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Patti, Howard, Norm and Seth… and for an unexpected added bonus– Willie. First-names only. That’s what this cruise was all about, right?
As if traveling in style and experiencing exotic locations wasn’t enough, we got to rub elbows with– and be entertained by– some of Broadway’s very best talent: Patti LuPone, Howard McGillin, Norm Lewis. and arguably, the hardest working man in show biz, Seth Rudetsky. What a surprise to have Willie Aames as our wonderful cruise director! I certainly don’t want to leave out the brilliant composer and musical director, Joseph Thalken, who was the iciing on the cake. What a line up!
Playbill, under the guidance of President & Publisher, Phil Birsh and Editor in Chief, Blake Ross; with the invaluable assistance of Judy Perl Worldwide Travel created a non-stop, thrill-a-minute dream vacation that we’ll talk about for years. Broadway On The High Seas 3 was a hit!
On top of our daily excursions, we had all the special Playbill entertainment keeping us busy, which is one of the reasons Michael and I barely got four hours sleep a night. But who could sleep!?! We were too busy having fun!
Shortly after we sailed on the first day, Playbill sponsored a Meet and Greet in the Constellation Theater. Of course, everyone was looking around to see if they could spot the Broadway folks. We immediately made some new friends and were busy chatting as they were about to start the welcome and introductions. In walks Patti and her husband, Matt… and they sat right in front of us.
Now, I’m as starstruck as the next person. But, I also believe that ‘stars’ are regular people and deserve respect and privacy just like the rest of us. So even though I’d daydreamed for months about sitting and chatting with Patti for hours in the ship’s lounge (which sadly, didn’t happen)… and even though I could reach out and touch her… I didn’t approach her then. We did run in to her on the deck a few nights later and exchanged greetings and I was satisfied with that. If we were going to talk, I wanted it to happen organically. Besides, I probably would have made a fool out of myself anyway because I would have gushed… and gushed… and well, you get the picture. For me, Patti LuPone is one of Broadway’s greatest treasures and a true artist that completely embodies her craft. I know it’s cliche but it was an honor just to be in the same room with her.
After introductions of the staff and entertainers, everyone went back to socializing and I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Blake (the editor at Playbill), and thank her for allowing high schools to use the Playbill cover for their show programs. (We used it for Joseph this past April.) This got us talking and she introduced us to Phil ( the president of Playbill) and we chatted about the exciting things Playbill is doing to expand its reach. It was really nice making those connections– and I have to say, Blake totally reminds me of Carrie Bradshaw in SITC. She’s adorable.
We also met our travel agent, Judy Perl and her husband and had the chance to thank her in person for setting everything up for us. If you haven’t been following the blog, Judy set up a private tour of Stutthof for us– and then her family joined us on the tour which was really nice. I’m looking forward to working with her great company when we travel in the future.
The second night was Patti LuPone’s big concert. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen her perform, I always marvel at her technique and artistry. She gave us her Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda show — and according to Phil afterwards, the longest concert of any performer on the BOTHS cruises so far. Patti gave us an amazing set of songs from parts she “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda” played, with a mix of songs from parts she did play, including Meadowlark and Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. She also sang, I Get A Kick Out of You, seeking out her Anything Goes co-star Howard McGillin and serenading him in the audience. The concert only ended after a standing ovation and three encores. I was so invigorated, I barely slept that night.
Tuesday night, Seth Rudetsky entertained us with his amusing and insightful, Deconstructing Broadway. Seth is an amazingly talented performer, writer and musical director among other things. I’m not sure there’s anything he can’t do. Best of all, he’s an energetic, funny guy that loves all things Broadway.
Among other things, he entertained us with his hilarious comparison of Patti and Madonna’s Eva Perons in Evita. Guess who won?
After two days off, with night excursions in Saint Petersburg, Seth was back Friday night, interviewing Broadway’s longest running Phantom, Howard McGillin, for his informal, Chatterbox. There were lots of great stories (including passing on Into the Woods) and Howard sang, A Man Could Go Quite Mad from his role in the original cast of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Saturday night’s entertainment was supposed to start out with Seth’s Chatterbox, interviewing Norm Lewis, only Norm had to leave the ship a couple days in to the cruise, fly to LA for a shoot on the TV series, Scandal, then fly back to rejoin the cruise– only he missed a connecting flight. So we had the bonus treat of two interviews with Patti. She’s certainly had a roller coaster-ride of a career and has many great stories to share.
After dinner, we were treated to Howard McGillin’s big concert. I really love his voice and could listen to him for hours. One of the highlights of his show was bringing Patti onstage to recreate their number, You’re the Top from Anything Goes. I’d been fortunate enough to see them do it originally on Broadway (twice), so that made it extra special for me. This was the first time they’ve had the opportunity to perform together since. It was a really great concert.
Sunday, Norm made it back on the ship in the afternoon, shortly before we left Lithuania. With all the travel and jet lag, they scheduled him for a massage and I happened to be in the spa at the same time and got to chat with him. He’s a super nice guy. Late that night, Playbill had scheduled Broadway After Dark, which, after a misguided game of Broadway bingo (I shouted BINGO first Seth!), it luckily became a Chatterbox with Norm. It turns out he grew up about 20 miles from me and is only a couple months younger than I am. He ended the interview by singing, Rain from Once On This Island, which was absolutely incredible!
