Broadway week, running from January 17th to February 4th…a celebration of theatre (and savings!) saw my mother and I making a day trip to New York City with half-price tickets to “The Phantom of the Opera”. Finally, I have seen the longest-running (since 1988!) and most iconic show on Broadway. I’ve been to my fair share of Broadway shows and am, quite obviously, obsessed with them and yet, for one reason or another, had not seen the Broadway staple. A few seconds after the lights dimmed, I remembered why. Aside from my knowing that, of all shows on Broadway, this one is most likely to still be there on my return visit, and aside from the flashy attraction of new and acclaimed productions like “South Pacific” and “Anything Goes” that have previously drawn my attention away, I mentioned to my mother that such a well-known show might be more prone to have tourists as audience members. By tourists, of course, I am not talking about people visiting from other places. I am talking about the obnoxious and confused idiots who decide that being unfamiliar with their surroundings and on vacation excuses them from accountability for their actions and consideration for others. But my mother had never seen a Broadway show, so it seemed like an ideal initiation. My prescient apprehension could not even begin to comprehend what took place for the next three hours. Loud whispering, crinkling of food wrappers and water bottles, people getting up to go the bathroom, camera flashes throughout, the jackasses who start to exit the theatre during the final bow in order to avoid the crowds. One young lady left the theater during the show to answer her phone through the emergency exit. The door remained ajar with sunlight flooding into the dark theater until an usher rushed over and closed it. When the curtain fell for the last time, and the lights came back on, I saw the majority of the noise was due to large amounts of children everywhere. It must have been some sort of ill-conceived field trip; there were rows and rows of them scattered throughout the upper balcony like fungus. And it wasn’t even like these children were intentionally misbehaving. They were the rudest brats imaginable and yet had no concept of it whatsoever. It was as if not one adult in their short lives (lives that almost ended at my hands that afternoon) had ever taken them aside and taught them about manners or behavior. Not a single child was removed from the theater or, as far as I could see, punished in any way by a parent or chaperone despite loud shushing from patrons like myself who were still in possession of a shred of human decency. In fact, upon reliving it now in this post, I no longer feel bad about frightening a few of them when I stood up at the end and yelled down to them that they had ruined the show for the entire mezzanine and to never behave like that again. One little boy stared at me terrified and wide-eyed for a long time after that. He literally walked backwards down the steep steps of the theatre as if I’d pounce on him like a panther if he looked away. Most of the people in the upper balcony didn’t even get up for a standing ovation at the end. Apparently, they will get up and walk around during the show but somehow can’t find it in themselves to rise and show some respect and appreciation for the arts and what it means to see a live performance of that caliber and the hard work and dedication involved in it. It is times like that when I think we should all be required to wear scarlet T’s (for “Tourist”), and New Yorkers should be permitted to punch us in our faces when we act this way.
That being said, I am now justified in my opinions of “The Lion King” at the Hippodrome in Baltimore. I was underwhelmed by the sound when I saw it in December, but I then begin to feel that maybe I was shortchanging the experience. That perhaps, having not been to Broadway in three years, I had elevated it in my mind to an unattainable status. I had not. Despite the dregs of human society surrounding me, those organ notes were still reverberating in my soul and rumbling under my feet. And I seem to prefer a musical that requires a real brass and strings orchestra; those musical instruments have more of an impact on me than lighter, poppier pieces that call for guitars and percussion. During my favorite piece, when Christine sings “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” in a heavy, velvet, sapphire-blue cloak with deep red sleeves coming out of the arm slits, bathed in turquoise light, she hit some beautiful notes that sent chills from the center of me out through my fingertips and the top of my head. Ah yes, that’s the sensation I was talking about! NYC has just gotten it down to a science, pure and simple. It’s their specialty, and they’ve mastered it. I’m already planning my next euphoric fix. Mid-week, at some trendy joint this time where there will likely be plenty of locals, and premiere seats where I believe its acceptable to shoot fellow theatergoers when they get out of line. In the meantime…oh, if only I could get the Greek to take me to the opera! I have never been to one, and I have a sneaking suspicion we have a superior or at least comparable offering here in DC.
That was supposed to be a picture of the lovers Christine and Raoul but ended up as a picture of the reflection of my Mom as she stares up at the marquee.
I’ve included just a few more photos of our day in the city, a 19-hour marathon that began with leaving my home to catch a bus at 6:00 am and ended with me arriving back at my home at 1:00 am the next day. I was utterly worthless the day after and am still tired beyond belief today, but it was worth it. My one regret, other than our penny seats amongst the rowdy rabble, was the one photo I didn’t get. And I just must take a moment to tell you about it. Now, I’ve been to NYC numerous times, and I go to work each day in Baltimore. So I’ve seen some interesting things. But this was a first for me. On 5th Avenue, there was a homeless man proselytizing on the street; so far…actually pretty ordinary. But I noticed that on the ground, he had a small square of plaid fabric laid out. And on the square of fabric was a black cat, sitting quite calmly and contentedly while the man ranted and gesticulated wildly around him. And on the black cat, there was a cat-sized, perfectly-fitted, olive-green bomber jacket with a camo lining and a shearling-trimmed collar. No idea. I didn’t pay the guy to get a photo because he was a little intense, but I now regret it immensely even in spite of the fact that when we missed our bus in the evening and had to buy a second pair of tickets in a far less luxorious express bus, we had just enough cash to the dollar to buy our replacement tickets. Sure, we made it back that same night and weren’t stranded in Times Square, but at what cost? AT WHAT COST!?!
The Shubert Theatre, currently playing “Memphis”, 2010 Tony Award Winner and, I think, my next pick!
A shop window on Fifth Avenue. Fabulous.
Athena, Herald Square