An American in Paris recently stopped in Toronto on its North American tour, which McGee Maddox, who plays lead Jerry Mulligan, has been part of since April 15, 2017—without a break. What is life like on tour, when you’re in a new city, and a new bed, every week? Maddox shares his thoughts, along with some stories from the road.
How audiences differ in different cities
I feel like each region has a different level of enthusiasm. Our strongest audiences are in the Midwest. Des Moines was a wild audience. Omaha… They’re excited to see top-quality musical theatre in their town, and they show it.[An American in Paris is] a smart script, it’s a smart show. And so it’s interesting to see how different audiences react to the jokes. There are little lines here and there that refer to, like, Oscar Levant. It’s always funny to see if they pick that up. Are they laughing at the Oscar Levant joke? Do they know who Oscar Levant is?
Making a new city feel like home
If I’m in a place where I know I’m going to be for maybe a couple weeks, I’ll unpack. If I’m only there for a week, I’m not going to. I set the thermostat to how I like it—cold—so that I can bundle up in my bed and watch Netflix hours on end and catch up on my sleep, and rest my legs, take a hot Epsom-salt bath—if [I’m] lucky enough to get a hotel that has a bath.
I [personalize] my dressing room. I’ve got little pictures I hang up, little knickknacks. I’ll bring a portable speaker and play music off of my iPhone, try to go and visit my colleagues at about the fifteen-minute call, have a little dance party. I tend to get stuck on albums. Last week it was Hall & Oates. And there was a Jamie xx album in there. I think this week it’s going to be Fela Kuti. A couple weeks ago, in Providence, I was listening to a lot of Tina Turner. When we were in St. Paul, I was listening to a lot of Prince. Obviously.
Taking advantage of visiting cool places on tour[In St. Paul, I] drove out and visited Paisley Park—even drove to Minneapolis and went to the First Avenue club. Paid homage to the man. In San Diego, I went out to Coronado beach, had my birthday out there. Detroit is having a bit of a renaissance, [it’s] finding its way back. “The ruins proclaim that the building was beautiful…” It’s always fun to go and find new places to explore.
We just came from Rochester. Everybody was talking about the garbage plate. It’s disgusting. Providence was a very wonderful little downtown area. A lot of really great restaurants. In Kansas City, you’re seeking out barbecue. In Chicago, of course you’ve gotta seek out the pizza. Des Moines had this really funny pizza place called Fong’s Pizza, and it was this Chinese food–pizza hybrid. If you wanted to do a Kamikaze bomb, they put these blaster helmets on you, and you take shots. I would never have expected that in Des Moines, of all places. Sometimes the little cities can surprise you.
Exploring a city by night
I feel like the days don’t belong to me. But I’ve run into the issue that after the show, I’m up. I’m amped. I don’t fall asleep till four in the morning. So I want to do something.
Google is amazing [for] trying to find a late-night bar, any live music, or something like that. [By the time] you [get] back to the hotel or Airbnb, you’re exhausted, and then you just sleep all day, and then do it again the next night.
Some nights [I’m] like, Oh man I didn’t get enough sleep. How am I going to do this show with this much sleep? But you do it. You find a way to perform every night. You have to. You can’t have a meltdown on stage. You’ve got to find a way to perform.
Cancelled shows and impromptu days off
We were just in Providence, Rhode Island two weeks ago. And a nor’easter came in. Big giant snowstorm, about a metre of snow. I thought, Well this is New England, what are they going to do, they’re going to cancel the show? No, they just bring the trucks out and move the snow. People go on with their lives, just like Toronto. They cancelled the show! So we had this impromptu day off for the first time in ten weeks. We partied.