Friday was my annual Broadway Day. Once a year, usually around year-end, during the holidays, I plot out a non-stop day of activities in Manhattan, revolving around the theater.
Of course, I WORK in Manhattan every other workday of the year. It is, after all, only an hour away by auto, bus or train. And I lived in Manhattan for over 20 years. But I like getting to feel like a tourist in my own town now and then. So I took the week off from work and got tickets to two Broadway shows for Friday, "The Drowsy Chaperone" (a musical) which had added a special holiday matinee on Friday and "The Little Dog Laughed" on Friday night.
First came the agonizing over which mode of transportation to take into the city. This was not going to be an ordinary workday. I knew I wouldn't get home until all hours, so I decided to take the train. Bad mistake. The 10:14 a.m. train (oh, I was getting my haircut in Greenwich Village at 12:30 with my old stylist, too), arrived in Princeton Junction Station jammped to the rafters. It makes exactly 2 stops before it arrives at PJS, so everyone must've been waiting for it down the line. I had to stand all the way into Manhattan. Oh, and it made about 8 more stops before we got there.
I was somewhat cranky by the time we got to New York Penn Station. ("And lead us not into Penn Station, but deliver us from evil..." is an old, not far from the truth, joke).
I hopped on the subway downtown to Sheridan Square and was promptly getting my hair cut by my beloved stylist of over 23 years. I felt safe and comforted as Stylist Z gently clipped my hair, sometimes one strand at a time, until it resembled a work of art. When Stylist Z cuts my hair I know it's going to look good not just for the remainder of the day, nor even for the following week. It's going to look good for at least a month. Stylist Z is worth every dime I pay him. I love him.
Then I jumped on an uptown train and got out in Times Square. The theater is in the Marriott Marquis hotel at the corner of 45th & Broadway. I had only to swim upstream 3 blocks. I might as well have been a salmon trying to swim up the Columbia River to spawn. It was that crowded. And not just with Americans. It was a virtual Babel of languages and dialects. German, French, English-english, Italian, God-knows-what-else. But I finally made it and settled into my wonderful seat in the 2nd row of the mezzanine (one should ALWAYS sit in the front mezzanine for musicals... that's where directors always sit for the last few rehearsals so they can see "the big view" of the show, and that's what I want to see when I see it. What the director saw.)
Chaperone is a charming piece of fluff, predicated on the flimsy plot of a theater queen, at home and feeling blue, dragging out an old album (yes, an "album") of a 1929 musical called "The Drowsy Chaperone" which he starts listening to and which then, magically, comes to life on the stage. It's charming and meaningless and just plain fun. It's more interesting for what it isn't. It ISN'T a 10-ton turkey, gang-created in the audio-animatronic musicalcomedyshops of Sir Andrew Lloyd-Disney, et fils. It's what musical theater should be, wildly improbable, occasionally "blue" in the adult sense of the word, and cute as a button.
Unlike say, oh, "Mary Poppins" which opened a month ago to universal pans from the press and which Disney, with it's infinitely deep pockets, keeps running anyway because a) they're Disney, b) the out-of-towners will see anything put on by Disney and c) fuck you, New York!
From what I've been told, it looks computer-driven and capable of doing 30 shows a day. Another nail in Broadway's coffin.
But, back to my day of theater. I came out of the Marquis tapping my toes and forgetting every song in the score. There were no memorable show tunes, but that didn't matter. I'd had a great, big, beautiful hot fudge sundae and it had been delicious.
I caught up with my college roommate and we visited for awhile in his home in the heart of Hell's Kitchen before setting out for a quick meal and then to the theater to see my second, and his first, production of the day...
The Little Dog Laughed. This is a giant hit legit (non-musical) show. It is hilarious. I won't say that it's a thinly disguished roman-a-clef because, well, because it's not just one person's story, it's the story of a lot of Hollywood denizens. The plot is simple. High-powered Hollywood Agent (Julie White) has good-looking male client (Tom Everett Scott) who is "on the verge" of mega-stardom, both of whom are in New York looking at an off-Broadway show to purchase as Star's Breakthrough Vehicle. The complication comes because Star has this teensy problem, a "slight, recurring case of homosexuality" as the agent puts it. He gets drunk in his hotel one night and calls a male prostitute (Johnny Galecki) who shows up and, naturally, the two of them fall in love. Complicating that are the hustler's girlfriend (Ari Graynor), and the gay author of the play (unseen and unheard, but thoroughly alive through one-sided luncheons and phone calls with Star and Agent).
A glance around the theater during intermission confirmed what I suspected. This show is a giant hit with show business insiders because it reminds them of entirely too many people that they know in real-life and everybody, EVERYBODY, is trying to figure out who the playwright based his characters on. ("Is it TomKat???) One Hollyweird producer whom I recognized was sitting directly across the aisle from me and spent ZERO time laughing at the play and lots of time looking at me every time I laughed to make sure the play actually WAS funny. He was obviously considering buying it for his studio and wanted to make sure that it really was worth the money. What sad little lives Hollywood producers lead. Joyless, fearful. I used to live like that. Now I laugh out loud, and to hell with the consequences.
I would see this show again in a heartbeat.
And not JUST because the male leads have a delicious nude scene with full-frontal nudity.
I didn't get home until after midnight. It was a long day. And worth every sore muscle and the heavily depleted bank account.
I'm a pushover for Great, Big, Broadway, Shows....