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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ya shoulda been here last week/month/day/decade -

EON! Ever feel like you "got there too late?" Do we ever know if we're in a golden era for anything? This afternoon I was going through my theatre memoribilia, and I came across a PLAYBILL for the Majestic Theatre, dated May 6, 1958. I was born in September of 1956 - smack in the middle of what is considered "the golden age of American Musical Theatre."

When I was born, music played on the radio was often from the shows running on Broadway. "Standards" often came from the stage and many recording artists popularized the songs. There's very little that's new and good on Broadway over the last two-three decades. Sure, some big hits, but if a season garners a genuine hit or two, theatre fans consider themselves lucky. And sorry, but spectacle like Phantom and most of ALW's "oeuvres" aren't really musical theatre. Oh, they're "something." Just not real musical theatre. Real musical theatre has a good script, memorable characters, who don't all look and sound like they came from the same cookie cutter. It has singing AND dancing. What can you say about a show where the "star" is a set, or freaking puppets a la Avenue Q?

It's not only that these shows in the Playbill picture were on stage at the same was that they were all NEW at the same time. I would kill to have had a conversation like this:

Her: Dear, I've heard Music Man is really good
Him: I know, but perhaps West Side Story or Auntie Mame?

Her: True, but perhaps some straight drama? Elia Kazan's Dark At The Top of the Stairs? Or Look Homeward Angel? Or Look Back in Anger
Him: Maybe just an intimate supper at the Waldorf Astoria, then we can catch Maurice Chevalier, he's there in the Empire Room?

Her: It's a date, then, but we have to remember to catch Lena Horne in Jamaica next week - if we don't take the kids to L'il Abner or to see My Fair Lady again.
Him: I've about "been there/done that" with MFL
Her: Why not catch Bells Are Ringing with Judy Holliday?
Him: Okay, but only the Matinee -- I want to go see Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle at Yankee Stadium that night.

When we're in a golden age for anything, we seldom realize it, thinking it the natural order of things. And when it's gone - the change can happen so fast you think it might have all been a chimera ... and you start to wonder if it really was that good. If you "were there" you know it was. And forever after you can say to those who follow:
You should have been here "yesterday" "Last week" "last month" "last year" "10 years ago" "30 years ago" "when I was a teen."

Grandpappy: -- "Girlie, you should have been there when George M. Cohen and Sam Harris were kings."

New York Stage in 1904:

Same thing with travel:
Or sports: [dad to son] Bonds broke the Home Run Record? So what ? Hank Aaron didn't need drugs! [granddad to dad] Oh, yeah, Babe Ruth didn't have trainers and needed fewer games to do it in..... [great-great-grandad] Oh Yeah? Well, Home Run Baker didn't have the whole rabbit crowded into the ball.

Or ritual: Oh yeah? Well, all those old duffers carrying the pope aloft was a sight to see, with all those fan bearers around...nothing like that stupid pope mobile....

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