For me, it's just another Christmas, so Merry Christmas to everyone of every faith. Oh, I'm not a bah-humbug kind of guy, it's just that Christmas is not as special as it was when I was a kid, or maybe it is and I just don't know it.
I did manage to go out and get a tree and spent a good four hours trimming it. And then, of course, I got out the ol' Lionel train set and did the yard with all the lighted porcelain houses. We even had a tree lighting ceremony prior to a nice pre-Xmas dinner party with friends.
Knowing I wouldn't be working the next day, I played with the trains all night on Christmas eve, and then went out to my office to study Broadway grosses. Yes, as crazy as that sounds, I'm intrigued by numbers, and they haven't been that great in the last few weeks. However, the week between Christmas and New Years has traditionally been a great week for Broadway. In particular, I'm watching the Seussical numbers where for the last four weeks the percentage of attendance has consistantly gone down; not a good sign for a big new musical. And I thought of all the bad press and buzz the show got on its rocky road to Broadway. That rocky road. Hmmm, I thought, it's really nothing new. What was the name of that book I read many years ago about the rocky road? I went into the library and started going through the titles. Yes, there it is, "The Making of No No Nanette" by Don Dunn.
I pulled it off the shelf and thumbed through the opening. Three hours later I was half-way through it. On Christmas morning I drank my morning coffee and picked it up again and finished it. I had forgotten how very good it is. It takes place in the early 1970's when the revival was produced. There were so many sensational incidents that occurred while the show was on the road that it makes Seussical look like their Boston run was a cakewalk. 35 people, including many actors, were fired from the time of the first rehearsal to opening night on Broadway. The fact that Nanette was a huge hit was a Broadway miracle and Dunn's book is must reading for any Broadway aficionado. It's out of print, but you can find it on eBay or on one of the many book reseller Websites.
Having taken a nostalgic trip down Broadway's past, I thought of Christmas past from my youth in the coal mining city of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. We didn't have much back then but what we did have was good friends and we did celebrate Christmas every year. A friend of mine, James Mullay, and his mother, Emily, had the entire neighborhood of kids over every Christmas day for dinner and a party. I still remember Emily cooking at the stove; singing Eddie Arnold's "Make The World Go Away" while 20 or 30 kids were all over the decorated house. It stopped in our teens, around the time of Vietnam. Both Jim and I entered the service, different branches, and Christmas stopped. After the service I moved to New York and I often wondered whatever happened to Jim?
Five years ago while visiting Wilkes-Barre, I asked a friend of mine about Jim and his whereabouts. It's been 25 years sinced I last saw him, perhaps 30. "Oh, he's living in Henderson, Nevada." Well, my mouth dropped, and it was around Christmas time too. I couldn't believe I was living just a mile or so away for a few years and we hadn't run into eachother. And the thrill of it all is that since then, each year he continues the tradition of the Mullay Christmas party and Emily flies in every year to attend.
And now it's time, once again, to have that Christmas dinner. I wonder if Emily will sing "Make The World Go Away." So, I guess it hasn't been a bad Christmas at all. The grosses can wait until tomorrow.
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