I enjoy live theater. With the energy from the stage and the shared experience of being part of an audience, I think almost any live theater is worth seeing. Jukebox musicals and Neil Simon comedies test that theory, but I can usually find something interesting in whatever I see. The exceptionally good and the exceptionally bad stay with me. The rest fade from memory as pleasant evenings. Sometimes, for reasons unrelated to the production, events conspire to make a theater outing a night to remember, but not in a good way. Such was the case this weekend.
A few months ago a friend asked if Harper’s Other Dad and I would be interested in seeing Wicked. I’d seen the show before and enjoyed it but I’d not considered seeing it again on this tour. Still, it’s a good show and I have committed the Original Cast Recoding to memory so, why not. It sounded like a nice way to spend a social evening with a friend. Thanks to a virtual cosmic convergence of unrelated events, however, it did not turn out that way.
I’d unwittingly gotten us off to a bad start by being cheap and buying seats in the upper balcony. Having seen the show before, I didn’t mind not having great seats. Being familiar with the venue, I knew it was better to stay toward the center and move higher rather than moving to the sides in the orchestra. I had never experienced the upper balcony however. The same design features that make it better to avoid the sides, also mean the balcony is very steep. Walking to our seats in the third row, when I diverted my gaze even slightly to the right, I was looking over the edge, past the lower balcony, and to the orchestra seats below. As someone with a touch of vertigo this was unsettling.
Our friend ended up with a family commitment in the afternoon so we were not able to meet him for dinner or drinks before the show. As it turned out, we never saw him.
Harper’s Other Day was beginning to feel the effects of food poisoning, he thinks from a bad avocado at lunch. We got to our seats but he fled to the men’s room before the lights went down. I was able to watch Act I from our seats. Poor guy, he was able to see some of it on the lobby monitor when not skipping to the loo. At intermission, I cautiously crept my way down the row to the lobby to check on him. He was feeling worse. I was not thrilled about making the pilgrimage back to the seats in the center of vertigo row so we left before Act II. There was more fun yet to come.
Because the show was sold-out, parking would have been challenging. This, plus my dislike for driving in the city of Tempe, even in good conditions, gave me the idea it would be better to park remotely and take the light rail. The train stop is only about seven blocks from the theater. It worked out fine on the way to the theater. Decorum mandates I withhold details but, owing to the food poisoning, the seven-block walk back to the train featured several impromptu stops. Happily, the wait on the platform was not long. I cannot say the same for the train ride back to the car.
Sitting beside someone trying mightily, and with only limited success, to retch quietly into a plastic cup is not a pleasant, even less so for him. Neither is the experience enhanced by the presence of a group of malodorous folks who were using the air-conditioned train as a much-needed respite from the triple-digit heat. None of my five senses was spared assault. Eventually, we reached our car. I drove home in silence while H.O.D. dozed uncomfortably in the back seat.
But the sun also rises. The next morning Harper’s Other Dad was weak but recovering after a long night spent up-close & personal with porcelain. We’d purchased season tickets with our missed friend so, if we don’t connect with him before. we will see him in a few weeks at The Book of Mormon. The only lingering effect of the evening is there is now a vague association in my mind between “Defying Gravity” and projectile vomiting. I wonder how long that will last.