Pedro Journal November 2 – B’WAY MEMORIES – Pt. I
My first encounter with 0Broadwaywas back in 1940’s when I got a ticket in my Christmas stocking for Lerner and Lowe’s BRIGADOON the year we spent in NYC renting on 72nd Street and Riverside Drive. I was only a seven year old kid but was immediately enchanted with musicals….Brigadoon was a magical experience for me and the songs of Lerner and Lowe were fabulous with the Scottish setting and dances….I was “hooked” for the rest of life. There is nothing in the world like a live B’way show with the curtain call, lights dim, the conductor appears and lives his baton and the overture starts and we are brisked away to musical heaven. I once sat down and from memory wrote down the names of 230 shows I’d seen (I’ve saved two coupies of every program). When my parents saw how crazy I was, they went and got us tickets in the balcony of the Imperial Theater to see Ethel Merman in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN. There were no mikes back in those days but Merman with her black flaxen hair didn’t need one….she’d bellow out a song like no one else (she was Ethel Zimmerman, a secretary from Queens New York who never had a singing lesson) and was the toast of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter (and even Stephen Sondheim later with her best “Gypsy”) I later saw her in “Call Me Madam” “Happy Hunting”(with Fernando Lamas: a galpal in it said the best part of the show was backstage with the two of them constantly fighting) and her all time best as Gypsy Rose Lee’s stage mother in “Gypsy”. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning every time I walked up and down the streets of the B’way theater district with all those fabulous neon lights….I never bought the expensive orchestra seats but settled for standing room (which was great for musicals:$4.90 cents standing room at the Mark Hellinger Theater to see MY FAIR LADY twice when it first opened) and cheap ($2.20 in balcony for THE KING AND I with my Mom…seeing the famous Gertrude Lawrence a few weeks before she died…and Yul Brynner)Even after all these years (sixtysome) I can still remember the shows, the theaters they were in and the people I went with.
I always recognized the great moments of B’way show when the hair on the back of my head would stand up like a cat’s ….and it happened often (e.g. the last act of “ANASTASIA” when she /Viveca Lindfors is on her knees pleading with her grandmother (Eugenia Leontovich) to recognize her. I would feel that hushed silence in seeing the LUNTS (twice: “The Visit” and “The Great Sebastians”) or Kathryn Cornell (twice: “Dear Liar” with Brian Ahern where they played Geo. Bernard Shaw and Mrs.Patrick Campbell: his original Eliza Doolitle and their letters exchanged and “The Dark is Light Enough” with Tyrone Power)
Nothing was greater enjoyment for me – I had to settle for films later in life because they were cheaper and easier to see but my heart always belonged to live stage performances. I marveled at the one man shows: Julie Harris as Emily Dickinson in “The Belle of Amherst”; Hal as Mark Twain; Lena Horne’s solo show; Bette Midler’s bizarre,wild shows; Judy Garland (twice), Danny Kaye (with his finale sitting on the edge of the stage and singing the songs from “Hans Christian Anderson” which had just opened nearbye. Victor Borge (priceless) and Bea Lillie one of my old time favorites.
NEXT: my great B’way MUSICALS