I had a date night with my daughter the other night. We went to RENT. It was her first time seeing it and my second time. (I don't include all the times that I've watched the movie or the dvd of the Broadway show.... "IN PERSON" is all that counts when keeping score.
My first time seeing it was in New York a few years ago. I unfortunately missed seeing it when it was in it's big run on Broadway, but luckily for me, An Off-Broadway production of it had just opened and I wasn't going to miss the opportunity.
This was in the midst of the time when annual trips to New York were a regular thing (sometimes twice a year). The girls would all go shopping or exploring "girl places" and I didn't want to be sitting around in stores smelling heavily of flowery perfumes and soft music playing while the women tried on outfit after outfit, shoe after shoe... and then maybe walked away with nothing. I didn't get it. Why sit inside looking at racks of clothing while there are museums and shows right next door or down the street?
So while the women were going to go shopping I would be going to RENT. I knew about the musical. I had watched a dvd of the Broadway production and seen the movie as well as listened to the Original Broadway Cast recording over and over and over again. I loved the music... the movie was good... the dvd was excellent.
We all went to lunch at the Ellen's Stardust Diner first... which is a hilarious place to take in a hearty meal and a classic diner experience. The servers and busboys and everyone working there break into song regularly and dance all around by your tables and sometimes over the top of you! They throw out great renditions of Broadway classics and it can actually be hard to eat at times with all the distractions and laughing going on. But it's definitely fun. I'd recommend it if you've never been there and want a little "fun" with your food.
I got down to the New World Stages on west 50th plenty early, not really sure what to expect for an experience of an Off Broadway show. I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the theater and it was like walking into a modern movie complex. There was a nice new lobby with a comfortable feel and modern amenities. Then, I was surprised at the concession area. This was the first time I had seen them encouraging you to bring refreshments INTO the theater. All of my previous experiences had been to not allow any of that. But SINCE this experience, I now see it everywhere I go... it must have been some decision made somewhere that everyone would allow food and drink in to the theaters. I picked up some Hot Tamale candies and a can of beer. I found my way to my theater and into my seat. The theater was small but not tiny. Intimate but not like I was in just a large room. There was about 500 seats and a balcony. I was only about 6 rows back and on the right side of the theater.
The show was amazing. The music was spot on. The stage, while smaller than the dvd one I saw from the Broadway production, was still amazing. The setup was a bit different than the Broadway setup. But once the show started, all the differences disappeared. I was IN Alphabet City... I was IN that abandonded building experiencing the struggles of these lost souls searching for each other... for something. It was very moving.
I just looked up the theater that this production was in. It WAS on Stage 1 of the New World Stages and the theater holds exactly 499 people. It ran from August 11,2011 to September 9, 2012. The date just sent a chill through me. This was the late July trip we took when Mom was beginning to have her final treatments for her cancer. The treatment that we know was going to be the last one... that things were going down hill fast. The treatment that was taking the last life out of Mom... she was physically spent. There was no more fight. It was just a day or so after this play that I got a call while we were still in New York that said to me, "JT, you guys need to get home... it's your mom... she's not doing well".
We got on the phone with Delta immediately and were able to find a flight for me to take off on the next morning. There wasn't enough openings for all three of us so Jackie and Anika were going to grab a later flight (one that later turned into a nightmare of delays, switching gates, lost luggage, mad scrambles and getting in to Sioux Falls too late to see Mom in her last consciousness). But that I'll save for another time. I got home in time to spend some moments with Mom in the hospital. Precious last minutes. Minutes that I'll forever cherish.
I feel kind of bad that I didn't remember this detail the other night before going to the show, but I'm also kind of glad I didn't as I know it would've re-opened some emotions for me. During the play [spoiler alert], they deal with death. It seems like everybody is HIV positive and are all dealing with it in their own way. It did still strike up feelings for me still of losing mom... of losing dad.... of our own mortality. Death is death. By old age, by AIDS, by accident... or by cancer. Death is death and the end is the end...Our minutes are counting down. Our moments. Our smiles, our tears, our frowns and our hugs. If I had remembered the details that I was wrestling with 4 years prior, I probably would have been a wreck. I would have been doing the math..... 525,600 times 4... How many minutes has it been? How many minutes have I wasted? How many minutes do I have left?
But instead of remembering that, I did get a flashback that made me laugh. As the cast struck their last pose of the play... the one at the end when they're all in a group in the middle and Angel runs in and joins them for the last note.... I remembered when I took this photo of our mayor and slipped him into the original cast picture that was part of a joke... a joke I'll also go into another time. (It's a good one!)
I'm just a creative guy that's looking to throw all this spaghetti onto the wall and hope something sticks.