Dateline: Fayetteville, North Carolina-
I headed into downtown Columbia this morning and had breakfast and conversation with Frank Thompson. He, as much as anyone else, is responsible for my Birmingham theater career. We met doing the original Politically Incorrect Cabaret in 2004 and we took our Ansager/Serenissimus schtick through various other incarnations and did a ton of musicals together until he relocated to South Carolina around 2010. It was nice to catch up on various subjects for a couple hours.
From there, I headed into Charleston, a city I had never been to. My impressions of it are all from the literary works of Pat Conroy (I remember reading The Water is Wide for the first time in 6th grade and have read a number of others over the years) and it looks pretty much like the pictures, only with more tourists and boutiques. It was about 95 degrees with 95% humidity so I didn’t spend a whole lot of time walking and eventually turned North on US 17 over the gorgeous new bridge. The road led me to Myrtle Beach, a less attractive variation of the Redneck Riviera full of T shirt shops and mini golf, where the heavens opened and it rained like crazy. In an attempt to get out of the gullywasher, I turned inland and found myself winding through rural eastern North Carolina – Dawson’s Creek country; and when I got tired of driving in the rain, stopped for the night in Fayetteville just outside of Fort Bragg.
Getting together with Frank always takes me back to early Birmingham theater days. He was running a musical theater company, CenterStage when we first met. Having worked with me in Politically Incorrect, he thought I had some talent so he asked Melissa Bailey, who was directing their next show, Me and My Girl, to find a spot for me and she cast me as the butler. I started rehearsals, but Tommy all of a sudden needed back surgery so I had to drop out and get him through that process. I came back a few months later for their next show, Jekyll and Hyde, where I was again cast as the butler. (Need a servant, an aristocrat or a drunk? Call Andy) At my first or second rehearsal, there became an obvious need for more tenors in the ensemble so I called up Tommy and told him to come on down and so our association with CenterStage was born and a number of my key friendships began to develop. That show was not only our CenterStage debut, but was also the first show with the company for Leah Luker and Donald Garrett. Fourteen years later, we all still work together and enjoy each others company.