I’m back from the RWA National Conference in New York and have settled into my kinda/sorta regular routine. So I thought I’d share some of my conference highlights. Those began with attending four Broadway musicals. I hadn’t seen a Broadway performance since before RWA National 2003, which was also in New York. Then, My Liege went with me to New York for five days preceding the conference, and we tootled all over the place, taking in three musicals and one drama (we caught Bernadette Peters in Gypsy, Antonio Banderas in Nine, the guy who played Mr. Cunningham on Happy Days in Cabaret, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Dennehy in, I believe, a Tennessee Williams play that pretty much put us to sleep except for Mr. Hoffman’s amazing performance. He stole the show.)
This time I went sans the DH and roomed with Susan Lyons (who also writes as Susan Fox). We both arrived late Saturday night, June 25th. It was a 3-hour time change for both of us, and I wanted to catch some Broadway and catch up on my sleep before my first official conference event, The Golden Network Retreat, which occurred on Tuesday, June 27th.
The entire conference began a day early this year, to accommodate the July 4th holiday weekend in the States. Canada Day (July 1st) also occurred during conference. Alas, I confess, I completely forgot about it until I strolled into the Samhain Publishing book signing later in the week (Samhain is publishing Penny’s first single title in November) and spied Canadian author Vivian Arend giving away mini-Aero bars. I quickly nabbed up two, which was fairly greedy of me, considering I can buy Aero bars whenever I want (as long as I’m in Canada) and Americans can’t. Well, tough. It was Canada Day, and I wanted my Canadian chocolate! (If you’re not jealous, you should be—those chocolate bubbles are melt-in-your-mouth delicious!)
I’m getting ahead of myself.
On Sunday Susan and I slept in, then over-indulged in Broadway. First, here’s a photo from our hotel window (it was overcast that day).
We’d purchased tickets to The Addams Family matinee and the evening performance of Chicago. So we had a great lunch, then saw The Addams Family. I thoroughly enjoyed it. So far, The Addams Family was the #1 musical of the four I wound up seeing during my week in New York. Not hard to accomplish when it’s the first I saw. 🙂
But it was truly excellent. The set reminded me of being stuck in The Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland for two hours. Bebe Neuwirth played Morticia (if you don’t know who she is, remember Frasier Crane’s wife from Cheers? That’s her) and Roger Rees played Gomez (he played one of Kirstie Alley’s boyfriends on Cheers—small world!).
When the performance ended, we learned that it was Ms. Neuwirth’s last performance in the role, which had been written for her. A few men in suits came out and sung her praises. Roger Rees sung her praises, and then she sung everyone else’s praises. Except she more like spoke them. The actual singing occurred during the play.
I’ve never attended an actor’s final Broadway performance in a particular show before, so that was fun.
Following the performance, Susan and I scarfed down a quick dinner, then went to Chicago, where we sat in the first row of the mezzanine (The Addams Family, we were in the left orchestra, aisle seats).
I loved Chicago and was more familiar with it than The Addams Family, because I didn’t watch TAF TV show growing up and the music was all new to me. Whereas I’ve seen the movie version of Chicago a couple of times.
As of the Chicago viewing, my score was (1) The Addams Family (2) Chicago (the set was much simpler and the orchestra was on stage, which necessitated the actors singing and dancing in front of the orchestra, which necessitated a bit of leaning forward in our first row mezzanine seats).
On Monday I pretty much ran around trying to figure out why my cell phone didn’t work in the States (turns out it was because I use pre-paid minutes instead of a monthly plan). After three phone calls, I learned I could buy a post-paid cell phone with a different number, but it would have cost $90 for only a few days. Worse, every time someone called me the call would have been routed through Estonia. Estonia? I wasn’t putting any of my writer friends through that. Ridunkulous.
Monday night I decided to go see Mamma Mia. Susan remained behind because she’s seen it before. Now, first, you must understand that I lack all sense of direction. To me, “north” is wherever my feet are pointing. So Susan had to shepherd me through wherever we visited in New York until I made my way out of the hotel on my own for the first time to see Mamma Mia. I had the address and a badly drawn map from a guy at the ground floor desk. I just walked “with purpose,” pretending I knew where I was going. Eventually, I realized I was heading the right direction, and soon I was at Winter Gardens.
I had a mid-row seat in the right orchestra, with two French-speaking families on either side of me. Now, I totally love the movie version of Mamma Mia. It really tugs at my heart strings, and the Broadway version did, too. The song where Donna is singing about her little girl going off to school always makes me cry. It made me cry during the movie because, at the time, my then 20-year-old son was moving away to university for the first time. Last Monday night, sitting in the theater, I had to blink back tears again because in a few weeks that same son is moving to the Middle East to teach school for a year. Later, someone without kids mentioned, “But you don’t have daughters. Why would that song make you cry?” It’s not the sex of the child, it’s the fact they’re leaving. And when mine is leaving for the Middle East and I know I won’t see him for 11 months unless I travel over there (an option that is not off the menu at this point!), how could that song about “slipping through my fingers” not make me want to cry?
Also, the actress did a damn fine job. Mamma Mia didn’t have any big names that I recognized, but it quickly became my favorite of the three musicals I’d caught so far, because of the emotion the movie (and the play) always elicits in me. First, Donna had to sing the song about the little girl slipping through her fingers and then she and one of the male leads had to sing a song about their lost love. Between the two, I was a blithering sob-fest. How’s that for a musical that’s supposed to leave ’em dancing in the aisles?
Still, it was now (1) Mamma Mia (2) The Addams Family and (3) Chicago.
Conference began, and soon there was no time for Broadway. Except…except…Susan had heard that How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, starring Harry Potter Guy (aka Daniel Radcliffe) and John Laroquette (remember Night Court?), was really, really good. It was Thursday night, and I was supposed to meet friends in the bar (sorry). But—but—Broadway was beckoning! And I’m a lousy drinker. One drink, and I’m floating away on clouds of glory. So I try not to indulge too often.
I regret not seeing the buddy I planned to meet (but I did see her during a Spotlight the next day). However, How to Succeed was spectacular. I can’t recall the decade in which it’s supposed to be set, but the flavor of the stage was like something from Mad Men. The set was changed a lot, and Harry Potter Guy worked so hard in his role. So did John Laroquette, who, I might note, has about the longest arms I’ve seen in person (he appeared in Boston Legal, too. Loved that show). Between the two of them singing and dancing, the talented male and female dancers, the female lead, the story line (which revolved around a self-help book that spirited our hero to the top of the corporate ladder), and the intricate sets and mood of the story, I was totally hooked. Hands down, it was my favorite musical of the four. The list then ran at (1) How to Succeed (2) Mamma Mia (3) The Addams Family and (4) Chicago. But all four were magnificent in their own ways. I would completely recommend any of them.