Saturday, January 14, 2012

2011-12-31/2012-1-1 Imperial OPA Circus with Cake at The Fox

Back in November, a few weeks after wrapping up Boodeeni, my other half received a text that he would be opening for Cake on New Year’s Eve at The Fabulous Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta.  At the time, it was a far off concept and it didn't seem real to either of us.  It wasn’t until he heard it announced on the radio on his way home from work at the beginning of December that it really started sinking in.  Shortly thereafter, I was asked to be the stage manager for this amazing show and ran rehearsals through December to get the show in order and help organize some of the best talent in the Southeast.  It is always an honor to work with these performers and they never cease to amaze me as to what they can accomplish in a very short period of time.

Saturday, December 31, 2011, started pretty early for everyone.  Rigging for the aerialists began at 9:30am with brief moments for them to familiarize themselves the set up before the other opening act, Wolf and the Tuba, and the headliners, Cake, needed to take the stage for set up and sound check.  B and I did the idiot check before leaving the house.  All of his drums and such were packed in the trailer so we wandered over to Zach’s house, the tuba player, to pick him up along with Hiron, otherwise known affectionately to the band as the Keebler Death God, who is the guitarist, lead saxophone, band leader and writer of most of the songs.  We had one more stop before heading over to the Fox; we were off to pick up Mike, aka Brutus, and accessories such as the tumbling weight, the Widow Maker and the Baby Maker.  Once we were loaded up in the car with the trailer packed to the ceiling we were off to the Fox!

Once at the Fox we loaded everything in while Cake was on stage with their sound check.  We were crossing back and forth trying to be as quiet and sneaky as possible to not disturb their sound check.  It was a very surreal experience to be standing on stage, with Cake playing and looking into the 5,000 empty seats that would later be filled by screaming fans.  Once we got everything in we all went down stairs into the catacombs to the OPA dressing room.  Everyone was getting dressed, stretching, putting on make-up and preparing for the run through, which would be our first time actually working on the Fox stage.  We were going to be dividing the show into two acts, one at 8:30pm and one at 10pm, with Wolf and the Tuba going on in between the acts and Cake going on after the final act.  The run through was amazing!  We ran through as many acts as possible in our time frame. We worked with the Fly system for dropping and raising the lyra (aerial hoop), the trapeze and the silks, to make sure we had everything timed correctly to keep the show moving as smoothly as possible.  We had 30 minutes for each act and there was no room for error.

Act one opened with an intro from Tim and the entire cast coming out on stage while the band played “OPA Swing”.  It was a high energy way to start the show and give the audience a taste of what was coming for them throughout the night.  At the end of the song the stage was cleared except for the next act which included Rose going up on the lyra with Meredith and Angela who would be belly dancing to a CD of the song “Erase” by Beats Antique (used with permission of the band.)  The CD had a few skipping issues but Rose and Meredith kept it together through the whole piece and made it look beautiful and the audience had no idea there was a technical issue.  Next were the jugglers, Safety Third, performing to the band playing “Sketchy Gypsy”.  They started with balls and then switched to rings before the music went to double time.  Once the music went to double time Steve, as Father Time, came out in a tiger stripped suit with his walker and began doing balancing tricks and hand stands on both the floor and on his walker.  Next came a fountain of feathers with Musee du Coeur performers: The Chameleon Queen, DeeDee Chmielewski and Desire Evoquer entering with red and white feather fans only to reveal Jacosa hiding behind the cascade of fluff before she rose up to the trapeze to perform while The Chameleon Queen did a beautiful fan dance, backed up by her Musee sisters as the band played “Cutie Pie Malonga.”  After a very solemn and delicate finish monkeys burst onto the stage scaring off the beautiful ladies, clearing the area for Brutus, The Iron Behemoth, and his lovely assistant Petunia showing off their beast master skills.  With creatures such as Discount Monkey, Expensive Monkey, Picasso the Geometric Gorilla and rounding out the show with the evil vultures, these beast puppets showed both amazing puppetry skill as well as a wonderful comedic vaudeville skit done by Brutus and Petunia who also wrote the bit.  Next up was Lauren, who flipped and twisted herself on the aerial silks while the band played “Beaten Tracks” and The Chameleon Queen and DeeDee danced Sky Writers over the audience.  Closing out the first act was Todd and Amber doing their AcroYoga hand balancing act.  The band played “Troup Enters” while they spun each other around with the finale being them balanced while Tony, the expensive monkey, dove between their balanced bodies and Brutus, Petunia, Steve, John, Rose, Dee Dee and Jacosa created a human pyramid behind them to frame their amazing feats of feet!

After the first act everyone had approximately one hour to change clothes, smoke cigarettes, and get ready for act two while Wolf and the Horn played and managed to fill up the stage and get the audience hopping with their two person band. 

Act two opened with a welcome from Tim and then immediately went into Safety Third juggling clubs with assistance from the beautiful Desiree Evoquer and the band playing “Puppy Dog Stomp.”  They quickly tossed the clubs back and forth, starting with four and working their way up to ten clubs flying back and forth across the stage.  Next came Lauren back on the silks with a slower, what appeared to be more difficult and was definitely full of some amazing acts of skill.  Dee Dee came out and did a beautiful veil dance while The Chameleon Queen and Desire fluttered on the sides with silk fans to extend the beauty coming from the aerial silks while the band played “Sinking Stars.”  After Lauren lowered herself to floor it was time for Brutus and Petunia to re-enter with their amazing feats of Strong Mannery which included a fight over the tumbling weight while the band played “F F#” and giant weights for a lift off before creating sexy voltrons with their unpaid gypsy harems to try to outdo each other. In the end they decided to work together and even the unpaid gypsy harems seemed please.  Next was another bought of AcroYoga to “G Thing” with all the spinning and lifting you could imagine with Tony bouncing off a Spring board doing a flip over the two of them, which was a very spectacular ending.  Next was Jacosa’s time to shine on the trapeze while Rose did an acrobatic fabric dance on the floor.  Jacosa twisted and swung in amazing angles while keeping herself precariously balanced as the band played “Moondoggie” during all of her tangles and turns.  The Belly dancers returned to the stage with their tribal dancing and ended with Fire Fans, balance candles and Tim coming on stage with a flaming sward.  It was a very spectacular way to end the show.  The final act was the bows while the band played “Bella Chow” and the entire cast came on stage and took a bow that waved across the stage and then the cast danced around the stage bringing up the energy of the audience before Cake took the stage. 

The band was totally amazing and hit all the cues, even the ones we had trouble hitting due to technical difficulties.  Their professionalism and skill helped move the show along and create a seamless line from act to act that kept the show going.  As I was the only person running props and working with Larry “the Fly Guy” to get all the aerials in, there were a few moments that there was more than I could do by myself.  All of the performers were wonderful and willing to help me by hopping in and assisting me in getting tumbling mats placed, set props, etc… They were truly amazing to work with and all so willing to help out so that everyone’s act went well, not just focusing on their own.  I am very pleased to say that we were 30 seconds under in our time in the first act and almost one full minute under in the second act.  In fact, everything went so well that Cake asked all of us to be on stage for the countdown at midnight so that’s how we all rang in the New Year.  It was an amazing moment, just being on stage with Cake and the rest of the OPA while 5,000 people celebrated with us is the most amazing way I’ve ever spent a New Year’s Eve.  If this is any sign as to how the rest of the year will be, by all means, bring on 2012!