The most anticipated week of the tour has arrived, y'all. Get out your feathers, poker chips and Elvis impersonators.
The Ivy + Bean crew has finally arrived in Las Vegas.
It should be said that we've been talking about this particular week of the tour since we started. Screw the show, what were we going to do? What were we going to wear? WHO'S GONNA SEE BRITNEY SPEARS WITH ME?!?
We arrived at our hotel in the mid afternoon on Saturday after a three and half-hour drive from Palmdale. The place was lit up like a Christmas tree, even at three in the afternoon.
The first thing we did was throw on our bathing suits and hang out at the pool, which was located on the roof of the third floor. The pool had everything any self-respecting Vegas visitor could want: full bar, multiple cabanas with couches and pillows (which you can reserve for a hefty fee, but we just decided to sit in anyway- hey, they were empty and none of the pool staff stopped us), and a few tables where you could play poker or blackjack with bikini-clad beauties. It was the perfect way to spend our first afternoon.
We cleaned up pretty quickly and headed down to the main floor for dinner, where you could buy a prime rib dinner for $9.99. Is this a Vegas thing? I don't care, it was delicious and cheap. Anyway, we ate and started planning our first night. McLean wanted to buy a top for a skirt that she packed and suggested one of the many awesome outlet malls nearby. Melissa and Emily were going to the aiport to pick up Dan, who flew back to New York for a day to audition for a Broadway gig (I know, right? No big deal).
What McLean didn't know was that we were also picking up her boyfriend, Kieran, who bought a plane ticket without her knowing so he could surprise her in Vegas.
We were all in on it. I was going to go to the outlet mall with McLean, Emily and Melissa were going to pick up Dan and Kieran, and they would pick us up afterwards. Despite not really planning it, the whole thing came together pretty wonderfully. Our trusty van pulled up to the curb at the mall, and just as McLean was about to open the door, Kieran opened it from the inside, jumped out, and gave her a big hug. She squealed, I cried, it was awesome.
Sunday was a full day and night off from any show responsibilities, and we were hell-bent on living it up. We started with another afternoon at the pool, where I successfully applied enough sunscreen to not burn myself. If you know me, this is an accomplishment. Sydney's mom, Susan, was staying at a hotel nearby called the Golden Nugget, so we hopped over to her pool area, which was complete with a slide that took you through a water tank with fish and sharks. We sipped margaritas and planned the rest of our evening, which included dinner with Susan and (hopefully) some time spent at a nightclub. Because Vegas.
We all planned on bringing at least one nice outfit so we could all dress up and go out on the town together instead of hanging out in sweats in a hotel room, so we all got dolled up for dinner and a night on the town. And guys. We. looked. amazing.
And to think, we all play seven year-olds.
Susan treated us to a lovely dinner at an Italian restaurant called Battista's Hole in the Wall, where we drank unlimited house red and white wine and filled our bellies with warm Italian goodness. Sydney let us know that she got us on a couple of lists at some clubs on the strip and suggested we try a place called Hakkasan at the MGM Grand first. The club didn't even open until 11pm, so we had plenty of time to eat dinner, get dropped off at the MGM Grand, gamble a bit and take photos of us looking fantastic.
McLean stopped by a Starbucks in the hotel, where she ran into an impeccably bearded man named Asa, who worked at Hakkasan. He took one look at McLean (who was DUH gorgeous) and they struck up a conversation, which ended in him offering us a private table at the club.
I'll say that again. He offered us a private table at the club.
Did I mention bottle service? Because that was included too.
Our view from above at Hakkasan.
A private table at Hakkasan will run you about $2500. The bottle of vodka we were given for free? $400. So here we were, a group of actors (and our stage manager), sitting on leather couches sipping on cocktails next to other groups of people who spent at least three thousand dollars to do the same thing.
How. in the hell. did this happen?!? Because of Sydney and McLean, y'all. God bless those beauties.
I danced my butt off with my cast as we watched the club from the second floor. I felt like a million bucks (and looked like a million bucks, if I say so myself. And I do), and went to sleep that night a little after three in the morning still feeling like a VIP.
After a completely amazing day off, we loaded into the Smith Center, which would be our home here in Vegas for the whole week. Oof, she was a beauty.
The Smith Center in Las Vegas, Nevada
I had to recurl my wig and wash the costumes, but my mind was already preparing for my evening; after some encouragement from my parents, I decided to go with a group of us to see the Cirque de Soleil show, Beatles LOVE, at the Mirage hotel. Alfredo’s friend got us two-for-one tickets, so we got incredible seats, usually $160, for half that amount. But I’m telling you right now, reader, I would have paid full price.
I was feelin the love, y'all.
I cannot explain to you how absolutely fantastic the show was. From the incredible talents of the performers, the miraculous ever-changing set (and floor) to the colors, the confetti, and most of all, the music, I was in awe. And I know this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but I was moved to tears throughout the show—I’m getting overwhelmed just thinking about it. It was an experience that reminded me of who I am and what I want to do, what I want to give to other people, and what I want to give to myself.
Whoa, sorry y’all. Getting deep in Vegas.
