Grace Indeed.

keyartOctober 2014 has been one of the most unexpected months of my life.  I’m spending the month in Chicago opening the World Premiere musical AMAZING GRACE. This is an epic and stirring musical about the lyricist to world famous hymn.

I’ve understudied in big flashy new musicals but I’ve never been a Swing before.  It’s been a learning experience to be behind the table watching this incredibly talented creative team do their work.

The Associate Choreographer and I were pen pals in high school, but this is the first time we’ve worked together.  However, this job has been filled with a lot more synchronicity than that.

I was allowed a personal day to attend my twin brother’s wedding in Houston on October 11th.  It was a Saturday, and everyone at the show seemed to be healthy and fine to do both shows before I returned on our two show Sunday.

The wedding was fabulous!  Bart married one of my best friends and his high school sweetheart Audrey!  I was so grateful that I got to attend.  The night of the wedding I got a message that a large bell, part of the set,  fell on top of the head of our lead Josh Young.  It seemed that he would be ok and back in the show for both performances on Sunday.

I arrived from my flight at around 8AM that morning, and went to the theatre to help, I am Assistant Dance Captain, in getting Josh’s show to go on.  At around 1PM they mentioned to me that the matinee was cancelled, and that we were instead going to have a put-in rehearsal for the Understudy.  Josh would certainly be back that evening.  There are two of us that cover the role, but it seemed to be ME that was the easiest option as I have watched all of the rehearsals.

That afternoon we proceeded to do a run-through of the entire show onstage with set, lights, full company, and full orchestra.  This was the first time I had ever been on the set, sang the score, or spoken the words in the scenes.  After this four hour rehearsal they informed me that I would be doing the show in front of an audience that evening.  My brain went into total survival mode!  At first I was petrified, then I had to say to myself, “It’s just theatre! I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to do it.”

I proceeded to take one step at a time, and worked my way through the performance.  I carried script pages in the scenes so that I wouldn’t waste any of the other actor’s time, and could keep the show moving.  When we reached the pivotal moment at the end of the show where we sing Amazing Grace, I was filled with tears of gratitude.  It was only through the Grace of God that I was able to set aside my ego, and get through that performance. The best part of the whole night was that the audience went WILD!

The next day I had to travel to Fort Lauderdale for a potential job interview, and didn’t even think about the show.  I absolutely thought that Josh would return Tuesday night.  Alas, he was not back and I got thrown back in as the lead role again.  This time I was able to do the entire performance off-book!  Again, it was a power beyond me that gave me the guts to do it.  I give most of the credit to the amazing cast of 34 people who lifted me up throughout the night and gave me so much courage and support.

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with ERIN MACKEY

Since then, I have done two more performances, and Josh was able to get healthy and return for Opening Night.  I am so grateful for this experience as it has taught me a lot about courage, being of service, and commitment.  Always be ready and willing as you never know what the universe may bring.

Let’s hope that the show now gets it’s legs on Broadway because I can’t wait to see what more experiences may be on the way!

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DIStory: Villains, Fantasy vs. Reality

Disney always has a way of creating a story relevant to the time in which it was created.  That’s why so many Disney films are and remain classics.  Defeating the villains of the films helps us experience the happily ever after in our real lives.  Many times the world needs to know that the villains of reality can be conquered.  Disney films remind us of that.

1937 – Evil Queen vs. Joseph Stalin

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Much like the evil queen’s apple, stalin lured people into his political beliefs, and convinced them to take a bite.  Luckily, like the seven dwarfs, America and it’s allies gave Europe and Russia their True Love’s Kiss in 1945.

1959 – Maleficent vs. Fidel Castro

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Fidel Castro was put into power in Cuba and much like Maleficent turned that country into a sleeping town.  Still under communist rule, when will Cuba’s Prince wake her up?

1989 – Ursula vs. Exxon Valdez

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One of the most bizarre coincidence’s was 1989.  The same year we were learning how cool it was under the sea we dumped 120, 000 barrels of oil into it.

Are there any coincidences to reality and fantasy with your favorite Disney villains?

Share your thoughts with me on http://twitter.com/bretshuford

 

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CHARMING: a tale of an American prince

C H A R M I N G : a tale of an American prince

2014 Tour Schedule

Scroll down the page to see the listings of all tour dates.  Premiering this Fall on the West Coast, Texas, Chicago, and Florida!

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the teaser trailer for the debut performance of CHARMING:

New York, NY – August 21st, 2014 8PM at Don’t Tell Mama  Continue reading

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Biz-relationship: Wedding Planning

On April 18, 2011 – I got married.

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We literally planned the entire event in two months. How lucky we are to be artists, and because we were able to apply our creative juices to make it a special (and affordable) day. Hopefully you will feel inspired to approach your events with the same creativity and community.

My Spouse is primarily a Ballet dancer Stephen Hanna.  We are also both men, so planning a wedding in 2011 was relatively new territory all around. How to pay for it? Who wears the dress?

