Tag Archives: musical

Sondheim Week! Day Two: “Opening Doors”


Album Art

Opening Doors

Original Broadway Cast

Merrily We Roll Along (Original Cast Recording)

Genre: Broadway

If a movie flops, that’s that. If the movie was based on something else, maybe another team will take another crack at adapting the source material after enough years have passed and the floppage has been forgotten. There’s also an outside chance that the movie will have become such a landmark of failure that a squad of improv comics will do a sarcastic stage adaptation of it and (fingers crossed) they’ll get to make a sarcastic remake of the film (see: “The Brady Bunch Movie”).

(No, please, I’m definitely not telling you to see “The Brady Bunch Movie.” I meant “see” as in “I refer you to…” Though frankly, even looking at its IMDB page will make you very, very sad.)

Otherwise, a flop movie is damaged goods and nobody will ever touch it again. “Heaven’s Gate” was a legendary failure. In fact, this movie is credited with causing the collapse of United Artists. I’ve seen three different cuts of the film and I can certify that this is no maligned, hidden gem: it’s awful. It’s like a collection of subplots loitering around the set in search of a story to support. But I regard it as a tantalizing failure. The cinematography is often stunning. The performances are exceptional. The story…is incomprehensible. Yet I get a sense that the writing of the screenplay was going great until it derailed at point (X,Y) and if someone can locate those precise coordinates and apply some course corrections…wow, “Heaven’s Gate” could become great.

It’ll never happen, of course. It’s a movie. Dead is dead. Why remake a bad movie when there are so many bad unproduced screenplays waiting to be filmed?

Different rules apply to plays and musicals. Theater doesn’t attach stigma to failure; on the contrary, failure is a traditional part of the development process. Launching a theatrical production is like launching a paper airplane. You watch it fail and use that data to build something that will fly.

Some producers and directors look at a failed play and see an unsolved puzzle. It sticks with them…particularly if they’re the ones who created it in the first place. And, admirably, theater has no tradition of attaching stigma to failure. “Figure out what’s wrong and try to fix it” is an accepted part of the process.

“Merrily We Roll Along” closed on Broadway after 16 performances, bad reviews, and more audience walkouts than most creators like to see. It’s the story of a young, struggling Broadway composer who damages two close, lifelong friendships on his way to becoming a wildly-successful Hollywood producer.

It’s the last play that Sondheim includes in “Finishing The Hat” and he does a great job going through the black-box data on the failure. The structure of the musical used the same structure as the 1934 Kaufman and Hart play that served as the basis of the story: the curtain opens in the present-day and as the show progresses, we keep going further back in time. So it was tricky for the audience to follow, particularly as relationships between characters kept changing. A stopgap solution: have the characters wear tee shirts with a description of their current relationship with the main character (“Ex-Wife”) actually written out on them.

The characters are in their Forties at the start of the show and in their early Twenties and late teens by the end. The production had the idea of casting college-age actors and having them play younger over the course of the evening. The problem there (Sondheim writes) was that there aren’t many 20 year old actors who can play anything other than their 20-year-old selves. He described the audience reacting to the opening scenes of “young adults playing jaded grownups” as if they were watching a college production. Which, Sondheim says, was an intended effect but it didn’t play with the audience the way he thought it would.

The most interesting note that Sondheim makes is the “time moving backwards” structure of the show interferes with the audience’s sympathy for the main character. When they meet him, he’s rich, at the top of his profession, kind of a jerk and a shallow phony. It’s hard, then, to sympathize with him as they see him screwing over his friends and disconnecting from his creative passions in subsequent scenes. By the very end, when the audience sees the young and idealistic composer complimenting his friend’s play and suggesting that they work on a musical together…they’re supposed to compare and consider this likeable underdog and the jerk he became, and see the tragedy. It’s all there, but (never having seen the whole musical, myself) I can imagine how the overall effect requires more of a contribution from the audience than they might have been prepared for.

The book describes all of the problems that were identified and addressed over the decade of different productions that Sondheim worked on before he considered himself satisfied with “Merrily We Roll Along.” That’s an interesting relationship with a work, isn’t it? It feels like that scene in “Seinfeld” where George is humiliated by a co-worker during a meeting, and then he keeps trying to re-stage those exact circumstances so that he can use the devastating comeback that came to him later on. You don’t get to do this in real life but as a theater composer, when you later think “You know what that character should have done?” you can do something about it.

