Thursday, July 8, 2010

Clothed Woman Singing

Here I am hanging around in Provincetown with Sirius Broadway channel diva Christine Pedi

Every year Corb and I plan a day trip to Provincetown. In the past, that's meant a lunch at one of the restaurants there, dinner at The Patio, a show or two, and of course, walking up and down the main street for about six hours, watching the people who pass by.

This year, in Credit Crunch times, we decided to scale things back a little bit. No dinner at The Patio, this time around. That gave us more time to walk up and down the main street.

Our conversations down that street are a bit...well, singular. Corb: "Where are we going?" Me: "Down the street." "We've already been down this street." "I know that." "So why are we going down it again?" "Because we can." Rinse, lather, repeat.

I find it to be quite entertaining, because you just never know what--or who--you're going to see. It varies, depending upon the hour and the people the town has attracted on that particular day.

And while I did my best to be frugal, let's face it, it's hard to do that in Provincetown. We did end up eating at a very nice restaurant for lunch, although we did go low class and chose Burger Queen for supper (the fried clams haunted me for days.) And I really did want to see one show.

Choosing a show this year was pretty easy, though. As we were walking down the street for the hundredth time around six, this anxious looking boy came up to us. "We've got a great show at 7:30. Christine Pedi, a wonderful singer who was just on the front page of the Provincetown Entertainment Gazette as Entertainer of the Decade!"

"Oh yes, I know her," I said. "She's on Sirius."

He appeared shocked. "You do? She does great impressions, of people like Liza Minelli..."

"Yeah, I agree, that's right. She sings Liza One Note."

His eyes widened. "Wow, you really DO know about her!"

On our next turn down the street, the anxious looking boy grabbed me. "Christine, this guy knows you from Sirius! He knew Liza One Note!"

And bam! He pushed me toward Christine Pedi, who really was a very nice person. That is, when I could speak with her. My conversation went like this:

Christine: So, where are you from?
Me: Massachusetts.
Her: Oh, so you're not far away at all!
Me: Well, about three hours, but--
Her: Will you be seeing my show tonight?
Me: (Looking at Corb) I think so, yes...
Her: Good! Come see it two or three other times, too! It changes every night, and--

Suddenly, an older man with a bushy grey beard walks up, barges in. "Christine Pedi! Did you know that I've seen 22 shows in Provincetown in the past two days?"
Her: No, really?
Him: Can you believe it? 22 shows!
Her: Have you seen me yet?
Him: Seeing you tonight. That will make it 23 shows! 23 shows in Provincetown in the past two nights!

Then we proceeded to hear him talk about all the shows he's seen, both in Provincetown and on Broadway. I tell you, it was fascinating stuff. That is, if your idea of fascinating is watch shellac dry.

So, after a nice walk on the beach, around 7:15, we purchased our tickets and waited outside the Post Office Cafe for the show to begin. And there, at the top of the stairs, was the Broadway man, still talking about the 22 shows he had seen in Provincetown in the past two days. Corb and I looked at each and smiled.

“Do you think after this show he’ll talk about the 23 shows he’s seen?” I asked. Corb nodded. "Well, at least he's helping out the local economy…”

Finally, 7:25 rolls around and the doors open up. We march up the stairs and into the cramped little theater, which basically consisted of pew-like benches with a small stage in the front. I looked around at the audience, which is what I always do. It was a small group, consisting of only about 30-40 people.

Something became immediately obvious.

"Psst! Psst, psst!” I whispered to Corb.

“Ted, I’m sitting right next to you, I can hear every word you say,” replied Corb.

Oh. “Corb, I just noticed something. This audience consists entirely of middle-aged gay men!"

And yes, before anyone says anything nasty, I am including myself in that mix.

I guess that made sense. Christine Pedi's act consists of spot-on parodies of Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Carol Channing, Elaine Stritch, Cher. And she's not a drag queen, she an actual LADY. She's really very, very funny, but you can see that such an act would attract...well, let's just say that Ernie from Sesame Street and the narrator from Drowsy Chaperone would have felt right at home.

