Sunday, June 30, 2013

For the Love of Outback

Debbie and I after we met for the first time
Well, last night it finally happened.  Yes, that's right...Debbie Gibson and I finally met in real life.  For those of you who are new to the blog, you might be wondering what the big deal is.  However, there is quite the back story that you need to catch up on.  :)

See, I've been a fan of Debbie's since her teen pop sensation days of the late 1980's.  Her hit "Lost in Your Eyes" was my junior prom theme in 1989.  I've got several of her cassettes.  Yes, I may have even had a slight celebrity crush on her like a lot of my 17-year-old friends.

Fast forward to a year and a half ago.  My friends at Outback Steakhouse, who I had gotten to know through the power of Twitter, sent me 40 presents to give away in conjunction with my 40th birthday.  After giving a bunch away to friends and family and then branching out to people in the community, members of the news media, our town's mayor, and even Jungle Jack Hanna of the Columbus Zoo, I saved the best for last.  I was determined to try to get the final present to Debbie Gibson.  Yes, it took lots of tweets and nearly five months after my birthday to do it, but Debbie got the final present and was even nice enough to send a fun video that she filmed from the dressing room of the Tonight Show to mark the occasion.

A little over a year has passed since then.  Debbie and her publicist, Elizabeth Neff, have both been nice enough to correspond with me from time to time via Twitter.  When I noticed on Debbie's website that she would be in Ohio for a concert at the end of June, I started to think that maybe I would finally get the opportunity to meet her.  As the day of the event drew closer, I sent her a couple of messages.  Before I knew it, her production manager, Rob, was calling me on the phone and telling me what I needed to do to meet her at the concert.

I was stoked!  Despite being a big fan, I had never even seen her in concert.  And now, I was going to get to go backstage and meet her!  Was this really happening?!?

Saturday came and I made the drive to Cincinnati through lots of rain.  I was worried that maybe the concert, which was outdoors, would get canceled.  However, the rain stopped about the time that I arrived and before I knew it the time had come to meet Rob and go see her.

I don't know about you, but too often we put celebrities on pedestals as better than everyone else.  However, whatever expectations I had for meeting Debbie quickly vanished the moment I walked in her dressing room with Rob.

As soon as she saw me, she gave me a big hug and immediately acted like I was a long lost friend she had known forever.  We talked and laughed.  Next thing I knew, I realized that it was just Debbie and I hanging out and chatting as Rob had disappeared to take care of some things.  Seriously, could it have been a cooler experience.  What could have been intimidating was not because of how kind she was by going out of her way to make me feel special.  She is a very genuine person and it was really easy to talk to her.

I left the dressing room and waited outside while she made last-minute preparations for her show.  I was able to stand on stage and watch the whole performance.  It was great!  She sang lots of her old songs ("Shake Your Love", "Lost in Your Eyes", "Only in My Dreams", "Electric Youth", and "Foolish Beat",  and even a tribute medley of songs by other artists that she enjoyed back in the day.  Debbie is definitely a performer and did a great job vocally as well as interacting and connecting with the crowd.  And she has endless energy, too.  She even rolled with the punches when a stray dog got loose on stage and she led the crowd in "Who Let the Dogs Out".  She also didn't miss a beat during her rendition of "Lost in Your Eyes" when she had to whack a mosquito who had landed on her arm mid-song.
Debbie heading out to the stage to get the concert started
I had so much fun throughout the concert as she would came on and off stage walking right past me.  Before the first song, I gave her a fist bump.  I had no idea what the protocol was or what I should do.  Guess that came from working with student-athletes every day.  LOL  I also had fun chatting with Rob and her two dancers, Eddie and Buddy.  Everyone was just incredibly cordial and fun.

When the concert ended, I had the chance to talk to Debbie for a couple more minutes before she headed off to meet her fans and sign autographs at the merchandise tent.  She even paused long enough to record a quick message with me for our mutual friends at Outback.  Probably the most impressive thing for me all night was being about 45 minutes into my three-hour drive home and getting a message from her saying that she enjoyed meeting me finally.  Seriously, Debbie, you are the best!

Well, it's been a little over 24 hours now since the fun night and I'm still buzzing over how much fun it was.  We may never cross paths again (although I'm really going to push Outback to let us both be in a commercial 'cause Debbie may be a bigger fan of theirs than I am and that's saying something), but for one night she was kind enough to take the time to get to know me a little better while allowing me a glimpse into what life is like for her.  What a cool thing to do!

Thanks, Debbie, for a fun-filled evening.  Thanks, Outback, for helping to connect me with someone I know can call a friend.  And thanks, Twitter, for once again showing me that anything is possible if you work at being yourself to establish a relationship with someone else.  I can't wait to see what will happen next.

Debbie and I after the concert

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What an Oz-some Night....The Return of Wicked

Glinda and Elphaba
Last night, I had the opportunity to take the family to see the Broadway show Wicked at the Ohio Theatre in Columbus.  This was my third time to see it and it seems to get better each time!

The story is basically a prequel to the story of the Wizard of Oz and attempts to explain what all is going on when Dorothy arrives.  However, it's a story like you've never heard with lots of plot twists and turns that you never expected.

The show starts by showing how Glinda, the Good Witch, and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, met in school.  Like any relationship between strong personalities, their story has its ups and downs, but after a rocky start as rivals they become friends.

Jenn Gambatese, an Ohio native, stars as Glinda and does a great job of portraying the self-absorbed blonde with great vocal range and a flair for the overly dramatic.  She has great comedic timing and provides plenty of laughs with her antics.

The star of the show is Alison Luff, who has only been portraying Elphaba for just over a month since joining the team.  While she may not have been 'greenified' for very long, she pulls off the performance with aplomb.  Her vocal skills were so outstanding that my oldest daughter leaned over to me at one point and said "Dad, she sings better than the Elphaba on the (original cast recording) CD."  That's pretty high praise.  She also did a great job of portraying the misunderstood girl who grew up to wear the label of Wicked Witch.  Of the three different performers I've seen portray the Elphaba character, she was definitely the best.  The young woman has some serious pipes and had the best rendition of "Defying Gravity" that I've heard.

Curt Hansen was strong in his role as Fiyero, the love interest of both of the main characters as well as some of the swooning women in the packed house.  He also nailed his songs including his duet with Luff on "As Long As You're Mine", which is my personal favorite song in the show.

Fiyero and Elphaba singing "As Long As You're Mine"
 Kim Zimmer as Madame Morrible and John Davidson as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz both brought plenty of experience on stage and television to the show and did a good job in their roles.  The rest of the cast was also outstanding and never missed a beat.

This show will be in Columbus until June 23.  If you have never seen it, it's a three-hour journey that will have you on the edge of your seat and ready to cheer as the cast puts on what I personally feel is the most enjoyable Broadway show there is.  For more information on purchasing tickets or even a shot to get great seats for cheap through the nightly Wicked lottery, visit the CAPA website at:

How much do I like this show?  I would go to the performance each night if my schedule and bank account would allow it.  In fact, I need to see if there is a way to volunteer to be an usher because it would be worth it just to hear the show each night.  It's that good!