This “Seinfeld” reference also allows me to mention that Jason Alexander was part of “Merrily”‘s original cast. In fact, when Sondheim writes about the mistake of casting inexperienced young actors, he singles out Alexander as the only one capable of playing a 40-year-old. “It’s as though he had been born middle-aged,” he wrote.

Yup, another example of the Charles Nelson Reilly Effect. It blew my mind when I learned that he’d come to “Seinfeld” off of a successful Broadway career capped by a Tony award for Best Performance By A Leading Actor for his work in “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.”

The mind is good at forming retroactive connections. Every time I see Costanza do one of his rare little dances of joy (see: “The Puffy Shirt,” “The Trip, Part 2”) (yes, do see them) I can’t help but think he’s rocking some of the moves he used on stage while singing “If I Were A Rich Man.”

And damn, the man has a terrific voice. You’ll recognize him instantly in “Opening Doors” as the theatrical producer that the two composers audition for.

“Opening Doors” is practically an entire musical play in itself, with a beginning-middle-end arc and character development throughout. It’s also emblematic of why it took me a long time to warm to Sondheim.

I wish I had enough musical knowledge to articulate my early reactions. When I thought of a Sondheim song, I imagined a performer having to strut sharply from one separately-lit and dressed section of the stage to another as he went…”I’m singing, and I’m knocking on a door” “Heeeeere I AMMMMM at a blaaackbooAAARRRdddd, because nowww as I sing my next linnnneeee it’s three months later and I took that teeeeaching job…” “Whoops, here in the middle I have a different job cleaning the poooool filters in an aaaaaquacaaaaaade because the school burned DOWNNNNNNN!!!!”

You know what I mean? Lots of shifts in tone and melody and place, and characters who are clearly going through a lot over the course of a single song. Lots of stacatto declarations. Overall, Sondheim is the only composer who can get a character to commit adultery, confess to his wife, abandon the daughter his mistress gave birth to, and then wonder if he should accept his daughter’s invitation to her new gallery opening after thirty years of estrangement…all within the margins of a single nervous ballad.

(Side complaint: this types of songs also present frequent challenges and frustrations to a devoted shower singer such as myself. Right about the time when I’ve started to throw myself into the song, I’m forced to hold my position while a countess enters the bathroom, muses for eighteen bars about broken jewelry, and then moves off. Then I get to sing some more. But while I was en tableau all of my Irish Spring Body Wash dripped off and I need to reapply and lather.)

I’m not saying that this observation was off-base. In many cases, it’s spot-on. I guess what turned me off about these types of songs was that I heard them done so poorly by so many Sondheim pretenders and parodists that I wasn’t leaving my mind open to the solid features of the original.

Sinatra and Elvis Presley recordings have the same problem. It’s hard to lock your memories down on the originals any more.

And I know it’s kind of an ironic admission for me to make, given the nature of this song and “Merrily We Roll Along.” Here I am, complaining (or at least observing) that many of Sondheim’s songs have a beauty that require active comprehension. In “Opening Doors,” Jason Alexander’s theater producer character is rejecting the composer’s score and complaining

There’s not a tune you can hum
There’s not a tune that goes bum-bum-bum-di-bum
You need a tune that goes bum-bum-bum-di-bum
Give me a melody!

He has a point. I’ll still take Sondheim over Jerry Herman any day, though. “Penny In My Pocket” will take me nicely through the wetdown/soap/lather/scrub/rinse/shampoo/lather/rinse/conditioner/set/rinse cycle. But leaves me with a somewhat emptier feeling.

Preview “Opening Doors” on the Amazon MP3 Store. Yes, I know…you can also get it from iTunes and elsewhere. But anything you buy on Amazon after clicking this link results in my receiving a small kickback in the form of Amazon store credits, which I assure you will be spent on foolish but fun things.

See my other music postings if you liked this one and have time to waste.

“Reviewing The Situation” (Rowan Atkinson) – Amazon Advent Calendar Day 1

Album Art

Reviewing the Situation

Rowan Atkinson

Oliver! (2009 London Cast Recording)

Genre: Soundtrack

Day One of the 2010 Advent Calendar. I should warn you newcomers: there will be show tunes.

I love this song. I also love the mechanics behind this song. “Reviewing The Situation” is from the classic category of Show-Stopping Numbers. In a novel, you just write whatever the hell you want. In movies, the script passes through several hands and the finished product ultimately cowers to what can be physically accomplished, given the film’s budget and the limited wilingness of the public to just sort of shrug off a production-related death or three.

