireless efforts to spread the word about The Two and Only.

On a musical note, the monkey song tonight was supposed to be the theme from the “Munsters” television show. Darwin was a little over ambitious in his rendition and some how it turned into the “Baby Elephant Walk.” Joe and the Wiz guessed right away. They probably would have gotten the Musters theme as well, but chalk a loss up for the monkey. I am not sure how a baby elephant relates to Halloween, but you have to play the game as it goes. Good guessing crew.
As you were,

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The community of Broadway actors is very small. It is an exclusive club that requires dues paid in years of dedication to your chosen art. Because it is such a small family, tonight was very special.

I had never seen Avenue Q before tonight. Given my art form you would think I would have seen it many, many times. But, I was always performing my show at the same time and never had a chance to see it. Because we start our last Sunday night show earlier than Q, tonight was the night. With two minutes to spare Murphy, Paul and I ran over to the Golden Theater after we finished our show.

Avenue Q is everything you have heard it is, a Tony Award winning musical that is clever, funny, charming and unique. The show was wonderful, but it was more than just another exciting evening of theater. After five years of performing with the show both here and in Las Vegas, Rick Lyons is leaving. I got to see his last performance tonight.

Rick Lyons is the master puppeteer for Avenue Q. He designed and made all the puppets and has been performing in the show since it began in workshops. He is my friend. We met many years ago in an airport waiting for baggage. I wrote about Rick in this blog when he came to see my show a week or so ago.

My eyes never left him when he was on stage. Whether he was performing as Nicky, Trekkie Monster, the Bad Idea Bears or others, the life he created with each puppet was totally real to me. Everyone on stage is a great actor, but to be a "puppet actor" is a skill for which Rick is uniquely qualified. Perhaps it is also a skill that I am also uniquely qualified to understand and fully appreciate.

At the end, Rick gave a tearful curtain speech to the cast and crew to say goodbye. I wasn’t expecting that. I’m not sure I have gotten over it yet. He ended his heartfelt thanks by looking at Nicky, the puppet, on his arm and said, “I will miss you the most.”

Rick, you are a good friend. I will miss knowing that you are just around the corner entertaining the crowds. To us puppeteer’s on Broadway there is one less light on the Great White way. Best wishes, you and Tonya enjoy your time off. I’m richer for having seen you perform.
As you were,

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Wiz report for Saturday

It was a very different, surreal day for me today. As you may have heard (or read) I will be taking the day off tomorrow for a personal obligation. In preparation for this, I have been training Alternate Wiz. Now, for the first time on the East Coast (including Cambridge), I am not calling the shots. It's very difficult to give this repsonsibility to someone else, no matter how excellent and talented that person is. I feel a very deep personal connection to this show and it's tough to let someone else be a part of that. During the matinee I was backstage with alternate Wiz, making sure that he feels comfortable. It will be the last time he can ask questions, and we chat during our quieter moments to make sure all is going well.

The evening show was the most surreal. I was able to sit in the audience and just watch and laugh. I have only done this a few times - all of them in Los Angeles when another stage manager was in charge. But here, in NYC, I've never been able to do that. It's quite an experience. I could hear everything the audience was saying, watch what they were doing, and be a true part of them. I've seen this show many, many times and I have not laughed (or cried) like I did tonight with all of you.

Perhaps one of the funniest moments was during the Bob routine when Jay needed to clear his throat. Bob stops and says "if you don't clear your throat, I'm out of work." So Jay takes a drink of water and then drops the bottle of water on the stage. He picks it up (not an easy task with Bob at the end of his arm) and all the time I'm sending telepathic messages. I send those messages during the show and Jay always seems to get them. He surely got this one. Meanwhile, we're all laughing and Bob asks a little girl in the front row (who was laughing at everything) "Have you ever seen those Chuckie Movies?" So we all laugh, and just as I think we're going to get back into the routine as written (silly me), Bob says "Don't step in that (water) you'll electrocute yourself". Now we're in hysterics again. My head hurts from laughing so hard.

Tonight's monkey song? Definitley NOT the song from "The WIZard of Oz" as I thought, but "Teddy Bear's Picnic". We use "Teddy Bear's Picnic" several times in the show. I've heard it hundred of times and still, still I cannot get it right. Jay thought it was a dead give away, and laughed when I got it wrong. Don't worry Mr. Johnson - I'll text message my guesses in tomorrow, and I darned well better win!

Until the next one (on Tuesday)
Tonight I am standing at the subway on the corner of 8th and 44th saying goodbye to the Wiz. Wiz has a personal obligation that must be attended tomorrow and alternate Wiz will be running the shows. We have known about this since we started the show. It is a good thing, but it will be strange doing a show in New York without the Wiz calling the shots.

There is a delicate dance in this show between the Stage Manager and Me. Lighting cues, and sound cues happen on certain words and movements. The Wiz keeps Joe (on the lights) and Bobby (on the sound) ready for anything. The Wiz can sense the cue even when I say something I have never said before that moment.

Once the show begins, the Wiz is my only connection to the stage and we have to communicate without saying a word. It is a psychic connection. No one knows the amount of work it takes just to listen to what I am saying and keep the show moving technically.. If it works right it is seamless and no one is ever aware, except me. I don’t take the talents of the Wiz for granted.

So it is not without concern that I am saying bye to the Wiz at the subway stop, not thinking of much except how I will get through two shows tomorrow. As we are going over the last details, a man comes up behind me, grabs me and says,

“Don’t move buddy, just give it up”. He has a grip on me that I won’t be able to break. He grabbed me so tightly I can tell he is wearing a bullet -proof vest, and there is a gun in his waistband. This only happens in the movies. I wait for him to release me so I can hand over my wallet and cash.

That is when the man starts laughing. It is Officer Don, my friend, the beat cop of 44th Street.

“Happy Halloween!” he tells me. He is off on vacation next week and won’t be able to give me a scare on October 31st. I will remember that long after Halloween.
As you were,

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Wiz report for Friday. (Not really it's me... Jay)
The Wiz is not blogging tonight. So I will be bringing you the show report. I will write in third person so you won’t get confused.

It was a fabulous show, funny, touching and introspective, the crowd could not get enough. The applause alone took up 30 minutes of the evening. The Helen Hayes record for longest sustained laughter was broken tonight by a joke from Darwin, seventeen minutes and thirty-two seconds of sustained laughter. The previous record of sixteen minutes and thirty-five seconds was held by Golda’s Balcony.

The audience was mesmerized when Bob joined Squeaky in an impromptu break dance /tap challenge in the middle of the stage.

The patrons were equally divided as to who actually won the contest. For my money Squeaky’s style was so reminiscent of Gregory Hines’ “Sophisticated Ladies” tap solo he should have been the clear winner.

There was talk in the audience of suspending the Tony’s next year and just dedicating the television time to James Lipton talking to Jay Johnson about his technique of duet acting on the Broadway stage. Jay is not sure if he can do it since he is planning on being honored at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Jay will be taking some afternoons off next week to help fix the “Jersey Boys” script, which could really use a little ventriloquism to liven it up. The guy playing Rudy/Frankie Valli moves his lips.

The monkey song was “Good Ship Lollipop”. Although Joe said it sounded more like the “Bull Shit lollipop” Oh yeah? Well one of your blue gels is faded, Mr. Beck.

Tonight the much anticipated “show buttons” arrived. Our fabulous ushers will be handing them out for future audiences to wear. There are five versions. . One says, “Broadway IS for Dummies”, another, “Help stamp out Ventilophobia” another, “Find Your voice and Throw it” and two for the grown ups, “Got Wood?” and “Ventriloquists do it with there lips shut”.

