Lauren and I went to the Empire State Building observatory today, an undertaking that entails standing in line for at least an hour (unless you pay extra for an “express” ticket, a newfangled piece of cash-and-carry privilege that sticks in my craw). The long line is set up in such a way that you spend much of your time shuffling forward, thus creating the illusion of progress. Most of the people waiting to board the elevators to the eighty-sixth floor were teenagers, and though they came from all over the world, most of them were dressed identically.
I hadn’t been to the Empire State Building for a number of years, and I’d all but forgotten how charming it is. It opened its doors in 1930, and the streamlined décor is as redolent of the Thirties as a Pullman sleeper or a Jimmy Cagney movie. The observatory itself is wonderfully tacky—the only thing missing is a dirty-water hot-dog cart—and the view is as spectacular as advertised. I talked Lauren’s ear off, pointing out every landmark I could think of: Central Park, Radio City Music Hall, Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, the UN, Macy’s, even the dear old Flatiron Building. I also showed her the hole in the skyline that was created by the destruction of the World Trade Center. It’s easy to miss, so much so that you wouldn’t know where the twin towers once stood if you didn’t know where to look. I overheard a father pointing out Ground Zero to his son, and remembered the night I brought Lauren’s parents to Windows on the World for a drink, long before the sunny morning when the face of New York was changed utterly by the hand of evil.
In due course we descended to Fifth Avenue, rejoined the mere mortals, and took a cab to Tibor de Nagy Gallery, where we looked with great pleasure at a show of sweetly naïve urban landscapes by Rudy Burckhardt. Tiffany’s is across the street from the gallery, so we stopped by afterward to ogle the merchandise. (Memo to the folks back in Smalltown, U.S.A.: no purchases were made.)
Later on we went to Broadway to see The Wedding Singer, a show I liked far more than most of my colleagues. I’d been wondering whether I’d like it as much the second time around, so I’m happy to report that I continue to stand firmly and wholeheartedly by my Wall Street Journal review, in which I ranked it
among the most ingenious and amusing musical adaptations of a Hollywood film ever to reach Broadway….No, we’re not talking Adam Guettel, but The Wedding Singer is smart, handsomely designed by Scott Pask and sparklingly staged by John Rando, the director of Urinetown, who has an uncanny knack for underlining the comic nuances of a script. The Wedding Singer delivers what it promises, no more and no less, and if you long to laugh yourself silly, it’ll do the trick.
It’s a good thing I haven’t changed my mind, since quotes from that review are plastered all over the front of the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Like most of us, I have my little vanities, one of which is that my name occasionally appears in smallish type (“A KNOCKOUT AND A WOW!”—Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal) on the signs and posters hung in front of Broadway theaters for the purpose of wooing passers-by. Not often, for even my most enthusiastic reviews tend not to lend themselves to such treatment, but every once in a while I swing for the fences, and sometimes a publicist takes note of the fact. I’ve been a drama critic for three years now, so you’d think I’d be used to seeing my name on the Great White Way, but the truth is that I get a huge kick out of it, and probably always will. Tonight my pleasure was enhanced by the presence of my niece, who took a snapshot of me standing next to one of the Wedding Singer posters that bears my name.
Enough already. As soon as I inflate Lauren’s bed, which is set up in the middle of the Teachout Museum, I’m going to crawl into my loft, put out the light, and sleep deeply. Friday is her last full day in New York, and I’m sure it’ll be a hectic one. I have nothing planned for the weekend—and that includes answering the phone.
See you Monday, maybe.
UPDATE: Another blogger says that the preceding post “turned my stomach.” Here’s why:
I know critics play a vital role in a Broadway play’s success…or failure. But they’re not involved in any of the creative, directorial, financial, human resource related aspects of the play/musical. And yet credit is given to them. It’s like showing up at your grandmother’s for the Thanksgiving meal and being hailed the conquering hero for eating.
Except for the stomach-turning part, I don’t disagree with anything he says, all of which is worth reading. Nevertheless, I do think he’s coming it a teeny bit high! The kick I get out of seeing my name under a marquee is not to be confused—nor do I ever confuse it—with the justifiable pride a playwright or actor or director or producer takes in his work. It’s simply the forgivable (I hope) vanity of a small-town boy turned big-city critic who never imagined that such things would happen to him, and it’s a far cry from the vulturine posings of, say, Addison DeWitt. What’s more, I do take credit for having helped keep a number of worthy shows from closing, which obviously isn’t the same as having written them but is still better than nothing.
Might I suggest that my colleague’s sense of humor is in need of a slight adjustment?