Friday, September 29, 2006

The Wiz report for Friday.

What an incredible Opening Night we had! It was thrilling and surreal at the same time. But now that the festivities are over, it's time for me to get back to work!

We had another terrific show this evening. Long John stood out this evening (no pun intended). There were a lot of "oohh"s for his entrance and applause once he was gone. I'm not certain, but I think he cursed more people than he usually does.

Well, despite several test runs by the crew, Spaulding decided to leap out into the house tonight. Unfortunately the patrons in that area couldn't locate him easily. He had rolled to the second row. Once Jay realized that the audience couldn't find him, Jay commented that he wasn't the only who wasn't so good at sports. Once Spaulding got onstage, Jay asked the audience to "give the lady a hand", which they did.

Bob was on a roll, calling the tape over the mouth trick "crap" and saying that the trick works in Texas, not on Broadway.

A great audience and show tonight. There were no sneezes in the audience tonight, but give it a couple of days and you may hear one from backstage left.
Until the next one,
This is quick. This is brief. I got in too late last night from the Opening Party, and slept in too late today to write much, before I have to do it all over again. The best line of the night was at the party. Steve R, partner to the Wiz said, "What a great show, aren't you glad you don't have to it again tomorrow."

There is much to write about. I will publish when I have the time to do it justice. It was absolutely great. The party was perfect at Juniors. We had the whole place and the weather was very nice so the patio was a wonderful place to visit.

So may friends. So many well wishers. We are open and tonight is show two. For some reason the shows in preview are never counted in the run. Don't ask me... ask the Wiz.
As you were,

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Wiz report for Wednesday.

It's the final preview before opening and the excitment continues to grow. The audience seems excited as well, applauding with the house lights going down. At that point I knew we were in for a great ride.

I gave Spaulding a few notes on his entrance, and the crew worked with him a bit before the show. His entrance was perfect tonight. (Sorry Nate!)

Squeaky brought a tear to my eye tonight. He was so sweet and lovely. From backstage I can usually only hear the louder audience responses. Tonight I heard a few collective "aaaww"s.

Bob was a little extra feisty. He threatened to "walk" if Jay touched his hair again. Jay said "You walk, and there's a different show."

Darwin was going after the audience a bit tonight. There were a few hysterical comments that I couldn't write down. I was laughing and trying to call cues simultaneously, so I couldn't get it down on paper.

Due to the opening night festivities Thursday, I may not post again until Friday.
Until the next one,
There is always something that will level your universe no matter how high one is flying. This next 48 hours have the potential of unexplored excitement. My family is here, my friends are here, critics are gathering and the show is ready. You can almost hear Ethel Merman singing, "Another opening, another show... from Pilly, Boston...." Well you get the picture.

So the first day my sister is in town she is walking down 45th to Shubert alley, to the theater to see my name in lights. Suddenly she hears someone say my name. Someone on the street is chanting," Jay Johnson.... Jay Johnson tickets here. I got Jay Johnson tickets." It is a Broadway scalper hocking tickets to my show. At the same time she looks around the scalper says, " Jay Johnson tickets.... Five bucks."

As you were,

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Wiz report for Tuesday.

I always look forward to a Tuesday night show. We've had our day off, we're energized, and we're looking forward to another exciting week. This Tuesday was no different. We have an incredibly exciting week ahead of us. You can definitely feel the energy. Tonight's audience was feeling that energy! They picked right up on it and laughed and applauded heartily throughout. I've done over 150 performances of this show, and I laughed like I've never laughed before. I'm not sure what it was, but Nethernore has been cracking me up. Spaulding was so excited to be back after a day off that he leapt right off the stage. A personal thank you to the patron who threw him back to Jay. I have a different relationship with Spaulding than I do with the other puppets, as I have been the one that controls his entrance. The crew and I will be working with Spaulding before Wednesday's show.

We must be coming up on cold and flu season, as again, someone sneezed during a quieter moment. Jay stopped and said "Bless you. People think I throw my voice and do that" making the audience (and me) laugh again.

Until the next one,
Only in New York.
As I am leaving the stage door tonight, standing in front of my theater, is Jay Sandrich. The very Emmy award winning director that I talk about so much in my show. I knew that he was planning to come to my opening night on Thursday, but there he was right there on 44th two days early. He had stepped out of the Broadhurst Theatre during the intermission of “History Boys”. As it is on Broadway the Broadhurst Theater is just across the street for the Helen Hayes.

