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An Autobiography: Chapter 24, Broadway Shows

Georgianna and I have seen many shows on Broadway, but I don’t remember our first. I do remember when we saw one of the greatest musicals in Broadway history. It was November 1954, and we saw Kismet, starring the legendary Alfred Drake. I will never forget that evening. We had dinner at Mama Leone’s, where you always eat too much, and then we ran all the way to the theatre in the rain! That show won the Tony for Best Musical, and Alfred Drake received the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical.

Kismet 

Other memorable shows we saw through the years on Broadway include:

Porgy and Bess –We had seen several major productions of Gershwin’s folk opera, but seeing it at the majestic Radio City Music Hall in 1983 was an unbelievable experience. We were living in Connecticut, and with us were Heather, her husband and his parents.

Eubie 

A Raisin In the Sun 

Candide 

Fanny - One of our favorites.

42nd Street - What a musical!

Chicago 

Death Trap 

Your Arms Too Short To Box With God  

Oklahoma! - Revival directed by son of Oscar Hammerstein II – mediocre at best.

Fiddler On the Roof 

Gershwin’s Crazy for You 

I Love My Wife – Delightful!

Ain’t Misbehavin’ 

The Sound of Music 

Purlie - Saw with Heather, twice in one week!

Chorus Line - Also with Heather.

Very Good Eddy - Revival of 1915 Jerome Kern show. Saw this with two friends from Roosevelt Island, and “Very Good Eddy” became a catch phrase we used often after that.

Me and Bessie – Linda Hopkins marvelous one-woman show about the great blues singer, Bessie Smith.

I Love My Wife - Four fantastic performers with four musicians who stayed on stage throughout the show. We loved it!

Me and My Girl - This was a very special event, as I won a contest held on National Public Radio, which gave us a weekend to New York and tickets to the Marquis Theatre (in the Marquis Hotel where we stayed).

I have to tell the story about one musical we saw, a story which would make a great Broadway play! It was 1776, which opened in March 1969. I was in New York on business, and tickets were hard to get, but I knew someone and managed to get two tickets. Then I called Georgianna and told her to come to New York the next day. She got on a flight, and that day a horrible snowstorm blanketed the East Coast. Her plane had to land in Washington, D.C., where it was held over.

1776 

In the meantime, I changed my room at the hotel where I was staying, and planned a wonderful dinner and evening. But by afternoon, I had not heard from Georgianna, so I called the airlines and learned that the plane had been grounded in D.C. It got later and later, and I looked at those tickets for an 8 p.m. curtain call. I sadly tore them up and put them in the wastebasket. Soon, 8 p.m. came, then 9 p.m. I was hungry so I called room service. I hadn’t put on my shirt, and when I finished dinner and rolled the cart into the hall, my door shut behind me and locked. There I was in the hall, half-dressed, in a major hotel on 7th Avenue.

I waited a while for someone to come by so they could report my problem to the hotel desk, but no one came, so I went to the elevator, hoping I could find someone there. In that day in 1969, you just didn’t walk into the lobby without a shirt! Well, the only person on the elevator was a little old lady who spoke very little English, and, of course, she was frightened at this half-naked man trying to keep the elevator door open. I finally let her go and waited to see what the next scene would bring.

It wasn’t long until, you guessed it, the house detective showed up. After I explained the situation, let me in my room. Then I called Tracy in Colorado. Immediately she said, “You want to know where Mom is? We’ve been trying to get you but your hotel said you weren’t staying there.” (When I changed my room, there was a snafu.) I learned then that Georgianna had landed in D.C., and passengers from various flights were being brought to New York on a train – (one they got out of mothballs) - and it would arrive at Grand Central Station early in the morning.

I met the train as the tired, disgruntled passengers were plodding down the ramp. Then I saw Georgianna, the only bright light in the crowd. The phenomenal woman she was, she took the entire venture in stride and made the most of it. She told me about the wonderful sight-seeing trip they had on the bus, from the airport to the train station, passing Lincoln’s Monument and other government buildings.

Then she told me about the crowded train and her adventure with a negro who was sitting by himself. She asked if she could sit down, and he was taken back but said yes. The man had worked on the railroad as a porter and was on his way home. He told Georgianna nobody had ever sat with him before. He had a bottle of whiskey in his pocket, which he sipped from, and even offered Georgianna a drink.

The following year, we were back in New York and finally saw 1776! We never forgot the 1776 saga! A wonderful film was made of the musical, too, which I watch periodically. We had many wonderful times in New York, and we thoroughly enjoyed our apartment there in the mid-1970s.

In 1958, I had business in Chicago. I drove and took Tracy and Marc with me. They were 12 and 11, respectively. We visited museums, and one day I dropped them off at the fabulous Museum of Science and Energy Museum for the entire day. The musical, Music Man, was playing, and we went to an Italian restaurant before the show. I didn’t know Marc had filled his pockets with hard Italian rolls, but during the show he started munching loudly and, of course, we got a lot of shhh…shhh…shhh… before I got him to stop!

Science Building 

Museum of Science and Energy 

I often went to New York on business without Georgianna, and I saw some memorable shows, including The Boy Friend in 1955, which was Julie Andrews’ Broadway debut; Jamaica, starring Lena Horne; Hello Dolly, with an all-black cast, featuring Cab Calloway as Sportin’ Life, and marvelous Pearl Bailey. I’ll never forget that after the show, she stood at the edge of the stage and talked to theatre goers for some time.

Tracy and I were in New York for a trade show, and we saw the amazing, beautiful production of Sunday In the Park with George. When we were living in Connecticut, I took Georgianna’s sister, Marilyn, to see Sweeney Todd. And I was pleased that Georgianna and Heather got to see Julie Harris’ award wining performance in The Belle of Amherst. 

Sunday in the Park 

Sunday in the Park With George

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