The rest of our week in New York City was a whirlwind of activity. From Broadway productions to tourism to the city’s epicureal delights, we were kept busy during much of our stay. Still, with all of the planned activities with the larger group as a whole, we were afforded plenty of free time to explore the city on our own.
The two Broadway productions were both multiple-award winners during the 1980 Tony Awards: Children of a Lesser God and Barnum.
Children of a Lesser God was performed at the Longacre Theatre on 48th Street, just around the block from our hotel. The story of the professional and romantic relationship between a deaf student and her teacher won the Tony for Best Play. Phyllis Frelich won the Tony for Best Actress and her original Broadway costar John Rubinstein won for Best Actor. Ms. Frelich was still with the production when we saw the play. Mr. Rubinstein moved on and was replaced by David Ackroyd. The play was brilliant and brilliantly performed. Hollywood came calling a few years later, adapting the play into a movie starring Marlee Matlin in her first film role, a role which just so happened to garner her an Oscar, and William Hurt who was nominated for an Oscar that eventually went to Paul Newman.
Barnum was performed at the St. James Theatre on 44th Street. The musical told the story of legendary showman P.T. Barnum during his heyday of the mid-19th century. Jim Dale won the Best Actor in a Musical for his performance as Barnum while the production won for Scenic Design and Costume Design. The original production also starred Glenn Close as Barnum’s wife Charity. According to my Playbill though, the part when we were there was played by Catherine Cox. The musical was spectacularly fun. It included jugglers, clowns, acrobats, and trapeze artists. Jim Dale performed one of his songs while walking a tightrope. We were all mightily impressed with that.
Barnum also provided us with the extra treat of speaking to one of the performers following the evening production. Our group moved down to the middle section of the theatre to get closer to the stage where we were greeted by the assistant to the assistant to some high muckety-muck in the show. She told us she had arranged for us to meet one of the minor performers of the production and that they would be back onstage shortly. We patiently waited while this performer took part in whatever post-production activities or libations they preferred. Several minutes passed by while the high muckety-muck’s assistant’s assistant chatted with us to learn a little more about our group. She assured us it would only be a few more minutes until the performer would come out. A few more minutes had ticked by when she decided to go see what was taking so long. As she turned to head backstage she was surprised by the sight of the show’s star entering and crossing the stage in costume. Mr. Dale was even more surprised at the sight of us and inquired as to who we were and why we were still in the theatre. The assistant explained our situation to him. He told her that he’d be delighted to speak with us and asked us if he would be a suitable replacement. We, of course, enthusiastically responded “YES!” Mr. Dale took a seat on the edge of center stage and spent the next hour answering our questions and regaling us with tales of his career. It was a very cool experience.
Amadeus, 42nd Street, and Evita were just a few of the other Broadway productions playing during the time of our visit. It seemed as if there were billboards for one show or another in any direction you looked. The one billboard that held the greatest appeal for me was the one for Oh! Calcutta!
The billboard for the Broadway revival featured a two- or three-story tall dark-haired beauty posing with her bare back to the camera as she held a falling robe to her hips. Her right leg jutted out from behind the robe revealing the lower half of the lovely extremity. “Oh! Calcutta!” was sewn into the portion of the robe concealing her shapely bottom. The lovely lady was looking back at the camera over her right shoulder with a look on her face that wasn’t as innocent as the one I remembered Karen Christy displaying several years earlier in her Playboy centerfold. This lady looked like she wanted to play. Or it could have just been the difference between seeing Karen when I was an innocent nine-year old and seeing this lady when I was eighteen-years old and full of teenage male hormones.
At any rate, this lady on the billboard was doing the job she was expected to do by the rotten bastards who displayed her seductively-clad image in such a brazen manner. God bless them.
I looked into Oh! Calcutta! to see if it in fact offered up the type of visuals that the billboard seemed to promise. I happily learned that it did. I also learned that it was playing at the Edison Theater located at our very own Edison Hotel. Unfortunately, I also learned that it also included men in similar states of undress as the women. And that is as far as I got when it came to watching Oh! Calcutta! The lovely woman on the billboard continued to work her wiles on me the remainder of our stay. I have to admit, it didn’t bother me at all.