You really don’t know what you miss if you don’t see the show every night.
Until the next Juan,
The Whiz
(Tonight the part of the Whiz was played by Jay Johnson)


Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Wiz report for Thursday

What a fun night I had tonight. "Alternate Wiz" was with me for the show, watching just one more time to make sure he's all ready for Sunday when I am out. It's great to have him there. We have our little moments and laugh even more.

I have a couple of things tonight. First, Spaulding. My dear Spaulding decided to defy most laws of physics and rolled right off the stage again. Not sure how, not sure why, not sure if he'll do it again tomorrow. I think he likes to keep us on our toes.

Once it's time to start the show, I check in with sound to make sure that he's ready. Tonight I said "Hi friend of Gary, Lewis, and Bob" - all names that he has been called since his return a few days ago. We chuckle and guess at what the puppets may say tonight. We were all wrong - Nethernore went for "Bobby" while Darwin called him "the missing link". I guess that's a "science joke".

We had a rousing game of "name that monkey song". Just before we started the show, I gave Jay the category of "1970's tv theme songs". So the game starts and in my best stage whisper (or not) I'm shouting "Dick Van Dyke". Joe says "no, it's Green Acres" and alternate Wiz was trying to re-sing what Darwin had done. Joe won. It was "Green Acres" followed by a little bit of "Can Can". I lost again, but I am not giving up!

Not many people can say they love their job as much as I do!
Until the next one,
Sometimes you just feel like Damon Runyon when you walk the streets of New York.......

So it’s after my show and I say goodbye to my west coast pal Sonny who has come back stage to give me a toss, and I head next door to John’s for a quick one. One turns into three or so as I am shootin’ the breeze with Trixie and Pinky. They have hooked up with a couple of actor types and the show biz stories are flyin’, and I don’t mean somewhat. Over a garlic and pepperoni pizza we solve all the dramatic problems of a new show called “Tough Titty”. Pinky has done this show and knows all about it. You see it is not so important that an actor just do a show, you have to deconstruct it every waking minute you are not on stage. Beer and pizza are a must when doing this kind of work.

Pinky collects the toll for the evening and I say goodbye to my thespian friends. I leave John’s and I am feeling good as I walk past the front of my theater.

That’s when I hear a voice say, “Hey, what are you doin’ on the streets, you finished your show hours ago.” I did, there’s no denying that. We start at seven o’clock and with no intermission we can be well into the third or forth round before them other shows have even solved the crisis of the first act.

This voice I hear is coming from Officer Don. He is the beat cop from Midtown south and he is in charge of keeping 44th street civil. Now Officer Don is conferring with Shorty, who is the beat cop for 45th. I am introduced to Shorty with a firm handshake, and a fine “how do you do.”

Now these are two regular guys who are charged with keeping theater patrons out of the traffic. Not an easy job by any means. I start to confer with the two of them. I always like to keep on the good side of the law. Especially when I have seen burly Officer Don move a loaded semi-trailer truck with his bare hands just because it was blocking his 44th Street.

We determine that we all have kids, and how we gonna keep them safe in this modern day. Shorty offeres that his boys are small and not blonde like Officer Don’s tall girls. He allows that if his wife had given birth to a tall blonde he might be looking for Officer Don with his service revolver drawn. It is none of my concern since I don’t even know Shorty’s wife.

About this time the rest of the shows let out. The streets are crowded with tourists that don’t know when to cross the street. Officer Don gets back to work with Shorty in tow.
I have to get home and do my bloggin’. I give them a “see you tomorrow, come see my show”. Just another night on Broadway.
As your were,
Damon Runyon

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

This blog goes out to Matthew, my young friend, first row center of the audience tonight. For those of you who weren’t there, Matthew is eight years old and a ventriloquist. A good friend once told me, “I don’t have to see someone perform to know immediately if they are good.” Although I don’t think that is a rule every time, I know what he meant. Some times you just know, there is something that one artist senses about another. Matthew I felt that from you tonight. Thanks for coming to my show and thanks for staying around for the talk back. SQUEAKY enjoyed answering your question.

Here is my real advice to you, find your passion, learn all you can about it and follow where it leads. No matter what you end up doing your passion will make you a success.

There is only one secret to ventriloquism, or any other art. Practice. Fall in love with practice. If you are a performer fall in love with rehearsals. I promise you will spend more time rehearsing than you will performing, if you do it right. A person once asked a famous artist how long it took him to paint a picture. He said, “At least one hundred thousand strokes of the brush”. He counted every time he put a brush to canvas over his lifetime.

A shout out to Mr. S. Thank you for believing and thank you for the virtual hug. I am very blessed by your participation in this journey. It is an exciting ride and enjoyed more when shared with people like you.

And to Susan. You are an angel. The room lights up when you enter. The world is a better place because you are in it. Thank you for coming to my talk back. You have no idea how grateful we are to have your support.
As your were,
The Wiz report for Wednesday

The past two performances have been terrific - lots of laughter throughout. We've even gotten some very long rounds of applause where we haven't really gotten them before. Every audience sees things just a little differently.

After almost two weeks our sound engineer, Bob, is back. He has been on vacation. During his time away, we had a sound man named Gary. They are both terrific. As I learned from Jay, the letter "B" is a plosive consonant. Plosive consonants cause you to move your lips - so ventriloquists will avoid them like the plague. In the show, both Nethernore and Darwin call to the sound man, using his name. They generally start with "Hey (insert name here), give me that..." Prior to Bob's vacation, both Nethernore and Darwin would call Bob by his name. It never seemed to matter, as we know that Jay can say B words (as he does during the Bob routine). However, now that Bob is back, we're aware that he has a B name. I'm not sure what changed over the course of the past two weeks. Yesterday he was referred to as "friend of Gary". Tonight, he was actually given two names. Nethernore called him "Lewis" (Bob gave Jay permission for that - we're not sure what it means) and Darwin called him "Bob". We're having a lot of figuring out who is who and exactly how many people are running sound on any given night.

Speaking of sounds - the monkey song was either made up or not remembered. Either way, I don't have an answer for you. Maybe I'll win tomorrow, but I doubt it.

Until the next one,

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

There is nothing like a little rest. I love to come back on Tuesdays. My voice is ready and I never have to think about placement, the boys are always in good voice with a lot of energy. The audience was especially good tonight. What a great time we had together.

There is a grate in the middle of Times Square where 7th crosses Broadway. It is in the middle of the street, a little triangular island of concrete and metal. Traffic goes flying by on three sides. It vents something, I don’t know what, a subway, an electrical unit, whatever. It is an airway to the bowels of New York City. It emits a low tone like the biggest pipe in a pipe organ. It is constant and somewhat spooky to me. You don’t really hear it unless you are on top of that island. I like to stand there and just listen every chance I get. It truly is the city humming a lullaby to itself.

Tonight Murphy and Paul walked with me part of the way home. We stopped at that spot and just listened. Before long we were humming the same tone to ourselves. There was just something about the energy of the sound and the pace of Times Square that was magical. The weather was brisk and cool, but we just stood there listening and humming the tone. Then we harmonized with it, and it became the mantra of a monks chant in the greatest temple in the world.

Paul then said, “Look where we are.” It was a panorama of the “Great White Way” and there we were, on Broadway. We just left our theater and were about to go our separate ways. However, not before we connected with George M and every other actor, dancer, musician, singer, writer, producer and ventriloquist who ever had a dream to perform in a Broadway theater. It was overwhelming.

