I am not the best judge of how the performance went—it certainly seemed very good. One good sign: at the end of every song I thought to myself, wow, that is a terrific number. And I knew that the program, which had bedeviled me in the planning stages, turned out right: a good length and filled with stunning music. A parade of genius songwriting—like “Wait Till You See Her,” by Rodgers and Hart, a delicate love song with surprising turns of harmony. Or—my favorite—the witty, opulent “Lost and Found” from City of Angels, music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by David Zippel. It sends me every time—check it out on YouTube if you want a treat. Tell ‘em Steve sent you.
We had a couple of listeners today besides Jim—Dinah Seiver, our producer who has responded to every request with amazing speed and generosity, and her 11-year old granddaughter Lily, for whom even the most standard pieces were brand-new. I worried that some of the more sophisticated material, not to mention some of the more R-rated material, might baffle her or make her uncomfortable. Far from it. She was patient with the love songs, but she was riveted by “You Must Meet My Wife,” from A Little Night Music by Sondheim. She laughed at the jokes and applauded at the end. Dinah told me afterwards, “Yes, but I’m worried that she’s going to ask me at dinner, ‘What’s a virgin?’” Shavon stepped in. “She’s eleven? She’s been living in Paris? She knows what a virgin is. Don’t worry.”
The cast was in great form. And me? Well, I started out pretty well. I was fighting to stay on-task and mostly succeeding. At dress rehearsal, it’s always the phrases that were never a problem (like a chord progression in a transposition that had been coming out perfectly) that all of a sudden go awry. After a half-century of trying to make the piano keyboard cough up the sounds I have in my imagination, I really think the instrument owes me something better than that.
And then I had a lapse of judgment. We got to the end of Act I and I said, “Should we take a break? Or do you guys want to just motor on?” The cast was in the mood to forge ahead and get done sooner. Sophia offered, “But we can take a pause if you want.” Quiet nods all around. Still, I sensed they didn’t want to hang around any longer than necessary. Against my better judgment, I said, “Hey, I’m OK—at the moment, anyway—so I guess we can keep going…”
A mistake. Too late, I realized I desperately needed some time for a cup of tea, a moment to recharge my batteries. As a result, the second half went great for them, less well for me—or anyway, it felt rough. More precisely, I felt rough, operating in “Get Me to the Double Bar” mode. I had fallen into classic People-Pleaser behavior, something I have largely expunged from my repertoire. And I paid the price for it.
Lesson learned. “You’re gonna love tomorrow, you stick around, you’ll see,” wrote Stephen Sondheim. I’m going with that.