Connect with us

Fielder's Choice

Welcome to the Show

May you never fail to point your shoes back home, wherever that may be.

Welcome to the Show


  • Avatar
Estimated Reading Time: 9 Minutes

There’s a lot to say about the past two years I have spent at the Al Hirschfeld making shoes and boots over the last two years. I’ve seen cast mates posting on Instagram and Facebook, and even recording songs inspired by their love for the show, as if we all needed any more evidence of their talents.

I don’t know, y’all. If I’ve written and deleted one Facebook post about this show closing, I’ve written a thousand. So instead, I’m here on my sports site, writing about a Broadway show closing.

Weird, huh?

I get a lot of confused looks when telling people I run a sports site written by theatre people. While it may sound like an oxymoron, the two end up being more intertwined than you think. “How?” you ask as you turn down your Original Broadway Cast Recording of Pippin. Let me explain.

In January of 2017, I was working at Warby Parker’s Grand Central location. I loved my survival job, but after another year of scraping by on two Summer Stock gigs, I didn’t know if I had it in me any longer. After having achieved a modicum of success on the Non-Eq scene, smaller regional houses, and being called in for a few major Broadway shows, I was feeling tired. I wasn’t hungry for the dream anymore. The survival job wasn’t for survival. The thing on life support was my drive for the theatrical work.

I went home to Boston to collect my thoughts and see my family. On the bus ride back I looked the love of my life in the eye and said, “I think I’m done, and I’m okay with that.”

That’s when my agent e-mailed me.

“Tomorrow. 4:30. Telsey. Kinky Boots Tour. Immediate Replacement.”

I show the e-mail to Joanna. Y’all, your boy just quit the business. Legitimately just said it. She just looks at me and says, “You gotta go. If you leave feeling empty, you’ll know it’s over.”

So I went in, to my 11th audition for Kinky Boots, knowing this was going to be my last audition ever. I walked into that audition room and thought “leave it all out on ther field.”

“Leave it all out there on the field,” is my favorite motivational phrase. It reminds me of my JV Lacrosse coach grabbing my face mask before the fourth quarter of a game against Billerica. For those of you unaware of the insane competition of the Merrimack Valley Conference Boys Lacrosse scene, just know that it’s insane, and Billerica was a top contender. So the fact that we were up late in the game against them was huge. But in order to beat Billerica, you have give everything you’ve got. You’ve got to leave it all out there on the field.

So anyway, I’m singing my sides and reading my scenes and it’s going well, so they ask me to stay and sing something from my book. “Literally whatever you want.” This is where I turn to my go-to audition piece, Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive.” I mean, look, if I’m going out with a bang, might as well bring the dynamite, ya know?

The next day I’m closing at Warby Parker when my agent calls. I step away from my computer, doing that cute thing actors do when they try to pretend they’re not on the phone and actually care about the job their being paid to. do. Anyway, I answer and the first thing out of his mouth is…

“You finally did it.”

If I learned one thing from that moment, it’s this: there’s what you think a sigh of relief is and then there’s what a sigh of relief actually is. This moment had the latter. The next day I had a boot fitting, a suit fitting, and a podcast to record.

If you listen to that podcast, you can hear two things. Firstly, you can hear me ramble about Russian theatre. Secondly, you can hear how absolutely unprepared I was for the next two years of my life. 48 hours after booking the job, I was on a plane to San Jose.

As I boarded the plane at LaGuardia, the sun was beginning to rise. I distinctly remember thinking of the moment in Major League when Jake opens his locker to find he’s made the team and says “Another Summer in the sun, kid.” Another shot. Another chance.

I touched down in California, dropped my bags at the hotel and booked it to the theate. The matinee had already started, so I was told to watch Act Two.

Let me tell you all something: I have had three religious experiences in my life.

  1. Seeing St. Basil’s Cathedral in Person. #Russia
  2. Witnessing the power of Konstantin Raikin in King Lear.
  3. Seeing J. Harrison Ghee perform “Hold Me In Your Heart” during a matinee in San Jose.

J. Harrison Ghee is stupid and hurtful, and by that what I mean by that is it’s stupid how talented he is, and it’s hurtful that God gave him all that ability and left me with what I have. Kinda rude if you ask me.

After the show is over, I call my fiancee and tell her that I made a mistake and that I am CLEARLY not good enough to be here. She laughs and tells me I’m dumb. I cry by a fountain in California.

Over the next 48 hours, under the incredible direction and supervision of Meryn Beckett, Alex Dreshke and Greg Covert, I am taught the show, while the show is happening. Day 1 was spent just learning things, this moves here, that moves there, this color spike to this color spike, etc. And the next day, we would do the musical numbers with the show happening, with Alex, Greg and Meryn giving notes during the scenes I wasn’t in.