There is just something about New York. It lives, it breathes and tonight it kissed us on the cheek and said, “welcome”.
Thank you New York.
As you were,
Almost forty years ago, Art Sieving told me to do the “best show you can every time” and “you’ll do alright”. I think I have been caught up in the error that this advice isn’t enough. I have been tricked into believing that there is something else I am not doing.

A good friend told me months ago that this show was a spiritual journey for me. Perhaps that is what I am trying to understand. I am just an old modern day necromancer plying the art. The spiritual roots of ventriloquism still run deep. Perhaps this is what drew me to this unique form of entertainment to begin with.

It dawned on me today that I can’t do anything more to make this show a financial hit. I continue to do the interviews and promos that are given me to do. The Two and Only is the second best rated show just behind Jersey Boys in the New York Times reader poll. We have the best PR firm, the best advertising firm, the best marketing firm and the most generous and enthusiastic producers ever assembled. My directors are angels as close to me as family. My own family has loaned me to New York theater in spite of the burdens it causes them, because they believe like everyone else on this dream team.

I will always do the best show and the best interview I can do every time. That is the only power I have. I can’t make people come to the theater. I can’t make them choose my show over the others that are across the street. But I also don’t believe there is a limited number of people per night and we have to take audience from anyone else to sell out. Good gifts come with batteries included, we don’t have to steal the batteries from another show to run.

I can’t decide to do my best shows only for the sold out audience. Everyone who comes is here for a reason I have no control over. They will be affected by the show in the way that they need at the moment. All I can do is be there for the people who have chosen this night to attend.

So Rosie O’Donnell, I want you to come and see my show, not for what you can do for the show, but for what the show can do for you. That goes for anyone else who has not seen the show. I have a whole cast of imaginary (read spiritual) characters here waiting for you. Don’t come to see me or my show, come to see a mirror of your own spirit and your own passions.
As you were,
I guess I never realized that Broadway is a constant promotion. Doing the show is about the easiest thing to this venture. Last night, on my night off I was at Bloomingdales entertaining the “shoppers elite”. It wasn’t the best of conditions, but I think I got the prime location. My stage was in the fur coat section. It reminded me of my trade show days, grabbing a crowd from a moving target. However, I was delighted and actually shocked at the number of people who came to see me do my bit. They had a lot of talent through out the evening and the crowd seemed to ebb and flow as something would catch their attention. Thanks Amanda for being there and helping me through it. You know how much we appreciate your work for "The Two and Only".

I was hoping to get to hang out with some of the other cast members of the other shows. That is one of the fun perks of being on Broadway. However, there were several stages and the talent was spread out over the evening, so I didn’t really get to hang with my peers much as I wanted. I did meet Amy and her 8 year old daughter August in the make shift green room. It was actually a storeroom off a fitting area. Amy has been in “I love you, you’re perfect, now change” at the Westside Theater for six years. It was really nice to meet them.

I asked Rick Lyons from Avenue Q if the pace of promotions/ interviews every slowed. Avenue Q has been a hit now for a couple of years, you might think by now they could coast. He said it never stops and never slows. I’m not complaining, just becoming educated.

For most of the day off I am a waste of space. I am so tired after the long week and 5 show weekend it really takes 24 hours to even get the batteries to start charging again.

Of course if I have too much time away from the theater I start to obsess on the business of show business. How can we sell more tickets, get more people in the door, start paying back the producers debt? Where is our tipping-point? How long can we stay at the Hayes? Then I go into overwhelm. I am so glad that the actual experience of doing this show is so wonderful, because the bi-polar nature of the rest of the experience is daunting.

Tonight I will get to do my show again and all will be fine. The best promotion is just to do the best performance I can every time. More later TAO readers.
As you were,

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The weekends go so fast, I can't tell one show from the next. Tonight I did not play fair during the Monkey song game. Darwin sang, “That’s a Plenty”. It is a song everyone knows the tune to but no one knows the name. Okay, so who said the game had to be fair?

I sometimes forget what show friends tell me they are coming. I know they think I am daffy when I look at them with surprise when I am supposed to know when they are coming.

On Satruday night two gentleman were late to see the show. They were seated in the first row after I had done most of my first bit. (I think that is the actual time they seat late comers). Well, never before have two people been so late when their seats were directly in front of the stage. The entire audience saw them coming in and sitting. For some reason I reverted back to my comedy club days and threw them a stock line. I said, “Are you guys okay? Can we get you something… like a watch maybe?” It was only after the show that I realize d this was my ventriloquist friend Mark Merchant and the brother of another friend Ian Finkle. They were great about it and apologized for being late, but I was the one offering apologizes. Sorry guys, I stocked you.

I can’t tell you how much I love this theater. The people who work there are the best in the world. The ushers are wonderful. They let me hang in the lobby or in Linda’s “office” to shoot the breeze before the show. It is so pleasant to come to work. I even found out that Linda is a Texas landowner. How great is that.

The Wiz and I have a ritual every night. The way it works is this: Allen the house manager is in charge of the theater until he turns it over to the production stage manager. At that moment the production becomes the responsibility of the Wiz. When the Wiz gets the theater we give each other a “high ten”. Just before I take my place I say, “Good show gentlemen” to Joe the electrician and Doug the carpenter. Tonight the reply was “holy shit” as if they were totally unaware there was a show to do. Of course that is BS because they are always ready at the five-minute call. It made me laugh out loud. When we had a substitute sound man Joe made the introduction. I said hello and Joe said, “Speak up he is very hard of hearing.” How can you call this work? This is why we all went into the theater, because it was supposed to be fun. How lucky am I to get to be here. I am not sure what deity I have to thank but whom ever he or she is… Thank you.
As you were,

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Wiz report for Saturday

We had a terrific matinee today. The audience was energized and we had the time of our lives. In fact, I'm still laughing.

I usually don't write until after the second show on a two-show day, but after our great matinee, I just couldn't control myself. This posting also requires a little back story - - When I did the show both at the Atlantic and in Cambridge, I was able to call the show from a position located in the front of the house so that I could see the show from the same view as the audience. I loved that position. It allowed me to be in close proximity to the audience, enabling me to see and hear the show exactly as the audience does. I always felt a great connection to the audience from there. It's a little different at the Hayes. Here I am calling the show from backstage and have to look at it either from a monitor or "live" from the side of the stage. It's a position that I have had to get used to. Now that I'm used to it, I love it. I have a little less of a sense of the audience but a much greater connection to Jay while he is onstage. In fact, during the Squeaky scene we are no more than 6 feet or so away from each other. Over the past two days, Jay and I have had a slight difference in opinion as to the audience reaction for Nethernore's "How do you know when something is dead? There's a lull in the conversation". Today we get to that part in the show and it gets a very nice laugh. I'm looking at the stage live and suddenly see Jay and Nethernore swing around and give me the look of death! I thought for sure that I would be Nethernore's next meal. So what do I do? Laugh, of course. So we're coming up on the end of the routine and Nethernore starts to talk about the fact that he is a student at Cornell University. Last night, Nethernore said that he was a student at both Cornell and NYU. Jay and I were discussing that today. So we're at that moment in the show today and Nethernore says that he's a student at Cornell and then adds "and sometimes NYU" and once again he swings around to give me the look of death. I am defintely his next meal. But I have to say, I've never felt more connected to an actor during the course of a performance. It is one of the great things about doing a one person show. We support each other out there and do the dance together. It's a wonderful thing to be such a part of.

And the monkey song...from "Carmen". We all got it, though Joe the electrician had to tell me it was from Carmen. At least I could sing the song!

