Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Playbill Reverie

We recently noticed that there was to be a Premier of a play called Smokefall, which had a small ensemble cast of five including a familiar name, Orson Bean.  Mr. Bean and I have a history; although it turns out I was more aware of it than he.  As we prepared for the play we read reviews from Opening Night and retold the story of how I met Orson Bean.

Orson Bean
At the time I was a young Navy Dental Officer assigned to his first ship and living a high life in port at St. Thomas.  I had asked for the name of a nice restaurant and made my way inland to the top of a hill and a place with a fantastic view.

I was alone, being new to the ship, and was having a drink when I struck up a conversation with Orson Bean, who at the time was often  a hilarious guest on the Johnny Carson show.
Did I mention this was in 1965?

Mr. Bean had an entourage of about 10 and when their table was called he graciously invited me to join them.  I sat next to him and his second wife Carolyn who was with him, essentially on their honeymoon.  During the course of the evening he told a joke that I not only remember and tell to this day; it also made page 183 of my book “Harnessing a Heritage”.

In addition to the honeymoon thing, he was also in rehearsals for a musical based on the film “Never on Sunday”, called Illya Darling.  Mary and I were living on the East Coast at the time (when I was in port) and made our way to Broadway to see the play that opened in 1967.  We asked and received permission to go back stage where I paid my respects to Orson.

We were not so fortunate this last weekend but hope that a friend of ours who works at the Segerstrom might have delivered my book and got an autograph on the vinyl Cast recording.  My unexpected backup came when Orson, who lives now in LA, came out after the performance to find friends.  I was able to corner him for a quick autograph and a comment, “St. Thomas!  That must have been 50 years ago.”  Forty eight actually, and one wife removed.
Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy

Mary was checking her collection of about 60 Playbills from Broadway shows we have seen in our past trips to New York.  And was sharing with me her memories of some of the plays.  Of note were Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in The Bridge Game, Tommy Tune in My One and Only, Sammy Davis Junior in Stop the World, Matthew Broderick in How to Succeed, Judd Hirsh in I’m Not Rappaport, Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich in Death of a Salesman, Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, Julie Andrews in Victor, Victoria and Angela Lansbury in Sweeny Todd and Patti LuPone in Gypsy.

We have indeed been blessed and enriched by Theater, and I have also been blessed by the number of plays I’ve performed in, many of them very good.  I was fortunate to start attending plays at any early age when my mother took me to Chicago to see, among many, Damn Yankees.

Mary and I went to see Billy Elliott the day after Smokefall and were pleasantly surprised to see the number of young attendees.  The energy of Elton John’s score was infectious and the closing with everyone in tutus was perfect.  Several of the young girls in attendance were posing in their tutus in front of the Billy Elliott billboard.

I’m sure they will have their reverie moments when they reach my age.

My next post will be a little whimsical as I share how my house has made it to a Walking Tour.  Please come visit.

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