• Marilyn Gardner Woods

Curtain up!

“I’m afraid we’re a bit spoiled,” I said to Sue in a stage whisper as the houselights dimmed. She and I had just returned from New York and a Broadway theater binge and I had serious doubts that the Old Globe’s Life After could even begin to measure up.






In New York, we had seen three Broadway shows—My Fair Lady, a masterful revival with a Me-Too bent: Beautiful, The Carole King Musical and the three-hour heart-stopping The Ferrymen. There is no live performance like that which surrounds the neon dazzled Times Square.



I had been on a major theater spree, seeing four shows in the last month and it continued on this Sunday afternoon. It began two weeks before my New York trip when my daughter and I celebrated her birthday seeing Diana at the La Jolla Playhouse. The musical, undoubtedly headed to Broadway, is the highly anticipated story of the iconic British royal princess.




Jamie and I were both captivated by the world-premiere musical fairytale story of the kindergarten teacher who married the Prince of Wales in 1981 and, overnight, became the most famous woman in the world. Theater-goers in New York will treat Diana royally, no doubt.


Two weeks later, my friend Sue and I met in New York City where we spent four whirlwind days together, visited nine art museums and saw three Broadway shows, a theater-lover’s dream


The Ferryman, an epic Irish drama, is an enormous, shattering eruption of a play that had my heart pounding well into the night after the curtain closed. Set during The Troubles, it tells the story of the family of a former IRA activist living in their farmhouse in rural Northern Ireland in 1981.



Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. For five years, the award-winning musical has thrilled Broadway with the inspiring true story of one woman’s remarkable journey from teenage songwriter to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. We left the theater singing a tapestry of songs from our younger days – “Beautiful” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” We knew all the words.




The most current of the performances we saw was the updated version of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion in its new incarnation as My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center. Eliza Doolittle, the polished, no longer dirty guttersnipe, did a Me-too one-eighty, storming off the stage at the end, looking both bruised and proud. Sue and I were close enough to touch, the star, Laura Bernanti, as she charged up the aisle leaving the marvelous Tony Award Winner, Harry Hadden-Paton as Henry Higgins alone to find his own slippers. Standing ovation!



Back in San Diego, the matinee curtain rose just after my aside to Sue. A slight young figure dressed in high top sneakers, baggy jeans and a blue t-shirt stood alone on the vast Old Globe theater. Sophie Hearn commanded the stage playing a sixteen-year-old daughter whose father dies in an automobile crash after the two of them have argued violently.


I should never have doubted the legendary theater located in Balboa Park in the center of San Diego. Countless plays have gone from the world renowned Old Globe to the Great White Way and enjoyed huge success. This play, Life After, was as good as any I saw on Broadway.


It would be two days later when I saw a performance on a stage in Prescott, Arizona that captured top honors in my book.


My heart melted at the Yavapi College performance of Mary Poppins. My fiery little ten-year old granddaughter, Chesapeake, in her first theatrical performance lit up the stage every time she appeared. The youngest and smallest of the cast, she pranced across the stage, her flaming red hair spilling from her black cap, as thrilled to be a chimney sweep in the ensemble as if she’d been Eliza on Broadway.

My little chimney sweet top row, second on the left (reaching for the moon!)

Without a doubt, my vote for Best Actress!

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