Until the next one,
Sometimes you need to step back and look at your life in third person. That is usually called counting your blessings. I need a calculator to count my blessings these days. Just getting to do my show at the Helen Hayes is a blessing that continues to count. Every night is different as the show grows. It is never the same experience so it is like opening night every time. The fact that this experience is happening on Broadway is a fairy tale addition .

Two nights ago Lucie Arnaz comes to see my show. She comes back stage to sign my guest book and I end up having drinks after the show with her Sandi, Murphy and Paul. It is great fun. I love Lucie, and I am sure she has never heard that before.

Lucie sent an email blast to all in her address book telling them to come and see my show. Thank you Lucie. You are the best.

The next night Dan Costellano came back stage after the show. I am a huge fan of Dan. It is not often Homer Simpson himself comes to see you. Not to mention, Barney, Krusty and all the other people that inhabit his creativity. Later that night as I was walking home I saw Joan Rivers coming out of a show. I spoke to her briefly and then said, “See you tomorrow”. It was the next morning we were doing the radio interview. That is when it dawns on me, did I have drinks with Lucie Arnaz, hang with Homer Simpson and say “See you tomorrow”to Joan Rivers?

All of this happened in the same week. Rosie I am getting closer.
As you were,

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Wiz report for Friday

What an amazing audience! We all (me too!) laughed from beginning to end. The energy in that theatre is indescribable. I've never felt anything like that.

Usually at this point in the report I would tell you about a few interesting moments from the show. But I have to do this a little backwards tonight. You'll see why. Once I get home at the end of the night I get myself a snack, start writing the performance report, and watch Letterman. I've been watching Letterman for as long as I can remember. I watched (and recorded) every episode while he was promoting Ventriloquist Week. So I am sitting at my desk writing the performance report and watching Letterman. It's a repeat of a show that was promoting Ventriloquist Week. Dave is telling Paul that Jay and Darwin will be on. There is some discussion between them about the fact that it used to be "Jay and Bob" and now it's "Jay and Darwin" - and what happened to Bob? So I continue writing the report and I turn back to the tv just in time to hear Dave say that they found out what happened to Bob...he's given it up to become a writer. OK, I've seen ALL of these shows and I do not remember this from the first time around. I had never seen this part before. Huh! So I turn back to my computer and the very next sentence I type is: "Bob said 'You got an idea? Isn't that a revolutionary thing?'" Well there you have it - Bob just may have a second career as a writer - or maybe a re-writer.

Both Bob and Darwin had me in stitches tonight. They were both just hysterical. The monkey song was not a known song - it was something that they made up. We can't count those little jazz riffs in the scoring so no one wins tonight.

Until the next one,
It is early and I am off to talk to Joan Rivers on WOR. I was up late last night with dear friends from Dallas, reliving the days of Charlie's Place. That was a club in Fort Worth, Texas where we, Sandi and I, perfromed for a couple of years of our career.
It is a long story and probably deserves its own show some day. However, not to slack off on the responsibility of the blog, there is a clip on the website under things of interest, Me and Darwin on Late Night with David Letterman. It was quite a night. I hope you enjoy.
As you were,

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Wiz report for Thursday

We had an amazingly responsive audience tonight. I learned afterwards that there were several younger children as well as some younger people who had never been to the theatre before. I can't think of a better show to see for your first theatrical experience. For me, there isn't another one as funny, warm, touching, moving, and honest as this one. I hope you enjoyed your first evening of theatre - and I hope you've gotten bitten by the theatre "bug". We certainly loved having you here.

In honor of the Mets game tonight, we suspended the game of "name that monkey song". Instead, Jay took a special request to do "Take Me Out To The Ballgame". So on the one day I can actually name the song, the game is suspended. Just my luck!

What a great night!
Until the next one,

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The monkey song tonight was “Sherry”. Okay I think everyone scored on that one. I have been singing Frankie Valli songs all day. I went to see a matinee of “Jersey Boys” before my show tonight. The tickets are impossible to get but they were great seats procured by our company manager Scott as an opening night gift. It is a great show and no matter what you have heard about it you won’t be disappointed when you see it. It deserves every honor it has gotten. I can’t wait until our tickets are as hard to get.

Rick Lyons came to my show and talk back tonight. Rick is one of the stars of Avenue Q and creator of the Q puppets. We have been friends since we met years ago waiting for luggage at an Airport. He brought Trekie monster back stage and we took pictures. I became a little kid again seeing the wonderful craftsmanship of his puppet creations.
Thanks Rick and Tonya. I am so glad you came to see my show and stayed for the talk back. I swear we are going to have that dinner and talk puppets when we have the time.

Okay so here is a secret. I like to listen to the crowd as they come into the theater. I discovered a door off a backstage hall way that actually opens onto the lobby next to the box office. If I stand behind the closed door I can listen to people as they pick up their tickets. Although I have told myself I can predict what kind of crowd it will be by the chatter before hand, in reality it is impossible to draw a correlation. My hope still springs eternal that someday I will be able to predict the reactions.

So I have taken my position at the door trying to prove my theory when suddenly Dave comes out of the Box office. He doesn’t expect to see me and I don’t expect to see him. We both think we have seen a ghost. I am embarrassed and he is startled. The Wiz is passing through the wings down the hall and witnesses the entire thing so I cannot pretend it didn’t happen. Sorry Dave, I will find a new way to do my research.

Tonight was another talk back and I was asked a question I have never before been asked.
“When you dream do you dream of having puppets with you?” Interesting. The answer is no, but I do dream that I am separated from the cases that the puppets are in and I am trying to get to them. I must have that dream several times a month. One lady said later that this is an anxiety dream. No kidding… try being a ventriloquist on Broadway trying to make it in the this star driven, musical comedy franchise market.

Rosie O’Donnell, I am still stalking you. You will become the champion of our show. But don’t wait too long before Oprah beats you to it.
As you were,
The Wiz report for Wednesday

To quote Darwin "What a crowd! Hot dang what a night!" What a fun night we had this evening. I've done nearly 200 performances of this show and I could hear laughter and responses where we've never gotten it before. Thank you, audience, for making this a fun, unique experience.

FINALLY we won "name that monkey song". I was all ready for a tv theme song, but Jay went to see the matinee of "Jersey Boys" today, so I guessed that maybe it would be a Frankie Valli song. I was right! "Sherry" was the song of the night.

In case anyone hasn't heard, we are doing "talkbacks" after the show on Wednesday night. These are always a lot of fun. It's great to hear the audiences questions and their responses to the show. If you haven't been to one of the talkbacks, I suggest you go. They are great fun and Jay always has some amazing stories to tell.

Until the next one,
I don’t know how we can play the “monkey song game” when I can’t remember what the song is. I was pretty sure tonight it was “Take me out to the Ball Game”, but no one seems to agree on what they heard. I realize now I have to prepare for this game a little more than I have been. New York plays for keeps.

It was a rainy day and the crowd was a little water logged tonight. Joan Rivers was there, seeing the show for a second time. She has always been very nice to me, as we have crossed paths over the years. I am doing WOR radio on Friday morning with Joan. I really appreciate her giving me the time.

My next project is to get Rosie O’Donell to see the show. I connected with her at the opening night of Elaine Stritch’s act a month ago. She said she would come with her kids. She hasn’t made it yet. She will. I just think this is the kind of show that she can get behind. So Rosie if you are reading this, come this week, come tomorrow. We are waiting to take you on a ride.

I believe the show is getting better and better. I am learning more and more to get out of the way and let it flow. The more I see the show as not coming from me but through me the better it works.

