Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The One That Got Away

In the absence of other shows opening, reviews of “A Thousand Clowns” continue to trickle in with Mr. Griset’s take on the show in this week’s Style. The opening drought ends tomorrow with “Something Intangible” raising the curtain at the Firehouse.

Speaking of openings, it is with a slight feeling of sadness that I read about the musical adaptation of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” opening on Broadway this past weekend. The sadness doesn’t come from the decidedly mixed reviews (an overview of the reviews can be found here; the NY Times calls the show “…monotonous and mechanical” in its review). It doesn’t come from the fact that “Priscilla” essentially kicked “West Side Story” off Broadway, a production I wouldn’t have minded seeing again (OK, that’s a simplification but still…). No, this particular opening causes a little pang in my heart because only once in a while do I look at the pictures of celebs like Christie Brinkley and Bette Midler attending an opening and realistically imagine that I could have been there.

The story behind it is a little long and it’s not worth going through every detail but my son was up for a role in “Priscilla.” If you remember the movie at all, the main character, Tick, has a son named Benji who is supposed to be around 10 years old. In fact, the whole trip across the desert is spurred by Benji’s mom booking Tick in her theater.

As anyone who has been through the casting process for a big production knows, it can be a little grueling and, for us, “Priscilla” may have been the hardest ever. The casting directors had seen Cooper a couple of times but had still not made a decision last fall when a “Press Event” had been planned. Basically, the producers wanted to alert the media to “Priscilla’s” eminent Broadway opening before the production had a try-out run in Toronto. But they didn’t have a Benji yet so they asked us if Cooper could be a Benji stand-in for the event. We thought this was an encouraging sign about his chances to land the role.

So, back in September, Cooper actually appeared on a Broadway stage opposite Will Swenson (still a hot name from “Hair”). He didn’t get to sing but still, he got his own dressing room, he met a lot of cool Broadway folks, and he performed in a packed New York theater. Not bad for a kid from Richmond.

Unfortunately, very soon thereafter, the casting folks said they were looking at kids in Toronto for the role. The boy they eventually cast, Luke Mannikus, seems like a cute kid. And while a role in a Broadway show could have been life-changing for all of us Tlines, there is a certain sense of weird relief in seeing that the young Master Mannikus isn’t named in the Times review and his one big scene is written off as “ludicrous.” Perhaps it’s just as well the way things worked out.

My lovely wife and I were talking about “Priscilla’s” mixed reviews over dinner last night and my never-shy son chimed in, between bites of pasta, “It would have been better with me in it.” Hmmm... Maybe. But I’m not convinced our lives would have been better…even if I had met Christie Brinkley.

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