Shawna Hamic at The Last Ship opening night partyPhoto Credit: Amy Boyle Photography
‘The Last Ship’ cast member Shawna Hamic is originating the role of Mrs. Dees in the show. She spoke to Broadway In Chicago about her experiences so far during the pre-Broadway run.
I’ve been lucky enough to perform here in Chicago even before being a part of The Last Ship. I played the Cadillac Palace Theater twice as Madame Thenardier in the 25th Anniversary national tour of Les Miserables. So I have come to truly love Chicago and all it has to offer. This is actually my first time being here in a season other than Winter and I must admit- I like it even more when it’s warm outside. There is such a beauty to the city of Chicago. The buildings, the lake, the rivers, the museums, the culture, the food! So much to love. I have a few places i always have to visit when I’m here. For food it’s Mindy’s Hot Chocolate. I make a point of going every time I’m here. Another is a classic- Miller’s Pub on Wabash. It has an old school vibe and amazing food for really reasonable prices. I visit my favorite camera store (also on Wabash) called Central Camera. As an avid photographer I love to explore all the amazing history for sale. Film cameras and the places that sell them are a dying breed. Central Camera has been a family business for over 113 years. I just love it there.
Being here as a cast member in the pre-Broadway run of The Last Ship has been one of the most amazing experiences. It is unlike anything I’ve ever done. While I have been involved with a brand new musical before, this is the first time that it is Broadway bound and the first show that I’ve done that has changed daily. It has been a challenge and wonderful exercise on strengthening my muscles as well as the most important muscle for an actor- my brain! To be part of this company, led by our Director Joe Mantello, our Choreographer Steven Hoggett, Book by John Logan, Set and Costume Design by David Zinn, Orchestrations, Arrangements & Music Direction by Rob Mathes- It has been so fulfilling. I can’t end this blog without mentioning one of the most meaningful parts of this whole process… There has been a musician and artist who has written the music which is truly the soundtrack of my life. I associate important memories and moments with songs and most of them were written by the same person: Sting. To be a part of his first journey into musical theater has been an exhilarating and moving experience. He is humble and generous. He was there with us practically every day. Of course to be on hand to work on anything musically that needed tweaking, but also because he is as fascinated with the process as I am. A quiet man, yet still a dynamic presence, Sting continues to shape The Last Ship into something unforgettable. I can’t wait for audiences to experience the show. I hope they are as moved to be there as I am to be on the stage. I know that the show will continue to morph and change as we get closer to Broadway and the Neil Simon Theatre. I have never been more excited to continue a process as I am now. The work is blissful. I think that says a lot about a group of people when you look forward to going work every day. And I can say with all honesty- I do. So thank you Chicago for once again welcoming me and for being such a lovely fertile ground on which to grow a new brand work of art. You are a lovely town with wonderful citizens and I’m happy as can be to be here.
We’ll be doing a LIVE Twitter chat with Shawna at 12pm, Tuesday, July 1st! Join the conversation and ask your questions for her by using #LastShipBIC!
This past week was filled with nostalgia and many happenings!
On Tuesday, we had a great event: a conference for marketing directors across the country for LES MISERABLES. Chicago is an early stop for the 25th Anniversary Tour of Les Mis and this conference gave people an advance look at the show that will be coming to them in the months ahead. It also gave them valuable time with the company that routes the tour across the country and oversees the marketing and advertising for the show. Our marketing and sales people sit down at these conferences and share what we did in Chicago, giving them valued insight on what worked and what didn’t. And for LES MIS – everything works! It was nostalgic for me because this is one of my favorite shows and the songs bring back so many memories. Plus we get to work with folks from the Broadway Booking Office NYC, who are all close friends. We have worked with them on so many shows including JERSEY BOYS, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, SCROOGE, PHANTOM… but what makes it even more special is that my daughter, Julia D’Angelo, now works for them! So I have the awesome pleasure of having both my name and my daughter’s name in the same programs.
Next was a moment so sad but also so heart-warming. I went to the memorial service for Joyce Sloane. She was a mentor to me, a women that had made it by starting out as a group sales person for Second City before eventually becoming the Associate Producer of the company. I always looked up to her as someone who was a magnet for talent and so successful but with a big heart. Many call her the “mother of Second City,” but she was more than that – she was a mom to much of the Chicago Theatre Community. I sat in front of Stephen Colbert and behind Tim Kazurinsky at her memorial service, which was befitting of the matriarch, a queen. That is what she was for all of us.
Then it was off to the opening of RAIN. This was nothing but pure nostalgia. Sitting in the Oriental Theatre and hearing all those songs, was like listening to the songbook of a lifetime, with all the memories that come with it. Memories that were both private and public, from my first kiss to the assassination of President Kennedy. The audiences went wild! Don’t worry if you missed it. From the audience reaction, I am sure it will be back.
Closing the week was the dress rehearsal of WORKING. Stephen Schwartz is in town for it, and what an amazing dress rehearsal – not a stop from beginning to end! In watching the show it brought back memories from the first time that I saw it at the Goodman Theatre. How things have changed! This new production is so fresh from beginning to end, starting off with taped interviews with Studs Terkel and the people he interviewed for his book. The stories that he brought to life out of those interviews are both touching and inspiring and the music that was created for this musical are nothing short of the brilliant–they are on the same level as the stories themselves. I also loved the fact that the taped cutting features Studs interviewing a worker in Cicero. While I grew up in Berwyn, all my best friends lived in the neighboring town Cicero… what great memories.
