Christmas, Packing, Leaving on a Jet Plane, and Staring a New Life…

January 6, 2009

Well, here I am, my first “official” day “on tour.”

Isn’t that funny how I feel the need to put “on tour” in quotes? I feel that way because I haven’t done a single thing today.

Ahhh, touring life…. (?!?!? right? I don’t know yet!) haha.

Well, let’s go back a little bit, to Christmas and the following weeks, which turned out to be, at the same time, the most fun and sad week of my life!

~ ~ ~

First of all, Christmas was a blast! Levi came back in town to celebrate with my family and I, and since he was all I wanted for Christmas, I was happy!

That is until I started to throw up.


Well, Christmas morning, I wake up as excited as a kid on Christmas… wait a minute… anyway, this year I was really good at getting everyone’s presents early and I thought they were pretty good. (I LOVE giving gifts, even more than getting them, as cliche as that is. It’s true!) I sit in bed a minute anticipating the contents of my stocking and what everyone’s faces will look like when they open their presents when that awful feeling swept over me.

You know the one.

The feeling that a 300 pound person just sat on your stomach and is poking at your jugular.


So I got sick. Then I went back to bed. I thought it was just a one time thing, a parting gift from the wine at my sister-in-law’s dinner the night before. But after 3 more times of illness, I realized I was sick.
My family went over to my brother’s house to watch my niece and nephew open presents, and I decided it was safer for me to not only stay home, but to lay down outside, where my sickness wouldn’t offend the carpet’s creme sensibilities.


Levi was so wonderful the whole time though, sitting with me (but not too close), trying to shield me from my crazy aunt (everyone’s got one) who kept trying to give me a massage (?!?) and talking to me until my family got back.

When everyone got home, I laid down in front of the tree, planning on limpidly pawing at my presents until the wrapping paper eventually ripped. But then, a true Christmas miracle took place. As we opened presents, I gradually felt better and better, until the last present was opened, and I felt 100% better! I even ate a huge Christmas lunch with my family! I was so grateful for that one last Christmas present- being healthy enough to enjoy it with my family!

~ ~ ~

Quickly after lunch, we always pile in the car and drive up to Georgia to see my Nanny (my Dad’s mom) and Uncle Phil’s family and farm (Dad’s brother) in Cuthbert, Georgia, where my Dad grew up. But this year was going to be special- Levi was coming for the first time!!!!

We had a great time all around. I LOVE Georgia and seeing everyone up there, and it was so great for my Nanny and family to meet Levi. The one most hilarious part of the trip, though, was where Levi and I stayed. Since Nanny’s house was full, I booked us into one of the three hotels, excuse me, MO-tels in the town. (This is a town with exactly one stoplight, mind you…) When we pulled up, we both looked at each other and laughed. It looked just like that strip motel in that movie with Owen Wilson and Kate Beckensale where the people are trying to kill them. In short, it was a squat, 50’s style motel that hadn’t been renovated since then, complete with yellow lighting and peeling paint.

In short, it was AWESOME.

We also got to drive our family ping-pong table back home, which was fun and adventure in itself. Instead of a tying a rag to the end of the table, which hung off the end of the truck, we attached the only thing handy- a Tide box top. Hey, it’s orange….

~ ~ ~

Levi left all too soon after that, and the preparations for me leaving had to begin. (Even though I was still deeply, DEEPLY in denial that I was leaving!

So instead of packing, I took a copious amount of head shots (see my previous blog) and am still editing those as I sit here… “on tour.”

I did a lot of things “one last time..” Pearl Diving (with Daniel, which meant it was so fun!), Capone’s (Where I did a line in a Chinese accent, much to my show director’s dismay… It’s just allergies, I’m not contagious or no-ting!), and of course, my last day at FoLK, where I didn’t cry…. until my PITCH in the last show!!!!

My last day was January 3rd, and I had two shows with Patrick. We signed in my family and my friend Brian, who drove all the way from the Keys to see me! (He’s a whole ‘nother blog in himself… we met on my cruise ship two years ago maybe a total of 3 times, and have managed to keep in touch all these years! He happened to be in the Keys on a business trip, remembered that it was my last day, and decided on a whim to drive up!!! On a WHIM to drive 8 hours EACH WAY! Now that’s my kind of friend!!)

I came in to everyone giving me hugs (I adore that stage and everyone there…), my FoLK poster all signed with goodbye wishes, my makeup station all decorated, and Gio’s cake for my party, which is AMAZING and I will tell you about later!

The shows felt beautiful, since Patrick is just the most amazing partner, he managed to keep me together while I felt like an emotional and physical wreck! I was convinced the last shows would be a hot mess!
So the last show starts, and everyone is really hyped and full of energy. I loved shows like that. We had them often. Sometimes, it just feels like there’s an electricity in the air. Every member of the cast feels it, players, puppets, singers and stilts. This was one of those shows. Everything is going ok, at least I’m not crying yet. But my body is getting away from me, I’m feeling that sinking loss of control feeling as I approach the flying portion of the show. Yet I still don’t think I’m going to cry.