On stage I talk about an “out of body” experience I had 32 years ago with Harry O’Shea. I sort of have one every night reliving that moment. I really can’t take personal credit for any part of the show. It is not false humility, it would be like a saxophone taking credit for the music it plays. There is an invisible musician performing the music through me just like the saxophone. Like I say in the show, I don’t know why I got picked to do this, but I am glad it happened.

How many hours until show time? I can’t wait that long. Please call places now.
As your were,

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Wiz report for Tuesday

It's always great to come back to "work" after the day off. I call it "work" because though it is my job, it in no way feels like "work". I have a great time and thoroughly love what I do.

But I digress. We had a terrific show tonight - full of energy and laughter.

Spaulding was right on track - which just about made my day.

Bob and Jay had a little ad lib tonight that made me laugh out loud. It all started when Jay tripped over a word. Bob told him that he had to get rest. Jay explained to him that he "got carried away", to which Bob replied "if you get carried away, my job is sucky." Once I heard that, I could not stop laughing. I'm afraid that someday you're going to hear me.

I know you're all waiting for this - Name That Monkey Song! You think you have it, right? I thought I had it, as before the show Jay and I talked about and sang several different tv theme songs. Not one made it into the show! Our electrician guessed "James Bond Theme Song". Nope. I was so busy grumbling "No! No! No!" so I didn't even guess. I do not know what TOO (The Other One) guessed. Jay thought it might be a baseball song. None of us agree with that, and Jay isn't even sure. But I am determined to win one yet. I have visited a website that has tv theme songs from the 80's, and I have been studying. I've even sent one to Jay in hopes that he tries it. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Here's to another great show!
Until the next one,

Monday, October 16, 2006

Monday night I got to present the Theater History Preservation award to the Manhattan Theater Club for restoration of the Biltmore Theater. Stewart Lane is the chairman of the Theater Museum board of trustees. The awards show was held at the Hudson Theater, itself a restored jewel box theater. I was happy to be of service since Stewart is one of my favorite Two and Only producers.

Later Sandi and I stopped by the Zipper Theater for another shindig. After the performance of “Jacque Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” they had a party to announce the new cast album. Dan Whitten asked me to come by and use my talents as a ventriloquist to channel the departed spirit of Msr. Brel. I was happy to be of service since Dan is one of my favorite Two and Only producers.

Let me say this about “Jacque Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”. I have always loved Brel’s music. But this production takes the show to another orbit. It is always presented more like a concert of his music, but at the Zipper it is a fully realized show of really wonderful music, more like a play than anything else. If you haven’t seen it, see it soon.

I am ready to start another week at the Helen Hayes. Thanks for reading. More adventures tomorrow.
As you were,

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Another week on Broadway. I am so grateful. I really have to pinch myself to realize it is all actually happening. So many people are working so hard to keep the show growing. I saw one of the ushers, John, distributing fliers to several businesses before the show. Linda, another usher, made buttons with Darwin’s picture and the caption, “Have you seen this monkey” just because she believes in the show. Paul Kreppel has actually been on the streets working the TKTS line and handing out fliers as well.

I met Larry, one of our Two and Only “evangelists” (I think the ushers call them frequent fliers) in front of the theater tonight. He has seen the show three times, twice in Boston. He keeps finding more people to bring to the show. He told me he would be back again.

Christopher was at the stage door yesterday. Christopher is an artist who came to see the show at the Atlantic Theater. I did not meet him there but I remember he sent some of his artwork back stage to me. He has been praying that the show would come back to a bigger theater. He told me his prayers were answered because here we are. I believe, too Christopher. I know there are many more supporting this show in their own way. I just feel the energy, the positive, creative spirit moving. Thank you my friends.

Two nights ago I was really under the microscope. As I looked out into the audience there were several members of the crowd with binoculars. Every time I had a character the binoculars would go up. I suppose they were trying to catch me move my lips, the ultimate compliment I suppose. I thought it was really odd, however, that several close observers would be independently at the same show. One lady was sitting in the second row already, I hope my makeup was on straight.

I will enjoy a day off but except for resting my voice, I would rather be doing the show. I cannot tell you what joy you audiences bring to this performer. Excuse me while I pinch myself again.
As you were,
The Wiz report for Sunday

It's great to be back! As Jay mentioned a few days ago, I've been feeling under the weather (literally) and going straight to bed once I get home.

Spaulding...well Spaulding has been up to his old tricks. He had been leaping into the laps of the front row, but we got that problem solved and he was fine for quite awhile. Now suddenly he's into the front row again. We test him several times before each performance and he's fine. Then we get to show time and he's doing his own thing. We've got the best minds on Broadway working on this. And as suddenly as he's started this wacky behavior, he's stopped. He was right on his mark for the evening show. We're stumped.

And there was a small victory for me with "name that monkey song". I say "small victory" not because I actually won the game, but because Jay couldn't remember what the song was. When you're as far behind as I was in the game, you'll take a win any way you can get it.

On a different, more personal note, I'd just like to say "Go Mets!"

Until the next one,

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I get a lot of questions from people who have seen the show. Since we only do talk backs once a week ( on Wednesdays after the show) and there are a lot of questions, here are some quick answers.

Walter – Real monkeys smell much worse.

Lucy - The Avenue Q joke is just that. Bob has not been messing around.

Ralph – Long John “the severed head” is definitely not your missing cousin.

Cynthia – Yes I am really married, yes very. No my wife is not open to suggestions.

Steve – Paul Krepple, my director, is not Eugene Levy. Eugene isn’t gay either.

Beatrice – A matinee means the show starts in the afternoon. I don’t do that.

Jacob – Ask your Dad before you try and make that talk.

Sigmond – Since it is the story of my life, I don’t think I copied your essay.

Wiz – Yes I know that’s the cue line. I got carried away.

As you were,

Friday, October 13, 2006

I am trying to make the “name that monkey song” game as easy as possible. I realize that the “Great Gates of Kiev” is obscure to say the least. So tonight the hint was, “Something you can’t miss.” It was a give away just to keep the game fair. The song was “Happy Birthday” in honor of Scott’s birthday. (Scott is our company manager and he gives us our checks each week. Sucking up?…. perhaps).

The Wiz didn’t get it, not even a wrong guess, surely “the other one” got it. Joe was off tonight and Bobby the sub electrician was not eligible. Even after I sang it again right after the curtain call the Wiz questioned the veracity of the tune. Paul my co-director got it right away. He wanted to know why I had copped out with an easy song.

We will consider that the Wiz is still under the weather and not one hundred percent. I am willing to call this a push and continue the game tomorrow. Here is tomorrow's hint: It is the theme from the Dick Van Dyke Show!

For those of you who are not there every night the rules of this game are actually included as part of the script of “Jay Johnson: The Two and Only”. The Wiz added the rules to the official script and… Wiz, I think you should blog those rules so the folks can play the home version.

I had a chance to visit with the house staff tonight before the show. What wonderful people. The drug of show business is the people who choose to be a part of it. The most interesting, the most gracious the most talented people you could ever meet. How did I get so lucky as to become a part of this world? Thank you gang for making me feel at home.

Several people waited outside the stage door for more than forty minutes tonight in the cold just to say hello to me. Thanks to Marsha ,Sara and Steve’s double date crew who gave up a Met’s game to hear the story of my Art. I am always flattered and honored that people would do that. I fall in love with every audience that comes to the Helen Hayes theater, but mum is the word. My wife is flying if from California tomorrow.
As your were,

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Wiz is like a barometer. When the weather changes it manifests itself in a physical form and not a pleasant one. Sure enough, mid way through the show that feeling was there and better than the national weather service it was noticeably colder when we left the theater. So…. The Wiz report will be abbreviated by me tonight. The Wiz will be back in form tomorrow as soon as the weather completely settles down. Rest and get well Wiz. How does anyone know when to call the stick horse cue but you?

