Dear Friend: A Note On SHE LOVES ME

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My life is a mess. Changes are happening faster than I can keep up with them. Most of these changes have and continue to be extremely difficult for me. I’ve had to detach from the majority of social media to be with myself, to meditate and pray through every turn life seems to be taking.

For now I’m going to put aside my messy life and the added devastation over the state of the world, to talk about something that brought with it more joy than I ever imagined possible.

Last year for my birthday, my Gramma handed me a check and told me to “go have an adventure with it.” I was completely shocked. My Gramma has never done anything like that. In true “me” fashion, I got on a plane to NYC as fast as I possibly could to be with my heart family. This trip was truly the most magical I’ve ever had in that city. Maybe one day I’ll write about it in more detail here, but right now I need to discuss the power of theatre.

On May 1, I went to see SHE LOVES ME at Studio 54 with three of my sisters. Let’s be real here, I went to this show in the first place because number one, seeing Laura Benanti on my NYC trips has kind of become the thing that My Person and I do together. Number two, the accessible seats are in the front row and I desperately wanted to hear Laura Benanti sing “Vanilla Ice Cream” right in my face. This is a thing that actually DID happen, but I was not prepared for the experience I was going to have in the theatre that day. I wasn’t prepared at all.

Leading up to this day, this particular trip had been pretty hard on my body physically. The flight was harder than usual. Once I was there, I was in a constant state of adjusting to what felt like a million different kinds of pain. Never once did I complain, because I was with my family, in my city, I was taken care of and loved. Real love means someone sits with you through pain and breaks out funny Benanti videos to make you laugh through your tears and get you pumped for the next day’s joy. (Thanks Diana. Love you.)

And joy was had that day, indeed.

From the moment we got to our seats, the excitement was shooting out of my face. I was smiling all the way up to my eyeballs and I don’t think that smile left my face for at least a week afterwards. I held My Person’s hand and as soon as the show started it was like I left the theatre and was taken to another place. There are many kinds of transcendent theatre experiences and SHE LOVES ME is transcendent joy. (Well, aside from the part of the end of Act One that depresses you right before intermission. Thank goodness for a later happy ending. It is a “romantic-ish musical comedy” after all.) There was a moment in Act Two when Zachary Levi sang part of “She Loves Me” on the steps of the stage right to me and Janice and I melted into my chair. I was pretty sure I’d never come back from that. It was the most perfect moment.

That said, this cast is wonderful. Laura went above and beyond for me when she did not have to.  My heart will remember her small act of kindness, that was much bigger than she’ll ever know, forever. Then we were escorted to the stage door where Nick Barasch was adorable, Jane Krakowski and Zachary Levi were both equally kind.

There was tangible magic in the air as my sisters and me walked away from 54th Street. We were goofing off and singing our conversations to the tune of “Vanilla Ice Cream” and practically skipping in the rain. If real life were a musical, this has been my favorite scene in mine without question.

It was hardest it’s ever been to say goodbye when I left the city this go-round. I got home to LA and was doing everything I could to try to get back to my family and this show before it closed in July. At the time, I didn’t know that it was just a “see you later.”

On June 30, SHE LOVES ME was live streamed on BroadwayHD all across the world. History was made that night as it was the first show to ever do this. I am so grateful for this and I will never understand how it was THIS production that got to make this feat. All I wanted was to see it one more time. Instead for the last week and a half, I’ve gotten to watch it as much as I want to. (Don’t ask me how many times I’ve watched, the number is high, but the joy… The joy will never leave me.) On the night of the live stream, my sister Diana sent me this text:

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I am so thankful I experienced this show with human beings who understand the power of live theatre.

To the cast of SHE LOVES ME: Thank you. The time I spent in that place with you changed me. I can’t imagine another theatre experience being as special as this. The world is so dark and broken right now and you have been a light that has shone through the darkness. You all made the world better with the gift you gave to us through your hearts and passion every night.

To the Roundabout Theatre Company and everyone at Studio 54: Thank you for this show. Thank you for every single helpful, accommodating and kind human being who worked to make that one day extra special for me and my friends without being asked. I will never forget it.

And finally, to Laura Benanti: When I got back home, I wrote you a letter. I never do that, so I’m not sure if you received it, but in case you didn’t… Thank you. There’s nothing I can say to you that will ever be enough. You didn’t know me, but you gave me your time and that is precious to me. You made me feel appreciated for supporting you. I have a very sensitive heart and soul. I am big on human connection. I believe we are all here to uplift and celebrate each other in this life. What connected in my heart that day, opened the sky for me. You made me feel like I am worthy of something wonderful. You made me embrace my own humanity when I wasn’t really feeling it at the time. Thank you for being so real, so kind and so human. You’ve forever changed me. Your place in my heart has grown beyond a capacity I never saw coming. Just… Thank you. Please continue to take care of yourself and do your own thing. You make the world brighter just as you are.

She Loves Me ended its run today. My heart doesn’t even have room to break because the joy and memories are holding it strong. And yet, this isn’t goodbye. In November for my birthday, I’ll get to see the show again in a movie theater. I don’t know how things like this keep happening with this show, but I’ve learned not to question it at this point. My Person calls it a connected invisible thread. Nothing can break it. I know, I just know, it’s God telling me it will always be here and be a reason to believe in something better.