This also appeared as a blessing, as we had no traditions that we HAD to follow. We could create our own, and boy was that fun.

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These photos are by Laura Marie Duncan who was in Billy Elliot on Broadway with my husband.  Almost every vendor in our wedding was someone we knew, and a dear friend.  This made us feel surrounded by love the entire day.

First we decided to get married on a Monday, for several reasons: April 18 was the anniversary of our first date, also Monday is when most of our friends are off from their 8 show a week schedules, ALSO, we could get a venue for pretty cheap as Mondays are not always busy days for events!

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We go married in the beautiful town of Greenwich Connecticut because it was legally recognized there (little did we know NY would change their laws two months later). Also, when I googled towns in CT near NYC, Greenwich had the prettiest Town Hall. (truth) It’s a free venue.

So, we sent invites, but chose to invite people the “green” way, with online Paperless Post invites. Many people think this is a “ghetto” way to go, but I disagree, we were able to get the invites and feedback from people in the short amount of time we had to plan our wedding. It proved to be a guiltless, cost-effective way of getting the news out.

Then came the best part of it all, planning the actual event. I was inspired from photos I found on different websites, and wanted to give it an earthy vintage feel. I used Etsy to have our suits and ties custom built.  Ordered vintage vases, rented vintage books by the foot from the Strand, and had a florist friend order flowers for us wholesale.

The reception was organized by our dear friend Jeno at Manhattan Penthouse.  It was a glorious space!

We have these wedding rings designed and created by Jamie Wolf Designs that featured our birthstones on each side, Stephen’s being Topaz and mine Emerald, we decided to use Yellow and Green as our colors. Then all of our center pieces were focused around different yellow flowers.

What’s amazing about being an artist in NYC is all of our friends have amazing creative gifts. Instead of receiving physical gifts from some of our friends, we asked if they would give us their creative gifts. Some very special friends assembled all of our flowers on the day of, check out these arrangements.

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Then to make sure people knew their seating assignments, we assigned corresponding seeds and bulbs to the centerpiece. Everyone got to take home seeds and plant them, so they would continue to grow with our marriage.

Our “first dance” was with the Spangles Dance Company, we couldn’t take it too seriously, and no one expected it. I love a sweet surprise.

My Broadway pal Scott Barnhardt was in charge of the entertainment during our meal, and he and several of our talented musical friends put on a cabaret that was incredibly special to us.

Once the cake came out, the dining room became the dance floor. The cake provided by our generous friend Adrian Bailey was chocolate with Strawberries and whipped icing. It was to-die-for.

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Finally, our friend George Hahn was in charge of videoing the entire day, and later we had our friend Eric Anderson edit the video below for us to keep forever.

 

Planning a wedding can be a community event, and when your community is artists, why not make it a creative one. It certainly is one we will never forget.

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CHARMING: A Tale of an American Prince

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In 2013 most of my work was coming from two income streams: Coaching and Singing.

The hilarious thing about this business is that most people who knew me in my early days as a performer know me as a dancer. However, people who have known me in the last two years know me as an Actor/Singer.

8 years ago I couldn’t get some people to audition me for singing/acting roles, and now people who call me in won’t see me for roles that dance. “Pigeon-holed” frustrates many actors, but for people in this business it is necessary and sometimes completely unconscious.  When you’ve built relationships with people as a type of person, it takes time for them to see you as a different person.

Last year I was getting impatient.  With all of this singing work coming in, I thought about creating my own show.  Then one day I saw on Facebook that the Eugene O’Neill Center Cabaret Conference was accepting applications.  Just send some videos of you singing and an application it said.  I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I thought I was just putting possibilities out into the universe. Lo and behold the universe answered back and I was accepted.

I spent 11 days in August with some of the most inspiring, vulnerable, talented, and gutsy people I’ve ever met.  I became a friend/mentee of Donna McKechnie (an idol of mine), and John McDaniel, Wesla Whitfield, the most amazing collaborators/music directors and everyone at the Eugene O’Neill Center.

All we did for 11 days was wake up, eat, sing, eat, sing, eat, watch people sing, drink, and sing!  For 11 days!!  It was like Musical Theatre Mecca!!  While there I was sparked with an idea for my own show.  CHARMING: A Tale of an American Prince.  My music director, Tracy Stark, and I collaborated with Lennie Watts on creating an original “Once Upon a Time” tale and performed it at the Duplex last November.

To my surprise, the show was really good!  So good that CHARMING is getting a return engagement this Spring in New York City, and is being invited to venues around the city. Check out the Sizzle Reel:

The reason I am telling you all of this is to empower you to create your own work!  You may discover that your own creation can help you through whatever blocks, or joy, or frustration you need to work through, and it could help someone else too.

Sign up for my Monthly E-Mail NewBRETter to get information about reservations for April 25, 29, May 2, and May 5.

 

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