I wasn't prepared for the emotional effect it would have on me.
Tonight was the Citizens Who Care concert that I wrote about awhile ago. It's the annual fund-raiser for the group on whose board Walt sits. This is the 22nd annual concert and, as I wrote in my newspaper article, this "Broadway Songbook of 1977" was chosen because it was a pivotal year on Broadway, when the music was starting to change from the era of the big musicals like South Pacific and The King and I to more modern musicals like Godspell and A Chorus Line. I explained that it was a pivotal year for this particular concert too. Audiences are shrinking, performers are aging and the music that has been featured for the past 22 years is not as appealing for the ~50 yr old set. So this concert would determine if there will be a 23rd concert or if Citizens who Care will have to be investigating new ways to make money.
Char and Mike said they wanted to come to the show and I thought it would be music my mother would enjoy, so we all planned to meet at a Chinese restaurant here in town for dinner. Walt would meet us there, riding his bike, because he had to go to the theater before dinner, and leave dinner early to get to the theater before the show started.
It was a beautiful day and since my mother hasn't been out in weeks, I decided to pick her up early and drive around looking for blossoms. There were trees here and there putting on a good display and I prayed that F Street, which has a canopy of blossoms for blocks and blocks for about 3 days out of every year, would be in blossom.
We drove around by the campus and she ooed and ahhed at the blossoms whenever we found a tree. Then I turned onto F Street and heaved a sigh of relief...there was my canopy, just as beautiful as I had hoped it would be. The gods were with me! And she loved it, as I knew she would.
We went to the restaurant and had a nice meal. She doesn't remember being there twice before, of course. The last two times she ate a lot, rare for her these days. Tonight she didn't seem to know what to do with the food. She wouldn't take any until she'd put a moo shu pancake on her plate, but then never ate it, just combined several of the dishes together in a pile and ate a few bites before she stopped, leavng the pancake untouched. But...owell. She also couldn't get over how much Mike had aged. I'm wondering what her mental image of him is, since we couldn't remember when she last saw him, but she has seen lots of photos of him from our trips.
We went to the theater and she seemed to enjoy the show. She seemed to warm to it and was clapping enthusiastically during the second act.
While it was a wonderful show, it was not the best I've seen this group do. They are all 22 years older. Now just about everybody needs a mic to be heard. Martha, at 91, was looking frail for the first time, helped around the stage by others in the cast, but when she took the mic and sang, the years melted away and the professional singer she is came out in full force, especially when she belted out Sophie Tucker's signature "Some of These Days." Still...could this group do it another year? That was the question in my mind throughout the show.
The performers romped through excerpts from shows like A Party with Comden and Green, Annie, Bubbling Brown Sugar, Chicago and Godspell. They were funny, poignant, strident, sweet.
The final show they were going to highlight was A Chorus Line, which I never gave a second thought to until they did the first number, "One." I immediately flashed back on all those times the Jazz Choir performed it when Paul was in the Jazz Choir...and seeing his old boss, Bob Bowen, performing the song started the tears. Bob and Paul looked enough alike to have been related. I never expected to have that song hit me like that. Then came "At the Ballet," and "I can Do That" (with Bob again singing and dancing).
The ensemble finished with "What I Did for Love," introduced by moderator Steve Peithman, who talked about the things that performers do for love, "...including things like this show," he said.
It was as if someone had hit me in the solar plexus with a 10 lb ball. I looked at those people on stage, most of whom are our friends, whom we had watched do this show for 22 years and realized that this could very well be the last time they would stand together, stretched across the stage, and sing a finale.
Still emotional from "One," I found myself with tears streaming down my face, which I tried to surreptitiously wipe away.
We left the theater, Walt on his bike and me taking Mike and Char back to their car and then my mother back to Atria. She was feeling exhausted, even though it was only 9:30.
As I watched my mother walking slowly across the lobby on her way back to her apartment, it just all hit me. Paul. David. My mother. The Citizens Who Care cast. I had to stop and just let the tears flow for a few minutes.
I hate goodbyes. I hate change. I hate death.