Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Memory Of Two Anniversaries

Memory Of Two Anniversaries

Today marks a major milestone for Steve On Broadway (SOB). I’m celebrating an anniversary! (Make that two, to be precise!)

Exactly 25 years ago today, I set foot for my very first time into a Great White Way house to see a Broadway show. It was Cats’ matinee performance on the afternoon of Saturday, June 8, 1985. And what a lasting “Memory” it remains.

By that time, I was still a relatively recent college graduate living in Wausau, Wisconsin, of all places, with a decent career-oriented job. I was making more money than I thought possible -- a mere $17,000 per year! -- and it seemed like I was finally earning enough to do something truly special and memorable for my beloved parents, who were living in suburban Milwaukee at the time.

As a wedding anniversary gift, I decided to do something completely different -- something extravagant -- not because they were marking a milestone of their own (it was their 28th year together), but just because I felt I finally could.

Because my mother had never previously visited New York City and my father had last visited when he was just a child, the idea of sending them there for their wedding anniversary seemed like a natural, especially with so many sightseeing and entertainment options from which to choose. So I told them to reserve the weekend of their anniversary because I was sending them packing to the Big Apple.

Not only did I have a friend who was able to get them tickets to see the “Phil Donahue Show,” but as it turned out, my mother’s best friend’s niece Anna McNeely (pictured) was in the cast of Cats. As Broadway’s original Jennyanydots, Anna was still in the production nearly three years into its Tony Award-winning Winter Garden run.

My mother got in touch with Anna, who graciously made arrangements to provide my parents with house seats for the Saturday (June 8) matinee performance. My mom was thrilled and couldn’t wait to tell me.

Within seconds, my reaction went from expressing “How cool!” to thinking, “Wait a minute! Maybe I could fly to New York and surprise my parents and see the show, too.”

So I contacted my mother’s best friend, made her my accomplice in telling her what I had in mind. In turn, she provided me with Anna’s telephone number. Then I called Anna with details of my plan and asked if she’d be able to arrange a house seat for me, too. Not only was she up to becoming my co-conspirator, but she was sure to nab a seat right next to my parents for me. And her lips remained sealed, even after making subsequent arrangements with my parents to meet up for a bite to eat after the performance.

Once in New York, my parents navigated their way through everything from 42nd Street to a hotel workers strike, although their hotel still managed to deliver the flowers I had sent to mark their anniversary as a ruse.

On that magical Saturday afternoon, I planned my entry carefully. I had flown in the night before and stayed with a friend, but I could hardly contain my excitement, not only in finally seeing a real-live Broadway show, but especially in pulling off this parental surprise.

Because I knew my mom and dad would be very punctual and arrive well before the show started, I arrived at the Winter Garden with enough time to have the initial shock of my “Broadway entrance” fade a little bit before Cats actually began.

When I arrived at the designated row, my parents were about halfway down. My mom looked up and saw me coming down toward their seats. I could see the light bulb of recognition turn on and almost immediately transform into one of complete shock. The two of them were virtually speechless, even after we hugged and kissed. The moment was truly enchanting for all three of us. And as the house lights came down for the beginning of Cats, I can still vividly recall the gentle hand of my mother's clutching mine in a wonderful mix of excitement and loving tenderness.

This being my very first Broadway show on Broadway itself, I found myself mesmerized by the stagecraft that went into everything from the set design to the costumes. I was also impressed by the individual performances, including Anna's turn in "The Old Gumbie Cat." And I was also thrilled by my recognition of Grizabella’s “Memory.” While it was no longer being performed by Betty Buckley, it was a stirring piece of theatre nevertheless.

After the performance concluded, we met Anna at the appointed stage door (another first) and walked down 7th Avenue to a little restaurant she had in mind for a nice, light dinner. En route to the restaurant, we walked right by Matthew Broderick, whom I knew from "War Games," but didn't have a clue he was appearing then on Broadway as Eugene Jerome in Biloxi Blues. I found myself starstruck, and it only added to the overall experience of feeling like we were really taking a huge healthy bite out of the Big Apple.

Once our delightful early meal was over, Anna excused herself to get back to the theatre, and I walked my parents back to their hotel and said my own goodbyes before heading back to La Guardia to fly home.

But with my first Broadway experience coupled with pulling off my special surprise for two of my favorite people on earth, I left New York feeling like the cat who ate the canary. What a “Memory.”

I don't know if I ever adequately thanked Anna McNeely for being my partner in crime 25 years ago today, but Anna, if you're reading this ... I thank you now and forever for making June 8 1985 so incredibly special, as well as for "introducing" me to Broadway!

Happy (53rd) Anniversary, Mom and Dad! I love you both.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

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At 08 June, 2010, Blogger Linda said...

This is such a sweet story, Steve. I'm such a softie, but it brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing it with us.

At 08 June, 2010, Blogger JK said...

What an absolutely beautiful story! I am literally teary.

And is there really any better thing than the very FIRST time you set foot in a Broadway theater? And to see Cats!? Awesome!

My "anniversary" is August 13, 1983matinee. Mame - Angela Lansbury, seat P113. I bawled through the curtain call, I was so overwhelmed.

Thanks for sharing your great story, Steve!


At 08 June, 2010, Blogger Bob said...

Yay "Cats!" I know you told me your first Bway show was Cats, but I didn't know you knew the original Ms. Jennyanydots! And went out to dinner with her? Fancy you!

I saw her, too, when I saw the show in 1988. But no dinner.

A lovely memory. You were so sweet to surprise your folks! Thanks for sharing!

At 08 June, 2010, Blogger Esther said...

Awww, I cried, too, when I read that your mom held your hand as the house lights came down. Happy 25th Broadway anniversary Steve, and happy 53rd anniversary to your parents.

Btw, I've never seen Cats but if Dogs ever comes to Broadway, I will be there!

At 13 June, 2010, Blogger Dale said...

That's a beautiful story and an amazing thing to do for your folks. Happy anniversary! My parents just celebrated their 59th anniversary, whew!

At 13 June, 2010, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks so much Linda, JK, Bob, Esther and Dale. I'm very fortunate to still have both of these wonderful, loving people in my life. And to share my very first Broadway experience with them was icing on the cake.


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