I am forever grateful for those three people. Because they threw me to the lions and told me I’d be fine. A week after booking the show, I was in it.

After my two months as an emergency replacement was up, I headed back to New York, back to my then-girlfriend, the survival job, the grind, but mainly the question: was that it?

A week later, my agent calls.

“How would you like to do the Broadway production?”

If I learned one thing from that moment, it’s this: there’s what you think relief feels like and then there’s what relief actually feels like.

In two weeks, the thing I have dreamed about since I was a kid is going to happen. The thing I fought for all these years. The thing I cried over, and stressed over, and bled over… you get the idea, I really wanted it… was finally happening.

In baseball, being called up to the majors is referred to as “being called up to The Show.” On my Non-Equity tour, we often referred to ourselves as the JV squad, the minor league version of the Broadway show. You’re out there playing the same game every night, in smaller markets, for sometimes less people, and for less acclaim.

But Broadway is The Show, and I had made it.

If I do nothing else after this, I’ll be fine.

I don’t remember much about my first week at the Hirschfeld. Things I do remember are meeting Stephen Tewksbury, John Jeffrey Martin, Michael Milkanin and Danny Sherman, talking baseball with Brett, Rocco, Martin, and Steve, thinking I ruined the show twice, but it wasn’t my fault, and I remember Mia Gentile (we share the same birthday), saying this to me:

“This is a really good place to make your Broadway Debut.”

Mia, I love you, but what does that mean? Isn’t any place a good place to make your Broadway Debut? Isn’t that just… like.. a thing you say to someone? That sounds exactly like when someone says “Cleveland has the best fans!” when they’re playing for a Cleveland team. Duh. Of course, you’re gonna say that. Can you imagine if Aaron Judge said: “Boston’s the best city to play for!” He’d get run out of the Bronx.

After two years, however, I now know exactly what she meant.

Kinky Boots has given me so much over these past few years. It gave me the ability to purchase an engagement ring, which I used to ask the love of my life to marry me, one of my greatest friends and a groomsman at my wedding. It allowed me to work with my heroes. I got to play in the Broadway Softball League. I met people who shaped my childhood. It gave me too many laughs to count, and too many aches and pains to keep track of. This show gave me strength, courage, love, and hope.

It also helped me get through some dark moments over the past two years. I found out my grandfather had passed away in the middle of a rehearsal at the theater. I remember walking down to the Intrepid and sitting there for what felt like an eternity. My mother’s voice on the other end of the phone telling me, “He would want you to be in your show tonight. I’m sure they’ll be able to hold you up.”

I cried my way through that show, as my cast mates carried me and let me cry on their shoulders. It wasn’t their job, but they wouldn’t let me fall.

And that’s because most of all, Kinky Boots gave me a family.

View this post on Instagram

Homies at vocal brush up @kinkybootsbway 🤙🏽

A post shared by John Jeffrey Martin (@threenamejohnny) on

It doesn’t feel like the show is closing, it feels like we’re all being traded to different teams, all of us scattered to the winds to play elsewhere. The stadium remains, but a different team sits in the dugout, and our nameplates are gone from the locker room.

Kinky Boots has been open for 6 years at the Hirschfeld, and for two years, I got to play with some of the greatest figures in the game. I am lucky, that’s not lost on me at all. Trust me, I show up to work everyday thinking, this is crazy. This is crazy. It’s crazy. But what’s crazier is that we’re all going to wake up on Monday morning, and it will be gone.

People have asked me throughout this whole closing process whether or not I’m sad. The answer is complicated. Am I sad? Sure. Am I devastated? No. Not in the slightest.

What I am… is afraid.

There is a part of me that cannot stop thinking about the fact that Sunday might be the last time I am in a Broadway show. That part cannot stop thinking about how much I’ll miss it. I am afraid that I’ll miss it too much, that I’ll lose touch with my coworkers. I’m afraid I’ll forget every second of every moment I’ve had inside that theater.

I am afraid that this it.

And then I remember how I felt in January of 2017.

And I remember that this was exactly the thing I needed to remind myself of why I love theatre in the first place. That kid in his bedroom going over every moment of Les Mis in his head, never thought this would be possible, and now he knows it is.

This show gave me something I thought I lost a long time ago.

It gave me passion, life, a home, and a new family.

Because after all, it’s not just a factory…

This is my family.

And no one’s gonna shut us down, even if we are closing on April 7th.

Author

    Avatar

    Click to comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Turf Burns!

    Advertisement

    Editor’s Picks

    Latest Articles