|Happy New Year!||1/6/2019
|Are you ready to read about December? It was a whirlwind tour, through points north, south, east, and west. But let's pick up where we left off last month...
On the first day of December, I flew from San Francisco to Seattle with Jim Brickman for two shows at The Benaroya Hall. We were short on sleep and didn’t manage to catch up in-flight. We drowsily retrieved our bags, rented a car and drove to the venue for a sound check at 11:00 am. You know the drill by now. Touring can be grueling with back-to-back show days and air travel added to the mix!
But the Beneroya was alive that day, and I’m not just talking about its remarkable natural acoustics! Our nearly-sold-out matinee was pulsing with off-the-charts enthusiasm and energy—just the lift our tired bodies and voices needed! This most energetic audience yet made our hearts soar!
My friends Bob and Denise were in the audience to cheer us on. They loved the show! I wished I could have had a bite with them between shows, but I really needed to rest my voice…and refrain from talking, which would have been next to impossible! As it was, before I knew it, it was time for our 8:00 show.
As soon as I walked out on stage for “The Gift”, I experienced another blast of that fabulous Seattle energy! Wow!
After the show, we were pretty exhausted and retired to our hotel for a blissful seven hours sleep, before taking off for Portland, OR, and our 3 pm matinee there.
Sound check was tightly scheduled for 11:30, which meant hitting the road at 9am. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Steve Sundholm, our audio engineer for the Portland show, and the next day’s performance in Bend, OR.
Steve has recorded and produced some of my songs, and many of Jim’s. He lives in Portland with his beautiful wife, Michele, a talented singer and voiceover talent, and their two darling sons, making him our obvious pick for “Oregon Sound Manager”. Naturally, he did a great job!
And we had a wonderful audience. My friends Sharon and her husband Tim, along with Eric and his wife, Jane, greeted us after the show. I can’t repeat often enough how much I cherish re-connecting with friends and family I may only see once a year. It’s such a treat!
To top off the evening after our meet and greet, Jim and I stopped for dinner before heading back to our hotel.
We left at noon the following morning for Bend, OR, arriving in time for our 4:30 pm sound check. The drive was magnificent! It was a gorgeous day, with blue skies, Mt. Hood in the distance and the roads lined with majestic,snow-covered fir trees. Simply magical.
We stopped at a small gas station along the way and I’ve never been in a cleaner rest room. Oregon is not only a beautiful state with clean air, but also wins the prize for pristine rest rooms! Who knew?
Jim and I arrived in charming Bend at around 3:00, tucking in a little rest period before meeting in the lobby at 4:15. It was a short drive to the venue, the intimate Tower Theatre. This time we had a nice visit with Steve and Michele Sundholm over dinner, and Steve worked his sound-mixing magic all over again that evening.
After the show, we met friends, Janine and Kim, and bid our goodbyes to beautiful couple, Steve and Michele. Then it was off to bed, with the prospect of a (yawn) 6:10 am flight to Salt Lake City, next morning.
Our early flight went smoothly and after a yummy hotel breakfast on arrival, I napped for about three hours, to recharge for our show that evening at The Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.
Jim and I drove to the venue at around 4:00, had our sound check, and dinner.
Backstage, before the show, we were greeted by our old friend, Dain Craig, and his darling wife. We have known Dain since we first performed in Salt Lake City, at Abravanel Hall, over 20 years ago with Donny Osmond. It was great seeing Dain and I wished that we could have spent more time with him. At least we were able to exchange a post-show goodbye hug!
The audience was wonderful! ANd it was fun to be greeted by familiar faces after the show in the lobby.
In the morning, we flew to Denver, rented a car and drove an hour and a half to Colorado Springs, for a night off from the tour. We really needed it! After checking into our beautiful hotel, I snagged a quick nap.
Jim, our sound man, Bob, Megan, our merchandise gal, and I drove to a theatre to see “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the movie about the rock band, Queen. It was excellent! We relaxed in our seats over pop corn and experienced the ascent of the band, led by the brilliant Freddie Mercury. He was such an amazing talent and the actor who embraced his role in the film delivered an impressive portrayal.
We then drove back to our hotel and I had a fantastic nine-hour sleep. As you will have noticed I talk a lot about sleep this tour, I guess I was really tired!
After a day of working on my computer and making some calls over Starbucks coffee, I was picked up at 4:00 to be taken to Pike’s Peak Center, for our sound check.
I have performed at Pike's Peak with Jim, many times, but it had been a while since our last show there. The audience nearly filled the venue to capacity and electrified the room! It was a fun night and it felt great to be back.
