We are a musical theater family.
With the show biz history filling our Victorian, you’d think that it would be doing the time step on its foundation. I’ve performed in my share of Broadway musicals and directed a slew of others all over the place; my husband, Peter, despite that he’s now managing a theater that produces wonderful new plays, has one of the finest theatrical singing voices around; and ex-hubby Phillip once produced off-Broadway musicals, many of which moved to Broadway. Even retired New York City veterinarian Dr. Sheldon Cale (Phillip’s partner) shares the history: He’s cared for so many pets belonging to show business luminaries, he’s been dubbed the Broadway Doggie Doctor.
We play and sing around that baby grand in our living room (see “My deal with Buddha: Getting the piano up the stairs,” April 2011, at www.marinatimes.com). But for two years since moving here, that’s as close as we’ve gotten to any Broadway-style show tunefulness.
So why did we move away from the mecca of the American musical, New York City, to live in this relatively musical theater-deprived San Francisco? San Francisco’s natural beauty, its literate and good-natured people, kind atmosphere, and deep spirit, of course. Also, the move here supported my choice to stop rehearsing for a while and to start writing, and I’ve loved it.
But one evening after hearing some new theatrical music at the Alcove Theatre near Union Square, I began to miss the musical theater I was immersed in for so long. I realized that for all the wonderful plays we’ve seen in this town, we’ve seen practically no musical theater, except for a few SHN tours and a revival or two at ACT.
We did discover the energetic and passionate work of Greg MacKellan’s 42nd Street Moon Theatre, where the love of old musicals is evident. And in early July, my friend Richard Isen is opening his new musical, Chance, at the Alcove Theatre. But what am I going to do with all this leftover Broadway-gypsy-music-in-my-soul energy that’s overwhelming me more and more? Am I ready to go back into a rehearsal room? Not quite yet.
But, there’s a place for me, somewhere a place for me, and it may be at North Point 24 Hour Fitness where I work out regularly.
Weeks ago, there was this old guy (who am I kidding, he was my age), earphones plugged in, on the treadmill next to mine. Not caring who heard him, he was walking briskly and singing at the top of his lungs songs from South Pacific. CNN was blasting right in front of him, but he was too busy enjoying the fact that There is Nothing Like a Dame. It was some of the most entertaining musical theater I’ve seen in a while, and it gave me an idea: “The Broadway Beat Down,” an exercise class for the silver-sneaker set, who have Broadway in their souls, and who can be motivated to move, cajoled to choreography, and driven to dance by the music they love best, from shows they know so well, shows of a generation — Rodgers and Hammerstein instead of Pink, A Chorus Line instead of Kesha. Elevate your heart rate with eleven o’clock numbers!
Let me teach it. I’ll fill the equipment boxes with straw hats and bamboo canes, hand out lyric sheets, then get those Broadway bunnies on their feet to do the simple yet oddly rigorous dances I can teach them. I know enough old steps and routines to make them all feel like singular sensations, center stage, in a spotlight, belting their hearts out while a 35-piece Broadway orchestra accompanies their every stylish move. What we lack in technique, we will certainly make up for with that old razzmatazz. We can even give away small fake Tony Awards at the end of each month, and let each class member give a heartfelt acceptance speech.
It’ll be fun. With lots of smiling to keep those facial muscles toned.
So, if I can convince my gym manager to give this a try, come join us and unleash your inner Pattie Lupone!