Some weeks ago I was on my way to a Sunday matinee, slightly dreading the trip to Shubert Alley because I had heard about a hooray-for-Broadway concert happening in Times Square that afternoon. But I was very pleasantly surprised to discover, when I turned from Eighth Avenue onto 44th Street, that the block was closed to traffic and the crowds were behind a barrier at the other end. That meant the street itself was virtually empty, and I could walk right down the middle of it if I pleased. All around me delighted tourists were posing for pictures in the middle of the street. (Of course, tourists do that anyway, even when there's traffic headed straight for them. But these people were not risking their necks to get the shot.) I stopped to admire the facades of the theatres along that block, which I never get to do when I'm hurrying to make a show. It was marvelous. If only the pedestrian-mall revolution could be extended to the side streets, theatregoing would be a lot more fun.
At the end of the block were more police barricades, and the stage for this concert was set up just beyond them. The route I had taken, in an effort to avoid Times Square, had brought me very close to the stage -- but behind the seats, so I couldn't see it. I could certainly hear it, however, and when I got close enough I could watch the performers on huge screens. Before I was halfway down the block I recognized the voice blaring through the sound system as Marin Mazzie's -- I'd know her anywhere -- singing that "I Miss the Mountains" song from Next to Normal (which must be a hundred times better with her in it). I got near the end of the block just as she arrived at the chorus, and when she belted "IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII miss the MOUN-TAINS!" the sound of it startled a whole flock of pigeons into taking to the skies right in front of me. It was a perfect kickoff to the Broadway season.
A couple of other sightings for you: sometime after that, I saw Victoria Clark crossing the street toward me, toting groceries. Doesn't that seem like something she should no longer have to do for herself, now that she is a bona fide theatre goddess? Surely she could get an adoring intern to go to the supermarket for her. I won't tell you the neighborhood, since presumably she lives nearby and that would be creepy. But I will say that, not far from there and not very long thereafter, I saw Rebecca Luker, also carring groceries. One more "diva" and we could arrange one of those awful Andrew Lloyd Webber medleys: "Love Changes Everything," anyone?