BroadwayGirlNYC: Opening Night
This isn't a review; this is a remembrance of the most special night of my Broadway-loving life.
A few days ago, I was twittering about opening nights on Broadway. There were several coming up, and I was dreaming of what it must be like to attend. I asked my friends on Twitter to send me descriptions of the parties they'd attended. as well as the performances they had seen, on opening nights. And even within their 140-character responses, I got a pretty good idea of how magnificent and glamorous these A-list events could be.
One of my final tweets on the subject read, "Check out my @ replies for stories about Opening Nights on Broadway. I hope to have my own stories sometime soon...!"
Much to my surprise, about fifteen minutes later, I got a twitter Direct Message from someone in the business who follows me on twitter -- actually inviting me to the opening night performance, and party, for David Mamet's "A Life in the Theatre". Needless to say, I was struck speechless. After a few moments of sheer disbelief, I wrote him back to accept.
As it happens, just a few days before, I had splurged on a beautiful, silk Diane von Furstenburg dress. When I bought it, I didn't know what occasion might present itself that would be worthy of something so classy and delicate; but that event suddenly presented itself: a gift from the Universe! I tried on my dress immediately, and twirled around my apartment, slipping on the athletic socks I hadn't bothered to take off. I was going to an opening night on Broadway!!
The show was scheduled to start at 8pm, but I arrived early to watch celebrities walk the red carpet. Clutching my black handbag and trying to look like I belonged, I muscled my way through a forming crowd until I had a view of the famous faces vamping for the cameras. I surpressed a squeal when I spotted Taye Diggs; I gasped out loud when I caught a glimpse of Andrea Martin! But it turned out they were only the beginning of the celebrities I'd see. It was to be a star-studded celebration.
I didn't stay by the carpet too long. I was being pushed from every direction -- by fans who had staked out the event, as well as tourists walking by who wanted to see what all the fuss was about -- when I realized that I didn't have to be there. This wasn't like every other night, when I lived to catch sight of the big Broadway stars I worship. Tonight, I had the opportunity to actually walk among them. I held in my hand a golden ticket.
My benefactor and I had met up earlier, shortly after our twitter exchange, at which point he handed over my pass and I bought him a cup of coffee. Over the steaming drink, we wondered at our silly and amazing circumstance. We had never met before -- though I had seen his work, and he'd followed me for almost a year on Twitter. Neither of us could quite believe we were sitting across from each other in person, or that we were going to be each others dates to opening night! Giggling, we conspired to come up with a fiction of "how we'd met," just in case anyone asked. We tossed around ideas ranging from the impressive (he came to my rescue while I was being mugged), to the plausible (we sat next to each other on the subway), to the downright outrageous (we met at a tattoo parlor, where we were both getting the same tattoo), before settling on a story much more mundane: we'd tell anyone who asked that we'd met through mutual friends. Agreed, we hugged and made plans to meet at the show later that evening.
He'd told me earlier that he might be rushing to the show from an earlier appointment, so I didn't wait outside. Wondering if it was all real, I handed my ticket to the usher at the door, who told me "aisle number two". And I headed down to find me seat, so I could watch the fancy people until the show began.
And fancy the patrons were. I didn't recognize most of those in attendance, but I could tell that they were upper crust to the max! It felt the way I imagined going to the theatre in "the old days" must have felt, when it was a true occasion to see a Broadway play. Women were in their best dresses, men their fanciest suits (I even saw a couple of tuxedos). All around me, people were greeting each other with lofty embraces and kisses on both cheeks. Everyone seemed to know one another. I took it all in with a thirst even I didn't expect myself to have.
Staying in my seat sure took a lot of Will Power. In general I get very shy around famous people (I'd rather tweet from behind a post than approach a Broadway star in a restaurant), but -- that many, and so close! I might have gotten up to say hello if only I had anything reasonable to say; but somehow stuttering about being a "really, really, really big fan" just didn't seem appropriate. So instead, I smiled to myself and snuck glimpses of some of the most accomplished people in the world of theatre Angela Lansbury, David Cromer, Sutton Foster, Michael Mayer, Joel Grey.
I think I almost swooned when I saw David Mamet, who I've always idolized but never seen in person. Here was the man responsible for this entire evening. A man made of flesh and blood just like the rest of us, yet somehow his words make more sense than those uttered by the rest of us! And I was about to see his show right along with him, in the heart of New York City on a star-studded opening night. I felt like I'd arrived.
Right at that moment, my new industry friend came down the aisle, and I jumped when he put his hand on my shoulder! I'd been so wrapped up in the fantasy I was living that I didn't even see him approach. I stood to give him a hug and we both settled in for the big show.
Because this was the first opening night I'd ever attended, I can't compare it to others. But something seemed particularly profound about watching this show in a house full of theatre professionals. The play, "A Life in the Theatre," is about two actors -- one young (TR Knight) and one old (Patrick Stewart) -- who share both a stage and a dressing room. Most of the scenes take place "back stage," but a few hilarious moments feature performances gone awry. The laughs from the crowd were uproarious, far bigger than the time when I saw the show in previews, and I imagine it had to do with exactly how well Mamet's work reflects the realities of actors in American theatre careers. I'm not sure I could have fully appreciated the intricacies of this work, had it not been for the specific audience of which I was privileged to be a part.
The show was over quickly (it's just 90 minutes, with no intermission), and the whole classy house jumped to its feet. The actors came out for four curtain calls, and patted each other on the back in congratulation. I looked at my new friend with tears in my eyes. He patted me on the back, too.
We followed Uma Thurman, Dylan Baker, Kate Walsh, and Bernie Telsey up the aisle and into the drizzly night. We took a few minutes to take in the whole buzzing scene, and then flagged a cab to take us across town to the post-show opening night party.
Well, it was everything you can imagine! There was champagne and wine being poured; there were posh hors d'oeuvres being passed. Everywhere I turned, people were laughing and comparing notes on the play, if not telling each other to have their "people" call each other in the morning. There was a lavish spread of food, including apple-glazed salmon, braised beef short ribs, and mushroom risotto. Strangers were introducing themselves to each other by asking "so what brought you to the show tonight?", then ending up joined at the hip for the rest of the party. And legends interacted with common folks like me.
I had never been to an opening night before, and while I made a very public (twitter) wish that someday I'd get to go, I didn't dream that "someday" would come so soon.
Yet again, I find myself wondering if I'm dreaming, and feeling like the luckiest girl on Broadway.