EPA Auditions and the 54 Below Showcase

It has been exciting so far in the “Hunter Foster era” of Circus in Winter. Since the announcement of the Goodspeed Musicals production set for this fall, we have brought on recent Drama Desk nominee Joe Calarco to direct. Sean, Hunter and I all listed Joe as a primary choice to direct this production, it’s nice to see everyone’s interests come together. Shortly after announcing, we set a date for our Equity Principle Auditions.
Beth got in town and we met to drink tea down the block from Pearl Studios in Midtown NYC. We were way too early, and nervous about nothing. It was just another moment, but a reality check all the same. We were officially casting this show.
(Claire and I thought these were the best special skills from actor resumes: “delightfully offensive Asian”, and above that “general dochebaggery”.)
It was an eight hour day, with casting director Paul Hardt. We saw all kinds of things, all positive in my eyes. I feel like I know more about auditioning from an acting standpoint that I ever have. By the end we had a stack of people we wouldn’t forget as we move forward.
Auditions were a treat, to be honest. It was great to see so many people prepare specified things to be apart of the show. But the real focus of my week was to prepare every performance aspect of a small set of music from the show. We had been invited back by NAMT for a Songwriters Showcase at 54 Below, one of NYC’s premier cabaret clubs. I had seen a good many performances there previous to ours, scheduled for April 28, it is very intimate and compliments our style.
I had Corey Mach and Kate Rockwell available to sing, always a treat. Kate had just finished her Broadway run of Rock of Ages, and agreed to sing while also doing a reading of a play on the same night we performed. Corey, as well, would only be available to hit sound check and performance the day of, off tour for small time from Flashdance.
This is something I should categorize. #nyclearningexperience People be busy. Always. It’s tough to get a band of people together in the same place before the gig. Wait, rephrasing: it’s tough to get a band of REALLY GOOD people together. But I’m getting used to it. The upside is, amazing artists are always ready to go when it’s time.
I took an early morning train the week before the show to see our fiddle component, Justin Smith, at his apartment in Harlem. A long ride, but I take a book. And any playing of Justin’s seems to be worth the travel. Me and Justin ran through the arrangements with the company of his daughter, Kira, not even a year old. It’s amazing how kids respond to music, she was very involved in our rehearsal.
I had a separate rehearsal with Dan Fabricatore, bass, Eli Zoller, guitar/vocal, and my main dude Nick Rapley on drum set. Nick’s first time back on set since Ball State for the show. It was also nice to have so much of the original group from last May back a year later. Dan showed up with his own charts, always nice playing with people whose ears work well. It’s a good unified experience.
Speaking of. I had the pleasure of going to Violet at Roundabout Theatre starring our Circus supporter and good friend Sutton Foster. We have team members involved as Matt Hinkley is playing guitar for the show, and Justin Smith is lead fiddle. I was inspired significantly by the production. The music was a huge presence, told the story from all angles emotionally. I had seen it at Ball State, when Beth directed it my junior (?) year. This was something else. Sutton had a calmness during the show, while doing so much demanding singing, it was mesmerizing. She had a joy. Josh Henry though…zoinks. This is what they look like.
Seeing this was a strange motivator for my own, our own, performance upcoming. It made me excited to challenge our group to find the same life within our sound.
Soundcheck came and went on the day of 54 Below performance, everybody was feeling good, Justin, Eli, Nick and I got lunch at a diner. I had dinner before with some Ball State affiliates in town to see the show, and then hung out with the other performers in the show in the green room, 14 floors above the actual stage. It was great to mingle with so many talented musicians and theater peeps before our set.
We closed the night, but prior crammed into a room to practice. First just Kate and Corey and I, then Dan, then Eli, then Justin. We were all packed in. But having a great time, people in the green room were standing outside listening. What started as a brush up turned into a run through for the sake of enjoying the sound, each others’ playing.
It continued onto stage. As we were introduced, I tried not to look at the audience. I was really excited. I didn’t want to say anything really, just jump straight into music. The stage was small for the number of people on it, but we fell in line soon enough. As Nick was preparing his sticks, I crept in with some guitar before “Runnin to Get Whats Mine”. The set began just like that, out of thin air, and we were off. It was over and done before it started, like most things in this show anymore (in a good way.) We received a standing ovation, and the buzz was strong after the show. So many friendly faces showed up, seeing Hunter was exciting, it felt like a preview of good things to come.
I truly can’t wait to continue the story of this musical. Every step we take leads to a bigger and more exciting family of creatives, people who love making and supporting art, education, and the combination of the two principles together. I’m fortunate to be apart of it.