In live theater, there’s another factor: a real actor is involved and he has to be engaged with his performance every single night for months. He’s going to want to have something to do besides set the expositional table for other actors.

PG Wodehouse — certified by all right-thinking people as One Of The Greatest Damned Novelists Who Ever Lived — wrote a lot of theater in his early days. He said that he used much of the same kinds of thinking when writing the novels. He regarded each character not as a living, breathing person, but as a living, breathing actor who would be performing that role; if, for some reason, the story seemed to drag, he pictured one of his actors complaining that the rest of the cast has all of the great scenes and that his character does practically nothing but stand around holding a tennis racquet and saying “Gosh!” until Act Two.

So Wodehouse, after assuring himself and his actor that the character is way too important to be cut, would make sure that the actor has plenty to do and that he or she has at least one moment in which they’re indelibly in the spotlight.

I often think of this when I’m watching live theater or listening to a soundtrack and I come across a number like this. If you were trying to cut a half an hour from this show for the Las Vegas cast, this would be one of the first numbers to go. It isn’t one of the big hits and though it gives Fagin a little added depth, that whole hunk lifts straight out cleanly. I know nothing about how “Oliver!” was written but I can so easily imagine the producers commissioning this number late in the game, when they realized how well their Fagin was working out, and how eager the preview audiences were to see more of him.

“Reviewing The Situation” is such an perfect four-spotlight moment for Rowan Atkinson’s talents that I had to check to make sure that the song was, in fact, part of the original 1960 production and not something new for the 2009 revival. Still, it’s clear that after the producers signed Atkinson they added a new line to the anticipated runthrough time: “Minute-long ovation after Fagin solo.”

How’s his singing? Okay, agreed: clearly, the lucrative seduction of television and stage comedy didn’t rob the music world of an exciting new talent. But mere technical perfection is a low goal for any singer, particularly in musicals. Hitting every note perfectly (and still having air in your lungs with five minutes down and one more minute to go) isn’t what lifts the audience out of its seats. It’s the performance. Atkinson isn’t singing the song…he’s acting it. Brilliantly.

Don’t take my word for it. This is a recording of a live performance of the show and you can hear how well the number’s going over. Can’t you picture what Atkinson is doing to sell every line?

I really wish all musical cast albums were recorded this way. There’s an energy here that probably wouldn’t have come through in a studio. It’s sort of like the difference between footage of a pro basketballer dunking during a real game in which every point matters, and the footage of that same athlete doing the same move on an Electronic Arts motion-capture stage.

It’s still early to tell whether this 2009 recording will stand the test of time. I can say something right now: it’s withstood the test of AppleScript. Yesterday, I spent a little time building some scripts to automate the posting process. I highlight a track in iTunes, click a script from a menu, and whoosh: a block of CSS-formatted HTML is ready to be pasted in, complete with the track info, and a properly-resized version of the album art is ready to be uploaded.

But my programming skills rely heavily on the Braille Method. I need to feel my way around it before my code does what I want it to. I must have listened to this track ten times in a row before I got everything working.

Did I get sick of it? Hell, no. I went out to dinner and listened to it three more times on my way to the restaurant.

Preview “Reviewing The Situation” on the Amazon MP3 Store.

Amazon Advent Calendar Day 15: “By Myself [from The Band Wagon]”

By Myself [from The Band Wagon]

Fred Astaire

That’s Entertainment!

Genre: Soundtrack

Amazon MP3: By Myself [from The Band Wagon]

Okay, “The Band Wagon.” You need to know two things about this movie: One, that it is indeed “The Band Wagon” and not “The Bandwagon.” Getting it wrong is a rookie mistake and the true film snobs to whom you were so shabbily attempting to ingratiate yourself will see to it that you’ll never get into a Max Ophuls film festival in this town again.

Secondly, that it is the single greatest musical ever made.

We film snobs are a crafty lot and our predecessors produced “Singin’ In The Rain” just to smoke you fakers out. When we ask a newcomer “What’s the single greatest musical ever made?” we are trying to see if he or she actually watches movies. So many people are just there to stare at bright flashing lights for a couple of hours. “Singin’ In The Rain” — though a very pleasant movie — is two hours of bright, flashing lights. “The Band Wagon” is a movie.

This song is a key case in point. Fred Astaire plays his age in a role that might have felt a little to close to real life for comfort. He plays Tony Hunter, an aging song-and-dance man. He’s a celebrity, but a nostalgic one; he’s a relic of the black-and-white top hat and tails-era of musicals and hasn’t made a decent picture in years. Today, Tony Hunter would be judging a TV reality dance competition.

