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June 8, 2001

Several weeks ago, when Laura and I were searching for some diversion, we learned of a New York theater tour to be conducted by the Oklahoma University of Science and Art of Oklahoma (USAO) at Chickasha. I knew very little about the school, except that years ago it was called the Oklahoma College for Women. The tour itinerary sounded about right for us in terms of travel and duration, so we signed up, fully expecting to stick out amidst a group made up primarily of college-age drama students. Such was not the case. Most of the group were right around our age, with just a sprinkling of students. No matter. Everyone was quite compatible, and we were on our own in the Big Town anyway.

We received the agenda in due time and were delighted to learn that “The Producers,” Mel Brooks’ hilarious spoof, was on our list. The show had just opened but rave reviews sent ticket sales over the top and it is now solidly sold out. You cannot buy a ticket in New York City. The starting price now is $100, but since ours were purchased so far in advance they were considerably less expensive. I knew a little bit about the concept of the show, having seen bits and pieces of the original non-musical movie, but I knew that with Mel Brooks writing the book, music and lyrics, it had to be a very funny, if somewhat tasteless, comedy, and I was not disappointed. As Mr. Brooks said, “This play has something to offend everyone.” If you watched the Tony awards show last Sunday night, you saw the Little Old Lady routine with four-wheel walkers used in a very funny dance routine. The music, the dialogue, the situations, the costumes and staging – all were great.

Other tickets were for the musical version of “Jane Eyre;” the drama of “The Allergist’s Wife,” starring Linda Lavin; a somewhat bizarre musical called “Contact;” and the brooding drama of “Proof.” All great theater experiences, if nothing else. Our group also had a face-to-face meeting with the two lead performers and two backstage workers from “Jane Eyre” after that play’s final curtain. Having a chance to chat and ask questions with those professionals was an interesting interlude. Rarely do theater-goers have such opportunities. We have often wondered how those talented young people got their shot at the big time. The group we talked to pretty well confirmed that it is a matter of being at the right place at the right time, with the talent to handle the job. To say it is a competitive business is to understate the story. Literally thousands of actors, singers and dancers are out there waiting for a shot at stardom. Only a few succeed.

In addition to those Broadway attractions, Laura and I also bought tickets to a concert by the New York Philharmonic orchestra. The principal attraction there was a marvelous rendition of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” with guest pianist Fazil Say. It was a brilliant, exciting work, and it is my favorite piece of music. I now have the Philharmonic’s and Say’s CD of the classic Gershwin number, and I will enjoy it for years to come.

All in all, the trip was memorable and rich in theater experiences. Despite our early apprehensions, the group was made up primarily of folks our age, plus a sprinkling of young folks. For us, it was both resuscitating and exhilarating. We’ll be ready when the next USAO theater tour is announced.