box. Yes, a box...theatre box that is. One of the most unbelievable close-encounter theatre experiences I've ever had did not take place at the stage door, but it made going to the stage door afterwards a moot point.
I was going to NYC to see some shows that were high priority for me and found I had a slot open for an extra show: enter "Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway." I assumed that it would be too late to get a ticket, but there was one available in a right side box, first row. I'd always wanted to sit in a box and figured it wouldn't be a problem for this cabaret-style show to be so far over to the side, where part of the stage would be cut off from my sight line. So I bought it, just happy to be seeing Hugh Jackman in person.
I will say that it's quite atmospheric to enter your seat by stepping through a heavy velvet curtain...I felt a bit special. And I was thrilled that my chair was the one closest to the stage-side of the box with a great bird's eye view over the audience. And the first act was great; Hugh Jackman has a seemingly endless supply of charisma and interacted quite a bit with audience members in the orchestra. While I had a great view, I was a tad disappointed to be up above the action and not down in the thick of it. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Cue intermission and cue my usual 15 minutes of people-watching and daydreaming.
As I peered over the audience, I noticed a family directly below me with fairly young children. It crossed my mind that they seemed the wrong age for the show; not that there was anything inappropriate in the material, just not of great interest to pre-schoolers. The other thing that crossed my mind was that in my fantasy, Hugh Jackman would open the second act by bursting into the box in which I was sitting and serenading the audience from up high...you know, an unexpected, flashy entrance in which I would have an unmatched view :). That's what fantasies are for, right????
Intermission ticked on and I caught sight of official looking theatre personnel with earphones clearing the aisle below me, and realized that Hugh must be entering for Act II down that aisle. Not bad, I thought, I'd have an unobstructed view! And just as I was watching that aisle intently~in an instant~the house lights went down, a spotlight hit me and I heard that big, heavy velvet curtain being swept aside. As my mind tried to process all of this I looked to my left to see Hugh Jackman in head-to-toe gold lamé gesturing to me in a come-hither manner from about 2 feet away and singing some song that I will never ever remember as long as I live. If there was ever a time I could have honestly said "I must be dreaming," and meant it, this was it. Meanwhile, he's singing, coming closer, winking and I'm sinking into my chair as the audience roared. And sure enough, he was serenading the audience from just where I'd dreamt he would...clearly, I should have bought a lottery ticket that day as well...
But it gets better. As he sang and moved around the tiny space that was the box seating, he suddenly sat himself down...in my lap. In.My.Lap. And periodically turning around, directing some patter to me and sticking the microphone in my gobsmacked face...while I sputtered, turned every shade of embarrassment in the spectrum and just gaped. He stood up to sing some more...and then...sat back down in my lap. This time, he shifted around to get comfortable and asked (into the microphone) if he was "too heavy" for me....and stuck the microphone back in my face...at that moment I was just trying to figure out where to put my hands...I mean, seriously, where DO you put your hands when Hugh Jackman is sitting in your lap and 800 people are watching??? On his shoulders? On his waist? I settled for the shoulders. Anyway, the only thing that came out of my mouth in answer to his question was "um, no, you're good!" Audience got a kick out of that; I suspect because I sounded completely shell-shocked by the whole thing....because I was indeed shell-shocked , or Hugh-shocked I should say.
Eventually, after what seemed like hours (but was, in reality, probably about 10 minutes), he disappeared from the box as quickly as he'd arrived, leaving me completely unable to concentrate on anything else that happened in the show. Oh, except this: remember the family with the young children that I'd noticed during intermission? Yeah, it was Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain and his group.
As I've always said (ok, not "always," just now), if you're going to have the experience of a lifetime, and publicly embarrass yourself at the same time...definitely do it while a world leader is watching. It just adds to the fun!
Stage Door Tales
Every stage door has a story.