He takes a train from Hollywood back to New York to recharge his batteries. Upon arrival, he’s delighted and slightly relieved to find that the press has learned about his trip and is waiting for him at the platform. But after a minute or two of interviews they abruptly dash away; they were actually there to get photos of Ava Gardner, who is now stepping off the train.

And then Fred Astaire strolls into the terminal, singing “By Myself.” It’s not a maudlin song about loneliness. Nor is it a brave anthem about independence and self-reliance. It’s a simple matter-of-fact acknowledgment. From Tony’s perspective, it’s more than how things are at that moment. It’s how things seem to be in general.

(And to prevent the audience from feeling sorry for Tony, he’s met by a couple of pals as soon as the song’s over.)

That’s the difference between a great movie musical and one that’s merely Good. Is there any song in “Singin’ In The Rain” that does any heavy lifting? I’m replaying the flick in my head and I can’t think of a single on that reveals anything about the characters or advances the plot. The only songs in “The Band Wagon” that do nothing apart from sounding pretty are the ones in the show-within-the-show.

So that’s settled, then: “The Band Wagon” is the greatest movie musical ever. Let’s hear no more of this “Singin’ In The Rain” nonsense.

I do love this song. I hum it almost every time I’m walking through an airport, particularly during the walk to the baggage carousels at the end of my trip. The director of life, just as the director of that movie, uses that scene to underscore to the audience that this man is unattached. I walk past the little kids who drop their glittery “Welcome Home!” signs and run from the feet of one parent to the arms of the other one, who’s been away for far too long. I walk past the friends hugging. I step over the couple on the floor who really ought to show a little decorum, honestly.

It’s the perfect situation in which to find yourself reflecting upon the status of being single.

I'll face the unknown
I'll build a world of my own
No one knows better than I myself
I'm by myself, alone

As in the movie, it’s not self-pitying; it’s just reality. For the record, when I visited a dear friend of mine last week, I was met at the train station and I immediately received a hug of true chiropractic intensity.

I am forced by Duty to now embed a whole bunch of links. Yup, here’s the tune itself, courtesy of Amazon MP3:

Amazon MP3: By Myself [from The Band Wagon]

But honestly. How can I not also insist that you at least consider buying the movie? Amazon has the two-disc special edition DVD for $25, but they also have box set that includes that exact same edition plus four other musicals for just five bucks more:

Amazon.com: The Classic Musicals Collection – Broadway to Hollywood (Easter Parade Two Disc Special Edition / The Band Wagon Two Disc Special Edition / Bells Are Ringing / Finian’s Rainbow / Brigadoon)

Brace yourselves. My Amazon Associates referrals today have jumped from a dollar to $30. And now it’s getting even pricier. Deep breath, now:

Amazon MP3: That’s Entertainment! [Digital Version]

When I looked for “By Myself,” I discovered that one of my favorite music boxed sets of all time had arrived in the MP3 Store.

I did one of thos squealy things that a heterosexual man can only get away with if he works at home.

The “That’s Entertainment” set contains damned-near every fantastic piece of music from every great MGM musical ever made, ever. I bought it on CD years ago and I’ve re-ripped it at least three times, as encoding technology improved and the capacities of my iPods have expanded.

As to the expense, it’s probably better if you don’t think about it. Just hold your thumb over the corner of the window where the price will appear and click “Buy It Now.” Look, it’s 132 tracks and they’re nearly all winners.

(Sigh. At this point I sort of regret making all those jokes about scamming my readers via Amazon referral fees. But those of you who like this sort of thing will LOVE this sort of thing. And to be honest, if I regretted it all that much I would have embedded a plain old link, wouldn’t I?)

As usual, I offer small penance by also including an iTunes Store link, from which I reap naught but the satisfaction of steering my readers towards an eminently diggable track.

You’ve Got To Know These Things When You’re King

Wednesdays are, historically, not good days. Yes, it’s called “hump day” but in my case, the hump is actually the gestation sac of one of the creatures from “Gremlins.” It typically bursts out of its egg case in the corner of the ceiling at about 2 PM and leaps on my head, still trailing tendrils of amniotic fluid, and immediately commences to beating and scratching me until it gets bored and gives up…usually at around 5 AM the next morning.

Yesterday was a good’n, though. I filed a column that I was quite happy with and then I headed to downtown Boston for Spamalot Day.

Spamalot Day happens in Boston on every November 19, 2008. It marks the anniversary of the time that Chris Gurr emailed me to ask if I wanted house seats to see the show during the tour’s Boston run.

