Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Night with Jennifer Hudson!


Every once and while you get to be a part of something truly special!

This Friday, September 21st, PBS will air a program called "From Dust to Dreams, Opening Night at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts" And I will be on it! Blink and you may miss me or you may need to get a magnifying glass, but I was there! Onstage! Singing my little heart out.

The first weekend in March of this year I received a call inviting me to be a part of the Las Vegas All Stars Choir who were to perform at the Smith Center Gala opening the following weekend, backing JENNIFER HUDSON!

I was like, um...YES!

First of all, The Smith Center is an amazing, 500 Million Dollar theatre opening here in Las Vegas. It's seriously the most amazing building I have ever been in. And it means all kinds of theatre is coming to Las Vegas that has never been here! It's kinda a huge big deal. And it's exciting! I'm praying it will provide more opportunities for us local actors as well.

It was a really fun experience. First of all, it was really exciting that the person who referred me to be a part of the choir was one of the actresses who plays Christine in Phantom of the Opera: The Las Vegas Spectacular. I have worked with her in a few concerts and she came out to our production of Damn Yankees to sing the national anthem. I was thrilled that she thought of me...and even had my phone number to give our choir leader, Bruce!

I was sent some music and invited to rehearsal. We were to sing a song called "Take Care of This House" - an Irving Berlin song. It was arranged by Rob Mathes, an arranger/composer, nationally renowned music producer/director, performer, Emmy Nominee and all around cool guy. And it's just cool to have a piece of music that says "For Jennifer Hudson" on it!

Walking in to my first rehearsal was exciting! There were a lot of people there who were friends of mine! It was fun catching up and to get to perform alongside so many wonderful and talented people. And then we actually got to work with Mr. Mathes. He was great, funny and impressed with how well we knew our music.

We came back the night before the gala for our dress rehearsal. As we walked into the theatre, we caught Ms. Hudson herself singing another number that she would be performing the following evening. Um...COOLNESS! Then she exited and we were brought onstage to run through the song. The band was amazing...and HUGE!
She came back out and we worked the song a few times and they also worked out some technical issues. It was good to watch her work...she had some uncertainty with some of the song and before she left the stage, she turned to us and promised that she would have it by tomorrow night! It was very endearing.

Jennifer Hudson in Rehearsal

The next day we had to be there very early for an evening show. But there was a dress rehearsal all day. The asked us to be in wardrobe for the rehearsal as they were going to tape it in case they needed some of it for the broadcast.

With my friends Justin, Francesca and Dustin on the balcony of the Smith Center.

The part that was kinda stinky was that we didn't get to be backstage with the rest of the performers. We were kept in a conference room just off of the lobby.

After we had arrived and gotten the information we needed, we realized it was going to be a long wait for our rehearsal because we were last on the program. So they said we could go in and watch the dress rehearsal! Now THAT was amazing!

The line up of celebrities was amazing and extremely varied!  Hosted by Neil Patrick Harris! Willie Nelson, Jon Fogerty, Carole King, Martina McBride, Joshua Bell (the Violinist), Emmy Lou Harris...and some of my favorite broadway stars including Sherrie Rene Scott, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Cheyenne Jackson! And we got to watch a lot of it. My favorite moment was when Brian Stokes Mitchell sang "The Impossible Dream." He is sheer perfection! And Martina McBride is no joke! Even in rehearsal she was FLAWLESS! It was just really fun to see so many legendary performers. And NPH kept joking with all of us.

A fuzzy picture of Neil Patrick Harris during rehearsal.
We were called back about 3/4 of the way through the program to line up backstage. And as we're standing there...I look up and see all the broadway people walking by! And we were lined up against the wall in a hallway, so they passed nice and close. Cheyenne Jackson gave the girl next to me a big hug - they had worked together years ago! Sherrie Rene Scott and Laura Osnes were arm in arm, singing a harmony together. Benjamin Walker was all smiles and said hello, as did Brian Stokes Mitchell. And Montego Glover was just statuesque in the most amazing gown. It was just really cool to be in such close company with such incredible broadway stars! I also saw a couple of musicians, stage hands and wardrobe friends backstage.

Then Mavis Staples, a legendary gospel singer walked by and struck up a conversation with one of the ladies in the choir and hung out with us for ages! She was so sweet. We then entered the stage and ran our number. Now, I have to confess, the song is kind of weird. But what Jennifer did with it was an inspiration! Truly. And...teleprompters are really confusing when you are singing backups...the words on the screen are for the lead singer, in case you were wondering. It was hard not to look,'s this HUGE screen in the back of the theatre!

It was time to head back up to the waiting room and just as I was exiting, Jennifer Hudson also exited. She was super sweet and said hello to all of us and thanked us for singing with her. It's always nice when someone with so much fame is kind.

We were served sandwiches and wraps and settled in to watch the show on the live feed into our room and spend some time catching up with old friends and making new ones...and maybe helping ourselves to the cake pops and chocolate covered strawberries they had for the guests. SHHHHHH! Don't tell. Josh Bell stole the show, and the trio of Carole King, Martina McBride and Jennifer Hudson singing "Natural Woman"...ok, it tied for stealing the show.

They took us down a little later in the show this time, so we didn't get to see the broadway stars again. But as I entered the stage, in the dark of the backstage, I noticed a figure in white coming towards us waving and telling us good luck. It was Neil Patrick Harris! I may have told him that I love him...I can't remember, it was a all a blur!

The performance itself was just incredible. The room was electric and as soon as we were done, the audience sprang to it's feet. Jennifer Hudson, well, she killed it. She is truly an incredible vocalist. I don't usually like singing in choirs, but was an experience I'll never forget. It's always rewarding being a part of something special...and this was!

See me? See me? C' ya see me? No?

There I am!
I just wanted to share a bit behind the scenes...I mean, it's not every day you get to be on a national broadcast! I look forward to watching it and remembering the night I was a little tiny part of history!

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