After the beautiful sunrise of yesterday the weather has taken a turn for the worse.  This morning the whole of Pigeon Forge is shrouded in low cloud and rain is harshly beating the tarmac.  The dismal monotonous grey is occasionally slashed by lightening, and thunder echoes through the mountains.  A day to huddle inside.

In the breakfast room there are the usual cheery waves of welcome and words of congratulation, and I have a lovely healthy bowl of fruit as I continue reading about Miss Marple’s adventures.  I sip orange juice and coffee, which according to the description is ‘well balanced, medium bodied, with a smooth flavor, pleasing aroma and a finish like sparkling white wine’!  I chose this over the one with ‘A crisp, delightfully clean acidity, with a lingering finish that tastes like moderately ripe strawberries.  Also features a full aroma with amazing complex floral attributes.’

This morning my first commitment (of three) is not until 11 and I have the chance to do some work in my room.  Outside the unrelenting rain continues to fall, but maybe not quite as heavily, and maybe the scene from my window is a little lighter with the neon-covered Ferris wheel not glowing quite as brightly against the grey morass.

At 10.30 I get into costume and get ready to leave the hotel to walk across the street to The Incredible Christmas Place, where I will be spending an hour signing books.  Finally the weather has broken and I can stroll without need of an umbrella.  As I wait to cross the 6 lanes of the main road nobody bats an eye or turns a head at the sight of a Victorian Gentleman on the sidewalk – in Pigeon Forge nothing is out of the ordinary!

The Incredible Christmas Place is a huge store with where you can buy any ornament, model, figure or decoration that you can possibly imagine as well as thousands that you have never imagined.  As one walks through the door it is as if you have entered Aladdin’s cave as your senses are assaulted – lights twinkle and shine from every possible surface, glitter gets on your clothes.  Crowds of shoppers push small trolleys around and everywhere there are staff roaming the store ready to help in the search for that one illusive product.

My signing in table is deep in the middle of the shop, surrounded by ceramic cottages and scenes.  Almost as soon as I arrive the shop’s tannoy system broadcasts a message announcing my presence, and before I can get settled in the first customers arrive.  Actually it is an almost perfect signing session as it is busy but never crowded.  There is plenty of time to chat and pose with each person before they move on, to be replaced by someone else.

In the few quiet patches there is a stack of pre-ordered books to be signed, and I clear all of those with about 20 minutes to go.  The large pile of books actually for sale dwindles down and I actually sign the very last copy  with only 5 minutes of my time remaining: that is good timing.

At 12 I leave the store and change back into regular clothes before having lunch at Carino’s Italian restaurant, where I am served with a delicious salmon and avocado salad (no cheese). It is a perfect lunch for a performing day.

My first actual performance today is at 3, so I have plenty of time to get ready in my room, before walking down the stairway to meet the audience.

 

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Backstage Access

 

I stand with Dwight and Kristy at the door, welcoming people in.  The audience is slightly smaller than on the past two days, and very few are here from the hotel guest list.  The atmosphere is fun and lively with everyone in a celebratory mood.  At one point a lady takes a picture of her group and Dwight says ‘now THAT is a true Kodak moment.’  I reflect to Dwight, with a slight touch of melancholy, that we will be the last generation to understand that simple phrase.

The show goes well and I am definitely homing in on the sweet spot now.  It is hot work (which is always a good indication of how well things are going), and the audience are responsive and fun, leading to a spontaneous standing ovation at the end.  Good work!

As I get off stage I realise that although I brought my spare costume down from my room, I didn’t put a fresh shirt with it, so while Kristy is drawing the door prizes I get the lift up to the fourth floor, run to my room, change, run back again, and get back  to my signing desk as the audience emerge.  All of that running up and down corridors has probably left me hotter than before, but at least the shirt is dry and there is no danger of catching a chill.

I chat and sign and laugh and pose.  There are many exclamations of delight and many requests to perform in other cities and venues. One of Pam’s greatest challenges is to keep all of my regular venues happy, but also somehow include the many new ones that contact us each year.

After the show, back in my room, I go to sleep.  I am feeling so tired at the moment, and a couple of hours to recharge is just what the doctor would order, if he were here.  I close the curtains, put the TV on for background noise (just how many episodes of Law and Order SVU did they make?  It is always running!), and gently drift away.  Outside, the great lighting ceremony is taking place and goodness how many millions of extra bulbs will illuminate the hotel between now and Christmas day, but I nap through all of the fun.

At 7 I start getting ready for my last performance in Pigeon Forge this year.  I shower, and get into costume and make sure I have everything to take downstairs with me, so I don’t need to repeat my manic run.  The evening’s show is another sell out, and the room is packed once more as Dwight demonstrates his Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come pointing pose, much to the delight of the audience (He has quite a following)

This show is perfect.  By far the best this year.  The timing comes together, the mix of drama and humour is right.  The extra lines have begun to settle into the script, and the ones that I have removed are not missed – everything flows and everything works.  The audience are fabulous and it is difficult not to giggle along with them in anticipation of Mrs Cratchit’s travails.  The lady in the front row who I pick on to be the focus of Topper’s attentions blushes and fans herself coquettishly and gasps ‘Oh, my!’, joining in the fun.

After the show, after the signing, after the photographs, as I am saying good bye to Kritsty, she tells me ‘that was the best.  The best I’ve ever seen you do.’  And that is as good a review as any actor could wish for.

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Having changed I head to the Mellow Mushroom, admiring the millions of coloured lights that now decorate the hotel, and I dine on a trio of meatballs reflecting on a job well done.

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