This past week I had the good fortune to see a matinee of Once on Broadway. I was back and forth about going. When you tell people you live in New York City many of them automatically assume that you go to Broadway shows all of the time. Unfortunately, most of us don’t go often enough. They’re, well, expensive, so we wait for people to visit us to justify the expense and call it a “special occasion.” Not to mention that as glamorous as Broadway and the Theatre District may seem from afar, it’s an area that most of us who live here avoid like the plague.
Life in NYC ain’t all that glamorous, folks, but it has its magical moments. If we allow them to happen. And look for them.
The tickets were surprisingly affordable, and since I had seen the film, I already knew that I would enjoy it. How could I say no? I’m really glad I didn’t. I’ll spare you the review since I’m no theatre critic. Once has won numerous Tony Awards and accolades. It’s a lovely story, and the music is goosebump-inducing. Boom! There you go. Go see it. The last performance is January 2015. What I’m talking about here is magical moments.
I had to work in the morning. The train was crowded, as usual. I walked from Grand Central to my freelance gig at a hurried pace while scarfing down my breakfast, like I do every morning. After a few hours I had to leave to go across town. For the readers who don’t live here, this is a short, but dreaded journey. If you look at a map of Manhattan, you will note that it is quite small (only 2.3 miles wide at its widest point). However, navigating from one side of it to the other is a bit problematic and time-consuming. And there’s never enough time.
Unhealthy lunch in hand, I scarfed it down as I walked to the train station on the other side of town. (Lots of scarfing going on early that day.) I encountered numerous tourists, their eyes wide at seeing the wonders of the city–my city–for the first time. I encountered still more after I got off the train in Times Square, another place we residents avoid like the plague. A few blocks uptown and I was on 48th Street standing in front of the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.
Finally, I was able to take a breath and have a look at my surroundings while I awaited my friends. Surprise, surprise—a New Yorker with a little time to spare.
“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” —Oscar Wilde
I took it all in… as a spectator in the theatre that is my city.
- The theatres: they look so tiny from the outside, but they hold within them giants of tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral,… (etc.).
- The people: Wednesday is matinee day for many Broadway theatres, so the street was crowded with tourists and NYC residents alike, all of them wearing that same expression of excitement and anticipation.
- The celebrities (also people): stand around long enough and you’re bound to see a player on his or her way to a performance. On this day, it was Once cast member Scott Stangland. I also saw Wallace Shawn, and Matthew Broderick. No, I did not yell “Bueller! Bueller!” but was, of course, tempted. In NYC we see lots of celebrities, and we treat them like everyone else—we ignore them. And that’s just the way they like it.
- The hustle and the bustle: from my vantage point on the sidewalk and as someone with time to spare, I was able to observe the chaotic motion from without. A swirling mass of movement is much more fascinating when you’re not caught up in it, and I was miles away, or a few feet, at least.
A Pause for Magic and Gratitude
I was soon joined by one of my companions, my friend’s sister, whom I had never before met. She greeted me with a bright smile, and I was immediately comfortable. My friend and I had been trying to get together for about a month, but our plans were repeatedly thwarted by conflicts, one of which was nearly tragic. He would be joining us later, meaning he was fashionably late. As always. The doors to the theatre now closed, we left the other two tickets at the box office and went inside. It was pitch black, and I was certain that I would make a show-stopping fall, but after some fumbling, we found our seats. Just as the first number ended, our two friends made it, a little out of breath, and after a few quick waves, we settled in to enjoy the show.
It snapped me out of my reverie, but it stuck there in the back of my mind as I watched. How lucky I am to live in this great city that gives me the opportunity to not only observe but to be a part of its chaos (glamorous and otherwise), to have a spare moment, to be able to experience theatre, and to be with friends.
Once was lovely, as previously mentioned. But it was the experience as a whole that made for a magical day: the getting there, the anticipation, everything I observed, the meeting of friends, and our excitement about the show. When the show ended, we talked about it briefly. It was time to go back to hurrying and playing the role of a New Yorker. Two had to be at work, and the other two of us were on our way downtown (and once again across town) for something to eat. On our way back through Times Square, we rushed through the human obstacle course (aka the sidewalk), and then we shoved ourselves into a crowded train.
We were now in the Flatiron district, one of my favorite areas of the city, with its Beaux-Arts style of architecture, green spaces, and assortment of restaurants. The food and drink were delicious and the atmosphere dynamic (CraftBar). We ate and drank and talked and laughed. And there it was again—the magic of the human experience.
Admittedly, we New Yorkers are a bit jaded. We’ve seen it all, or at least act like it most of the time. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. As a resident of any city or town, in fact, we are likely unimpressed by our surroundings. We go about our routines and ignore what is right in front of us. But there is always something to see. Sometimes it’s a big event, but more often than not, it’s the quotidian, the tiniest thing, that’s magical. We need only look for it, to allow ourselves to enjoy it, and to share it with the other players in the theatre of life. Every once in a while.