Dateline: New York, New York –
As neither Vickie nor I had had a lot of sleep the last day or so due to travel schedules, we both slept in this morning and got a bit of a late start on the day. That was fine. It’s not as if we haven’t been here before and we had to make sure we hit some particular tourist sight before breakfast. When we finally did get going, we had a nice walk up Manhattan Island from 21st to 51st street where we met Jeff Williams for lunch at a southern comfort food establishment called Spoonfed. Excellent fried chicken by the way so I recommend it for lunch or dinner if you’re in the Hell’s Kitchen area. Then, as we hadn’t yet gotten enough of a walk in, we descended 9th Avenue and picked up the Highline, taking it all the way down to 14th. At that point, we were some 14,000 steps into the day so it was subway back to midtown where we met my cousin’s wife Betsy and their daughter Claire for dinner.
Tonight’s show was Hamilton and Vickie, through her long time friend James Monroe Iglehart (currently playing Lafayette/Jefferson), had managed to procure four house seats. We started off with dinner at Pasta Lovers on 49th. It’s been there forever and I chose it for sentimental reasons. Steve and I had wandered into it for dinner before a Broadway show sometime in the early 90s and it just became our traditional pre-show dinner place throughout that decade. Tommy and I never really had one as he was too adventurous a foodie. Cafe Fiorello at Lincoln Center was probably as close as we ever came as it was convenient to the Met. Anyway, pasta eaten, we navigated Times Square (amusing with a seven year old) and made our way to the Richard Rodgers Theater.
Everything you have heard about Hamilton is true. It is as amazing a piece of theatrical lightning as I am ever likely to see. Five years ago, if someone had suggested a musical about Alexander Hamilton using modern musical idioms, predominantly rap and hip hop, with a multicultural cast, I would have thought they were crazy. Sometimes genius results from breaking all the rules. Performances, staging, music, technical elements all come together to create a complete theatrical world, telling an enthralling story from new perspectives and it is impossible to ignore the underlying messages about the strength of inclusivity that has made us a great nation in this age of Trump. When something is so good, it’s difficult to review, other than to tell people go; it’s worth it.
There were a couple of high points to the evening tangentially related to the show. The first was running into Eleanor Moseley Pollnow and her son in the lobby at intermission. The last time I had seen them together, he was a babe in arms. No longer. We chatted for a bit. After the show, James invited us all backstage and we actually got to be in the room where it happens. I must confess that I stood center stage and sang a couple of bars which will be as close as I’ll ever get to singing on a Broadway stage. Note to all: backstage at the Richard Rodgers doesn’t look all that different than backstage at the VST or the Day…
I didn’t tell a story last night as I had two shows to review so I’ll try to come up with one this evening. On our way through Times Square before lunch, we stopped at the Disney Store. I am a Disney fan, but not a fanatic so I looked with amusement at the $50 Lilo and Stitch light up Christmas sweater but I did not buy. The tour through Disneyana brought up memories of various trips to Disneyland and Disneyworld over the years. My first trip to Disneyland, which was the nirvana of vacation destinations during my childhood (Disneyworld was not yet in existence) happened when I was about ten when I was taken by my father courtesy of my grandparents who gave me the trip for Christmas. We stayed at the Disneyland hotel and took the monorail into the park and I still remember staring out the window as the various sights of the park unfolded around me with a sense of wonder. It was still the time of ticket books where the A tickets were for silly things like the fire engine on Main Street and E tickets were for the really good rides like Pirates of the Caribbean. Many more trips happened over the years in high school, college, med school and then I met Steve. Steve was a southern California kid. He went to Disneyland for the first time opening week in 1955 at the age of 7 and had been at least once a year since. Our first trip together was towards the end of my internship when I was not in a good place physically or mentally, as I was living in a world of illness, death and 80 hour plus work weeks. When we got there, he told me that I had to follow his lead. I was suspicious, but agreed, and he immediately headed us off to the kiddie things that I had always skipped as I thought they were too juvenile like the Casey Jr. train. I protested but he wisely told me that what I needed more than anything else at that juncture of my life was to recapture some of the joy and wonder I had felt at ten and that the best way to do it was to stop trying to be an adult. Just be a kid for a day. And he was right…
I think that was the day I realized I was in love with him.