He said he reads this blog. Well he actually said he skips over my entries and reads the Wiz Reports. In the same breath he said he didn’t necessarily believe the nameplate ghost story.

Since Jay is not reading this, I can talk about him. It is due to the talents of Jay Sandrich that my characters of Chuck and Bob were successful and memorable on SOAP. There were times when Bob and I only had one line in the entire script. Instead of just letting it go at that, Jay gave me business to do before and after the line to keep my characters alive. Some of my best moments were not written in the script, but came from the creative mind of Jay Sandrich.

I remember very well a moment in the script that just said, “Chuck and Bob and Danny are sitting on the couch”. By the time Jay Sandrich had a couple of rehearsals with Ted Wass, who played Danny, and me it became a big laugh.

It went like this; Danny and Chuck are playing checkers, Danny makes a move, Bob coughs and shakes his head to let Danny know it is not a good move. Danny takes the move back, another move, another cough, a third move and Bob says,
“That’s it” Chuck immediately jumps four of Danny’s checkers. He has been cheated forgetting that Chuck and Bob are in cahoots.

It means a lot to me and Paul and Murphy that you are here for opening night, Jay.
See you Thursday.

As you were,

Monday, September 25, 2006

This was a day off. Needed it. The throat is a little raw; I have been talking since I got to New York. It was time to shut-up. Today I didn’t even answer the phone.

Last Friday I thought opening night was really near because my wife found “the” dress to wear. I did not know I would be needed on my day off to help her shop for “the jewelry”. It seems to me, in the years we have been married, I have purchased a lot of jewelry for her, and I am sure she still has most all of it. Evidently none of the previous stuff works for opening nights on Broadway.

I have had my outfit picked out and ready since early March.

We went to see “Jacque Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” at the Zipper Theater tonight. What a great show. I was a fan of the show when it was around years ago, but whether you have seen the show or not this is the production to see. The Zipper is the perfect theater for this show and this is a fully realized production. The cast and director have found a depth to Brel that has never been seen before.

Okay it is Opening week for The Two and Only, family and friends are arriving every day. I am also hearing from friends who will not be here but have sent their wishes. Some I don’t know how to respond to but right here.

Thanks LaDean, good to hear from you. Let me know how I can write you

Mr. Ivy - Murph, Paul, Lori and I only have your old e-mail and it keeps bouncing back.

Wylie … Roomie. You can’t keep a secrete I know you too well.

Lurch... It is time to come to New York again. They have chicken and beer here.

Miss Carlisle you were at my gypsy run through. Thank you so much for coming I am sorry I missed getting to say hello.
As you were,

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Okay, let me start by saying, I believe in ghosts. I also believe that ghosts hang around old buildings. The Helen Hayes Theatre is ninety-seven years old; it has been host to all sorts of artists and dramas both on and off the stage. So, it would stand to reason the Hayes might have a few spectors in residence.

Several times while we were in rehearsals I thought I saw the flash of someone’s eyeglasses reflecting the stage lights in the balcony. When the house lights went on there was never anyone there. I was never sure, but it seemed to me that someone was watching from the balcony. I finally mentioned it to someone. David Gotwald the sound designer said he watched the show in the balcony several times during rehearsals to check the sound. He wears glasses. I guess I was just looking for the paranormal.

However, now that we have done a full week of shows at the theatre, there is another phenomenon that seems to have no explanation. I have a name plate that was originally on the door of my dressing room at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino in Reno, Nevada, 23 years ago. It has hung on every door of every dressing room I have ever occupied. This includes every production of “The Two and Only”. I could not wait to put it up on my dressing room door at the Helen Hayes.

I noticed the nameplate had fallen on the floor by the next day. I put it back up but it would always be on the floor the next day. I tried different types of tape, different attachments, but the result was the same. Over night the nameplate would fall on the floor. Although we were rehearsing for 10 out of 12 hours several days in a row, it would never fall, until we left the theater. Over night it would fall. There was nothing that would keep the nameplate on the door over night.

I finally took it off the door thinking that a cleaning crew might be knocking if off accidentally, and I attached it to the wall in my locked dressing room. No matter what wall I put it on or what method I used to stick it to the wall it was always on the floor the next day.

Here is what I think. I have no idea how many people have occupied this dressing room before me, but I am just a visitor no matter how long I stay. So, I will no longer try to attach my nameplate to this room. I finally get it. This is not my room, this room belongs to the theater and the theater is trying to remind me of my place. I want to be a good guest. Thanks for letting me pass through.
As you were,
The Wiz report for Sunday night.