I love you, you beautiful, joyful little sweet show. Thank you for bringing out my joy face.

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City Love

There was something about looking out the window to this view for five days…

New York City and me, we were on a break for a few years.  It had been so long (nearly seven years) that I began to think we’d never kiss and make-up.  We did.  Thanks to my best friend and the best Christmas gift I’ve ever been given in my life.  My Person has always been big on giving me the people I love most for holidays and birthdays and sometimes for no reason at all.  This reunion with the City that I love was filled with so many souls I hold close – I think I am more in love with New York now than I ever was before.

Those people above are just a handful of people who came to spend some time with me. (And a couple TONY winners  who don’t suck at their jobs or as human beings.)  I didn’t get photos with everyone, but that’s the thing, being in NYC is all about time.  Time. The thing that is most important to me when I’m with ANYONE is to be present.  Nothing bothers me more than when I am with someone and they don’t look up from some technical device.  I left my computer in LA.  In five days away, I only looked at my phone when someone was supposed to meet up with me.  When I’m with you, I want to be WITH you.  I want your time and I VALUE your time.  Everyone seems to just get that there.  It fills me up beyond anything just to see the people I love smile and laugh and cry happy tears when we are together.  Shouldn’t that be most important every day?  I try to live my life that way, anyway.

We went to see some shows, because theatre is how I connect spiritually.  When I see the beauty of art coming alive before my eyes and transporting me to another place, it just instills in what I’ve always known… there is something bigger than all of us out there guiding us to make the world a better place.  This trip?  All of the shows brought a kind of joy in some form or another.  (Yes, even the lynching, in a way I wasn’t expecting.)

Honeymoon in Vegas is the first Jason Robert Brown show I’ve seen on Broadway. This show is so much fun and so funny,  Also, if you get lucky, you’ll get lei’d!  That’s right, this show comes with props.  It was a most excellent way to spend an afternoon at the theatre.  Any show with a tap dancing Tony Danza is a good time in my book.

We then saw Jessie Mueller in her TONY winning turn in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  This woman deserved that TONY.  This show was just that… beautiful.  It reminded me of every last reason why I love theatre so much.  It made me emotional.  I cried through a good portion of it. I feel so grateful that I got the opportunity to see it.  And then I met Jessie and she was just a down-to-earth, humble, spectacular human being.

Next up was the revival of On The 20th Century with my Kristin.  Where do I even begin with this show?  I am that person whose favorite shows are the old school classic shows and anything that has that sort of feel to it.  On The 20th Century was right up my alley.  I LOVED every last second of this show, and not just because my girl was fabulous in it.  When the promos and reviews are all calling it “a madcap musical comedy” that is no joke.  I snort-laughed at this show.  I laughed until I cried at this show. I laughed so hard my side hurt and had to shift in my chair. …And that was just by intermission.  That ensemble is INSANE.  Peter Gallagher can sing me all of the things all the time now.  Andy Karl and Kristin are the perfect pair.  I’m so proud of my sweet friend.  She’s working so hard and she was born to play this role.  I am so grateful I got to see her play one of her dream roles.  I am grateful that I got to shower her with the love she so deserves afterwards as well.

Ah, the final show on the itinerary… the Parade concert at Lincoln Center.  Parade was the first Jason Robert Brown show I ever saw on stage. I saw the production in Los Angeles a few years ago with T.R. Knight in the role of Leo Frank.  That production was fantastic, but this? This production of Parade was absolutely the most amazing thing I’ve seen on stage in my entire life. I am completely serious.  A full orchestra, a 200+ person choir, JRB conducting, Jeremy Jordan, Laura Benanti and the most incredible ensemble and musicians… It’s been a little over a month and I am still at a loss as to how to describe how it made me feel.  I’ve never left so inspired by a piece of art.  I do know that I walked out reaffirming that experiences like that are the reason I come to New York,  Something so stunning couldn’t have happened on that scale anywhere else.  Unbelievable.

It also has to be said that The Last Five Years movie was perfect.  Every frame.  Every moment.  Every note.  Perfect.  (Though selfishly I did miss the original “I hate these fucking shoes” line.)  Thank you to everyone involved with bringing something loved by so many to a different medium so we could keep it forever. It’s incredible.

So, that was basically my adventure.  There were people.  There was theatre.  There was food.  There was A LOT of laughter and A LOT of hugging.  All of it together revived my soul, as New York always does.  But this time it was like it took extra care, to make up for such a long absence.  That absence will never happen again.  Ever.  I need it way too much to ever stay away.

Thank you to all of you who gave me YOUR time.  I value your time and treasure you.  Every last one of you.  I love you.  And Janice, My Person, I don’t even have words for you.  Thank you for being the one who gets me.  Thank you for knowing what I need and just wanting me to feel all of the joy and love all the time.  No amount of saying “thank you” will ever express the gratitude I feel for all you do for me in life and in our friendship.  I love you.