Today is another ‘one show’ day, so once again I am in no great rush this morning. There is one thing praying on my mind, however, and that is the fact that my new costume trousers have not arrived.
When I ordered them last week I reckoned that, with Thanksgiving, this would be the best hotel to have them shipped to. No package in my name has been delivered, and so I must now ponder my next move.
One can’t ponder on an empty stomach, so I go to the lobby for breakfast, where I impress myself by having a bowl of fruit, before blowing it with bacon, eggs, French toast and syrup.
Back in my room I try to call Buy4LessTuxedo.com to see what’s happened to my order, but never get through to a real person. I am initially told that I will be connected to an agent soon; then that all the agents are busy helping other costumers (a phrase designed to make you feel guilty for being impatient); and finally I am connected to a voicemail. I leave a message but with no great hope of success.
I still have a couple of hours before checkout, so I spend some time going through the lines for the two act version of A Christmas Carol, which I will be performing this evening in New Jersey. This will be my final day of pacing and line learning on this trip.
At eleven o’clock, having heard nothing from Buy4LessTuxedo.com, I pack up my cases, sweep the room to check I haven’t left anything, and prepare to leave.
At the front desk I ask the lady if she could just check once more for a package in my name, but there is nothing in the office.
I explain the situation, and ask that if the package does arrive, could the hotel contact Gary at The Historical Christmas Barn, who can then ship it on to Byers Choice, where I will be next weekend.
There now begins a series of events, that could make even the most sceptical mind believe in Divine intervention.
The lady behind the desk asks for Gary’s phone number. My schedule with all such details in it is in the car, but I do have a copy on my smart phone. I reach for my pocket and find no phone. Other pocket, not there either. Must be in my bag: no. Camera bag: no.
OK, this is silly, I must have left it in my room, even though I was certain I’d checked everywhere. Back to the second floor, back to my room. No phone there either.
I return to the lobby, unpack my small case and still meet without success. I look through my large suitcase and once more draw a blank.
I go BACK to the room and get on my knees, looking beneath the bed, where there is no phone but I do find a pair of socks.
In the hotel corridor there is a lady pushing a housekeeping cart. Maybe the phone dropped from my pocket as I left the room, so I ask if she’s seen it in. No, she hasn’t.
Getting panicky now (actually, I was getting panicky quite a while ago). I look through my bags and coat pockets once more.
The lady behind the desk suggests that she calls the phone, but a) it is in its silent mode, having been with me at my show yesterday and b) It is a British number and the hotel does not have an international calling package.
I don’t quite know what to do. Time is pushing on. I decide to load my cases into the car. And re-search my bags there: maybe a change of scenery will help (some serious straw-clutching going on now).
When I open the big case, there packed deep inside is my HTC. Why did I pack it in my suitcase? I have no idea. Why did I not see it five minutes ago? I have no idea.
I go back into the lobby to let the concerned lady know, and she is holding a large shipping package in her hands: just this minute delivered by UPS.
If I hadn’t been delayed in searching for my phone I would have left twenty minutes ago, but the sequence of events has kept me at the hotel until my new costume was safely in my hands.
Divine Intervention. Or clumsiness.
I thank the lady very much, and get in my car to head for Teaneck, New Jersey. The drive is only an hour or so, but the terrain and demographic changes noticeably. My drive takes me through the Bronx, skirting Queens, and across the magnificent George Washington Bridge.
The GW Bridge is a testament to an age of remarkable growth in the New York City area. Opened in 1931 it carries seven lanes of traffic in both directions, on a double-decker system. As I approach the bridge a flashing warning sign tells me that if I use the lower tier the travel time to NJ (3 miles) will be 22 minutes; whilst if I take the top tier the travel time to NJ (3 miles) will be 5 minutes. It would seem as if the top tier is the better bet.
By dint of some good New-York, elbows-out driving, I muscle my way into the correct lane and am soon driving over the mighty Hudson River. The view of Manhattan is amazing and, as always when I visit New York, I can not quite believe that I am really here.
The route to my hotel is a familiar one and I am soon pulling up outside the imposing black structure of the Marriott, Glenpointe.
The receptionist confirms that she has a room ready for me on the Premier level 11th floor, which sounds rather grand and in no time I am safely installed in room 1103.
The first thing to do is to unpack the famous costume trousers. They are huge! I put them on and I have a long tale dragging from each leg. Fortunately I still have the iron-on seam tape from the very beginning of the trip, so I start to measure and fold and iron until I can see my feet again.