What a day we've had today. It's both thrilling and exhausting. We've just finished our first week of performances. What a crowd we had we had this afternoon. They were incredibly responsive, almost raucous at times, and it was so exciting. I'll never get tired of hearing the laughter and applause.

There was a fun moment this afternoon: Bob had tape over his mouth and in a quieter moment, someone in the audience sneezed. Bob blessed them! Later on, there was different reaction when Darwin said that he reads dirty books. Darwin looked out to the audience and said "I know you know channel 35". It cracked me up.

In the evening performance, a cell phone rang during Bob's routine. Bob stopped and said "Is that a cell phone?" After a chuckle from the audience, Bob continued on a little riff about cell phone and the possibility that Jay could have made that sound.

We've had a very fun week, and now it's time to rest up for the next one.
Until the next one,

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Wiz report for Saturday night.

I must make this short, as I'm tuckered out from our first two-show day, and I must get up early for tomorrow's matinee. I'll focus on the evening performance, as that's the one still in my head. This was one of our most responsive audiences here. There were some new reactions, like a nice "ooohhhh" for Long John LaFeat, and some applause when the curse is lifted from the village. Even Jackie and Gaga got applause after their appearance. There was some applause when Jay first mentioned "Soap". He stopped and said "Who knew? It could have been called 'Welcome Back Kotter'" That really got me laughing! It was a magical day, and now I must get some rest.

Until the next one,
The Wiz report for Friday night:

There's nothing like the muttering of the crowd before the show. Even before we started, Jay and I could tell that this was going to be a great audience - and they were. Along with applause and laughter I could hear a few whistles (in the "Soap" section and after "Darwin"). That energy is amazing.

Spaulding's "Who was that" / "What was that" routine ended in a little bit of "Who's on first." It made me laugh. The Art Sieving story was great tonight, very touching. There was a lot of applause after the first mention of "Soap", so Jay added "Well, we didn't know then." Squeaky was particularly touching and sweet. Bob is getting his laughs, as well as hoots, hollers, and whistles at the end the routine.

Overall, we had a terrific show. We're going to have an amazing journey.

This is our first weekend - so we have two shows on both Saturday and Sunday. I will post at the end of each night instead of each show.
Until the next one,

Friday, September 22, 2006

My friend Diana Canova was in the audience tonight. I heard her laugh above all the others. Dee Dee played Corrine on SOAP, and I remember seeing her Broadway performance of "They're Playing Our Song" with Ted Wass back when we were doing the show. How great is it to have friends like Dee Dee, so many memories.

Tomorrow we do our first week end of matinees. I personally can't wait. This means we get to do two shows each day at the Theater. It just keeps getting more exciting.
As you were,
Jay mentioned in one of his earlier posts that "the Wiz" (the production stage manager) would post the nightly "performance report lite" here on the blog. Well now that we are in previews, that time has come. So please allow me to introduce myself. I am "The Wiz" (short for "Wizard") and I will post a short performance report on a fairly regular basis.

We had a terrific show last night. The crowd and the energy were simply amazing. Even offstage in the wings I could hear all of the applause. These audiences have been the best yet - getting every little nuance. Nethernore has been cracking me up lately. He and Jay did a new little riff to the question: "How do you know when something is dying?" It got a great reaction which prompted a second little riff. Spaulding was great - and he and Jay added a new little "What was that" / "No, who was that" routine that made me laugh. Bob got his own entrance applause tonight. There was a great laugh when Jay told Bob that he was working on the act - "not hanging around backstage at 'Avenue Q' trying to get lucky." Darwin had me in hysterics, as usual. We changed the curtain call a bit just prior to the performance. It didn't go quite as we had rehearsed. Jay was waiting for the new light cue, I was waiting for Jay to give me the cue, and we ended up waiting for each other until I went ahead with the cue anyway. We both had a great laugh over it!

Until the next one,

Thursday, September 21, 2006

So it is one week until the official opening night of the show. My wife finally found a dress to wear so I guess we are getting close.

