Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday
Today, I talk about Broadway, baby. It is difficult to live an hour out of NYC and not be bitten by the Broadway bug. For me, the bug bit me hard when I was ten. I saw my first show for my 10th birthday, Doug Henning's "The Magic Show".
That also was the year that Dr. Wheeler, our music teacher, took a well deserved sabbatical. His replacement, Ms. Maynard, was even more energetic than he had been, and that's saying something. Long story short, because it is a long story, I chose to be in chorus instead of art club.
Ms. Maynard chose songs from "Fiddler on the Roof" as our songs for our Winter Concert. For weeks, we practiced "Sunrise, Sunset", "If I Were a Rich Man" "L'Chaim", "Sabbath Prayer" and several other songs. Something about that music captivated me. I talked about it constantly, with my mom, my dad, my Nana and Papa and anyone who would listed. I don't remember the specific conversations, but gosh, my dad and I would go on and on about the Great White Way.
Mid December arrived, and with it, my Winter Concert. At that concert: both my parents (who had been separated for two years) AND my Nana and Papa. My passion for the music made this elementary school show the must see event of their December. You have to understand, my grandparents really weren't too active in our lives and Mom worked nights. To have all of these adults there was a BIG deal for me.
Christmas came soon afterwards, and my dad had been holding a big secret. On January 13th, he was taking me into New York City to see Zero Mostel in "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Winter Garden Theatre. I was a lucky kid, my second Broadway show less than six months after the first. I don't know who was looking forward to it more, me for seeing what I'd just performed done by professionals, or Dad, who had someone to share in his love of Broadway.
Thursday, January 13, 1977 rolls around. I remember it was a Thursday because the following January 13th was a Friday. We had the infamous ice storm that resulted in Giggles stating she was freezing off a part of the anatomy she didn't possess! I get home from school, Dad comes over dressed in his nice blue suit and I change into my Christmas dress.
We hop the LIRR into Manhattan, then take a cab up to Restaurant Row. I can describe the restaurant, what I ate (and the Creme de Menthe dessert that really had booze in it that I somehow was allowed to have), but the name escapes me. Anticipation was building, I was so excited to finally be seeing the show, to see the man perform live that I'd heard on the soundtrack in the music room at school.
We arrive just before curtain and are ushered to our seats in the middle of the front row of the balcony (my dad was the best!) and I am the only kid in sight. At Magic Show, it was a matinee and there were plenty of kids. No, this time, it was just me and a couple hundred adults.
The curtain rises, the orchestra begins playing and shivers run up and down my spine. I thought that album was good, and it does not even begin to touch the beauty and majesty of seeing it all before you. I was entranced. The first act was a spectacle of color, and a joy to behold.
Intermission came and you know that feeling you get when you've been immersed in a great book? The one where it takes a few seconds to snap back into reality? That was me. We went to the concession stand, I get some raisinettes, we share a soda and I want to hurry back to our seats, because I couldn't wait for the music to begin again.
When it did, it was more of the incredibly sad story and haunting songs from the first act. I found humor in "Do You Love Me?" amidst the sad story of Tevye's family. Zero Mostel was Tevye, you could see the joy and despair all the way up in that balcony. Thelma Lee, his Golde, was a great balance to his larger than life persona.
All too soon, the show was over. I sat in my seat, dazed and numb. It was over. For three hours, I was there in Russia and felt the roller coaster of emotions that Tevye, his wife and daughters played out on the stage.
We made our way down to the coat check and grabbed our coats. Once outside the theatre, Dad turned to the right and we went down an alley next to the theatre. The man at the door asked "Who are you here to see?" and my dad replied "We're guests of Marian McPartland" and we were ushered into this tiny lobby that was bustling with activity. I was confused-who was Marian and what was going on? The man picked up a phone, called someone and said "Marian's guests are here." We were told that it'd be just a minute.
While we waited, I think my dad was enjoying my non stop babbling about the show, the music and how much I'd loved it. He had a smirk and a twinkle in his eyes-but I didn't pick up on it.
In short order, the man said "go up the stairs and you'll be met by someone". We went up some steep, narrow stairs and at the top, we were met by a lady who brought us down a narrow hallway. She and dad talked about Marian-I thought we were going to meet her (she was in my program as the pianist).
Imagine my surprise when we stopped at a door with the name Zero Mostel on it! She knocked and we entered. I was in awe-this is the man who had sung his heart out and made me believe he was Tevye. He asked how I'd enjoyed the show (and I gushed on and on about how much I enjoyed the performance), talked to Dad about Marian and autographed my program. He posed for a picture with me and told me "I'd love to kiss you, but I have a cold. I'd love to run away with you, but I have a cold." It was the huge cherry on top of an amazing evening.
That evening shaped a lot of my life. The pursuit of music classes, joining the drama company in high school and choosing my major of Technical Theatre (degree coming soon). The music captivated me, but the whole production hooked me completely.
To this day, I hear the haunting "Sunrise, Sunset", the lively "L'Chaim", the beautifully simple "Sabbath Prayer" and I am taken back to a winter's night with my father. It was a night that we both enjoyed the best that Broadway had to offer.
How did my Dad know Marian McPartland? How were we guests of hers? My dad delivered her mail. My dad had been delivering her mail for years, and as was typical, he'd chit chat with her fairly regularly. I don't know much about their conversations, I just know that with her being a jazz musician and my dad being a music lover, they had probably talked about music often.
As soon as I'd started raving about "Fiddler", a show Dad knew she was performing piano for, they talked. He mentioned that his daughter was performing the songs from the show in concert. She suggested that we come see the show and made sure he got good seats. She then offered to arrange for us to meet Zero.
It's amazing what a father will do for a daughter who expresses passion for something.