"Bewildered" is a Homecoming.
My first major show in Chicago was with Hell in a Handbag, "Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical", in 2009. I played a fan of Poseidon Adventure who also played Crewmember #1, and I also played Water for most of the show. I sang "Mama Says" from Footloose at my audition, but I don't remember much else except that it was at North Shore Baptist Church in Andersonville, blocks from where I was living at the time. I got the call that night from David Cerda saying I'd been cast, while I was having a party at my apartment (like a 24 year old does).
I was so nervous at our first rehearsal, and barely said anything to anybody, other than my lines. Steve Kimbrough was the first to say hello, and had made extra copies of the score to share. Steve is so unabashedly kind and generous, and he made me feel at home immediately in this crazy family. Soon he was giving me rides home, along with Derek and Jason, starting friendships that have defined my life in Chicago.
Meanwhile, our unsinkable choreographer Brigitte Ditmars worked with this very motley group of "good movers", gauging actors' dance skills and finding out how to best magnify their talents. Constantly conferring (and giggling) with our director, Matt Gunnels, the two had a friendship and creative partnership that is legendary. Brigitte and Matt pushed us to better ourselves every time, and set the bar of professionalism that I aspire to this day.
Matt's no longer with us physically, but he's totally with us in spirit, in every moment, it's incredible. With all these people in the room who have worked with him, who were his close friends, who share his gay, fabulous, nerdy, naughty sense of humor. He would fucking love this show.
Poseidon was a game changer for me. It was my first run of a play more than 12 performances - we ran for 5 months. It brought my first show-mance, which became my first major relationship. I went on for one night as an understudy for Ed Jones as Nonnie - my first drag role, which my parents saw (my mom took a fall on the stairs at the Chopin that night, and we had to take her to the hospital - long story). It established my first real theater family in Chicago, and I'm so glad to be back with them.
I'm so fortunate to be in a room filled with personal and professional heroes.
David Cerda is an amazing artist. It's a very specific art, and he's brilliant at it. The work he pours into his company is mammoth. Ed Jones is one of the funniest people I've ever acted with - everything he does in character is hysterical. I can almost hear him adding, "if only he was as funny when he's not acting". Michael Miller is a surgeon when it comes to creating and characters, and he commits so fully to his choices - he takes his comedy seriously. And his graphic design work on posters is nothing short of iconic - full of precious detail and clever af.
Brigitte Ditmars has long been the best choreographer I've ever worked with - she discovers each actor's hidden potential for dance and exploits it to the hilt. She drills like a Sergeant, and demands only that you work your ass off. It doesn't ever need to be perfect, it only needs to be better than the last time she saw it. Like she told us at our first rehearsal, she's "tough, but fair." As director, she is confidently steering this massive ship with zeal.
When Honey West is a freaking understudy on a show, you know it's fucking good. When Caitlin Jackson is belting her face off, you know it's fucking good. When you've got Steve Kimbrough playing straight, you know it's fucking good camp.
Not to mention the small army of insanely talented stage artists whose reputations do not necessarily come before them. Robert Williams is hysterical committing to his ridiculous dual role. AJ Wright is a wonderful partner for this (hopefully) ingenious Darrin gimmick. Betsy Morgan is soooo Elizabeth Montgomery - she just fucking gets it. They - and Abner, and the Magic Stage Hands, and god help me anybody else I'm missing in this huge cast - are going to be household names imminently.
The work is so good.
The music is a warm nod to classic musicals with a subversive edge that goes over the top and then some. The script comes off as a wild spec script for a spin-off origin story, written by Bruce Vilanch (except better). Did I mention David Cerda is playing Endora? Ed Jones as Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur!
My mom would have loved this show - her son gets to play Dick York! I don't have very many specific memories of watching Bewitched with her, but I know she was at least familiar with it, if not a fan. She loved this kind of show, the wholesome family comedy - and she'd love the subversive musical take on it. Even if she might not "get" men dressed as women.
I'm very proud of this show. It's such an escape from the shitshow that is our current national spectacle. I love to make people laugh, and I love to sing - the atmosphere of a musical, the energy of the live audience. It's why I do this.
We're just at the beginning of this journey, but so far, it's a good one.