We had already done so many crazy awesome things in Vegas, and we hadn’t even performed here yet! Apparently our lil’ kid’s show was popular, because two more performances were added to our schedule. We would be performing our show nine times in four days, three days with two shows in the morning, and one day with two shows in the morning and one in the evening.
We had never done the show three times in one day. We certainly knew how worn out we were after doing the show six times in three days, so the thought of performing our hour-long cardio adventure this many times was… well, it was terrifying. Not to mention that we're in the middle of a desert, so hydration is a constant struggle.
Will we survive? Let's find out.
The first day of shows, Tuesday, went very very well. Both of our audiences that day were super responsive--almost too responsive. Our first audience of the day wanted to clap along to just about every song, which is great, unless they don't clap on the beat and you can't hear the song at all. That happened a few times. In the second show, we had an even more responsive audience that left us a little hard of hearing. In our character's attempts to break a world record by singing so high that we break the glass on a pair of glasses, the kids started to scream with us--and they didn't stop. Even after we stopped and started to sing the reprise to the song "World Record", almost two thousand kids continued to scream their heads off. We all kind of stared at each other in the hopes that one of us could actually hear the song, all the while pretty amused that these kids didn't give a crap that we had stopped yelling and started doing something else.
Poor Dylan at the sound board was right smack in the middle of all of them. Yeesh.
The next day, Wednesday, was our make-it-or-break-it three-show extravaganza. I woke up a little hoarse, but was hopeful that my voice would warm up quickly. I had drank plenty of water and gotten plenty of rest, so there was no reason for my voice to be off. A part of me felt like I was psyching myself out like I did in Colorado with the altitude, so I tried not to think about it. I gargled with warm salt water, used a throat lozenge, and continued to drink tons of water.
Despite having three great shows, my voice didn't improve. Dylan was helping me out by bumping up the volume on my mic so I wouldn't have to sing so loud, but I was very frustrated. I had done everything right, and I was healthily supporting my sound, it's not fair that I should be so worried and self-conscious in the middle of a very long four days. I went to sleep that night very afraid of what I was going to sound like the next day.
I wasn't any better Thursday, but I wasn't any worse. I chalked it up to the dry desert air, which I was reminded of every moment. Literally seconds after guzzling water, I could feel the moisture disappearing in my throat. It continued to frustrate me, or I guess I continued to frustrate myself, but after a while I just said screw it, this is where I am in my voice right now, and it will get better once I can finally rest and not have to sing. The shows still went well, and my castmates were kind enough to tell me that my voice still sounded like it usually does. Ugh, they're the best. I celebrated not losing my voice by heading to the strip with Dylan and a couple of castmates to see the fountain show outside the Bellagio. It was just like Oceans Eleven. Only better.
By the time Friday rolled around, all hell broke loose. Vegas wasn't playing nice anymore.
Melissa was very dehydrated, weak and just plain sick. She was not going to be able to perform.
Enter Sydney, planner extraordinaire and our fantastic understudy.
For the first time ever on this tour, Sydney would cover one of the ladies' roles, and it just so happened to be the lead of the play. We arrived at the theater Friday morning and immediately started going over blocking and scene transitions, all the while checking on Melissa, who hadn't been able to eat a full meal since mid-day the day before. We could tell that Sydney was nervous, but to be perfectly honest with y'all, I wasn't worried. I knew full well that she would do a great job, and that we would all be using this set of shows as an opportunity to really listen to one another. We'd been doing the same show for almost six months, and here we are with a chance to see the show with a brand new pair of eyes. It was thrilling.
Not the part about Melissa being sick. That was not thrilling. I was actually a little mad. We weren't given much notice about the two shows added to the schedule-- we heard about it right before we arrived in Vegas, so it's not like we could do much to prepare. And guys, performing this show NINE times in FOUR days is a recipe for disaster, whether someone is more likely to experience vocal fatigue (like me), or literally run down their immune system (like Melissa). I'm surprised more people weren't feeling the pain.
Ok, enough being frustrated and upset. Let's talk about Sydney KILLING it.
Because she frickin KILLED it, you guys. For someone to hop in to the lead of the show without having a full understudy rehearsal in months is absolutely bonkers. And then, for her to hop in to the lead and do such a phenomenal job is superhero-level awesomeness. She was terribly brave and kept her cool despite what I can only imagine was the most stressful of circumstances. Of course, we were all there to help her, but she didn't need much. She was damned great.
I think what I liked the most about our last day of shows in Vegas was the fact that Sydney's mom was still in town. She waited backstage after the two shows, and as soon as I saw her, I could tell she had been a little teary-- how wonderful to see your daughter step in and do the impossible, and do it so well! I got a little teary when she hugged me, thanking me for helping her daughter get through. All I could say was "How proud you must be of her! She did such a wonderful job!" Oh guys, all the feeelings. All. the. feelings.
We loaded out of our home at the Smith Center and signed our little plot of wall near the stage. Our next stop was Tempe, Arizona, a five-hour drive away. When all was said and done, we had performed for over 9,000 Las Vegas children. It was finally time for us to leave sin city and rest.
Except for Dylan, again, who always has to drive. Sorry Dylan.
Don't forget to check in next week, when we say a fond farewell to our journey.
That's right, folks. It's almost time to say goodbye.