He plays Sir Bedevere/Concorde/Old Woman in the show and when he offered, I hesitated before replying. Should it be “Yes” or “Holy ****, yes”?

But ever the shrewd negotiator, I deftly concealed my intense desire to close this deal. I counteroffered with “house seats, and we get together for lunch before the show.” I really hated to screw him over like that, but business is business. I have a responsibility to my shareholders.

There was only one choice for the lunch venue: Zaftigs in Brookline, of which you’ve heard me speak so highly in past missives. It’s the default place to take folks who are new in town. The food there is so out-of-this-world that I want to eat there every day…but that’s both financially and medically-contraindicated, so I try to limit myself to just one visit per month.

Still, one must be hospitable, mustn’t one? So I steeled my courage and tucked into a combo plate of blintz, kugel, knish, and potato pancake, a cup of chili, and a turkey pot pie.

Chris ordered the chocolate brioche french toast. There are two big perks to taking people to this restaurant. The first one is: lunch at this restaurant. The second is getting to witness people’s reactions to the cuisine. The chef’s culinary aesthetic seems to be “But you’re so skinny! Let me fix you a plate…no, sit, sit!”

Chris’ reaction to his entree was immediate, reverent silence as his brain shut down all unnecessary functions and put his sensory processors into emergency hi-burst capture mode. Which is by no means atypical.

It was a fab afternoon. In fact, I knew that my parking meter was due to click out soon but I was enjoying the conversation. If I got ticketed…well, hell, I was getting more than $15 worth of entertainment there in the restaurant. It would work out OK.

We parted company after I spent another hour or so showing Chris the many delights of Coolidge Corner. It’s my favorite Boston neighborhood. It features Boston’s best bookstore and movie theater, and a small store so overstocked with piles and piles of merchandise of every possible description that I wonder if doctors don’t bring their patients there as some sort of test for epilepsy. There is such intense detail in such minute quanta in such a small area that any weak synapses will quickly give up and spasm trying to resolve the imagery.

The show was just flat-out wonderful.

“Spamalot” has been on my list since it opened a few years ago. But the way Broadway works these days, it almost lulls you into the same lack of a sense of urgency as you have regarding movies. Hits settle into multi-year runs with new casts, and touring companies are top-notch.

In fact, half-price tickets to the Broadway production were available during my last trip to New York but I opted for another show; “39 Steps” was a small, quirky comedy that probably wouldn’t be around the next time I was in town. “Spamalot,” like “Cats,” seemed to be now and forever.

(Uh, yeah…but a week or two later, they announced that “Spamalot” would be ending its Broadway run soon. And “Mamma Mia!” is now in the theater that “Cats” owned for more than a decade; many regard this as an improvement only to theater patrons with fur allergies.)

Regardless, I knew that I’d be seeing the show at some point in life. So in all these years, I’d never bought the cast album or read a synopsis, so that I could see the show “clean”…or as cleanly as you can see any show that’s based on one of your favorite movies.

I really, really wondered what the show would be like. “Spamalot” has to navigate a lot of problems that the authors of “No, No Nanette” never had to contend with:

  1. Python fans are going to expect to see their favorite bits.
  2. Non-fans are going to expect to understand what the hell is going on without checking Wikipedia every ninety seconds.
  3. At $80 for the good seats, even the fans aren’t going to be satisfied with just a replay of the bits they already know from the movie and the TV show.

That last thing was my biggest concern. I and My People worship at the Church of Python. Weve been attending services since we were little kids. We know when to stand, we know when to sit, we know when to kneel, and when the Minister (of Silly Walks) calls for Hymn 132, we immediately start singing “I’m A Lumberjack And I’m OK.” I went to see Eric Idle’s “Greedy Bastard” tour; most of the audience seemed to be just checking off the lines and the songs as they heard them.

(It’s sort of like going to a concert where the band plays lots of their hits. You don’t so much hear the band playing as much as you hear everyone else singing along.)

But “Spamalot” handles all of these problems beautifully. I couldn’t help but think about the “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” in which there’s a stage show of the events of the Baron’s life that draw from the threads of his adventures, but which isn’t an actual retelling per se.

It was tremendously good, silly fun that kept picking up steam as it went. As a Python fan, I liked seeing “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” done live. As a theatergoer, I had that great experience of spending two or three hours in an entire other place, removed even from seat D-101 (fifth row, aisle, awesome) of the Colonial Theater in Boston, MA.