Then, I go up for the pitch… and the theater explodes. EVERYONE is cheering and clapping, I can hear every player, singer, stilt, even probably the puppets and crew! They are all soooo loving and supportive and I was just SO overwhelmed with their support I burst into tears IN THE PITCH!!! I was SO scared I was going to miss it! (If you haven’t seen the show it’s the part I go upside-down!) But I managed to make it, and came down with tears streaming down my face!

So we finished the show, I cried and cried as Patrick held me, and then, with on last deep breath, I left the stage for the last time.

~ ~ ~

But I had other things to focus on at the moment, so I tried to think of my Going Away Party that was taking place that night and all the preparations. As a surprise, I had decorated the entire house with pictures of everything I’ve ever done at Disney and Orlando for the last two years- Dream Along, FoLK, Capones, Pearl Diving, various gigs, as well as pictures of me growing up and dancing, recitals, trips to Disney, auditions. It ended up being over 200 pictures, and then as a party favor, the guests could take them home! I also had video of my first recital and other embarrassing videos projected on the wall!

The party was SO amazing and special. (the pictures can be found at Thank you to everyone who came and everyone who sent their regrets. (I know it was sooo far to drive!) Everyone was so funny- I had forgotten to tell them that we live on 10 acres of property in the swamp, so everyone would call as they were turning into my driveway, very unsure of where they were going to end up!

SO many people I love were there, and there was TONS of food! And the CAKES!! Let me tell you what- if you EVER need a cake, I know two amazing people who will HOOK YOU UP. Kristy and Gio made two of the most amazing cakes ever. Kristy made a gorgeous four layer cake with some spectacular colors and a beautiful quote and stars, and Gio made… well he made ME. I asked him to make a Lion King cake, and he did… he made ME at the Lion King. He swiped a picture from my dressing table of me in costume and made me into a cake. It was astounding. He showed it to me at work in a big ‘reveal’ kind of thing with everyone standing around and my face must have been priceless. (The one on my body. The one made of icing is priceless in a different way….)

But really, the cakes were just the icing on the… cake. Whatever. The people who were there made that night so special and unforgettable. I love you guys so much more than I could ever say. Thank you all for making my last night with my friends so special.

~ ~ ~

The next day, I finally had to face reality and start packing. My flight was at 5.30 the next day and my two big suitcases (generously given to me by my good friend Erin) were still gaping at me, empty. My friend Brian was still up from the Keys and didn’t want to leave, and I didn’t want him to leave because we were having so much fun, so I just leisurely packed and hung out with him all day. He left at 6 pm (I felt so bad, him driving all that way in the dark!) and then my family and I went to the new T-Rex Cafe for dinner.

I had given the dinner to my nephew as a Christmas present, but I don’t think he understood. I had wrapped a menu hoping he would get it when he opened it, but when I reminded him of it later, he said “Oh yeah, didn’t you just give me the menu?” Right. There’s a dinner attached to that….
The place is really fun, even for non-dinosaur obsessed adults. My favorite part was my cotton candy martini (yum!) and then panning for fossils with the kids. (I got some trilobites or something…)

~ ~ ~

I stayed up until 2 am packing, and then Monday morning got up and rushed around like a chicken with some important part of her body chopped off getting stuff together for my flight. I moved my rabbit Dover to my brothers house, reviewed how to deal with Copeland to my Dad, and shipped off my remaining Christmas gifts. (Better late than later, right?)

Shannah, Justin, and Isabella volunteered to take me (for some reason my parent’s didn’t want to take me… maybe they would have cried?) and I got away with NOT crying as I said goodbye to my family. In fact, I didn’t cry when I left Shannah and Justin either. I only started crying a little in the airport waiting to board the plane, talking to Levi. (People who know me that me crying this little is quite a feat!)

It just hit me as I was about to board, that this time, I’m really leaving home. I left home once for Canada for my first year of college, but this just felt different somehow. I think I had been in denial of everything for so long that the reality of the situation hit me all at once then.

Once I got on the plane, I wanted to cry again… but not for the same reason. The girl next to me (who had with her an adorable Shih-Tzu named Bella in her carry on!) commented that she didn’t see any place for the overhead TV’s to come out, and I noted that this was a brand new plane, so they had to have them. Their would be a riot otherwise, right? So the screens were probably just well concealed.

SO well concealed in fact…. they didn’t exist.

That’s right kids. US Airways doesn’t offer movies OR MUSIC on their flights anymore. (Oh, except to Hawaii and Europe.)


Well, I was wrong about the riot, but Kim and I were about to start one ourselves.

~ ~ ~

Despite my lack of music or a TV, I got to Tempe ok.

