Tuesday, September 27, 2022. A beautiful day yesterday in New York, first day of the week, warm at 70 degrees but more like autumn, with the temps dropping to the high 50s. It’s not exactly cold but, between air conditioning and the very warm days of summer, it’s a reminder. Autumn is the messenger; winter is a-cumin’ in .
When I lived in Los Angeles I was surprised and pleased to notice the changes of seasons. They were subtler in the sense that you had to pay attention more closely to Nature’s transitions. But the air was cooler, generally; and of course it got darker earlier. But otherwise it was mainly sunny days like the other seasons.
Autumn in New York really got started last week beginning with the annual United Nations meeting bringing many leaders from countries all over the world for several days of meeting, etc. It’s a nuisance to New Yorkers because the city can only work optimally when all the roads are open. It is a city on the move.
Each year the President, like other world leaders, speaks to the gathering of nations. Now when the President comes to town, at least under these highly publicized events, they close off streets and avenues for blocks and blocks. Its effect is another aspect of the anxiety that these times portray. And so it is.
That night, last Wednesday was the final and most annoying to the populace (for a lot of sensible reasons). It was also the night that Quest Magazine had its annual Quest 400 cocktail party. At Doubles. I was a co-host and “had” to be there. It was called for six but it was slow in gathering because of the scene outside.
Nevertheless people gathered in good numbers eventually and at 7:30, I left the party at 59th and Fifth to go to the Winter Garden Theater on 54th and Broadway. Because of all the blocked roadways including the blocked sidewalks around the Plaza Hotel, I decided to walk. The length is in the crosstown blocks but it’s not a great distance. The sidewalks, however, were crowded also, going and coming.
I’d never seen “The Music Man” before — film or theatre. I knew the score, grew up on it. Wonderful songs, big hits after the original Broadway show was launched. I rarely get to the theatre but Beth DeWoody who is in town invited me. I knew whatever it would be, it would be wonderful because of the score and the time when it had a long run on Broadway and film. And the score is classic Broadway Americana. It doesn’t make you feel bad. In fact, it can even make you feel better, even wonderful.
I ran into Deborah Norville at the Quest party, and when I told her I was off to see the show, she immediately told me how much she loved it. She first saw it when she was a little girl of 7, and she loved it then. And then again the film. I told Beth that story when I got to the theater. She too had seen it first when she was a 4 year old, and she too has seen in many times over the years on film.
And so it was, sort of to my surprise. I’d never seen the stage or film version, so I was unfamiliar with the story and was not aware that it had such a profound effect. A small town in the middle of middle of America — Iowa — in the late 19th/early 20th century.
The stars were Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster and they were wonderful but so was everyone in this enormous cast. They were all stars before your eyes. Everyone from the oldest to the youngest which included some amazing very young performers and performances. There’s a social message but it’s a carnival musical set in middle America in a time now gone by. And therefore myth, but attached to truth and a great pleasure to witness from my seat in this great old theater.
(Barbra Streisand opened and became a huge star almost overnight in “Funny Girl” in this theater. I can’t resist recalling seeing La Streisand in the show on the second night and it was stunning; she was.)
The Music Man. Everything about this show is a celebration because of the performances — all of them — are brilliant. There were also several people of color among the performers, and it was beautifully integrated in all the roles; all brilliant and wonderful to watch. Amazing talent.
Then of course there was Mr. Jackman. I had never seen him perform in anything — which tells you a little bit about my knowledge of films or television — although we did meet back in 2004. A number of years ago, Susan Silver wrote a piece for the NYSD on her attraction to Hugh Jackman. He was a new star then and highly thought of. But Susan did a kind of essay. Here is a paragraph:
“There we were on a Wednesday afternoon. And it’s just started to drizzle. But we don’t care. Hundreds of females of all ages, some wearing mini skirts, some on walkers are giggling anxiously outside the stage door of a Broadway theater. (On the age scale I am somewhere in between the minis and the appliances.) We are waiting, not for Godot, but for Hugh.
We’re going to re-publish Susan’s piece because it’s very funny and it’s a wonderful portrait of a very talented actor/performer. He dances too. That’s probably well known but he does it so incidentally and so easily you’re amazed by his talent. His dancing reminded me of Fred Astaire. I don’t compare their dancing talents but Fred’s dancing was brilliant but matter-of-factly. Jackman has that quality as a performer.
That Wednesday night when I saw it, the theater was sold out. There were a number of young children in the audience – whole families attending and everyone loved it. I was moved by every aspect of the performance including the audience’s response. And the dancers and the chorus gave us more, in thanks.