The Wiz report (By Jay Johnson): It was a fabulous show and Jay was funny, touching and clever. How does he do it night after night? He must be either possessed or insane.

Although a clue was given neither the Wiz nor Joe the electrician won the Monkey song contest tonight. I have not heard if "the other one" got it right. The clue was Broadway musicals…. The monkey song was. “Tomorrow” from Annie. Chalk one more for the monkey. Joe said that was reaching. Are you kidding me? Annie ran for a very long time on Broadway. If you can’t play the game don’t put your money down, kids.

On a personal note, tonight was a very tough show for me. I learned that a very good friend of mine passed away. He was my high school buddy. Great guy who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February, it took him very quickly. Between the Boston run of this show and Broadway I flew to Dallas to see him. We both knew it would probably be the last time we would get to be together. We laughed and relived some great experiences until it was time for me to go. Friends like that are hard to find and even harder to keep. Larry Imes this show was for you tonight. I know you saw it. I knew you were there. Be free now buddy.

As you were,
Ask the Ventriloquist:
Here is a question I got today, and I think it is very interesting. I hope Kathy doesn't mind that I share it with the TAO group.

"My sister and I were wondering why so many famous ventriloquists' puppets seem to be of Irish descent, i.e. Charlie McCarthy, Jerry Mahoney and Art Sieving's Harry O'Shea. Their human partners don't seem to be Irish themselves...
Thank you,
Kathy Zogbi & Marina Zogbi"

You are right. There is also Danny O'Day, Jimmy Nelson's partner. I don't know why that is except Edgar Bergen, being the first, patterned Charlie McCarthy after an Irish newspaper boy he saw on the street. I guess we all want to follow the lead of the master.

Bob's last name is Campbell, which is the name they gave him on Soap. I guess that would be Scottish. He is actually made out of Hollywood (bad joke intended) so I guess he is really Californian.
Thanks for the question,

As you were,
The Wiz report for Wednesday

I'm sorry that this is a bit delayed - I hope you'll forgive me!

What a terrific show we had last night! Our dear friend John Ivy (you may have read some of his responses to this blog) who was our sound engineer at the Atlantic, was there. He has a terrific laugh, and I could hear his laughter throughout. It was great to hear him enjoying the show as much now as he did a few years ago.

Last night's show was a bit different for me. I have begun the process of training a "sub" (for lack of a better term) for myself. Most other Broadway shows have two and three stage managers. We have one. It's always a good idea to have more than person who knows the show. You never know what can happen. As we're going through the show, I am explaining the cues that I am calling. What do I look for? What monitor do I look at?, etc, and found myself continually saying "I don't know where to tell you to call it - I just feel it." I was thinking about that last night (and again this morning). It really is a testament to the fact that this is living, breathing theatre. It changes nightly and every night is a different ride - and it's as exciting and thrilling as the giant roller coaster.

The score of "name that monkey song" is now: monkey 7 / Wiz 1. How am I supposed to win when the song is "Great Gates of Kiev"?

Until the next one,

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Here is a shout out to all you TAO (Two and Only) blog readers. Thank you for reading. The Two and Only is a very exhausting show to do. There is the emotional roller coaster I take every night talking about my friend and mentor Art Sieving. The story of receiving Harry O’Shea has always been an exposed emotion in my life. There were times in the early run of this show that I could not get through the telling with out tears.

Comedy is also a very precise explosion. It requires razor thin timing to get the proper results every time. There are no retakes in live theater so there is never any time to rest between laughs or to revamp and reset the fuse. We don’t have an intermission so once I step onto the stage it is a marathon sprint to the finish.

Then there is the ventriloquism aspect of my show. It would be great to have fellow actors on stage to carry some of the show, but there really isn’t any rest for me when my partners are getting laughs. Most of the time I am working hard to make it seem like I am not working.

All of this to say, my job requires me to wind my inter clock very tightly for that moment when the stage lights go up. That clock is wound much tighter than can be unwound in just the time I am on stage. Like a scuba diver you can’t surface too fast or you will hurt yourself. So after a show I am slowly coming back to the real world in shallow increments.

Writing this blog is absolutely the best way to decelerate so I can sleep and start the process all over again the next day. The fact that you are reading it and absorbing it makes that process a lot less lonely.

It was another great night and unique experience. Our first talk back. Thanks to all who came and stayed and asked such wonderful questions. It helps me share more of my unusual art form with people who are interested.
As your were,
Here is a strange perspective. It is nine-twenty in the morning; I am sitting in my New York apartment watching the Today show. Meredith just said, “Thanks to Jay Johnson and Bob for being here.” I live two blocks away from 30 Rock, where they do the Today show. I was on at eight-thirty, I did my spot with Meredith and Matt, talked to Al Roker in the hallway for a while about his Jerry Mahoney puppet, and walked home. Now I am watching the very show I was just on. This is only possible in New York City. Even at this point it feels like a dream rather than an event that just happened. I’m not even sure what we did or said.

Okay so the surrealism continues. My Mom and Dad just called, the Today show is delayed an hour for the Central time zone. They just saw me, I told them it would be live and they thought I would still be at the studio.

Richard and Rick the O and M publicity dream team were at the studio with me, as were Murphy and Paul. It was more like a party than a gig. It was great fun. Richard and Rick said they read the blog about the ghost in the window and got chills reading it. I think once you have seen the theater and have been there for more than fifteen minutes it is not hard to believe in ghosts.

Here is hoping the box office phone is ringing off the wall with Today show fans. We are the little show that could.
As you were,

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Wiz report for Tuesday

It's always great to come back after a day off. We're rested, we're re-juvenated, and we're ready for another exciting week.

When I say "we" I generally refer to Jay and myself. However, this time I need to add Bob to the "we". He must have had a very restful day off, as he was a little feisty tonight. At one point, Bob must have been slipping off of Jay's knee. (I say "must have" because from my location in the wing I have a side view of the stage and can see Jay, but not Bob.) So anyway, Bob must have been slipping and Jay re-adjusted him, at which point Bob yells "Don't touch me there!" Jay asked him if he wanted to fall, and Bob replied "Yes, if that's the option. You're not Michael Jackson!" I'm sure the audience could hear me laugh. Later in the routine, Bob got so excited about a better trick than putting tape over his mouth, that he (Bob) started to hyperventilate a bit. That prompted Jay to tell him "take a deep breath". After a few deep breaths, they continued on with the routine. I had never seen them do this before.

And for those of you playing "name that monkey song" at home, the score is something like: Monkey 6/ Wiz 1. I'm getting beaten at my own game by a monkey. It doesn't seem quite fair to me. If you're at the show, and you're playing the game, please post a response and let me know how you did. I want to see if I'm the only person losing this badly.

Until the next one,

Monday, October 09, 2006

I've been trying to write this ghost story but got distracted by life and other obligations.

A couple of nights ago, while on stage, I had an encounter. There are two windows, for want of a better description, on either side of the house, balcony level at the Helen Hayes. They are actually recessed alcoves where lighting pipes have been placed. Clifton has put a few lights in each one. I look toward the “window” stage right (house left) a lot during the show. That is where I look when I do the scene finding Judy’s Jerry Mahoney doll. I must stare at that place for a several minutes during that scene alone.

This particular night, as I was looking, a door opened behind the lights in the alcove. That perspective can’t be seen unless you are on stage looking that direction so no one could have seen it but me. This door opens and a white haired lady peeks in. At first she is confused but as she looks around she realizes that she is staring into the theater and a show is in progress. She quickly shuts the door. It was as if she came upon the door by mistake and opened it to see where it led. At least that is what I assumed had happened at the time. I did not get a great look at her because the lights are in my eyes and it happened quickly.

