4000

IMG_2659Below is a brief history lesson. I’ll try to keep it interesting. There will be no tests.

On Wednesday, July 12, 2015, the Broadway juggernaut Jersey Boys played its 4000th performance. That’s 500 weeks, eight shows a week, with one day off each week. The Broadway company has spent nearly ten years etching the simplified, musicalized, and ever so slightly fictionalized account of the unlikely birth and death of the Four Seasons. Even by today’s standards, it’s a sharp musical. The script is tight, the stage choreography, tight. The music, tight.

The producers brought a hug cake to the theater Wednesday between shows. Actually, they brought four cakes. One in the shape of a 4, and three in the shape of 0’s. The actors wore t-shirts commemorating the event and smiled of the cake as a Broadway promotional website photographer snapped their pictures.

There’s an adage you might’ve heard, especially if you’ve spent any time in the theater. It is important to note that there are many exceptions to the rule.

It goes like this:

Question: How do you make an actor unhappy?

Answer: Give them a job.

To this well-heeled joke, I propose an addendum:

Question: How do you make an actor happy?

Answer: Give them cake and a photo op.

This 4000th performance (and the ones that follow) represent a triumph for our production company, a group that produces more original works than revivals, and sometimes takes chances on questionable material, just because they like it. In 2005, they poured their last resources into this little show, with its cast of unknowns, and discovered after the first preview that they had a hit on their hands.

Jersey Boys has outrun Mary Poppins, Hairspray, My Fair Lady, Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the Roof, and 42nd Street during its lengthy run, and is fast on the heels of Miss Saigon. As the show coasts towards its ten year anniversary, ten years of world history, its lodged in the personal history of hundreds of thousands of theater goers as well as the actors, front of house, and backstage crew that make it happen every night. The August Wilson Theater has witnessed ten years of marriages, babies, dogs, cats, and deaths. I can’t help but feel a touch sentimental as I inch towards the door, an invisible cog in a very big wheel. A part of theatrical history.

When I accepted my position at the show the first time, when it was new, I told a friend that Jersey Boys would be the last show I supervised on. I left three years after the opening, and after a brief, and unsuccessful stint in Los Angeles, I supervised and ran, I don’t know, maybe seven or eight shows. And then I returned to Jersey Boys, and never say never, but it looks like I was right all along. It looks like Jersey Boys will be the last Broadway show I supervise.

There was a time, when I was in college, that I believed with all my heart that I would be happy doing anything in a theater. I’d be happy to carry a sword on stage, happy to build a set, to sweep between the audience seats, happy to take out the trash. Theater’s been good to me. Broadway’s been good to me, but this is no longer the case.

Still, it’s hard not to be sentimental.

Plus which, I know it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.

End of lesson.

***

Question: When do you leave for New Hampshire?

Answer: I don’t know. Sometime in August.

Question: Where are you living?

Answer: I don’t know.

***

Imagine this: I’m biking through the gentle hills of Limbo. The scenery is spectacular, at once riddled with reference to the past, and colored with hope for the future. It’s the landscape of my life in watercolor.

In LImbo, the past and present unfold on either side of the quiet road. In the distance is a wide vista with rolling hills. By my bike wheels, are mini forests, full micro-flora and fauna, a fractals of the bigger picture. The trees bend and shake their leaves. There’s no rush in Limbo. In fact, the more you push, the slower you go, the longer Limbo Road becomes. May as well enjoy the scenery.

In my bike basket, I have a pair of scissors, a needle and thread, a towel, a small dog, a toothbrush, and a pair of reading glasses I’m still afraid to wear. I used to have a sandwich as well, but the dog ate it.

Th scissors are for cutting ribbons, that quaint practice of politicians and local business magnates symbolically opening up their store, their mining operation, a new monument for business. The needle and thread are for sewing up previously cut ribbon so that as I leave, someone else has the honor of cutting the ribbon int heir own way.

On the left, I’m coasting by the last ten years. Past my return to Jersey Boys after a four-year hiatus, back on the train to Los Angeles, where I tried on a life that didn’t quite fit, back past the Tony awards, to the first performances when the show was stopped night after night by a wall of applause. Now I’m passing the invited dress rehearsal, the ten out of twelves, the final run through at the rehearsal studio, the meet and greet of the little show that may or may not make it. For me, it was another job. An interesting job. An exciting job. But, I didn’t have much to lose.

Even so, I think there’s an opportunity here to come up with a new adage, on that works for the backstage crew I’ve worked with longest and know the best. It goes like this:

Question: How do you make a crew person happy?

Answer: Give them a job.

Question: How do you make them even happier?

Answer: Give them a day off, a piece of cake, and a bottle of wine.
***

Long story short, ‘m watching the last ten years in reverse as my dog rifles through my purse, which is also int he bike basket, I’m waving goodbye to the strange, amorphous, quietly generous, sometimes turbulent, often loving family called Jersey Boys. In another six days, I’m going to stand up on the pedals, and yell from the handle bars, “so long! Maybe I’ll see you on the next one. And thanks for all the laughs”

Limbo can be cool, if you have a nice set of wheels.

IMG_2467

2 thoughts on “4000

  1. Beautiful post, great picture of Limbo Mountain at the end.
    I, too, am cycling through Limbo. Well, not cycling, I’m traveling in a gypsy caravan sort of arraignment, with my van and a trailer slightly larger than my van, stuffed full of everything I couldn’t leave behind.
    I said to myself, “I’m getting out of New Orleans. It’s too hot and I miss Connecticut. I’m getting out of the film business, too”. Then, as I was packing my gypsy caravan, I got a phone call to come to work on another film in Mississippi.
    So here I am in a hotel room in Jackson, MS. I’ll get back to Connecticut someday. Maybe in time for the cool Autumn weather. And I’ll get out of the film business, too. Maybe I’ll even get out of the rabbit hole I’m stuck in!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s