Spotted yesterday in my neighborhood: Brian Stokes Mitchell! I met the man once, years ago, when I happened to be passing the Ford Center (during the run of Ragtime) at just the moment he was stepping out of his car, and he was kind enough to pose for a photo with a young and starstruck me. (I made lots of copies of that photo, and in fact it's still hanging on my bedroom wall... but until Restricted View has access to a scanner, you'll just have to take my word for it.) More recently, I saw him on the street, dashing to his town car while I sat inside a nearby Starbucks. Of course, these sightings don't approach the excitement of seeing him onstage, which I do as often as possible. But passing him on the street, especially in my residential neighborhood, far from the theatre district, seems worth noting here, because the man is so prodigiously talented as a performer that it's a bit of a surprise to see him walking the earth like a mortal, with his disarmingly gentle manner and light speaking voice (and cute little kid!). I guess I assume that when he's not onstage he's in a closet somewhere, plugged in and recharging for his next performance. But there he was, walking around like any old boring, untalented dad. And there I was, casually walking past him like it wasn't totally the high point of my day.
Fun fact: The very first Broadway show I ever saw was Jelly's Last Jam, and by the time I saw it, original stars Gregory Hines, Tonya Pinkins and Keith David had been replaced by Stokes (then credited as "Brian Mitchell"), Phylicia Rashad and Ben Vereen. At the time I remember being excited about seeing Rashad, whom I knew from The Cosby Show; Ben Vereen, whom I knew from Zoobilee Zoo; and Savion Glover, whom I knew from Sesame Street -- in short, everyone but Stokes. But the seed was planted! (Incidentally, I highly, highly recommend the Jelly's OCR. What it lacks in Stokes it makes up for with plenty of Gregory Hines. I like it better every time I listen to it, and that's often.)