We put in a change for the ending of the show tonight. It will be tomorrow before we get a sense of how it is going to work. Tonight I was waiting on the new lighing effect to make a move that never came. It turned out that the Wiz (our Production Stage Manager) was waiting on me to make the move to call the cue. In laymans terms it was a mexican stand off. Nothing happened for the longest time. Tomorrow I will jump on it so it will happen sooner. That is the geat thing about a live show, so many artist are working in unison to make it happen seamlessly. The audience has no idea how many hours things have to be rehearsed to happen correctly.
As you were,
There was the cutest five-year-old kid who waited around a long time (with his parents) after the show last night to get my autograph on his Playbill. His name is Gio. I give a shout out to him knowing that he can’t even read this yet. He told me the autograph was going to be his “show and tell” at school. Between, opening on Broadway for previews, doing the David Letterman show and now…Gio’s class, this has been a pretty big week in my life.
As you were,

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Between the gypsy run through, the Letterman show, a quick video piece for the local CBS news and back to the theater for our first preview, it was a very long and exciting day. It ended with a quite drink at Angus Mc Ido’s sitting with my wife, the directors Paul and Murphy, the musical director Michael Andreas, director of fan relations Bill Brunell and David Gotwald our sound designer. Martin Short, who was relaxing at the bar with some of his cast, was the first one to raise a glass in congratulation of our opening preview. However, it was David Gotwald who summed it all up. He said, “No matter what happens from here, this is a day we will never forget.” Thanks for reminding us to enjoy the ride, David.

All I can say personally about the day is this. The Letterman Stage is much smaller than it seems, and very cold. I don’t mean unfriendly, I mean they keep it at 58 degrees. The only contact I had with David Letterman was when he walked over to me at the end of my set. I spent the most time with Paul Shaffer rehearsing the song with the band.

For a Letterman stunt they dropped a safe off the roof of the Ed Sullivan building onto a car. As circumstance would have it the green room window was directly behind the targeted car. We watched them heave the safe off the building on the television monitor and watched it hit the car from about four feet away. A surreal experience, and that was before I did my set. The set on the Ed Sullivan stage, for ventiloquist week of Late Night on the day of the first performance of my Broadway show, was an out of body experience.

The Helen Hayes is a magical theatre. There is some energy the location itself generates. All I have to do is ride that energy through my show. Performing on that stage is an experience like no other I have ever had. I cannot wait to get back there tonight and take the ride again.
As you were,

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Today is the first day the stage was mine. Everyone told me this is the perfect theater for my show, and until now I was just repeating that mantra. However, the moment I stepped on stage to actually run the show, I realized immediately how wonderful the Helen Hayes Theatre is. If there ever was a jewel box theater this is it. It was built in 1912 at a time when actors had to be seen and heard without the use of modern day technology. Add to this architecture the technical advances in stagecraft and it becomes something special. (Don’t tell the general manager, but the balcony seats are even better than the first few rows of the orchestra). The sound, the lights, the set, they all come together to make theatre magic. I hope it is a huge hit, but no matter what, if you don’t see this show here in New York at the Helen Hayes, you will miss a truly magical moment in Broadway history.

Yeah I know you say, “Well it’s your show naturally you would think that.” The truth is, it isn’t just my show anymore. This is the synergy of so many artists I really can be objective. I am just fortunate to suddenly find myself in the company of such wonderfully talented people. How can a ventriloquist be so lucky?
As you were,

Friday, September 15, 2006

There is a joke that goes like this. An actor comes home and his wife has been sexually assaulted in her own bedroom. The actor says, “What happened?” The wife says… “It was your agent he was here looking for you and he attacked me.” The actor says, “MY AGENT CAME TO THE HOUSE?”

The only reason I think of this joke is because I talked to my agent Chris Burke today and he said, “I read your blog.” MY AGENT READ MY BLOG?” So, I figure I better write some more.

Tomorrow I actually get to go on stage and walk on the set. I have not been allowed to do that until now because that is considered a “rehearsal”. Until all the tech people finish setting the lights and getting the set up, we can’t “rehearse”. Tomorrow the space is mine. I can’t wait.

It looks great. Beowulf’s set is perfect on this stage and Clifton has more lights to work with than any other time we have done this show. I even watched them set three Varilights (very expensive robotic lights that can do just about everything but ventriloquism). I briefly heard the sound as David was tweaking it, there are new micro speakers that line the edge of the stage to give it an incredible presence, and I have a brand new “out of the box” wireless microphone to use. How they sneaked this budget past Roger Gindi I’ll never know.

There will be more stories after the first tech rehearsal tomorrow. TECH is supposed to stand for “Tough, exhausting, crippling and hard” rehearsals. But not this show, sometimes it all comes together and everyone gets along. This show has been blessed with the most talented and creative artists on Broadway.

