Unless you have seen a show at the Hollywood Bowl, you really can’t appreciate what a unique theatrical experience the evening can be. Twenty thousand seats embrace the deco shell of the stage in what seems to be the middle of the secluded Hollywood hills. Under the stars and balmy night sky you would never know the sprawl of Southern California is actually on the other side of that hill.
Sandi and I are here to see Brian Stokes Mitchell and Reba McIntyre do a semi-staged performance of “South Pacific”. It is a dream cast of this classic show which lives up to every expectation.
The Hollywood Bowl is a massive venue and people watching is the main pre-show attraction. The sloping curve of the audience seats make it easy to look out across the mass of humanity. It is not unusual to see A list celebrities sipping wine and having a picnic dinner. Our seats are closer to the back of the audience than the front, but we have some great binoculars.
The dress is always California casual at the Bowl, so when a man dressed in a suit and tie comes up the aisle, he gets special notice. We watch as a man in a tie climbs higher and higher and closer to our “nose bleed” seats. He keeps coming and eventually comes right up to me and says, “Jay, congrats on your Tony. What an accomplishment. Brian is having a few people back stage after the show. He would love for you to be there.”
Ego takes over and I think to myself, “Well I guess out of the twenty-thousand people I am the only Tony winner here tonight, sort of a Tony winner quid pro quo to get to come backstage.” The answer to an offer like that is always yes.
The truth is, the man in the suit is Joe Benincasa, executive director of the Actors Fund. He said he saw my show six times on Broadway, he is a member of the Tony nomination committe and a voter. Brian is president of the Actors Fund and they are having a little Actors Fund “get together” reception after the show, and he is inviting me on behalf of Brian.
Joe and his wife are sitting close to us and he just happened to recognize me as he was going to his seat.
It was great to hang out backstage at the bowl and to reconnect with Brian Stokes Mitchell. It is not an exclusive meeting but definitely a Tony perk.
No wonder theater is so attractive to us entertainer types. There is a community of welcoming artists ready to embrace you like a long lost member of the family. Perhaps that brotherhood exists in other professions, but it is one of the defining traits of Show Biz.
As you were,