Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Culture Club

Margaret and I are not what one would call "a couple who goes out a lot". Do not misunderstand. We do not live a life of quiet reflection, spending evenings in silent splendor working on the crossword and arts and crafts projects. Typically though, an evening "out" for us consists of dinner - usually eaten at a time that minimizes the risk of me falling face-down into my broiled tilapia. When the day starts at 3:00 a.m. it is best not to push the edge of the dinner-eating envelope too far into the p.m. part of the day.

This weekend however we lived something akin to the secret life of Walter Mitty. On Friday night we were in Newark at the NJPAC to see Jerry Seinfeld perform. He did not disappoint. Back in the day his show was - for me - the funniest thing on television. Candidly, many nights it still is.....even in the form of a 12 to 20 year old repeat. We had never seen him do his act live. It was fantastic. He was laugh-out-loud funny and throughout the one-hour set, with the exception of one bit where he said, "A**hole" (except without the asterisks) the only 'bad word' he uttered was, "Hell". I make that observation not because my virgin ears appreciated the respite from the typical stand-up, profanity-laced routine (my ears have many issues but I assure you that virginity is not among them) but because I could not recall when the last time was a stand-up comic made me laugh as hard as Seinfeld did on Friday night without doing a lot of cursing and swearing. Fantastic stuff.

Last night the Missus and I made the trek a bit north to Morristown for the season-opening event at the Community Theatre. I lied a bit right then. The joint in Morristown used to be called the Community Theatre. Now it has a far more involved name, which I have never bothered to learn, but that I know contains the word "Mayo", which I presume is either the name of a benefactor or the name of the artistic director's favorite condiment. Regardless, Margaret and I were there last night to see "her Bruce Springsteen" - Mandy Patinkin.

Among the half-dozen hearty folks who pop by this little rest stop on Al Gore's crowning achievement daily may be some who do not know who Mandy Patinkin is. Thirty years ago, he won a Tony Award for his role as Che in the original Broadway production of EVITA. More recently - if you watch TV - you may have seen him on the CBS series Criminal Minds. Patinkin played FBI Profiler Jason Gideon during the first few seasons of the show. Margaret absolutely adores him. We have seen him perform live on three or four occasions throughout the years - including last night - and while the Patinkin "concert experience" is not to be mistaken for the one starring Mr. Springsteen, it is nevertheless an incredibly entertaining one. Last night he performed with his long-time friend Patti LuPone. She too is a longstanding Broadway star. A few years ago she won a Tony award for Gypsy. Thirty years ago, playing opposite her co-star of last evening, she won the Tony for her star turn as Eva Peron in EVITA.

During the performance last night Patinkin told us the audience that he and LuPone have been great friends since they were first brought together by the winds of their profession in 1978, when they were both cast in EVITA. It showed last evening. They did not simply stand on stage together and sing songs from their various projects and shows. Instead they immersed themselves in the characters from the various shows in putting on entire scenes (without costumes or scenery from the show) and performing one song or multiple songs from them. It was extraordinary stuff.......even for someone like me who knows that it has been said that the neon lights are bright on Broadway but who - other than that - knows scant little else.

I will admit that I was a bit out of element last night in a show where Broadway show tunes were the order of the day. But I will gladly occupy space outside of my comfort zone when that space is simultaneously occupied by my wife - eyes sparkling, smile omnipresent and totally immersed in what she is experiencing. I know that I will never bother to learn the names of 96% of the songs that the duo of LuPone and Patinkin performed last night. But I also know that the next time he comes around to do his thing, I will plunk down the money for a couple of ducats for me and my baby.

Happiness is not free. That does not mean it is necessarily difficult to attain either.


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