Excerpts From Another Cat's Diary : Chapter Four : Witches, Princes, Kings, and Lords
If you care to read or listen from the beginning click here.
This chapter includes adult language.
Welcome back. There’s a three-day gap between the last chapter I released and today, Friday's section. Here are some brief notes to catch you up:
Tuesday Highlights :
A read-thru of a new, NEW Bustopher (2nd new version so far) and the key is ridonkulously low.
Kristen: How low can you sing?
Me: An A. That’s useful
I’m hedging that answer by two whole tones, but I’m thinking about previews and opening night and nerves (see Kinky Boots, lessons learned).
Kristen: Do you mind reading through this anyway?
Me: Not at all. Let's do it.
Wednesday Highlights :
- Nick Scandalios addresses the troops because Gillian Lynne addressed the media.
- Following Nick, in one passionate, calm, and beautiful speech Andy Blankenbuehler goes from Prince Hal to Henry V. He grows in my estimation every day.
- I withdraw that. In telling a cute “my kids” anecdote—to lighten the mood after the Gillian downer—Andy accidentally cops to wanting to cut Bustopher. I knew it. My heart drops. Glimmer of hope for the fat cat? Andy’s daughter. Come on, Sofia…! I’m putting my faith in you, kid.
- New line assignments in The Ball. Wait! Peter has lines in the Jellicle Ball? Oh, Jesus. I’m Peter in the ball?!? More dancing!?! Says Peter right there in the new music pages and—God, will the terror never end?
- Texts from friends pouring in all day about Gillian’s poison press. Ah, well. We must carry on.
Thursday Highlights :
Lord Webber walks in. And speaks! With purpose. A purpose. To publicly anoint Andy. Quite right, too. And, very well done.
As we get ready to run the opening for ALW for the first time, Lili, loaded behind me in the tube, says, apropos of her nerves and my seniority I suppose, “You’re used to this.” I hope I said something reassuring and polite in response. Inside my brain, I said, “Running the fucking opening of Cats for fucking Andrew Lloyd Webber? I’m bloody well not used to this!” Or, maybe I did say that out loud.
And now, you’re caught up a bit. So…
Here we go.
Cats : Day ELEVEN of Rehearsal
Friday, June 10th, 2016
50 DAYS TO OPENING
A Dream Deferred
I’m on the A train headed downtown for the 10:00 a.m. start of our day. Today’s going to be a little longer, as we’re taking an hour-and-a-half lunch and ending at 6:30. A Friday long lunch usually means some sort of meeting is happening during that time with the creative and production teams—meaning Andy and Ira and others work straight through, cramming in their lunch as they can.
The call sheet says full company all day. Dance and some music review. I don’t think Andy’s gonna break out many of these rehearsals from now on, meaning he’s going to have everyone in the room all the time whether they’re in the number he’s working on right that second or not. It’s the most efficient way to operate, really. For a track like mine that can mean quite a lot of sitting around. As Ira said, “Gus is the Franz Liebkind of Cats.”
But not the Dr. Dillamond of Cats, I thought, with a sigh.
I fully admit, my plan, my fantasy about this job was that I would be in very little of the show. I mean, Bustopher has one number. Gus has two and they’re back-to-back. As far as I knew from the cast albums, that’s all they do in the show.
That’s right. I’ve never seen Cats. At least not until the night before we started rehearsal. Then I watched the DVD. I’ll share my thoughts on that a little later.
But back to my dream.
My dream was that when I would be on I would be on—like, standing-on-or-near-zero-and-in-a-spot-light on—and the rest of the time I’d be in my dressing room—my private dressing room (this is my dream, remember)—and I’d be doing other very, very important things.
Writing books (this one).
Learning to speak Spanish.
Reinvesting in my ukulele skills.
Very important things.
That dream went up in smoke the minute they typed this at the top of my offer:
1. ROLE Producer hereby agrees to engage Actor to perform in the role currently titled:
Peter. Fucking Peter.
Off the A at 42nd Street, dodge the tourists in the station and along the block, flash my ID tag for the guard, and into the elevators at New 42.
10:00 am - 11:00 am, Studio 7A, FULL CAST (sans Hanes & Lewis)
Studio 7B, Hanes, Tugger music
Studio 7C, Lewis, Grizabella music
Three rehearsals going at the same time. Second week and we’re full steam ahead.
EXCERPT : MUSIC LESSON #1
Pick-up choreography work is the agenda in 7A (so I’m enjoying some coffee and laptop time) but after a while, we’re all summoned into Studio B to add the group vocals to “Tugger” with some changes per ALW notes.
Neither Q nor I am in this number so we’re sitting it out.
Until Q is no longer sitting it out. He raises his hand.
Some context: “Tugger” is one of the new charts for this production. Clancy’s been going for a big “church” ending—as in black church—and, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s a pretty white room. Back to Q raising his hand.
He hears a note that’s missing that, as he says, “would be what we’d do in church.”
The minute he sings it, I know he’s right.
