Dec 7, 200912:00 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Errol Laborde: Getting Priorities Straight on Broadway
This happened yesterday in Manhattan –– on Broadway. It was intermission time at the Walter Kerr Theater where a revival of A Little Night Music was on the marquee. As the houselights went up, most of the people in the audience oohed about how beautiful co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones was and at how grand Angela Lansbury’s performance had been and how lush and wonderful Stephen Sondheim’s music can be.
I, on the other hand, had something else on my mind –– how were the Saints doing? Earlier that afternoon, until the show started, Todd, our company CEO, had been sending me text messages from home about the game. When the show began, the game was in the second quarter, but I had to silence my cell phone while knowing that the Saints were not doing very well.
As Broadway theaters go, the Walter Kerr is all right, except that the seats must have been designed back when the average person’s height was 5-foot-4, leaving no knee room for 6-footers. Then there were the ushers, a stern group including one whom I came to think of as “the Nazi.” During the intermission, when an audience member tried to take a picture of the ornate theater ceiling, the Nazi came down on her. The audience member explained that she was not taking a picture of the performance, just the ceiling, but the Nazi was insistent: no pictures. As I stood outside the seating area trying to retrieve follow-up text messages, I heard the Nazi admonish an elderly woman whose offense was to sit in a chair next to the restroom. “People are not allowed to sit in that chair,” the Nazi exclaimed while I wondered why there was a chair at all if people were not allowed to sit in it.
I had hoped that my texting would uncover an easy explanation of what happened in the Saints game, but from the steady string of messages, I could tell that the game had become complicated. As the house lights began to blink, indicating that the second act was starting, I decided to call Todd for a verbal account. When he answered by saying, “Can you believe what is happening?!” and told me that the game was going into overtime, I resolved that I was not going back into the theater until the contest was over. I also sensed that I was about to get into trouble with the Nazi.
I was standing outside the seating area on the other side of a door with a cell phone to my ear as Todd was giving me updates. Another usher told me that I could not be talking on a cell phone. I tried to explain that I was not talking but listening. To avoid trouble, I moved partially up a stairway, but it was too late: The Nazi had already spotted me. She told me that I would either have to get off the cell phone or go outside.
I had hoped the game would end, but there were timeouts, coaches, challenges, the Saints lining up for a field goal, a Washington timeout. By this time, the Nazi had escorted me out the door, onto the street where the temperature hovered near freezing. Finally, however, I got the word. Field goal! Saints win!
I still had the matter of getting back into the theater. Because I had not planned on being evicted, I had not brought my ticket with me. I feared the Nazi was already calling Homeland Security.
Fortunately a levelheaded staff member decided to take a chance on me and allowed me inside after I told him what my seat number was. I sensed the eyes of the entire ushering staff as I worked my way back to my seat, climbing over a British couple to squeeze back into my space.
During the remainder of the second act, I discovered something about Stephen Sondheim’s music that probably few people on Broadway know: It sounds even better after a Saints win.
When the performance was over, I passed by the Nazi who was standing at the door. I thought about suggesting to her that maybe she should loosen up, but then I decided to say nothing. After all, I reasoned, she might have other problems, including being a Jets fan.