This Thursday, February 17th, be sure to watch the ABC 7 Mayoral Debate live from Broadway In Chicago’s Oriental Theatre. The even is sponsored by community organizations including the League of Chicago Theatres and the Chicago Loop Alliance. Tell us what you hope to see our next Mayor champion for in the arts and I will enter you for the chance to win tickets to the live broadcast of the Mayoral Debate.
What happens when it starts to snow…
· We make sure that the sidewalks are all clear at all the theatres
· We talk to the shows and find out if they will accept exchanges for our theater patrons so that they can attend another show during their run
· We check the buildings to be sure that they are warm for our customers
· We check in with our parking lots to be sure that they are functioning and have extra help to take care of customers should they have any car problems
· We make sure that our own staff will be able to arrive at the theater safely
· We communicate with our customers by our website and social networking to be sure that they know that are shows are up and running and, if for some reason they can’t get to the theater, how and when they can exchange their tickets
· We have to make sure that the actors can make it to the theater and, if like LES MISERABLES and BURN THE FLOOR they are just coming in town, then we have to make sure that the show trucks were able to make it to Chicago and that enough of our technical staff were there to put the show together.
· And after the show lets out you do whatever you can to be sure that your patrons have a way home – including giving them public transportation updates, running down cabs for them or helping them stay at a local hotel if the weather is too bad for them to drive
This, and more, is what we did for our performance of BURN THE FLOOR last night.
So? What do we do when it keeps snowing? We pick safety first!
When you wake up, after taking care of customers and delivering a great opening of BURN THE FLOOR the night before, you are ready to do it all over again, this time for two shows: BURN THE FLOOR and LES MISERABLES. Then reality sets in – out your window it is still snowing, the weather services tell you there are STILL BLIZZARD WARNINGS till 3:00 p.m. and there are nearly 20 inches of snow in the middle of Downtown Chicago with many roads closed and Lake Shore Drive a parking lot from abandoned cars. The County and the State declare a state of emergency – then you stop and say there is nothing more important than the safety of our audiences, our staff and the casts of two wonderful shows.
In this case the Show needs to take the day off!
And that is what we did on Wednesday
· Notified the press
· Called and e-mailed all the patrons that bought tickets to the show,
· Put signs up at the theaters
· Posted on our website, Facebook and Twitter that Broadway In Chicago finally succumbed to the snow and is taking the night off
· Listened to the City of Chicago officials and stayed home (or went back home)
What I recommend for you….
· Hold your family tighter and shovel your sidewalks, you survived the Blizzard of 2011.
· And while you are home, go online or to the phone and buy some tickets for later this week to see BURN THE FLOOR or LES MISERABLES! Cabin fever will set in soon and these are shows that will transform your evening.
Keep safe, stay warm.
9 TO 5's Diana DeGarmo performs the National Anthem before the Chicago Bulls victory on January 24
Chicago suffered a blow on Sunday. Okay, Green Bay won, but let’s look at the bright side… their fans now have to go back to Green Bay. All of us Chicagoans could turn around on Monday and go to the United Center to see Diana DeGarmo, one of the stars of 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL, sing the National Anthem before a win for the Central Division leading Chicago Bulls over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Plus, all of us theater lovers have so much to look forward to – nothing better to cure the football blues than to plan your February outing to the theater!
· Burn the Floor begins February 1 (two weeks only!)
· Les Miserables begins February 2 (four weeks only!)
· Rain: A Tribune to the Beatles begins February 8 (ONE week only!)
· Working begins February 15 (from the composer of WICKED!)
Before I leave you today, I want to share this story. Chicago Magazine wants to write an article on NEXT TO NORMAL but they won’t do it unless there is a Chicago connection – a cast member or someone involved in the production that lives in or is from Chicago. Sound familiar? I said to myself what is this thing about residency in Chicago – my reply is to tell them that Alice Ripley shares an apartment with Rahm Emanuel! Chicago Magazine should run the story just because it is a great award-winning show – Best Original Score, Best Lead Actress in a Musical, and Best Orchestrations. And the accolades go beyond just the Tony Awards – it won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama!
The rest I leave to you….
I had a dream the other night that the return of Les Miserables was sold out. Les Mis just went on sale Sunday and while, not sold out yet, is already selling like crazy! There are still tickets, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to say that in February when the show opens. This is one of those shows that excites audiences, a show that creates and brings memories to so many people. I love the show but it goes further than that.
My fondest memory of Les Mis is from the second time that I saw the show, this time in Chicago and with my two sons. The younger of my two sons was about six at the time and I thought he might never make it through the performance. But he did. He was completely wrapped up in the show and, right at the very end, fell asleep. The amazing part was when he woke up he cried all the way home because he missed the ending. It was so important to him that he begged me to take him back. He did in fact return and completely loved the show! He just did not want to miss a minute of it especially what he, at 6 years old, knew to be the all-important ending!
Do you have a memory of Les Mis? Share your stories with us in the comments.