As you were,

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Well today was the day. There must have been fifty stagehands working the stage like a beehive to put up the set. It looks great in that space. Tomorrow the sound and lights go to work to make the magic. We are really moving fast toward the Tuesday night preview opening.

I have moved into the dressing room. Or should I say dressing rooms. There is a fireplace in the green room, which is sort of the living area of the cast suite. I brought all kinds of pictures and eyewash to hang on the walls, and I moved the furniture around to be more accommodating. Murphy and Paul suggested I get a guest book for visitors to sign. That is a great idea.

Tuesday will be a very busy day. We are doing a gypsy run-through, basically a dress rehearsal early enough for all the casts of the other shows to come. After that I will perform on the David Letterman Late Show. Yes, they called and I am honored to be a part of ventriloquism week. I don't know that there has ever been another. And after the Letterman taping I will rush back to the theater to actually perform the first time for the paying public. I don't plan to do anything on Wednesday until show time.

It is off an running for the show and I could not be more excited.
As you were,

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hello from New York. I have arrived and we are one week from previews. Today I passed by the Helen Hayes and they were loading out the “Kiki and Herb” set. Tomorrow our posters and signage outside the theater go up. They start to load in our set on Wednesday. Thursday I move into the dressing room. It is all actually happening.

I am not sure how to write about my experience yesterday, when all I have to work with is words. I performed for an event called Broadway on Broadway. This is a free concert on a temporary outdoor stage at Times Square showcasing musical numbers from all the Broadway shows. I was asked to do a bit from my show and was welcomed as the new kid on the block from all my Broadway peers. There is a very warm feeling that comes with acceptance into this exclusive club. The actor/singer/dancers from the shows could not be nicer or more supportive.

The perspective of standing and performing on a stage thirty-feet above Time Square, looking out over fifty thousand people is a singularly unique experience. There is nothing that can prepare you for that. As for the sight of catching a glimpse of your face on the four Jumbo tron television monitors that bracket Times Square, well, give my regards to Broadway.

But it all comes down to one moment, the finale; everyone sings “New York, New York” in front of a live band of the best musicians in the city, with me standing between Martin Short, Donny Osmond and the stars of Jersey Boys. (By the way the female cast of the Jersey Boys are very hot very cute and worth the price of a scalped ticket all by themselves)……. Then they release the confetti. A blizzard of colored snowflakes momentarily obscures the Times Square concrete canyon from street to sky.

Welcome to Broadway, Johnson, it is your second day in town.

As you were. (although I am not sure it will ever be as it was for me again)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I think the word is overwhelmed. I leave in about 48 hours for New York, not knowing how long I will stay, nor really what to expect. We are less than two weeks from previews and less than three weeks from opening night. The show is now the least of my concerns, although it will take center stage, literally in a week.

The first thing you notice is the number of people on the e-mail list. Every communication is vetted by at least a dozen people. Everyone has a different addenda and different needs. Since I am the varnish, it is usually up to me to bend to the shape of those needs. It becomes tough when the needs of the many conflict with my personal comfort zone.

I am drowning in a sea of professional and personal items here at the house in LA. I’m trying to determine what can be sent to the theatre, what needs to be sent to the apartment and what am I taking with me on the plane. Most of the back stage items went directly to New York when we closed last month in Boston. There are a couple of dressing room boxes that have been stored in New York since the Atlantic Theatre Company run. It will take some time to unpack and gather it all together and get it all in its proper place.

I will feel much better when I have moved into the theatre and have the dressing rooms set up. The characters will occupy one of the extra spaces. Then it will be all about the previews, then the keystone cop routine of opening night. Then the next hurtle.

The key is to live in the moment. Be here now, right Ram Dass? I never thought that would be so hard to do.
As you were,

Friday, September 01, 2006

A dozen people have called to tell me that David Letterman announced, “Ventriloquist Week” on his show starting September 18. That is the week we start previews. The Public Relations firm for the show seems to think there is a connection, if nothing more than a cosmic consciousness of ventriloquism coming to Broadway.

I have not been contacted to perform on the Letterman show, nor do I know anything about it since the Late Show is not on my nightly Tivo list. It will be interesting no matter how it turns out. I am hoping he does not turn it into a “Stupid Human Tricks” segment.

One thing Dave, if you are listening, you keep saying the "dying art of Ventriloquism". Walk five blocks south of your theater and notice that the art is alive and doing very well on 44th St.
As you were.