LENNON Closing Night
A week ago, between last Saturday's matinee and evening shows, I decided to get out of midtown for the afternoon and have some dinner downtown. I stumbled across the Feast of San Genero, which runs the length of Mulberry Street in Little Italy, from Canal St up to Houston (How-stun). After walking the whole length of the festival and sampling the Italian food, I cut over to Crosby St in the neighboring Soho district and walked south a few blocks to where a little art studio was located. It was there that exactly a year before, I had my first audition for Lennon, and the first time I met Don, Edgar, Allan, and casting director Janet. That day ranks as one of the most magical in all my years. There was an instant chemistry, a kinship, really, between myself and Don. I was the only one they were seeing that day and the atmosphere in the room could not have been cozier or more casual. As a result, I had a stellar audition and blew away everyone in the room. I nailed it. I was in like flint. Later, when the callbacks came and there wasn't such a cozy room and there were lots of people and it went real fast (like auditions normally go), I didn't fare as well and was passed on in favor of the heavy hitters who knew how to audition and looked good on paper. But my two appearances were strong enough to put me, a full-time musician from Austin with no professional theater experience, in the original cast as a swing. With it came the potential to be a replacement on Broadway or perhaps tour with another company. The sky was the limit, if I just paid my dues.
Naturally, no one in the company thought they'd be out of work only six weeks into the show's Broadway run, least of all me. We all thought we'd be able to play for a couple of months at the very least, yet here we were performing our last show after having just opened. The spring run in San Francisco exposed a number of flaws in the structure of the show, but we figured they could all be fixed back in New York. Even if it wasn't perfect, we thought, there was nothing you could hand this cast that they couldn't make a balloon animal out of and hand back to you, so we'd be fine, no matter what. In spite of the warning signs that lay all around us, we had to put our hearts, minds and souls into the forward progress of the program. We had to have faith. In the end, it wasn't enough.
Someday we'll hear all the stories; tales of what went on behind closed doors in the production meetings that led to how the show was shaped creatively and how the business strategy was developed and applied. But tonight we had a show to put on...okay, they had a show to put on. I was hanging out with Sasha and Dexter and we all went out into the house to watch the show for the last time. The house was full, it seemed, nearly sold out. Many people in the house were repeat viewers, and of course the dedicated Lennonites took up positions along the front row to cheer everyone on. Yoko was in the house and received an ovation as she took her seat. From the moment the house lights faded to the last note of the band's closing music, the show was in full groove. Everything the cast did got a loving response from the crowd, and they seemed eager to applaud twice as loud and twice as long for each moment. The mixture of humor, joy and sorrow was thick as fog throughout the entire theatre. I half expected the cast to be in tears by the end of the last scene, but they all held together. In fact, a festive atmosphere prevailed at the end, and all of us swings joined the cast onstage for the closing reprise of "Give Peace a Chance." [Nicole was already onstage, having covered for Marcy, who gave her last performance on Thursday]
After the show, the cast and crew went across the street to John's Pizzeria and had a little going way party, courtesy of the producers. It was the last time many of us would see each other for a long while, though some were likely to team up on future projects down the road. For me, it was perhaps the most bittersweet, for I had to pack up and leave for Austin first thing the next day, and I'm probably on the road as some of you read this. But I didn't go away empty-handed. I got to keep some of the clothes I wore on stage, including the Beatle boots, which are hard to find in the states. I also received, lest we forget, an iPod from Yoko Ono and an Epiphone Casino guitar from Don. Chuck told me a few weeks ago, "Man, you lucked out on this gig. Usually the most you get outa one of these things is a t-shirt!"
So what happens now? Well, we all move on, naturally. I have auditions scheduled in Austin, which is why I'm dashing off so quickly, and everyone else is either still auditioning or already booked for something else. I hope someday soon to make it back to New York City, and connections I've made from this experience can make that possible. Of the relatively small amount of times that Lennon ran on Broadway, I performed in twenty-one of them and impressed a lot of people (I'm already returning next month for a previously booked showcase), so a future here is not out of the question. But for now, as the story of Lennon comes to an end, so does my year-long adventure, which took me from Austin to New York to San Francisco and back again, forever changing my life in the process.
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