“Who could ask for anything more?”
Ok, so I pulled a few strings. Actually, it was only one string. The daughter of my wife’s boss (Dr. Chris Walsh from Mount Sinai Hospital), was playing the lead in the hit Broadway show, An American in Paris, on the night of September 7, 2016. We purchased the tickets and made a discreet phone call to Dr. Walsh. Would it be possible if he had a word with his daughter, Allison Walsh, to give us a backstage tour after the show?
[Allison during the show]
It worked out like it does when you have some strings to pull. All we had to do was be at the stage door after the show and mention we were guests of Allison Walsh. We were on the list and we were led into the bowels of a storied and famous Broadway theater, The Palace.
The show itself was fabulous. Allison, a trained ballerina, stood out as a total professional and got a standing ovation at the end. But, I’m not a theater critic. I’m going to take you behind the scenes and below the stage where so much real action takes place.
[Me, Allison and Mariam]
After descending miles of spiral staircases, we found ourselves in a warren of rooms and hallways filled with costumes, dressing rooms. There were ropes and cables and sound boards and schedule lists and mailboxes. I couldn’t imagine the action that took place down there during the show.
[One of the make-up rooms]
I thought I’d impress young Allison with the fact that we were both veterans in the Big Show, the glamorous life of a star, knowing the smell of the grease paint and the roar of the crowd.
“I had the male lead in the Senior Play when I was in high school…back in 1965,” I said, feeling confident she’d see me as another thespian as herself.
She stared at me and said: “Oh, really?”
I estimate her age to be around twenty-five. So she would have been born in the early ’90’s. That would be about twenty-five years since I had the male lead in the senior play. No wonder she seemed a bit quizzical at my comment.
Allison led the two of us (and another couple who had known her in high school) through the quick changing rooms and the wig room and back up another mile of stairs to reach the stage. I caught up with her and said: “Is this place haunted?” I whispered the question, not wanting to frighten or alarm the others.
[One of Allison’s wigs]
“Many who work here say it is,” she replied. “They say that Judy Garland has been seen many times.”
We five arrived at the stage. The house was empty. There was a “ghost light” center stage. We posed for a few pictures and I stood for a moment, thinking I was alone, looking out at the empty seats. I nearly strained a muscle in my neck trying to look up to where we had watched the show (the nosebleed section).
Suddenly, the empty seats became filled with 3,000 Judy Garlands. They stood and made a deafening applause.
“You’re over the rainbow,” I heard the Judy who sat in the front row shout. “You were amazing!”
I didn’t think that Judy Garland ever saw my senior play…then I turned around and saw that Allison was standing in the shadow of the Ghost Light.
“We loved you, Allison!”
I stood back and realized that my moment in the spotlight was long ago.
“Not to be mean,” said one Judy,in the third row, addressing me, “but you aren’t over the rainbow…you’re over the hill.”
I knew the real star of the evening was Allison. She made a gracious bow to all the Judy’s…waved and then left. Stage right.
“Hey, wait for me,” I called as I hurried to catch up with the others.
[The Ghost Light]
[Allison poses with an aged tourist]
We thanked her and said our good-byes. I nearly got run over by a taxi as I stepped out to get a shot of the marquee.
I am grateful to Dr. Chris Walsh for arranging our tour. I thank Allison Walsh for taking the time to show us around, knowing that she was probably exhausted after the performance. (I would have been heading for the nearest pub if I were in her place).
So, what did we do then? Mariam and I headed for the nearest Irish pub to reflect on our strenuous tour of a great Broadway show. If you haven’t seen it…go! It’s closing in a few weeks.
And, just in case you think I made all this up…