This coming Sunday is the Tony Awards. Also known as: The Award Program You Never Watch.
This year my family will be watching, because two of the shows we saw in New York are nominated for best musical.
Oh my gosh! I haven’t told you about the shows we saw! Do you have a moment?
I promise I won’t go on for three hours, speeches will be kept to a 45-second time limit, and there won’t be any ‘who-died-last-year’ montages. But I promise you’ll meet some interesting people along the way, and we’ll have a swell song-and-dance number at the end.
First Show: Sunday in the Park with George
Initially we planned on seeing one show only (Hello Dolly!), but when our departure date was moved up, Son realized we’d be there in time for Sunday in the Park’s final performance. So he ordered tickets for the two of us.
I remember watching this on television when it was shown on PBS, June 16, 1986. (I looked it up for you.) Ever since, it’s been my favorite musical. I always hoped to see it live, but never imagined I’d see it in New York.
It was at the newly reopened Hudson Theater with Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead. (Yes, that Jake Gyllenhaal.) We had balcony seats, and I learned that balcony seats in a Broadway theater are still darn good seats.
(Word to the wise: never get balcony seats in touring theaters, ie: Gammage in AZ. You’ll need binoculars.)
The show was great, Gyllenhaal was surprisingly good, and while the set was simple (Son says it’s trendy to show Sondheim musicals with minimalist sets), the way they showed the painting in progress was pretty cool.
The young couple seated next to me were experiencing live theater for the first time. Or at least, I assume so because of the way they kissed and groped each other the whole evening.
At the end of Act One, when the actors were in place and the completed picture was shown, Horny Guy said to his date,
“That’s it. That’s the painting.”
Horny Girl looked. “Oh, yeah. I guess it is.”
There was a pause, then Horny Guy said,
“So how come there’s an Act Two?”
Second Show: Pacific Overtures
Another from Sondheim, this one we saw Off-Broadway at the Classic Stage Company.
Pacific Overtures is not as often performed as Sondheim’s other musicals, which was partly why we added it to our itinerary. If we didn’t see it now, when would we?
The biggest name of the show was George Takei. (Mr. Sulu!)
George Takei was great, but the best part of the show was how the 10 actors worked as an ensemble. Also, seeing a performance in a small Off-Broadway theater is a hoot. We were in the last row, meaning row six.
Not only could we see the actors as if they were in our living room, we could see the audience members seated on the other side.
No one was kissing and groping each other that I could see, but there was a woman seated directly across from me who bore a striking resemblance to Edna Mode from ‘The Incredibles.’
Do you suppose she lives in New York?
Sadly, I didn’t get her autograph.
Third Show: Come From Away
This one was completely unplanned, but that’s often the way with memorable experiences, isn’t it?
Son saw it the first day we arrived, by himself. The next morning he said, “You guys HAVE to see it!” He even offered to pay for a ticket, just to make it happen.
We checked and to our great luck, three box seats were available at a reasonable price. It was still a large expense, but of the four shows we saw, this was the one we enjoyed the most.
The story is that of a small town in Newfoundland where 38 jets were diverted following 9/11. It’s funny, sad, heart-warming, inspiring, and highly entertaining.
And it’s nominated for several awards, including Best Musical.
There were four seats in our box; we used three of them. Son was across the street seeing ‘Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812’ (also nominated for Best Musical).
Sharing the box with us, in seat number four, was Boo Radley.
Okay, he wasn’t really Boo Radley, but he could have been. He slipped in without my noticing, then never, ever made eye contact. Or said a word. Or laughed, or coughed, or anything.
At one point, during a particularly funny part when the entire audience was laughing uproariously, I glanced at him. He was smiling serenely, not making a sound.
When the show was over, the actors came out and the house gave an immediate ovation. I looked to my side.
Boo was gone.
You know what they say. You never really know a man until you sit next to him in a box seat at Schoenfeld Theater.
Fourth Show: Hello Dolly!
We bought these tickets shortly after we found out we were going to New York, nearly a year in advance. Good thing, as within a few months we heard it was sold out.
This was our big evening out. We first had dinner at Joe Allen’s. (Son said it’s what New Yorker’s do. If you’re seeing a show, you eat at Joe Allen’s.)
When our meal was done, the wine glasses empty and desserts finished, we strolled over to Shubert Theater and there we saw the spectacle that was ‘Hello Bette!’
er… I mean, ‘Hello Dolly!’
Tell me, is there a living actress with more devoted fans than Bette Midler? I swear, that woman could have done anything on stage and the crowd would have eaten it up and asked for more. That woman is loved.
Especially by the two couples who sat behind us. Huge Bette Midler fans. HUGE!
The one couple saw her in concert three times, which apparently is enough to put you on a first-name basis.
“Bette is the consummate performer,” the woman behind me said. “I just love Bette.”
Like I said. Love.
“I’ll tell you what I love,” her husband said in a sarcastic tone. “I love these seats.” (We were in the balcony again.)
The two women chided him.
“I think they’re marvelous seats,” his wife argued. “And we’re lucky we got them.”
“Oh, I agree,” said the other woman. “Even at $300 each, they’re worth every penny.”
Three hundred dollars a ticket?! We kept our mouths shut. We paid $80.
As for the show? It was great fun in the way a big, old-fashioned Broadway musical should be. We enjoyed it very much.
But enough of that. Now it’s time for our song and dance number:
Dah, dah, dah….
Actually I lied. There’s no song and dance. But here’s a curtain call for Hello Dolly, so you can see the crowd pour out their love to Bette.
She won’t be performing at the Tony Awards, but David Hyde Pierce will. Trust me, it will be worth watching. He was great.
When we go to New York again – notice how I said when and not if? – we’ll include some plays as well as musicals. But for our first time, I’d say we did pretty well.
It was worth every penny. 🙂