The next day or so I am sitting in the balcony (one of my favorite meditating spots) with the Wiz. I asked the Wiz if she knew what hallway the window connected to. The Wiz did not know. I checked out the balcony fire exit and there is an alarmed door that I could not open with out sounding the alarm. It looked like it might lead to the hall way and the window door. I didn’t think much more about it.

Sunday night I was talking to Doug the carpenter, who by the way is one of my new favorite people, and I asked if he knew about the door to the window. He told me there is no door up in the window, never has been. In fact they are just “set backs” for lights. To place lights in that alcove he says he has to get a ladder and access it from the audience.

Okay, I know what I saw. It was as real as any event in my life. It was neither spooky nor mystical, just a lady looking in the wrong door. And yes, based upon the color and style of the hair do it could have looked like the picture of Helen Hayes that hangs in the lobby. You believe what you want, I know what I saw.

Helen, I hope you liked the show, but please come back and see all of it. And thanks for letting me share your stage. I have not attempted to re-attach the nameplate to my dressing room door.
As you were,
Alan, to answer your question about Darwin's origin, Darwin's face was sculpted by Wim Griffith an artist in Los Angeles. The hands and feet were sculpted by Rene Zendejas, of Rene and his Artists puppet studio. I built his body.
As you were,
When I started this blog I promised a look at a Broadway show from behind the curtain. Mostly I have been giving the view from on stage, which is fantastic. The show is working so well I could not be more proud. I can feel a connection to the audience that is electric. Everything that concerns the show is wonderful, except one thing. We are not selling enough tickets to break even. Don’t ask me why. It isn’t reviews, or publicity, or marketing or advertising. The team that runs this show is the best there is.

But you don’t need an MBA from Harvard to know a business does not survive long if it doesn’t pay for itself. Everyone believes in word of mouth, and we are sure that it can turn around given enough time. However, the cost of Broadway time is very expensive. There is some other show waiting to take over the stage and hoping we don’t make it so they can.

I never knew there would be so much negativity toward my chosen art form. I always thought New York audiences would be willing to try most anything. If they didn’t like it they wouldn’t come back and wouldn’t recommend it and then the show would close. We have had people come back four times during this run alone, that is an average of once a week. I have never heard of any one who wouldn’t recommend the show. New York just doesn’t seem to believe a show with ventriloquism in it has value. This from the town that embraced “I am my own wife” like they were there own sex slave?

Well, I believe and I will keep looking for other believers. I don’t think it is a case of this show not being ready for Broadway. Maybe the Broadway that keeps Mama Mia open for five years isn’t ready for this show.

All I can do is what Art Sieving told me to do, “The best show you can every time.” If you are planning to see this show. Come now. I know you will like it. I wish the producers would give a money back guarantee, that’s how much I believe. However, on the slim chance you don’t relate to my show, well, we start early and by the time we end you still have time to second act “The Lion King” across the street.
As you were,

Sunday, October 08, 2006

If you go to the Two and Only main menu, click on “The Show” and then go to “History” you will find a wonderful story. It is accompanied by a picture of “The three and only”, Paul, Jay and Murphy. It is our story, but it only tells the genesis of the show. It can’t begin to tell the whole story.

Paul and Murphy, I alternately call my playmates, the other two, dream team, Frick and Frack and Trixie and Pinky, among other names. They are my directors, collaborators, producers, cheerleaders, hand holders, crying shoulder, spiritual support, spelling checker, protector and most importantly friends. Since I arrived in New York I have constantly been asked, “How does it feel to be on Broadway?” No matter what wonderful adjective I use to describe that feeling it can’t come close to the feeling of having friends like Murphy and Paul. They are more than friends, we are family.

When you come to my show at the Helen Hayes you will see something you will probably never see on Broadway again. You will see director/producers handing out fliers, talking to the crowd and promoting the show on the spot. By now most directors would have flown back to LA and be sipping vodka by the pool recounting the stories of an exciting New York opening night. But here they are, still working for the show. Of the hundreds of times I have performed The Two and Only in four cities they have been absent from the audience only a dozen times. Now that is a show business Broadway record, never to be matched.

I try to tell them how much this all means to me and how much they personally mean to me but I am running out of adjectives and ways to say it. So, do me a favor. Come to the show, afterwards find Murphy and Paul and tell them thanks. This show would not be here if not for them. Murphy and Paul will be easy to find, they will be the ones radiating joy and friendship while handing out fliers and smiles.
As you were,

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Wiz report for Saturday.

If you've been reading our previous posts, you'll know that Jay and I have both written about "live audiences" and how a live audience makes each individual performance unique. Sometimes there are forces beyond anyone's control that make a particular performance special. Tonight it was a fly. I have, on occasion, seen a fly buzzing around the stage. They haven't bothered us, and we haven't bothered them...until now. We're having a great show tonight and Jay and Bob are in the middle of their routine and a fly buzzes right around Bob. Bob sees this fly and he and Jay both follow it with their eyes for a bit. The audience laughs and then Bob calls it a "Helen Hayes incarnate". Jay quickly tells Bob "Don't mess with the ghost." Later in the routine, in response to Jay and Bob switching voices, Jay says to Bob, "I told you not to mess with the fly", as if to say that the fly caused the voice mix-up.

We both believe in ghosts. We both believe in signs. You bet we're going to keep our eyes on this fly.

Until the next one,
Here is a quote from a fan who sent me an email via the web site. He complimented the show but also said:

“Along with the very friendly house staff (which is uncommon in most theatres) it made for a excellent night at the theatre.”

I am glad he said it, because it is true. The house staff at the Helen Hayes is exceptional. I was always taught that a performance begins the minute the audience walks into the theatre. Having such wonderful ushers helping people get to their seats, and excellent house management makes my job so much easier. The audience, because of the staff, is happy from the first moments of the show

Ladies and Gentlemen of the front of the house, if you are reading this, I thank you and salute you. This is not just a one-person show; we are all performing in this experience together. I could not be happier to share the stage and house with such consummate professionals.
By the way I love to see you in the Darwin shirts. Too much fun.
As you were,

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Wiz report for Thursday and Friday

Please accept my apologies for not posting anything after Thursday's show, but I needed to get some sleep to gear up for the weekend!

Thursday night's Darwin was one to "write home" about. As I'm sure you know, Darwin likes to yell at the crowd. He'll tell people to "shut up". He may make fun of the way they laugh. He may even threaten to jump on them. At this performance, there was a kid towards the front who started conversing with Darwin. Jay was explaining that the difference between a human and a monkey is that the human has an opposable thumb. So the kid in the audience started to actively demonstrate that he had an opposable thumb too. I wish I could have seen it. It must have been adorable. But "adorable" isn't always Darwin's style - he then tried to scare the kid by asking him if he's ever seen "those Chuckie Movies" and then screams like Chuckie. Here's a shout out to the kid who showed Darwin that he has an opposable thumb too. And for those of you keeping score at home: I did not win Thursday's "name that monkey song".

Friday night's show was quite lovely. It was a great audience and a lot of fun. Today I did win "name that monkey song." It was a little bit of the Can-Can that went into the theme song from the old tv show "Love That Bob". If they're going to try to stump me, they've got to try harder than that.

Until the next one,
Today I am coming back from an interview about 2:00 in the afternoon. I ask the driver to stop by the theater so I can pick up some clothes I left in my dressing room the day before. Le Miserable is going into the Broadhurst theater across the street from us. History Boys just closed. The Le Miserable trucks are three deep unloading the set and it is tough to get down 44th street.

