Guess what I did most on my birthday? I slept. My favorite activity. Okay, it's not really my favorite activity. I have one other that slightly surpasses it: playing a show in front of an exuberant audience. And, boy, did that happen last night. In fact, it has happened two nights in a row. And not that the other audiences haven't been really and truly responsive. But something happened this week that is unexplainable.
In show biz terms, it's called "finding your audience." Or, in this case, it's probably more accurate to say that our audience found us. Week One you get the regulars. The people who are season ticket holders. Here, they tended to be a bit older, a bit reserved in terms of their response (and I mean only "a bit"). But word from the office was that they were "loving" the show. Chances are they went out and told a friend or two.
Week Two, the reviews come out. If you've been following the blog, you know that every single review here has been magnanimous in their praise. So, you begin to get newbies who saw the review and are curious. The houses were full but not sold out -- however, we did get a LOT of walk-ups. So, a house reserved at 50% full would end up being 80% full by curtain. (This makes the office very happy to see). It meant that a lot of people were wanting to go out, hadn't decided yet what to do and made a last minute decision based on what they read in the paper.
The beginning of the Tidal Wave hit, however, on Sunday. (The weekend was also very good, but we were battling local UA and high school football, etc. so not quite a sell-out) But on Sunday! A total sell-out. Jammed to the rafters. Wonderful response. It felt good. However, Jim and I knew that last Sunday was also sold out because this is when the most elderly can get out -- in the afternoon. The real test of whether we were going to have a great run would be this last week.
See, "word of mouth sales," as I learned from the marketers in New York, doesn't mean, "I told my friend and she immediately bought tickets." "Word Of Mouth" sales are that you tell your friend, it lodges in your friend's head, then friend sees it in the paper, remembers someone said something about it, and then, in the best of all situations, someone ELSE tells friend about the show, they see it again in the paper and buy a ticket.
When we got to the theatre Wednesday night, we were told, "Tonight you're sold out." Really?? On a Wednesday? On the night that Top Chef is having its finale? Well!
And what a show! First of all, as most of you who have seen the show know, Jim is very bad to me on stage. During the scene where I have to inform my "Baptist band" that I'm leaving them, he gets very naughty. His goal is to make me laugh inappropriately in the scene, to totally lose it. And I know he's about to go for the jugular when he gets this glint in his eye.
Me, I never fake this. Never. I tried once in New York to see if it would be funny to turn that moment into a "bit" -- because audiences love seeing performers lose it on stage -- but I failed miserably in "pretending" to laugh. So, I made a decision way back then that if I laugh, I laugh. If I don't laugh, then we just proceed with the scene.
But if Jimmy gets me started -- think of the old Carol Burnett Show when Tim Conway would crack up Harvey Corman -- he doesn't just let it lie there. It's like blood to a shark. Suddenly, in this squeaky, little voice he'll say, "Don't lay-uff. Jay-zus don't lack it when yew lay-uff." And I'm gone. Well, this night, the audience was right there with us. They saw me going and they started going.
And we couldn't stop. All through the end of the act, everything was funny. Tears were STREAMING down my face. I was completely out of control. And the audience was ROARING at this. They LOVED it. I don't think, in all my years of being on a stage, I've ever experienced a night like this, where everyone was weak and hurting from laughing so hard.
Then, last night. Thursday night.
Sold out house.
And to make it even more fun, there was a large contingent from the GLBT group called "Wingspan." This time, however, though I kept my cool in "that" scene, the rest of the show played just as hilariously as the night before. The difference was that it was the audience alone which was rolling in the aisles. All we had to do was stand there and just deliver our lines. But they were talking back, allowing themselves to get involved, laughing and applauding as one. It was almost as if they were doing the show and we were watching them.
Talk about being connected! At the end, the entire audience was on its feet before the lights even came back up. They were shouting and roaring at us!
Then, Suz, the artistic director, appeared on the side with a little cheesecake surrounded by sugar free cookies. She tried to quiet them down, but it was impossible. They kept on. Finally, she got them quiet and she gave them permission to sit, but they wouldn't. They stayed on their feet while we all sang happy birthday (to me).
I told them how honored I was that they were there. (The greatest birthday gift for an actor is to be working on his birthday). I told them about how I call my website "Living in the Bonus Round" and how truly happy I was to be alive at that very moment with them.
And that truly IS a happy birthday.
(And thank you for all the cards and best wishes. BTW, you'll notice that there are no pictures from last night. Stupid me left the memory card for the camera in my computer. BAD blogger. BAD blogger.)