Domestic chores completed, I do some more line learning and relax for a while, until it is time to pack up my things and drive to Hackensack, and the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University.
It is my third visit to FDU and I am very familiar with the layout of car parks and the building itself. I am greeted enthusiastically by everyone in the office of the programming department, and especially by Katherine Desinger, who promotes my shows.
Katherine used to be on the road herself, in opera, and goes to extreme lengths to make sure that everything is exactly as I want it. If I have said something in previous years, it gets locked into Katherine’s memory, to be acted on next time.
We navigate endless corridors together until we reach the auditorium, where the furniture is ready. As I move the stool, chair and hat rack about, Katherine is placing battery-operated candles on a mantelpiece and checking if I want them closer to the clock, or further apart.
My old friend Chuck is there, who looks after the technical side of things, and we do a sound check, as well as going through the cues for the end of the first half, and the start of the second. I will give him my script later, but for now I want to cling onto it: Linus like.
With all the preparations complete, Katherine and I go back to the office and wait for various other members of staff to appear, so that we can go to dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant.
Debra, Katherine’s boss, and her husband Ron will take me, and we are joined by Linda, who also works at FDU.
Once at the restaurant the party is swelled further by Alyssa, an eleven year old actress who is currently rehearsing A Christmas Carol; her mother and grandparents.
Alyssa is sat next to me and we talk a lot about theatre, and her roles in A Christmas Carol (Martha Cratchit, Turkey Boy, Young Scrooge, Caroller and various ensemble parts). Alyssa is an amazingly confident and ambitious young lady and if her talent matches her enthusiasm and commitment, she will go far!
I have a delicious broiled Sole fillet, in a butter and lemon sauce, which is perfect for a pre-show dinner, and sip a glass of Sprite, whilst the others enjoy a rich, deep cabernet.
At six o’clock it is time to return to the auditorium, and get ready for the show.
In my dressing room, which is actually an electrical room next to the stage, I get into my costume and go through the lines one last time, before handing my script to Katherine, to pass onto Chuck.
Debra is making the announcements tonight and after a short raffle draw, I stand in the central spot light, receiving the generous applause. The power of one man on stage to control three hundred others is amazing: at the moment I decide that the applause has gone on quite long enough and I need to get on with the show, I make a very small inclination of my head, nothing more, and the auditorium immediately becomes silent.
The show goes well, and the extra lines fit seamlessly into the well drilled main script. Marley enjoys his extra lines, giving them all he’s got and poor old Ebenezer is tormented for an extra Christmas at his old school.
The last line of the act arrives, as does the blackout, and I manage to get off the stage without falling over anything.
In the dressing room I can hear the applause continuing, as I start to strip off to get into a dry costume for the second act.
The interval lasts about fifteen minutes, and after a few stragglers make their way back from the rest rooms, it is time to continue.
The first line of the second act is delivered in darkness and there is a lovely murmur of shock as I begin.
Whilst the ‘new’ first act is much darker in tone, the beginning of the second has all the good light-hearted stuff and the audience love it. No one laughs louder, however, than Katherine in the wings and when I am doing the ‘Supposin…..’ Mrs Cratchit lines, I think that she is going to fall off her chair. It is all I can do not to laugh too.
The show finishes and the reception is wonderful. I take a number of bows, before leaving the stage, where Katherine, hugs me, congratulates me, and leaves me to change.
Because of the longer show, it is later than I am used to, but there is still the signing session to be done. Everybody seems very happy with the show but a couple of people say: ‘I understand you won’t be coming back next year?’
It’s news to me, and may or may not be true, but if it is, I will be sad. I have greatly enjoyed working with Katherine, Debra, Chuck and the rest of the crew.
The line dwindles and the last few people through are students from the university itself. One girl bubbles with enthusiasm, trying to communicate her adoration of Dickens, and Sydney Carton, in particular, in a flood of excited words, whist trying not to hold up the line.
I love the fact that Dickens, and his works, are still held in such high regard by a younger generation.
When all of the signing is done I go back to the room and change, before walking out to the car. I meet Katherine and Linda in the corridor and give them an extra good-bye hug. After all, it may be the last.
Back at the hotel I hang all of my costumes up to air, before having my traditional dessert and wine wind-down in the bar.
It is late, however, and before long I am in my room and falling to sleep.