Monday, November 22, 2010

Angie's Birthday Weekend.

Angie and I traveled down to San Diego for the weekend to attend her niece's 15th birthday party.  Angie's brother's wife is Mexican and apparently the 15th birthday, in that culture, is a big deal, much like the 13th birthday is a big deal in the Jewish tradition.  There's actually a name for it (starts with a Q) but I can't remember what it is.  In any event, Kenny (Angie's brother) went all out and rented space at the The Hampton Inn, catered it, tons of food and deserts, a DJ playing music that was incomprehensible to me, lots of 15 year old boys and girls dancing the night away.  It was actually a pretty cool thing. 

And as the evening progressed I felt older and older and older.  Usually, Angie and I are considered the hippest of all the adults by our friend's kids.  I suspect this is because Angie has the amazing ability to make anyone she's talking to feel like they're her best friend of all time and I'm always good-naturedly grumpy and tend to cuss a lot.  Kids like that.  But as we sat there in the convention room, all decorated and looking very 15 year old chic, we both felt terribly, terribly grown-up.  We were on the 'suit and tie' side of the room with all the other parents and, like everyone else on that side of the room, were clearly considered the interlopers. 

Kenny showed a slide show to get the evening rolling, a sort of 'this is your life' kinda thing of Sophie (the 15 year old), complete with really wonderful music.  And much to my surprise, right in the middle of it, I sort of got quietly choked up.  It was just so clear how much Kenny, usually a mildly acerbic but hail-fellow-well-met kind of guy, adored and loved his daughter.  I was grateful he didn't play 'Butterfly Kisses' underneath the slide show.  I would have wept out loud. 

Rosemary, Angie and Kenny's mom, traveled all the way from Missouri for the party.  She'd just come back from Columbia (she and her husband Rex are always jet-setting it all over the world, bless their hearts) and is going in for major back surgery in January, so it was a big deal that she'd made the trip.  And if Angie and I felt old, I'm sure Rosemary, who's as cosmopolitan as one can get, must've felt old right along with us.  Even Angie's daughter, Lauren, and her long-time boyfriend, Nate, both in their early twenties, were relegated to the 'grown-up' table.  At least they seemed to recognize some of the music, which is more than I can say of me.

So we had to scoot out of San Diego early Sunday morning because I had a marathon music rehearsal for The Adding Machine at noon. 

I came into the rehearsal, once again, highly prepared.  I'd been working on one of my songs that was scheduled for the day like a maniac.  It didn't help.  I was quickly overwhelmed with the music.  About halfway through this particular song are a few high Fs.  I found that as I 'acted' the song, I tend to get a little keyed up physically and I'm not really a trained singer so my throat had tightened up as the song progresses.  It's a long and comprehensive and emotionally draining song, kind of along the lines of 'My Boy Bill' or 'Molasses to Slavery to Rum' and I musjudged my ability to pull it off.  I have to learn how to sing it and show great consternation without letting my throat tighten up.  Real singers do this with ease.  Not me.  Consequently I have to re-think the whole thing.  The troubling part of it all is that it caught me off guard.  I don't like being caught off guard in rehearsal. 

Also, the librettist, Jason Loewith, was there for the first hour or so to answer questions and explain the genesis of the piece, the trials and errors of its first production, etc.  Jason is clearly a tremendously talented guy and very, very smart.  He impressed me.  He's been in Chicago for a long time now and we know a lot of the same people, although we'd never personally met there.

The funny and cool thing about this show is that I'm surrounded by world-class singers and musicians.  I was astonished at how quickly they picked up this really complicated, difficult music.  It was the first time we had all been together in the same room and it quickly became clear that I would have to work twice as hard to keep up with them.  So be it.  When it comes to theatre I don't believe in excuses.  Whatever it takes, even if I have to hire a private vocal coach, I'll keep up.  Allen, our musical director, is quite possibly one of the best I've ever worked with and I'm guessing I've worked with about 30 or 40 musical directors in my time.  He's kind and encouraging and yet it is abundantly clear he will settle for nothing less than perfection.  I like that in him. 

I leave every rehearsal a little overwhelmed.  Actually, a lot overwhelmed.  Good.  It's been a long, long time that I haven't felt completely in command of the material at hand.  It's good for me.  Keeps me humble.  I have a great deal of work on it ahead of me today before our next rehearsal later on in the afternoon.

Angie's birthday was yesterday.  She turned #%$@*&^.  (Okay, I'll say it, 48.)  Angie, aside from a lifelong fondness for very good wine, has lived a ridiculously healthy lifestyle and consequently looks far younger than that.  Good for her.  Me, I've lived like a nihilist with a death wish and look about ten years older than I am. 

This Thursday, Thanksgiving, we're heading over for our annual get-together at the Lipps household, Tammy and Mark.  Tammy turns out a spread as though cooking for the King of Siam every year and it promises to be a culinary event.  Maybe, like last year, I can get a spirited game of 'Celebrity' going after the turkey.

So...a little more coffee and then I'll don the headphones and start on the music again.  Oy. 

See you tomorrow.