The suggestion is not immediately taken.
Afterwords Q asked me, “Why do you think they didn’t want to change that note?”
I shrugged, but thought, they will. They eventually will… But because the “they” of Cats is particularly Byzantine, it will take time for the idea to make its way up and down the musical chain of command.
EXCERPT : MUSIC LESSON #2
Ricky Todd Adams is singing extraordinarily high rock tenor notes during the back end of the “Tugger” chart. It’s amazing and really thrilling and really healthy sounding.
On the break, I asked him, “What are you doing there? Is that a reinforced falsetto or… what? What is that?”
Ricky Todd answers by telling a story, as Ricky Todd is wont to do. And he starts the story pretty much the same way he starts all his stories:
“Let me tell you, when I was dating ______…”
Insert name of any number of women, often Tony-nominated actresses, here.
Don’t worry, when the music stopped and there were only two chairs left, Ricky Todd, I’m very happy to report, landed with the best of all possible women. It’s just—well—the music played for a while.
11:00 am - 2:00 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST (sans Lewis)
EXCERPT : WAITING FOR CHRISSIE CARTWRIGHT
The sound of the musical entrance of Old Deuteronomy is glorious. It really is. I’m actually sorry I’m not singing it. And Q coming in at the end is beautiful. I can’t imagine that Cats has ever been sung better that this cast is singing it. The talent on both ends of the baton is really astonishing. Once the company ran through it, William—William Waldrop, our wonderful Associate Music Director—turned to Chrissie.
William to Chrissie, “Do you have anything?”
Chrissie to William, “No. Well…”
And she gestures to Q and, as William moves on with his notes for the company, I watch Chrissie move over to Q and the two of them go into a quiet, private confab in the corner.
I look away.
That’s for them. Yours will come. Patience.
I hope I have moments with her like that in front of me. Greedily, I’ve been wanting to corner her and start asking questions about Gus, and Bustopher for that matter. For information—yes—but also just to get to talk with her. I don’t think I watch anyone harder in this room than I watch Chrissie Cartwright.
I’m fascinated with her.
Of everyone’s jobs in this room—and there are a lot of hard and tricky jobs in this room—hers, I think, is the hardest and the trickiest. Certainly the most fraught. But her temperament, so far, gives me no indication that it’s a burden whatsoever. That can’t possibly be so, but she makes it seem so. I’m sure I’ll get my moments with her, but—given the size of the job and the many moving parts—our moments together may be rare. When they come I’ll need to pay quiet, close attention.
Quiet, close attention.
It is sometimes not my best trick.
3:30 - 6:30 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST, Dance & Music Review
EXCERPT : ALL BALL, ALL AFTERNOON
Q and I are starting to weave together a story for Deut and Gus, based on Andy’s staging—which basically gets two older actor-types upstage and away from the dancer-types while they do the real work.
While we’re there, parked on the tire, Q asks about Gus’ trajectory and we have a brief chat about it. I think Gus is about to drop dead. I think once he’s seen for the last time in the story (sending Griz to the Heavy Side Layer) he goes off by himself and dies, quietly. In a park. Far away from the theaters. Maybe. What I don’t know is, does he know he’s so near the end? No idea. But Q and I like the idea that Gus and Deuteronomy are already in agreement (either tacit or articulated) that Gus is not to be chosen this night. Gus is tired. He’s done his bit. He’s ready for his exit.
EDITORIAL NOTE :
Yeah, I need to add something here from a journal entry from two days ago, Wednesday, June 8th, so that we’re all clear about exactly which cat I am, when.
WEDNESDAY, June 8th
EXCERPT : SAFE
After some cleaning with Chrissie of the opening in Studio A while Andy takes folks little by little into B to work on internal bits of the ball, we all come together to stage the “Song Of The Jellicles”, the summoning of the tribe by Deuteronomy to “come back! Come all!”
On my first line, “…and wait for the Jellicle Moon to rise,” Andy refers to me as Gus.
Hold on. I thought I was Peter.
It says Peter on the latest pages of music.
Me: “Hey, Andy. Just to clarify. Who am I in this number?”
Andy: “You’re Gus. This is your entrance into the play.”
Me: “Well then I have to start walking and talking entirely differently.”
And I strolled back upstage right to make my first geriatric entrance.
I was creeping. Frail is one of my three magic words from Trevor, along with wistful and imaginative, but more on that later. Yes, outside I was creeping but inside I was leaping with joy! I’m Gus. from now until the end of the play! Meaning: I can’t dance!!!!!
I enter into the ball on the arm of Jellylorum and, my love affair with Sara Ford begins.
She and I greet Old Deuteronomy. Then I take a safe position up on the tire and watch the dancing until I’m too inspired to sit still and I rise (with the help of Jennyanydots, Eloise Kropp) and we all greet the Jellicle Moon.
It’s my first Gus moment on our feet. And, now, I feel safe.
© Christopher Gurr and ChristopherGurr.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Christopher Gurr and ChristopherGurr.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.