DIVA TALK AT SEA: Chocolate, Creel and Cruisin' with Rosie

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK AT SEA: Chocolate, Creel and Cruisin' with Rosie
Diva Talk hits the sea this week as the Norwegian Dawn travels from New York City to Nova Scotia and Massachusetts with a host of Broadway performers.


Day Two: Monday, July 11

Have you ever been to a chocolate buffet? I hadn't either. Looked a bit like a scene out of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," which seems highly appropriate with the remake of the classic film (now titled "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory") about to hit movie theatres across the country. Anyway, the chocolate buffet aboard the Norwegian Dawn was something to behold: several mile-long tables filled with every imaginable chocolate confection -- cakes, pastries -- as well as two areas that served ice cream with chocolate sauce and chocolate candies. Waiters also filled the aisles, carrying chocolate covered bananas and other dazzling treats.

My friend Zeke— who is traveling with me for the week-long excursion to Halifax, Boston, Provincetown and Martha's Vineyard—and I somehow managed to restrain ourselves. He sampled the chocolate-covered banana, and I tried one of the dozens of chocolate pastries. Chocolate, however, isn't the only game in town. Food is abundant on the enormous Norwegian Dawn with ten separate restaurants catering to a variety of tastes. In fact, we had just finished lunch at Aqua (including an amazing peach cobbler—perhaps that's why we were able to show some chocolate restraint) when we heard about the chocolate buffet in the Venetian Restaurant.

We've decided, though, if we're going to eat our way to Canada, we're going to attempt to exercise away the calories. So, we spent a good part of the day in the El Dorado Fitness Center. After breakfast, we ran on the treadmill in the exercise room, where I noticed a bunch of Broadway favorites—Liz Callaway, Gavin Creel, Darius de Haas and Mario Cantone—also taking advantage of the 24-hour fitness center. We used the various weight machines, swam laps in the pool and, later in the evening, took a bicycle spinning class from which I am still recovering. Food and exercise aside, the second day aboard the ship also featured wonderful entertainment. At 8:30 PM, the Spinnaker Lounge on Deck 12 offered a concert with the aforementioned Gavin Creel, of Thoroughly Modern Millie and, more recently, La Cage aux Folles fame. Backed by Robbie Roth on guitar, Creel offered a 45-minute set of original tunes he penned with Roth. The Tony-nominated actor possesses a smooth, clear and rangy tenor and an honest delivery that is extremely appealing. His voice is a blend of rock, folk and theatrical styles, and his songs—of love, acceptance and political protest—are catchy, clever and often touching. In addition to his own work, the long-haired Creel also covered "A Case of You," offering a fine version of the Joni Mitchell classic, which speaks of a "lonely painter/ [who] lives in a box of paints/ I'm frightened by the devil/ and drawn to those who ain't afraid." Creel fans will be happy to learn that the actor is heading into the studio next month to record his first solo CD, which will feature his own compositions. Among the songs he sampled at the Spinnaker were such titles as "Don't Break Your Heart," "Friday, Saturday, Sunday," "Green to Grey," "Light Up" and "These Four Walls."

At 9:30 PM, Rosie O'Donnell offered Rosie's Variety Hour, which featured the former talk-show host and several of the performers who will be offering their own solo shows throughout the week. After a big production number featuring O'Donnell and "The RFamily Dancers," the actress and Broadway enthusiast welcomed the enthusiastic crowd and acknowledged some of the celebrities who are traveling this week on the Norwegian Dawn: Susie Essman, Sharon Gless and pop singer Melissa Etheridge.

And, what would an evening with Rosie be without a few "giveaways"? The stand-up comic— whose topics included George Bush, Tom Cruise and oversized underwear—handed out four iPods as well as an all-expense paid vacation to New York, including Broadway tickets to any show of the winner's choice. O'Donnell also announced that the documentary filmed aboard last year's premire RFamily Vacations cruise has been so well-received at HBO that it will be included in this year's Sundance Film Festival and will be released as a theatrical film. The current cruise will also feature a screening of the documentary.

Rosie's Variety Hour boasted performances from John Tartaglia (who performed Avenue Q's "I'm Not Gay" with the help of Jennifer Barnhart), former out football player Esera Tuaolo (who belted out an emotional version of Hairspray's "I Know Where I've Been"), the RFamily Singers (who were joined by the appealing Tartaglia for the title song from Free to Be You and Me), musical director/comic Seth Rudetsky (who had the audience roaring with laughter as he "deconstructed" the song stylings of Barbra Streisand and Bea Arthur) and a finale that featured Orfeh and Anika Larsen's fierce belting of "Nights on Broadway" (backed by Jennifer Krushkamp, Anne Steele and Stephanie Harwood).

We've been at sea all day today, but tomorrow marks our first port of call: Halifax, Nova Scotia. . . More to come . . .

Happy sailing, and, of course, happy diva-watching!

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