Moving right along

“So, will Gordon Edelstein be tinkering with the show this week?” Mrs. T asked me the day after Satchmo at the Waldorf opened.
I laughed. “Gordon’s already rehearsing his next show in New Haven,” I explained. “He’s done with Satchmo.” And so he is: he hasn’t come back to see it since opening night.
tn-500_satchmocurtwm20147560.jpgMrs. T, who is the least theatrical of people, was surprised by this news, but I wasn’t. A job’s a job, and Gordon, though he was deeply and passionately involved in the protracted process that brought my first play to New York, has since moved on. He directed a lot of shows before Satchmo, and he’ll direct a lot of shows after Satchmo. Even John Douglas Thompson, though he’ll be appearing in the triple role of Louis Armstrong, Joe Glaser, and Miles Davis for (I hope!) some time to come, will sooner or later hang up his costume and depart to play other roles.
What about me? I went back to see Satchmo a couple of times after it opened, but I wasn’t there last week and won’t be there this week. I, too, have a day job, one that requires much of me, especially in the spring. Even so, it wouldn’t be quite right to say that I’ve “moved on” from Satchmo at the Waldorf. In fact, I’m in a bit of a creative stall. I’m not working on a new book–though I have one in mind–or an opera libretto. I do have a second play in the works, but I haven’t even looked at the script of Breaking and Entering since December, when it was given a reading in Massachusetts. For the moment I’m seeing three or four Broadway shows each week, keeping up with my usual deadlines, and planning my summer theater travel. That’s more than enough to keep me busy, at least for now.
Could it be that the opening of Satchmo overwhelmed me? I doubt it, since I’ve opened shows in the past without any obvious ill effects. On the other hand, it’s definitely true that opening a show is different from publishing a book. Books don’t have opening nights, and there’s rarely a moment when you suddenly look up and say to yourself, Hey, my book is out!
Because of this, my memories of the publication of my various books tend to be blurry. Some I remember because of people that they brought into my life. (I met Our Girl in Chicago, who later became my closest friend, when she was answering the phone a quarter-century ago for the editor of my first book.) Others I remember because of particular events: a grueling author tour, a joyful book party. But do I remember turning in any of my manuscripts, or seeing a finished copy in a brick-and-mortar bookstore for the first time? No.
sfletter111109.jpgNot so my opening nights. I’ve had five so far, three operas and five productions of Satchmo at the Waldorf, and I can picture each one with perfect clarity. What’s more, I know why I remember them so well: a theatrical opening night is a moment of fruition and catharsis, a point in time when months, even years of concentrated labor are finally made manifest in front of an audience. It’s rather like an explosion, and if you’re lucky, it ends with a symbolic explosion of applause. If you don’t remember that kind of experience, you’re dead inside.
So it may be that I’m still getting over the sheer intensity of the explosion that was the opening-night performance of Satchmo at the Waldorf–and if so, I’m all right with that. Like I said, I’ve got enough to do. For now.

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So you want to see a show?

Here’s my list of recommended Broadway, off-Broadway, and out-of-town shows, updated weekly. In all cases, I gave these shows favorable reviews (if sometimes qualifiedly so) in The Wall Street Journal when they opened. For more information, click on the title.


A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (musical, PG-13, reviewed here)

Matilda (musical, G, all performances sold out last week, reviewed here)

Les Misérables (musical, G, too long and complicated for young children, reviewed here)

Once (musical, G/PG-13, reviewed here)

Rocky (musical, G/PG-13, reviewed here)


Avenue Q (musical, R, adult subject matter and one show-stopping scene of puppet-on-puppet sex, reviewed here)

The Fantasticks (musical, G, suitable for children capable of enjoying a love story, reviewed here)


London Wall (serious comedy, PG-13, closes Apr. 20, reviewed here)

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Almanac: Lord Harewood on love

“It’s quite possible I believe to love without understanding, hard to understand without loving.”
The Tongs and the Bones: The Memoirs of Lord Harewood

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