Monday, Seth continued his interview with Patti and we were treated to two more songs. It wasn’t until then that I realized I’d never heard her sing, I Dreamed A Dream, live. She won the Oliver Award in 1985, for her performances in both Les Miserables and The Cradle Will Rock. Patti brings such depth to the song. She also wowed us with Buenos Aires from Evita.
After dinner, everyone was blown away by Norm Lewis in concert. What a voice and a great showman! It was the perfect way to end the Playbill portion of the cruise. We’d just seen Norm on Broadway recently in Porgy and Bess and he’s simply phenomenal.
Toward the end of his concert, our cruise director, Willie Aames, joined Norm on stage for a duet and the crowd went wild.
After Norm’s concert, we celebrated the end of the cruise with one last toast. Michael and I got to chat with Willie briefly and thank him for making our stay of the Regent Seven Seas Voyager so memorable.
We actually still had one full day in Germany ahead but because our luggage had to be packed and outside our room that final night; the Playbill events ended a night earlier. This way, everyone got to dress up and there was no rush after the evenings festivities to get packed.
I forgot to mention that when we first got to our rooms, we had swag waiting for us. We received canvas Playbill bags that among other things, included a special edition print, especially for BOTHS3 that we were able to have signed by all the performers. I thought it was really a nice touch.
Playbill did an excellent job planning out this adventure. They kept us going non-stop for ten days, yet we were never rushed and still managed to have a little free time. Patti, Norm, Howard and Seth were frequently out and about, went on some of the tours and were often accessible.
I also really appreciated that we got daily updates of the Broadway events delivered to our room so we wouldn’t miss anything.
Unfortunately, Michael and I won’t be able to go on the BOTHS4 (Tahiti) but 5 and 6 are already in the works and we’re making plans.
Broadway On the High Seas is the perfect way to see the world and get a more intimate Broadway experience all rolled into one vacation.
WARNING: It’s habit-forming.
We were picked up at the Sheraton Stockholm around noon on Sunday (August 4) and transported across town to the port to board our home for the next ten days, Regent Seven Seas Voyager. Our luggage was delivered directly to our room from the hotel, so we didn’t have to drag it through Passport Control before getting on the ship.
Regent is a luxury cruise line currently operating only three smaller ships in their fleet and soon adding a fourth. Our ship, Voyager, accommodates a maximum of 700 passengers in “all suite, all balcony” rooms. It boasts all the amenities of larger ships, including four dining rooms all providing delicious regional cuisine.
As we expected, it was a mostly older clientele (50 and above) but there were a small number a children and teens aboard as well.
On this particular sailing, half the ship had been reserved for Playbill’s Broadway On the High Seas 3 event and the entire ship was booked to capacity.
As with most cruises, once you board the ship you are directed to the pool deck where a buffet style lunch was available, while the rooms were being readied. One of the full service dining rooms was also open, La Veranda, which is where Michael and I chose to eat. After a light lunch, we headed to our room to unpack before the mandatory evacuation drill.
I have to stop here and say that as the periodic announcements were being made: welcoming us aboard and directing us where to go… I kept thinking– that voice is so familiar. When we finally got to our room and turned on the ship’s information channel on the TV… there he was, larger than life… our Cruise Director, Willie Aames. Yes, THAT Willie Aames.–TV star from the 70’s and 80’s, most notably, in my life for the series Eight Is Enough and Charges In Charge.
Willie is a phenomenal Cruise Director. He was always out and about and so very friendly. Every time I heard his voice it just made me smile. It was a piece of home– a part of my past that felt so welcoming and inviting. Am I one of the few people that didn’t know he was also a fully ordained minister?
So back to my least favorite part of any cruise– the evacuation drill. I know they are necessary and for our own safety but why do they have to take so long? I do have to say it was run very efficiently and we had the bonus of getting our first glimpse of all the Broadway performers who were also in our lifeboat station. Spotting and watching them certainly made the time go faster.
Soon, we were sailing in the beautiful Archipelago Sea , through the Baltic to our first stop– Turku, Finland. Since the sun doesn’t set until around 11 pm, we had some time to enjoy the spectacular view of the world’s largest archipelago (island group) before dark.
The rest of the evening was spent exploring the ship, attending the Broadway Meet and Greet (I’ll talk more about this in a later post), and dinner.
The Voyager is a beautiful ship and the only way I really noticed its smaller size was that everything was in close proximity. There are no long, endless corridors like the larger ships. For exercise, I took the stairs whenever possible. We were on deck nine, and mostly used decks four through eleven. The layout of the ship is very similar to the larger ships we’ve been on and very easy to navigate.
This was our fourth cruise and by far, the best ship experience. We also met a lot of wonderful people and exchanged contact information with some of them so we could stay in touch. That’s never happened before.
I highly recommend Regent and hope we have a chance to sail with them again in the near future.
(Stay tuned for more of our trip. I’m trying to break in down a little differently for easier reading. We were constantly on the go and at times it was a little overwhelming. Hopefully, this format will be easy to follow. Thanks for reading!)