After the rotten way I left the theater after show number two, I was glad there was one more play left to see in my week leading up to the Tony Awards. But I have to admit I was gun shy. Then I had to remind myself where I was going and why.
It has only been a few months since I have learned of the gift of entertainment that in wrapped up in a bow in a television series called “The Big Bang Theory (BBT).” I first caught it on cable in reruns and didn’t quite understand what was happening. I had heard it was hysterical and knew it was beloved by many but I am not someone that usually falls in line with the masses. However after watching a few episodes and learning each character’s individual quirks, I began to see just what was so great about this show. In an attempt to familiarize myself with it, I began recording new and old episodes at the same time. It was then I discovered why I loved it so. His name is Sheldon Cooper.
Sheldon Cooper is the most original character I have seen on T.V. in a long time. He is not a doctor or a lawyer so right off the bat that is something new. But his most endearing quality, at least to me, is that for a genius he knows nothing about real life. I love that he insists on making tea when someone is upset whether they want it or not. I love that he enforces a roommate agreement that he thinks is legally binding and over a hundred pages long. I love that in his own ridiculous and over the top way is more lovable for what drives you crazy about him than what doesn’t. I love his accent and the way he carries himself.
“Amiable tippler Elwood P. Dowd has a best friend named Harvey, who just happens to be a 6 foot 3-1/2 inch tall white rabbit that no one else can see. Elwood's social-climbing family thinks he has finally flipped and should be put into an asylum, which sets off a series of hilarious misunderstandings and delicious complications.”
This had Jim Parsons written all over it. The more into BBT I became the more I had to see Jim Parsons and maybe even Harvey. That was it, I was sold. The press was increasing and I knew with such a limited run it would sell out quickly. A friend and I purchased tickets for a preview performance. I could not wait until open night. Even more exciting is that it is playing at Studio 54. There was no way I was missing this. Thus show number three was added to my week of three shows in six days. I hadn’t planned on seeing so many in one week, but it turns out life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. And for good reason. I was soon about to see why.
After the perfectly timed meal, we went to the theater to get on the reasonably sized line. I took all of the photos I needed and was happy they were already taking tickets and allowing us in about forty-five minutes before show time. This is right way so that you can use the restrooms, get situated, and so that the show can start on time. I also hate when the show has started and people are still climbing over you to get to their seats. If the doors are open at an appropriate time then we can avoid all that. I am happy to report we did. The show started promptly at eight p.m. sharp.
I was in heaven. I didn’t know what to expect because I had never seen the movie or read the play. I had rented the movie but waited until after the play to watch it. I wanted it to be a surprise. I am sure glad I did. Wow just wow. I never laughed so hard or was so on the edge of my chair. Star after star, each line of the play was better than the next. They were funny and charming. The actors were pitch perfect and the audiences clapping never seemed to drown them out.
I don’t want to give anything away for anyone who does not know the story so I will leave it at this: the play takes many lines from the movie which I suspect takes its line from the actual play. I believe Jim Parsons and Jimmy Stewart are the only two actors that were ever on earth to play Elwood Dowd with compassion, intelligence, and youthfulness. On the DVD, there was an interview with Jimmy Stewart and he said many years after making the movie people still stopped him and asked if Harvey was with him.
Harvey is a story that stays with you. It is emotional and sentimental without brow beating you. It is bittersweet and leaves you wanting to see more and more from these characters. I could have watched this play continue for hours more. It took me four hours after I got home just to unwind enough to go to sleep. The show is implacably timed. There is a brief intermission, less than fifteen minutes and overall came in just under two hours. It goes so fast because so much is happening on stage but not too much that it is hard to follow. It is all magical.
What makes one night a success over another? For me it is getting more out of a show than just entertainment. I like when I learn something about myself or the world. When I can think of things in a new way. I talk to myself out loud when I am shopping, when I am upset, when I need to calm myself. Is talking to an invisible rabbit any different? Maybe it would be nice to always have someone who is on your side. The slogan of the play is “Real Friends are Hard to Find.” Isn’t that the truth? But here at Studio 54 what is not hard to find is real talent, a gracious cast, and an impressive show.
When it was over and after I trampled the row of audience members to my left, including an elderly couple who were not too thrilled to say the least, I was off to run out the back of the theater and to the gates of freedom- or at least the gates that were going to hold the crowd in until the cast came out.
