Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Best Worst Thing That Could Have Happened

Yesterday, another of those days when I'm so happy to live in this crazy city overflowing with things to see and do. Lani and I went to see The Best Worst Thing That Could Have Happened, a documentary at the Bloor about a musical called Merrily We Roll Along, written in 1980 by Stephen Sondheim and directed by Hal Prince, an unbeatable combination with a string of huge successes behind them, until this musical came along. The film shows us the very young cast - all between 16 and 25 - auditioning for their idols, the thrill of getting their first Broadway job, rehearsals, and then the shock and sadness of bad reviews and the end - the show ran only 16 nights.

What's so moving is seeing them now. The only one who made it big in show biz is Jason Alexander, George on Seinfeld, and even he spent nine years playing a character that made him virtually unemployable in anything else. They all indicate that the failure of something that meant so much to them marked their lives in one way or another. But there's a reunion concert at the end, deeply joyful and redemptive.

It was especially meaningful to see this doc with Lani by my side. We were 24-year old actresses when we met, as idealistic and open as the faces on the screen as we made our own kind of theatre and found our own way to survive life's disappointments. We both loved the film. I will try to see it again.

Lani took the train back to Ingersoll; we had a great visit, though she came partly to see Anna and her sons - she was Anna's first babysitter in 1981 - and could not because both boys are sick. But otherwise - there we still are, forty years later, cackling with laughter.

And then, another supreme pleasure - friends Gretchen and Jack had tickets to the symphony but were double booked so gave those tickets to me; I invited Ron, whose friendship goes back to our Halifax days. The seats were fantastic - centre orchestra, all the better to watch the musicians closely, and, the greatest thrill of all, focus on the hands of Stewart Goodyear, a diminutive Toronto-born pianist with some Trinidadian blood, as he played Tchaikovsky's romantic, sweeping Piano Concerto #1 with such speed and power, he literally several times took my breath away. Ron has recently moved to Cabbagetown, bought himself a second-hand Steinway, and also has started piano lessons with my teacher Peter, just up the street; he told me he'd loved the Tchaikovsky as a boy and hadn't heard it for 50 years. We were also treated to a Dvorak symphony and two modern pieces with both young composers in the audience. I must go to the TSO more often, and I will go to hear Stewart Goodyear when and wherever I can.

Out into the traffic chaos of Toronto's downtown at 11 on a Saturday night - a million people spilling out from theatres and other venues. Living in the beeg ceety has its problems, but most of the time, there's nowhere I'd rather be.

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