Sunday, January 22, 2012

How To Succeed ...

I'm going to start working on my acceptance speech. "Mother of the Year."

It has a certain ring to it, don't you think?

This all started several months ago when I read that Darren Criss, the adorable Blaine from Glee, one of our favorite TV shows, would be hitting the boards on Broadway for a limited three-week run. Criss, who had an enthusiastic and international YouTube fan base even before he became a "Warbler" on Fox's megawatt megahit, was scheduled to replace Harry Potter himself (Daniel Radcliffe) as J. Pierpont Finch in the classic show, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Never my favorite — oh, it's just a wee bit dated; with numbers like "A Secretary is Not a Toy," it makes Mad Men look downright feminist — I nevertheless did what I could to secure two orchestra seats. Unbeknownst to me, we would soon turn those two tickets into four.

"Mom, remember how you said I could bring two friends to see Darren Criss in New York?"

"Uh ... I did?"

Apparently ... I did. So, our mother-daughter excursion morphed into a tweenage pilgrimage. My role as friend, confidante, mother-who-looks-so-good-at-her-age-she-could-practically-be-your-sister, quickly devolved into adult-with-credit-card.

However, my daughter was happy and what else could I desire? Soon, she and her friends would be in the presence of Glee-ful greatness. All was right with the world.

Plans had to be made. Typically, my daughter and I stay at my mother's apartment on the upper westside. However, when our party doubled in size (and octupled in noise level), I realized a hotel would be a better option. A suite hotel, if possible. All I asked was a door between myself and bedlam. (Thank goodness for discount websites and off-the-beaten path accommodations!)

I also had the brilliant brainstorm that a bus from Boston to New York would be much smarter. Five hours behind the wheel of an adolescent-packed sedan gave me pause. And, with the price of mid-grade gas and mid-town parking (especially the parking), we would save tons of money. And, to top it all off, the girls could sit across the backseat of the bus while I settled into a single up front with some work and some magazines. They could pretend they didn't even know me! (And, vice versa.)

While I was making arrangements, the girls were making their own plans. A pre-excursion sleepover would facilitate our very early-morning departure (and, in hindsight, prepare them for the sleep deprivation ahead). Visits to the Converse superstore and Urban Outfitter's would be mandatory. They decided that they would not only meet Mr. Criss at the stage door after the show, get autographs and cell phone photos, but they would slip him their names and numbers.

Say what?

(For the record, if I had the slightest worry that Darren Criss would actually call one of "my girls," I would have nipped this particular plan in the bud. I was, however, less than concerned.)

And the trip went off without a hitch! Well, without a hitch unless you include a blinding snowstorm, a bus without heat, a three hour delay, changing in the basement ladies room of some random hotel (not ours), frantically hailing a cab, swinging by my brother's "Hell's Kitchen" high rise so we could fling our luggage at him, scarfing a piece of pizza on the sidewalk, racing up 45th street, foregoing a stop in the theatre restroom (despite anticipating an incredibly long first act), and settling into our seats just as the lights went down.

Did ya see any hitches here? Nah, me neither.

The show was fantastic and Darren Criss proved himself to be more than another Hollywood celebrity set-up to sell tickets. The genuine article: singing, dancing, acting — and that cute cute cute smile. If it weren't for the fact that I could easily (easily!) be his mother, I would have been swooning alongside my more youthful companions.

Post-show, the girls sat at the edge of their seats through the curtain call, politely and perfunctorily applauding until I gave them the "All right, go ahead ..." nod. They raced from the theatre to wedge their way into the throng of girls standing at the stage door.

After several minutes of breathless anticipation, the backstage doorman kindly informed the crowd "Ya know, Darren doesn't come out after the matinee. If you come back tonight, you can see him." My life, or at least the next several hours, passed before my eyes. En masse, the girls turned their pleading, pathetic, practically Dickensian little faces toward me. 'Oh no,' I thought, 'There goes my relaxing evening at the hotel.'

As a native New Yorker, it always kills me when tourists visit Times Square and only Times Square. When they forego the more than 23,000 Big Apple restaurants in favor of "Olive Garden." So, guess where I spent my evening? In Times Square at "Olive Garden." Audible sigh.

We were planning to kill some time at "Forever 21" and "American Eagle Outfitters" (yes, really), when we received an urgent call from my brother. He had walked into Times Square and passed by the Hirschfeld Theatre where, more than an hour before the evening performance would end, there was already a huge crowd. We dropped everything and raced to meet him. The girls, posters and playbills in hand, joined the freezing throng. (Did I mention it was freezing? It was. It was freezing.)

Not wanting to take a place away from some other lovesick tweenager, my bro and I waited behind a police line across the street. He has worked backstage on Broadway for the past twenty years, so he knew the drill. With his advice, the girls were able to acquire and — more importantly — retain prime meet-and-greet real estate. It was actually fascinating to hear him narrate the crowd control choreography. It took my mind off of my toes, which I could no longer feel. (Did I mention that it was FREEZING?)

Finally, a mere two-and-a-half hours after we got there, Darren Criss came out. The crowd roared! Our girls caught a glimpse, a photo, and captured his John Hancock on their posters. They also emerged from the riot relatively unscathed, with all of their appendages intact. Broad smiles, bright eyes.


We returned to the hotel with thoroughly frozen fingers and feet (DID I MENTION IT WAS FRRRRRRRKIN' FREEZING???), clutching precious autographed mementos tightly in hand. I had promised the girls that they could stay up as long as they wanted, watch TV, eat junk food, relive their brief encounter with the beauteous Blaine ad nauseam. After no more than five minutes of chatter, I heard silence. I peeked my head in; they were out cold.

As I write this, the exhausted fan club is asleep in the next room. I can only assume they are dreaming of him ... of Darren (they're on a first name basis now) ... those soft eyes, that sweet smile. As for me, I'm tired and stiff and my eyes are bloodshot, which is rather unfair if you ask me, because it's not as though I partied last night. Nevertheless, the weekend was, by any measure, a success. Except I have one question ...

Perhaps we should have seen a different show? The Drowsy Chaperone.

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