Waiting for the stars is always a point of high anxiety and excitement for me but this time something was different. I was more nervous and antsier. I could hardly stand it. I don’t know why but something about seeing Jim Parsons was making me crazy with enthusiasm. I had come to see the show for him, but I was leaving with so much more. The show was amazing and I knew I would be thinking about it and reliving it in my mind for days. Then there was the rest of the incredible cast. Not only were they talented in this performance but they were the idols from past shows that I have held dear in my memory. It was all too much. I was about to burst at the seams. And then after only waiting a few moments I heard the unmistakable voice of one Jim Parsons and I froze. But I still managed to grab my camera and get into position.
When he walked through the stage door and out onto the street he was more delightful than you could imagine. He has that infamous youthful look despite being thirty-nine years old and that wonderful Southern drawl as a native from Texas does. He was so gracious, kind, and appreciative of every compliment and eager fan that awaited him. Had it not been for the security guards moving him along the very long line he might still be standing there trying to get to every last person. Even before getting in his car he said “thanks ya’ll”. He is so adorable I wanted to squish him to pieces. It made me love him all the more. The fact that a celebrity has no ego, no attitude, not even a concept of how talented they even are, let alone why so many people are there screaming their name is inspiring. It was like he was surprised anyone even came to the show. That kind of personality trait in rare in this industry and I appreciated it greatly. The fact that Mr. Parsons is a huge talent and led this cast without flinching goes all the more to his credit. My only regret is that this show’s timing does not qualify for this year’s Tony Awards.
After Jim left, I waited around for the rest of this ensemble. While I did not know ahead of time just who else I would be seeing, I was happy to be pleasantly surprised.
The man playing hospital employee Duane Wilson (Rich Sommer) and Dr. Lyman Sanderson (Morgan Spector) came out together and were very causal. They to signed playbills for the few of us who remained after Jim Parsons left. But those of us remaining knew what we were waiting for, and we were right to wait.
The next person out was Jessica Hecht. I recognized her immediately on stage from the character she portrayed on Friends, Susan. In the play she is Elwood’s sister, Veta Louise Simmons. She was miraculously good as she too is responsible for a large portion of keeping the show believable and holding the audience’s attention. I loved her in this show. I cannot imagine another actress doing half as good a job as she did. When she came out of the stage door still in her hair and make-up, she was so friendly it was like I had known her for years. It was comfortable and easy to talk to her. It was like we were, well friends.
Then as typically for N.Y.C. I saw a celebrity that was not in the cast come out of the stage door. That is a great thing about these experiences you never know what celebrities are backstage visiting the cast. This time it was the remarkable Debra Monk. I had the great pleasure to meet her when she was on Broadway in Curtains in 2007. Even though I had seen her before I was still excited and may have shouted out her name and waved.
But it was who came out with her that was the reason I was still standing there. First Carol Kane came over. Carol Kane played the role of Betty Chumley, the sanitarium doctor’s wife. I knew that face and voice as soon as she appeared on stage. You will recognize her from her many years on the television show Taxi. Sadly I did not get her photo because it all happened too fast. She wasn’t even coming over until I screamed and got her attention. Worse was that while she was signing I saw the last piece of my puzzle almost escape into his town car so I had to stop that from happening.
As fate would have it, during Act I Dr. William Chumley who is running the sanitarium that Elwood (Jim Parsons) might be going to was being played by someone that seemed very familiar to me. His face seemed like someone I knew but couldn’t place. But the voice, oh that voice! Every fiber of my being was screaming out to me you know who that is!! I wanted desperately to check my playbill but there was too much time before intermission and in the dark I couldn’t see. So I had to wait but once those house lights came on I rushed to get to his name and bam. There is was- Charles Kimbrough a.k.a. Jim Dial. As in co-star of Murphy Brown’s Candice Bergen. Holy crap! I almost died. Not only am I am fan but how could this be?! I had started my week out but meeting the star of that sitcom and now I was ending it, literally, by meeting her co-star. I had gotten two Jim’s for the price of one and hadn’t even known it. It was the universe’s way of telling me it was meant to be. I loved like that this play made my week of three shows in six days come 360 degrees for me. Why can’t all weeks be like this?
This week of plays ended with a bang. A big bang!
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