After the show, instead of getting on the bus, Jim, John and I stayed behind one more night and drove the two hours to Loveland, CO the next day. On our way, we stopped at a health and wellness dispensary for natural hemp products. Colorado has legalized the sale of cannabis, but this particular store only carried non-THC products, which were exactly what we wanted. I purchased a topical cream for treating aches and pains. Only a handful of states have legalized the sale of cannabis, but in my humble opinion, the natural healing ingredients of non-THC products should be available everywhere.
We arrived at Loveland’s Rialto Theatre at around 3:00, settled in, and sound checked at 4:30 pm. The sold-out crowd was wonderful that evening and we had a blast, as usual!
Then it was time to board our new bus, and meet our new driver, Dave, a lovely person and an excellent driver. At the start of our 8-hour drive to Wichita, KS, Bob the soundman suggested we record a podcast from the bus. It was a fun way to unwind and talk about our show that evening. Our entire touring family--Jim, John, Tracy, Bob, lighting man, Tyson, merch gal, Megan, Daniel, our tour manager, and me-- took part in the group effort.
After our session, I retired to my bunk for a smooth ride and a nice deep sleep. On arrival in Wichita, Dave and I checked in to our hotel. Our tired bus driver probably slept all day, and I worked out, made some calls and tended to various items on my agenda.
Soon it was time for me to be picked up by the runner and taken to the reputedly haunted, Orpheum Theatre, where we have often played before. This is the old house where I had an onstage wardrobe malfunction last year: My skirt mysteriously came unhooked and started slipping down, when Jim noticed it from his piano bench and whisked me off stage! Remember?
Orpheum legend has it that there have been times when a woman was heard screaming, or a baby crying, or when the hair on the back of the neck of the technical director stood on end, due to the chilling presence of an unseen person or “ghost”! The ghosts seem to have accepted us this year: there was nothing unusual to report and the audience was fabulous!
Afterwards we boarded our bus and recorded a Facebook live video, singing songs and sharing stories from our evening. Next stop was Branson, MO, where we arrived at around 7:30 am.
This was our first time performing in this vacation hotspot, where live entertainment meets outdoor activities. After my usual hotel routine, I arrived for sound check at The Andy Williams Theatre, at around 5 pm. When I walked into the stage door, I was drawn to the framed photos of Andy Williams, his musical guests, and skits from his weekly television show, lining the walls of the hallway. My grandmother adored Andy Williams and I grew up watching his show. Donny Osmond and his brothers were of course regular guests. The youngest Osmond, Jimmy, now owns the theatre. While he was in Europe on business, his nephew, David,(the youngest son of the eldest Osmond, Alan) was filling in for him in the nightly Christmas Show performed there during the holiday season. Our show was on Sunday, their off night. It was great fun and the audience was wonderful, including fans who flew in from Florida, South Carolina and California!
Since it just happened to be Donny’s birthday, we surprised him with a little video. After the show, Jim, Tracy, John, David Osmond and I videotaped a funny birthday song and dance for Donny, and sent it to him. He replied the following day, thanking us for the “Waiting For Guffman”-style production, that he enjoyed immensely!
We boarded the bus at around 11:30 and we were on our way to Kansas City, where we arrived at 5:00 am.
At Folly Theatre, after a little rest at my hotel, I was greeted by Luke McMaster, our talented Canadian friend who toured with us several years ago. It was so great to have him back in the show! He would be with us for a total of 10 appearances, he and John Trones trading off dates.
Jim, Tracy, Luke and I rehearsed Jim and Luke’s new song, “Raise A Glass”, and worked Luke into the other numbers. His first night went well and the audience was fantastic!
After the show, we embarked upon a seven-hour ride to Oklahoma City, where we performed at The OCCC Performing Arts Center. Another great night and show #2 with Luke was even tighter!
Following our post-show meet and greet, we boarded the bus for Louisville, KY, a 13 1/2 hour drive. This time Dave, our regular, amazing man at the wheel, and another gentleman wisely shared the trip, for safety’s sake.
I checked into my hotel in Louisville in time for a shower and a little work on my computer, before sound check at The Brown Theatre.
We had performed numerous times at this cool venue. It held a wonderful audience that night, including my high school friend, Scott, and his wife, Sandi, who moved to Louisville two years ago. It was fun to see them both before and after the show!
Next stop, Charlotte, NC. “only” a 10-hour drive! We pulled into downtown Charlotte at around 10:00 am. I checked into my hotel, napped a little, worked on my computer, worked out and walked to The McGlohon Theatre, just a block away, for our 4:30 pm sound check.