Annnnd as a big dumb heterosexual male, I enjoyed the fact that at times, there were enough pretty chorus girls in skimpy costumes on stage at once that I couldn’t decide which one to objectify.

I’m saying that you really ought to go see it. Here’s a link to the tour page. It’s in Boston just through the week. Last night, the house was muchly full but I reckon that if you want to find some seats together, you can manage it.

I’ve been asked if “Spamalot” is “family friendly.” That’s kind of a floppy term. I think if you’re okay with your kid seeing “Monty Python And The Holy Grail,” then “Spamalot” will present no additional problems. “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” does indeed include the line “Life’s a piece of s***, when you look at it.” And although the language in the French Taunters’ scene is clean, you might spot a gesture or two from the top of the castle walls. It’s your call but I’d have no problems taking a teenager with me.

(SO LONG AS HE OR SHE DOESN’T TEXT MESSAGE DURING THE SHOW.)

(THE CASTMEMBERS HAVE SWORDS. DO NOT RILE THEM.)

At this point in my narrative, I must reveal one spoiler for the show, so avert your eyes, o lord, if so inclined to enter the theater with a blank slate.

Just as in the movie, the location of the final resting place of The Most Holy Grail is can be found in the living rock of a cave protected by a killer rabbit. The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch dispatches the threat and the answer is revealed in four enormous stone letters.

The knights speculate as to what the letters might mean. “Oi! Oi!” perhaps?

Ah! It isn’t a word at all, sire! It’s a seat number!

D101.

Those of you with excellent memories now realize that this information has a certain relevance to my tale.

“Uh-oh,” I thought.

And sure enough…the houselights were raised and a spotlight snapped on around my seat. Knights and peasants eagerly exited via a set of stairs at the foot of the stage, bounded in my direction…

..and then unexpectedly siezed a man on the other side of the aisle in Row C. The Grail was found underneath his seat and he was hustled onstage, where he received a proclamation of thanks and what appeared to be a rather nice gift pen.

As for me, I was siezed by a heady blend of relief and disappointment, in equal proportions.

The man was wearing an AIDS ribbon. As I enjoyed the presentation and the rest of the show, I imagined that he’d been quietly approached at his seat during the intermission. The ribbon, I supposed, signaled to the cast that THIS was the guy who said it was OK to drag him onstage.

See, I have a bit of a Situation brewing at home. My cellphone was off during the first act and I used the intermission to step outside and check for messages. It all became pretty clear to me later on; the D-101 prop always points to the house seats (likely to be used by someone that someone in the cast knows), they didn’t find me there during intermission, so they just went to Plan B.

So again: relief and disappointment. Relief, because at the moment I looked like I had dressed and groomed myself and left the house in a big hurry after having spent all night working on a column. Disappointment, because I imagined that the Colonial Theater looked really cool from the stage.

(Plus: crap, that looked like a really cool pen.)

I went backstage after the show. I bumped into King Arthur on my way through the stage door. He was fab; I’d love to see him playing the male lead in “Kiss Me, Kate.” He has a real Alfred Drake vibe about him, in voice and presence.

(I’m sure that you know that Alfred Drake originated the role of Fred Graham in “Kate.”)

Chris was, of course, equally fab in his multiple roles and as the Old Woman, he had a fabulous rack; theater tradition insisted that I compliment him on that immediately.

He was nice enough to show me around backstage. What a treat. The Colonial is one of the country’s most significant houses. It’s about a hundred years old and some of the most famous plays and musicals in history debuted here. In baseball, a promising left-hander must spend a season in Pawtucket before pitching at Fenway Park. In Broadway, there was a time when a new production was put on its feet in Boston before moving to Broadway with its final cast and rundown.

We joked about Seat D-101. It wouldn’t have been the first time that one of his guests had wound up onstage. Though he told me that there was nothing pre-arranged about it and that my spending intermission outside on my iPhone instead of inside at my seat had changed nothing. The audience member really is plucked out of his or seat cold.

Maybe I didn’t get the free pen but I did get that other thing I wanted: a view of the Colonial from center-stage:

Center-stage. Can this view ever get old?

Center-stage at the Colonial Theater. Can this view ever get old?

I left the theater with Chris and Sir Lancelot and the show’s wig supervisor and we walked to the T. The weather had dropped from Scenic New England Crisp all the way down to “Brass Monkeys, Beware.” We talked about nerdy stuff (theater and technology) all the way until our trains arrived.

I got home very late and very cold but also very happy.