There was one token young, cute guy, strategically positioned in the second or third row, who I later figured out was an employee of the Cafe. But other than that, the audience consisted of well-dressed, coupled, older gay men, knocking down Sea Breezes and nervously clutching their purses. Corb was in absolute heaven.

On the way out, I looked at the line waiting for the next show at the Post Office Cafe, which was Naked Boys Singing. That line stretched down and around the building. "Infidels!" I whispered to Corb, and we went back to walking up and down the street.

I think Christine Pedi took it in stride, frankly. She clearly had a good time performing for us. Besides, I can think of worse fates than spending two months at the Cape during the summer, singing for a gaggle of gay men, each and every night.

Just wish there had been more variety in the audience. So if you're in town, check it out, won't ya? Tell 'em that Teddy sent you.

Here's a video that they just posted that we saw as a sneak preview at the's hysterical! Thanks to for sending it my way...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Whispers from Stages Past

“...they would rather be outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest than President of the United States forever.” Tom Sawyer , Mark Twain

Last Saturday night, we had a few special guests in the theater. Whispers from stages past.

Ty, who plays Avrahm the Innkeeper, received the first whisper, as he was getting ready for the show that night. "I was in my study, and all of a sudden, on the other side of the room, I heard a crash, and something fell to the ground. It was a book that Bob Larotta had given me as a gift during the last time we did Fiddler. I honestly hadn't looked at it in a few years." He paused. "I took it to be a sign."

Like any long-lasting theater group, Fiddler on the Roof is a show that the Eldredge Players have done before. Three times before, as a matter of fact. That's what happens when you've been around for 65 years. And, performing on the exact same stage as the previous productions.

It creates opportunities for a lot of whispers to show up. Previous jokes, fond memories. Cast members who were cast as Tzeitel, years ago, now appearing as Golde. Daughters become Mamas, Sons become Papas.

As a result, I guess it was inevitable that Bob Larotta, who was the last actor to play Tevye and was beloved by the group, would make an appearance.

I didn't personally know him, but from all the stories that I've heard, I feel, as if I do. He was a big man, larger than life, full of good humor. A man that had a love of practical jokes and loved nothing more than to crack his fellow actors up onstage.

He passed away about a year after he appeared in Fiddler. Suffered a heart attack while on vacation. I know his widow of my favorite people, as a matter of fact. Every time she speaks his name I can feel the love that she has for him. To this day.

Actors are filled with strange superstitions. Wearing certain clothing a particular way, keeping good luck charms in their pockets during a performance. Not saying certain words, like "Good luck" or Macbeth."

We felt his presence that Saturday night. A shiver across the shoulder blades. A sense of being watched. But instead of scaring the long-timers, it had a different effect. My friend Bobby, who had played a Russian in that production (same as he did in this production), put it best. "I was standing off in the wings, watching everyone sing Anatevka onstage, and all of a sudden, I realized that there were two other people on that stage, too. Bob Larotta and Larry Mish, the other Tevyes that I worked with. And suddenly, I couldn't help it, there were tears in my eyes and I was crying like a baby."

After the show was over, I learned exactly why Bob Larotta had chosen to pay us a visit that night. As I was stood in the lobby, trading small talk and exchanging congratulations on another great performance, I felt a presence by my side.

Turned around. There was my friend Judi Larotta, Bob's wife. Unannounced, she had chosen to come to this performance. She hadn't said anything to anyone, she sat in the back of the theater, unnoticed.

She gave me a quick hug. "Can't talk long," she said, "I didn't realize how much this show was going to affect me. It was wonderful. Thank you."

And with that, she was gone. A brief, five second exchange. Just a shadow in the crowd.

She wasn't alone that night, though.

This will be the last theater story I'll tell, I think, before I close that particular book for a while. Other stories to tell, not enough time to tell them...but this play's only a pleasant memory now, anyway.

Just like the ghosts of our past.