The McGlohan was originally the sanctuary of The First Baptist Church. It was restored and reopened as a theatre in 1980. Imagine: a 700-seat theatre with a Byzantine dome and stained glass windows! Named for legendary jazz pianist, the lat, Loonis McGlohan of Charlotte, it is a very cool place to have a show!
The sold-out audience included my brother, Chris, and his wife, Connie. I had just seen them a few weeks before, at Thanksgiving in Cleveland, but was happy to be reunited again, this time on their home turf. They were all aglow with the holiday spirit after our feelgood concert!
After our goodbyes, and meet and greet, we boarded the bus for the six-hour drive to Norfolk, VA. We reached our destination at around 5:30 am and were dropped off at our hotel. I rested a bit, but then took an Uber to the downtown mall for a bit of Christmas shopping.
From there, I went straight to The Harrison Opera House for sound check. Luke had to leave us for a few of his own shows in Canada, and John Trones was back--we had a fun night. The audience was enthusiastic and electrified us with their energy!
Before we knew it, it was time to “unplug” and board the bus for Wilmington, Delaware. The drive took almost six hours. To add to the fatigue, Dave had to wait three hours to park our massive tour bus and trailer since another huge truck was in our parking space at the theatre! Grrrr. But Dave kept his cool, as he does in every trying situation… that’s why we felt so safe with him at the helm!
Daniel, our tour manager, walked me to the hotel, in the rain. I rested a little, went over my songs for my own upcoming shows in Cleveland, made some calls, worked out, and headed to The Playhouse on Rodney Square for sound check at 4 pm.
I had performed here many times with Jim here when it was known as The DuPont Theatre. An historic venue for the Broadway tour circuit, the only thing that has changed is the name. The audience, always responsive, was no different that night!
We had a New Jersey High School choir as our opening act. They were superb and warmed up the audience nicely. They stayed on to watch the show and added their fervor to the audience. We met them and many others after the show and continued to indulge a lovely outpour of enthusiasm.
But we were packed up and on our way to Atlantic City by 11:30. At 2:30 am, we pulled into a huge underground garage below the Oceanview Resort and Casino.
We checked into our rooms and were tucked in by 3:30 am. Sound check took place exactly twelve hours later at the 6,000 seat arena, the largest venue we have ever played!
Before the show, we met Radio WFPG’s Gary Guida backstage. I hadn’t seen Gary in a few years; he is a sweetheart and is always so supportive of Jim’s music and mine. Just the man for introducing us to our XXL audience!
We had planned a 90-minute set but Jim had some technical issues with the piano, so we broke for intermission, fixed the problem and finished the show with no sound issues for Act 2. The audience of roughly 3,000 thoroughly enjoyed the show, as we were assured by the many "meet & greeters" in the lobby afterwards!
Soon after, Tracy, John and I were on our way to Philadelphia airport aboard a white stretch limo, positioning us for our flights home the next morning. After a four-hour sleep, I was up for the 5 am airport shuttle, arriving in plenty of time for my 6:30 am flight through Charlotte to Cleveland. On the descent, my ears were subjected to excruciating pain from the pressure: I was coming down with a cold. Rats!
I landed at around 11:30 and was home by 12:30 pm. I was able to sleep a bit on the plane, but hit the ground running when I walked through the door. I cleaned the kitchen, cleaned out the refrigerator, opened my mail, unpacked, went grocery shopping and took a short nap before heading to band rehearsal with Abe LaMarca, for our Nighttown NYE shows.
Rehearsal went well and I was home by 9:30 pm. I relaxed with my hubby before heading to bed for a much-needed sleep.
By 9:00 am the next morning—take a deep breath—I was doing mega loads of laundry, changing bed linens (from my house guests over Thanksgiving!), wrapping gifts, mailing presents to my niece and nephew in Denver, running errands, visiting my mom and decorating her room with garland, ribbon and bows, under her direction… I was home by 7pm for dinner with my husband and son--before packing for my flight out the next day to Rochester, NY!!
It was another early flight and I hadn’t caught up on missing sleep, so when I arrived at Auditorium Theatre, I boarded the bus and napped for two hours in my bunk. I was still fighting my cold, but got through the show and the Rochester audience was wonderful!
Tracy, Luke and I soaked up the love from audience members who came to meet us after the show. But I was packed up and asleep in my bunk at 11:30pm!