I jumped out of the car to make a quick dash into the Helen Hayes when I hear…. “Hey… Jay.”

Sticking his head out of one of the trailers is Joe. Joe is a stagehand. I met Joe when I did Broadway on Broadway a few weeks ago. He was working that show as well. “How is it going? Are you having a good time?” He shouts.

“Could not be better”, I say and give him the thumbs up. He returns my thumbs with a big smile. It took all of ten seconds, but it made my day.

There you have it, the Broadway theater community. It is a very nice family. I feel like I just got a hug from George M. Cohen.

This is a great ride for anyone, but for a boy from Abernathy, Texas. Wow.
As you were,
I have done at least seven interviews this week as well as the shows at night. For the guy who brags he did 918 performances one summer, I really can’t admit that it is exhausting. Besides every bit adds up, and every interview has the potential of bringing in more audience. That really is the goal: To have as many people see this show as we can. You might think it would be easier to just film it, release it to HBO or some other mass media outlet in several venues at once. Well, that might work for some things but not this show.

This show is a live event. Immediacy, and intimacy are major characters in this play, and this art form. My art form was discovered thousands of years ago before there was any way to reproduce a performance. The magic happens in real time on stage one performance at a time. And I am willing to do it one show at a time for as long as it takes. There is no other way. It is "hand made", one of a kind, not mass produced. My mentor Art Sieving is probably the poster boy for that metaphor.
I am starting to use the term “converts”. I talk to so many people after the show that say they were not sure they wanted to see a show about ventriloquism. Or maybe they were dragged to the show by their spouse. Afterwards they tell me how moved, how informed or how much they laughed. They had an experience they did not expect.

I wish I could in some way take personal credit. But I am only the switch not the electricity. What a person feels when they see my show is created and owned only by them. How someone reacts to art is the power and beauty of art but it is not created by the art itself. Art is the catalyst, the switch. The emotional reaction is created by the observer’s imagination, and that is what makes it unique.

Appearing nightly at the Helen Hayes Theatre, your imagination. Come discover it.
As you were,

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Something happened tonight. There is no way to quantify it and I'm not sure I can explain it nor am I sure this is the right forum to talk about it. It happened on stage at the end of my performance. During my final speech I really heard my self say, "Sometimes we just need to believe." Believe what, Jay? Believe in your art, believe in this show, believe that it is worthy to be seen, believe it will survive the economic needs of the "business" people? Yes, all of that. However, It is not enough just to say you believe, you have to actually believe.

Here is what I believe. I believe, if you are reading this you were drawn to it for a reason. I believe this is a word of mouth show, which is perfect for a ventriloquist show. I believe, if you have seen the show you know who you want to send to see it. You should tell them to see the show tomorrow. If you haven't seen this show you are in for an experience different from what you think it will be. You should see the show tomorrow. I believe that this is the right show at the right theater at the right time. Tomorrow night's show is going to be a unique experience. I believe it.
As you were,
The Wiz report for Wednesday

What an amazing crowd tonight! These audiences have been our best, responding from the time Jay steps on stage until the time he steps off. We're having so much fun just listening to them enjoy the show.

My personal favorite part of this evening was Darwin's routine. Toward the beginning of the routine, Darwin does a little jazz "scat" before he announces that he can talk. When we were at the Atlantic Theatre a couple of years ago, Jay started changing the scat a bit, just to shake things up a bit. This led to a game that we like to call "name that monkey song". It's a fairly easy game. Darwin does his scat and I try to guess what song it is. Suffice to say, I am not very good at this game, but it's fun and I enjoy playing. As time passed, the game became more challenging as I starting giving Jay categories from which he could choose a song. So we're in the middle of the show tonight, and imagine my surprise when Darwin does a different scat. I immediately start thinking of what song it could be, as it's not one of the songs that Jay usually does. I couldn't figure it out. At the end of the show Jay comes offstage and I asked him what song it was. Well I never would have guessed it, as it was a jazz riff that Jay made up. So there you have it - now you too can play "name that monkey song".

Until the next one,

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Wiz report for Tuesday

I always love coming back after a day off. There's a certain excitement and energy to the evening. Tonight was no exception. We could tell from the murmurs in the audience before the show that this was going to be a good one.

Bob had me in hysterics tonight. I wouldn't be surprised if you could hear me laughing in the wings. Bob called Jay on a jumbled line, and they start a little improv. So I'm laughing, and I see Bob look over at me and say "Do it again, and I'll call a rehearsal." It was very funny!

Darwin also had me going tonight. He was really after the audience. I thought that he might just try and leap on that front row as he so often threatens to do. He also threatened to "walk" if Jay "touched his hiney" again. He always makes me laugh.

Until the next one,

Monday, October 02, 2006

Well I’m back after not posting for a couple of days. My family is in town and we have been enjoying New York.

The Wiz is keeping you up to date on the show. It is going well, even if Spaulding is trying to pad his part recently. It was a tough weekend for me physically. I have been nursing a cold all week, able to get through a show a day, but when we get to the “five show, three day weekend” it is more problematic. Roger the back stage wooden American wrangler said on Friday, “Well we are half way through the week”. It is true we do four shows from Tuesday to Friday and four more in the next two days before a day off. Sometimes I think I am back at Astroworld doing 5 a day.

This is not a complaint. Except for the fact I need to rest my voice today, I would be back on that stage tonight. I love doing this show. This is exactly what I thought it would be, thrilling, overwhelming, every minute I get to be on this stage doing this show is a blessing.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe the emotions I one feels on opening night. Remember the cartoons when a character has a decision to make; a little angel appears on his right shoulder and a little devil on his left and they begin to argue? Well it is sort of like that only they are not devils and angels but different departments of your brain. One department is responsible for the now, doing the opening night show. The other department is the historical record what you will remember later.

At any given moment while I was performing opening night the historic voice would say something like, “Listen to that reaction, this is something you never want to forget.” At the same time the now voice says, “ Don’t forget your next line, hurry up and don’t blow the timing.” One voice is saying savor the moment forever, and the other voice is saying move on before they start throwing things. I think the Wiz used the word surreal… that it was, and in some ways continues to be.

I am always amazed at the number of people that tell me they are reading his blog. Bless you. You are a member of a unique club. As a matter of fact as a special bonus for you bloggies, go to www.thetwoandonly.com/bonus and check it out.
As you were,

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Wiz report for Saturday.

There is nothing like a live audience. I love to hear their responses - both laughter and sniffles. It's the audience that makes each individual performance a unique one. Saturday's matinee is a prime example of that:

We get to Spaulding (who for reasons we don't quite understand works perfectly during our pre-show checks, yet fails during performances), and towards the end of the routine, we hear a younger voice say something. We couldn't really hear what he said, but it must have been funny as the audience laughed. Jay laughed with them, and at the end of the routine gave the Spaulding eyes to him.

We continue on with the show, and we get to Bob. At this point, Bob and Jay both have adhesive tape over their mouths, talking about the fact that Bob cannot be understood, when we hear our young friend say "I can't understand either one of you." Uproarious laughter. Now as you may know, Bob is not a very sweet guy. He asks the young man, "Who works your head?" and later on even tries to scare him by saying "Hey kid, have you ever seen those Chuckie movies?" (and he screams). Each time the audience burst into laughter. All of us enjoyed it immensely. Those of you there Saturday afternoon saw a very unique show.

Here's a shout out to our young friend. We hope you enjoyed the show, and thank you for making us laugh.
Until the next one,