I checked into my hotel, got my script and binder, and met up with my friend Kendra (who I’m replacing and who is becoming the dance captain) and her parents who were visiting from Canada. It was SO nice to talk to them my first night. As I was unpacking before I met up with them I was feeling jittery, nervous. Excited, but in an anxious sort of way. I just kept wondering if this was the right thing to do… leaving home, all of my friend and people I love, and my dream job at Festival…. but after talking to Kendra I felt SO much better. Yes, it was a hard decision to leave, and actually leaving was even harder than that, but we talked about what being on tour was like, all the places we’re going to see together, all the sights we were going to visit together, and how fun the show itself is, and I felt better.

While I still miss home, and everyone there, I’m finally feeling a little bit more ok about being here.

The one pivotal moment when it all really HIT me though, was when I paged through my binder (with all sorts of cute letters that said “Hi Selena, welcome to the Gazelle tour!!”) and found in my script binder the page that read “Disney Presents, The Lion King, The Broadway Show.”

It really kind of took my breath away.

~ ~ ~

The next day I had the entire day off until my call time of 6.45 (which when my manager called to tell me the call time a few days ago, I responded “In the morning?!?!?” to which he laughed at me. Turns out not ONE of my call times this week for rehearsal is before 12) So I stayed in the hotel tending to some photo shoots on things I had to still edit from home and finished unpacking.

I went downstairs to have some breakfast buffet from the hotel, a $20 mistake I won’t be making again. Wendy’s across the street is calling to me now. I also made the mistake of calling it a buffet with a hard “T” like at Capones. It was so a part of my vocabulary that when I asked where the buffet was, I said BUFFETT and the guy looked at me funny. Whoops. Old lines die hard…

I walked around Arizona State University’s camps, which is beautiful, scoped out my theater, the Gammage, which is a huge and really round, pretty building. The concrete on the outside around the windows are shaped like curtains, which is pretty. Then I went to the bookstore where I got some things I needed. It was really nice to walk into a University bookstore and NOT need to look at the textbooks. This time, since I’ve already graduated from college, I could just revel in the most fun department- OFFICE SUPPLIES!!!

I got back to my hotel in time to get ready to go to my first show and my friends Amaya and Kellen picked me up. They danced with me at Disney a few years ago before they got the call to join the tour from the last round of auditions that went through Orlando in 2006. I got to the theater and met about 1,000 people who I know I’m going to see again today and draw a blank on their names, but everyone tells me that’s ok.

The managers were really cool and the cast was SO welcoming and sweet. Everyone kept saying “Welcome to the Family!” I guess being a part of the Lion King show, no matter what cast, brings you into this Lion King Family. One girl even has in her bio in the Playbill, “Yay, I’m in the LK Family!” I met the kids who are young Nala and Simba and they were JUST adorable! Precocious, talkative and intelligent, they were curious about me and where I was from. SO cute! I met lots of people that used to work at Disney that I was ‘supposed to meet,’ Dionne, Maia, Mauricia, and others, and they were all so sweet. Most had heard that I was coming through one way or another and gave me big hugs! I love these people already!

I watched the show through a wall of tears- I cried the whole time. (Not surprising, right?) The show is even more beautiful and spectacular that I remember. Even our ‘scaled down’ version for the sake of traveling on the tour has all the elements- Pride Rock doesn’t rise out of the ground, but glides on stage majestically, the water in the drought still drains through the floor, the stampede gully is huge and overwhelming for Mufasa’s death scene. I hope all of you can come see it!

After the show, I snuck backstage flashing my “All Access Pass” like the nerd that I am (You KNOW I’m keeping that!!!) and told everyone how amazing they all were. Kendra drove me back to my hotel (which is kind of like living “Zac and Cody’s Suite Life,” even though I’ve seen the show twice… I’m just guessing) and we had a drink and did some more catching up. I cannot overemphasize ENOUGH how grateful I am that she is here with me. She’s like having a big sister built in. It was so nice to see her, Kellen and Amaya’s friendly faces my first day.

~ ~ ~
January 7, 2009

So this morning, I’m running some quick errands before I start my first official day of work! I have a wardrobe fitting at 12, then dance rehearsal for a few hours, then my first vocal rehearsal. *gulp!* The dancing I’m not HALF as worried about as I am about the singing! (Reminder- my voice CRACKED in the audition! So hopefully they’re not expecting much… hehe*

I’m also nervous because I’m the ONLY person joining the tour right now, meaning ALL of the rehearsals are just for ME. I almost feel bad about that- when I have my put-ins, everyone is going to have to get all dressed and do a whole show, just for little old me! And during rehearsals, there’s not going to be someone else to run the scene as I take a water break. No no, just me. YIKES!!!!!

So I’ll let you know how it goes, obviously. I really didn’t mean for this post to be so long… but I never do. There’s just so much to say!! The most important thing I want to say is that I miss all of you so much already. I have an awesome digital picture frame one of my best friends Jenni got me and I already have stocked it with soooo many pictures of everyone from home!!

So each and every one of you are all with me out here!!


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