Our driver, Dave awakened us at 5:30 am. From the venue, we took an Uber to our hotel in Youngstown. I went straight to bed and was still battling my cold.
At 8:30 am I was awakened by an extremely loud fire alarm with instructions to leave my room and floor, but not to take the elevator. Dressing quickly, I walked out into the hallway to meet our sleepy driver coming out of his room and we began our descent of eleven floors to the lobby on foot. When we reached the first floor we were told to go back to our rooms: thank goodness, it was a false alert! And I was able to back to sleep until noon.
I was still feeling congested and had to fight my way through the day. While I was waiting for my ride from the hotel to the venue, I ran into an old friend from Cleveland, who happened to be in town on business. Fancy that!
Anyway, once at the theatre, I set everything up in my dressing room and then sneaked to my bus bunk for another nap. I did get through the show, but a couple of strange notes came out of my mouth that night. I hate when that happens, but I did my very best. After a brief meet and greet, I was packed up and asleep in my bunk by 11:30 again. Next stop, Allentown, PA!
From my hotel room in Allentown, PA, I sent a birthday message to my sister in Paris, caught up on email, worked out, cleaned up and was off to sound check at Symphony Hall. Concerts had taken us there many times in the past, and the great people who run the theatre welcome us like friends— the feeling is mutual!
That evening, my future daughter-in-law’s mother, Seton, and her six friends drove an hour and a half from Cranford, NJ to see the show. I greeted them afterwards in the lobby and we visited for a bit. I can’t stress enough how much fun to meet friends in the many cities I tour across the country!
Before we knew it, we were on our way to The Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda, a suburb of Buffalo, NY. The audience was lovely and we had a great time on stage! After our post-show lobby meet and greet we boarded the bus and headed to Columbus for a matinee show at Southern Theatre.
We arrived in Ohio’s capital early next morning. I checked into my hotel for a few hours, worked out and made it to sound check by 11 am for our 3 pm show. This was another theatre we have played in the past and we were happy to be back. The audience was welcoming and very enthusiastic; and so was I! For I would be heading back to Cleveland after the show, for Christmas Eve and Christmas!
I arrived home at around 9 pm on the 23rd. On the morning of Christmas Eve, I set out for some last-minute Christmas shopping and groceries. I squeezed in a visit to my mom at the nursing home, before my husband and I picked up my LA son and his fiancée at the airport.
That evening, the four of us enjoyed an Indian dinner, followed by intensive gift wrapping and a movie. The next morning we attended Christmas Mass together, followed by our gift exchange.
My mother, along with my other son and his fiancée, joined us for a dinner, making us seven. We missed my sister, who was spending the holidays with her son and family in Denver. And of course, we couldn’t help but miss my dear brother, Geoff, who whose heart failed him on Christmas Eve of 2015.
The day after Christmas, Jim, Tracy, John and I took the show to Severance Hall, home of one of the world’s most admired ensembles, The Cleveland Orchestra. It’s an incredible treat to perform at Severance Hall! The acoustics are amazing and it’s always very special to play to your hometown audience, who were fabulous. My family was there to support me and it was a memorable night!
On the 27th, I was off again. I caught a morning flight to Minneapolis, where we were booked at Ames Center in Burnsville, MN. It was pouring rain when I landed and it never let up. But inside the theatre it was warm and cozy and the audience was lovely. In spite of a few sound issues, we made it through!
The following morning we flew to snowy, bitter cold Omaha, NE. We arrived at Holland Performing Arts Center and sound checked shortly thereafter. This would be my last show on The 2018 Joyful Christmas Tour. And it was joyful, end to end! The sound was perfect and so was the audience!
Though I had my own NYE concerts to look forward to, it was bittersweet leaving Jim, Tracy, John, our tour manager, Daniel, merchandise manager, Megan, and production manager, Tyson, who formed the nucleus of our road family this year. I’ll miss the unique camaraderie we shared on our 30-city tour!
The following morning I flew through Chicago to Cleveland and in spite of a delay, I walked through my front door at around 2 pm. It was good to be home to enjoy my family. But I wasn’t finished with shows!
Abe and I, along with our seven-piece band, were booked to play at Nighttown two days later. I was tired and my voice was tired so I tried to get some vocal rest and consumed lots of clear liquids and tea. It worked!
I felt rested and in good voice for my two sold-out shows, and the New Year’s Eve audiences were simply fantastic, including Kristin Tuttle, who drove up from Columbus with her mother and stepfather to attend the first show. We all fed off the energy of both crowds and the night was a rousing success.
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, was the month of December!