The orchestra sat at the base of the stage in a pit…usually I went down to the front to see the musicians getting ready and warming up. They were all crammed into such a tiny space. I played the flute myself and my dad kept encouraging me that if I kept it up, I could be playing down there someday. But truly, I didn’t want to be tucked away down there…I wanted to be on top, front and center.
The sounds of the audience laughing and chattering away at their seats were clearly heard while last minute patrons filed in. Most people dressed rather finely, and certain fragrances took center stage as various women passed by. There was electricity in the air and then…the lights would go down and up, and you knew it was time for the show to get started. The lights dimmed. The music began. And you were swept up into a whole new world. I loved it!
The first show I saw was The Magic Show starring Doug Henning, a famous magician. My uncle had gotten the tickets months ahead for my parents and he and I to go. Naturally, it was a big deal for me, going into “the city”…I was so excited. I carried a small purse and had on my nicest dress and the only coat I owned, a filthy pink thing with fake fur trim around the hood that at one time was white.
When we arrived, there was a mime doing magic tricks outside the theater and a crowd had gathered on the street. While we were waiting for the theater doors to open, he picked my mom out of the crowd to assist him in one of his card tricks. My uncle, of course, had his camera…he was forever taking pictures with his 35mm, and he snapped a great shot of her with the mime.
Then we went into the theater, bought a program and some candy, and quickly found our seats. In reading the program we discovered Doug Henning wasn’t portraying the lead role that night. His understudy, Joe Abaldo, was appearing in his stead. Of course, I didn’t know the difference; I just remember the show was spectacular. I had gotten so involved in what was happening on stage, my uncle said that at one point during the show, when the magician stuck a sword through his lady assistant, I yelled, “that’s disgusting!” and several around chuckled. I don’t even remember saying that. Evidently I was a rather captive audience.
After the show was over, we waited outside the backstage door to get autographs. When the lead came out, my uncle asked if he would mind having his picture taken with me. He was so nice and friendly and said, “Of course not”. He put his arm around me in my filthy pink coat, and we both smiled real big for the camera. He had a big afro-like hairdo and was wearing a dark wool seaman’s coat. My hood was up with my long stringy brown hair hanging down over the front of each of my shoulders, and my braces twinkled in the moonlight. I was standing next to a Broadway star! I swore after that night, I would never wash that coat again…then again, that coat was never washed to begin with. Nonetheless, we had that picture blown up into an 8x10 and framed. I will always remember that night…my first Broadway experience at the age of nine.
There were many shows to follow that have left significant marks on my memory. Sitting on the front row of the balcony, center section for Peter Pan with Sandy Duncan is one. I was only about 9 or 10 and before the show started I had set my open box of M&M’s on the railing in front of us, and they accidentally spilled over onto the audience members below. I was so embarrassed, not to mention I got yelled at big-time by my parents. At one point during the show Peter Pan flew out over the audience and it was like I could just reach out and grab her. My sister, Lisa was with me that night. She was three years younger than I was, and she fell asleep! I couldn’t believe it. Who falls asleep in the middle of a live Broadway musical? Well, evidently, she did.
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