Friday, December 01, 2006

Nothing Miserable About This Birthday

Despite the fact that my birthday was November 20th, my wife convinced me that she and I should celebrate it later in the month given the hectic nature of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Turns out, she was just being sneaky.

We began Tuesday night at La Mirabelle, an unstuffy French mainstay on the Upper West Side run by a family of transplanted Bretons. I began with the escargots and had monkfish swaddled in lobster sauce for my main course. My wife had the roasted duckling with plums--crispy, juicy, fatty, and delicious (she let me have a piece). We ended with a chocolate mousse spiked by a tiny candle and presented amid song by our waitress who sounded as if she were channeling the great Edith Piaf.

That we dined at a French bistro was no accident. For following dinner, we caught the Metro to Times Square, where, among other Broadway shows, Les Miserables, now in it's 22nd year, has returned for just six months following it's international tour. My first Broadway show was one of the most wildly beloved. (I've seen Cats and Phantom of the Opera on their tours, but was not prepared for the intimacy and coziness afforded by the small Broadway theatres, not something you imagine when thinking about the fabled Broadway).

The show was, of course, phenomenal. The story of a convict who mends his ways despite being hunted perpetually by his old jailer, Les Miserables is rousing, tragic, inspirational and haunting. I went home that night walking on a cloud of music so thick I doubt my feet actually touched the New York City sidewalks. I haven't stopped singing the score since. There is a reason tourists flock to Broadway when visiting this city--the experience is like nothing else.

Thank you so much my sneaky wife. That was a magnificent birthday. Merci!


Blogger Warren Epstein said...

I hadn't been working at the Gazette long when I was assigned to review "Le Miz" in Denver. (I'd seen it a few years earlier in Tampa.) Even the bus-and-truck version was amazing.

But Jane and I hadn't eaten beforehand, and we came out of the show starving. We drove around downtown and found that at 10:30 p.m. on a Thursday, Denver's pretty much shut down.

Jane suggested we try Strings, one of our Denver favorites. It was in the opposite direction as home, and I thought it was silly to think it would be open so late when everything else was closed.

Well, we went, and the place was hopping. Instead of the usual table service, they had an elaborate buffet set up. I jointed the line.

"Warren, do you notice that the people here look familiar?" Jane asked.

We'd crashed the cast party.

Jane tugged at my sleeve, but I was hungry, and, damnit, I wasn't losing my place in the buffet line.

Just then the PR woman spotted me, and said, "Warren, I'm so glad you found the party. I hadn't told you about this because I figured you'd have to get back to Colorado Springs so quickly."

Great show. Great schmooze. Great food.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Great story.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Mom said...

I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I am that you got to see "Les Miserables"!!! Wess and Donna took me with them to see it in Denver, and it was one of the most fantastic experiences of my life! I would give anything to be able to go again, and to take others whom I know would deeply enjoy and appreciate it.

Wess and Donna played the CDs for me on our way to Denver...and afterwards I of course bought the CDs for myself. Every time I listen to it, I am transported back to the theater, to those emotions, and to the wonder of how beautifully it was portrayed. I had always wished that you and I could go together and experience it with each other. How neat that Stephanie gave you that for a birthday present!


2:38 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

"At the end of the day you're another day older..."

Isn't that, like, the first line of the musical? Its been 15 years since i've seen it.

Great story. Happy Birthday for the 20th.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Daria said...

What a wonderful birhtday event! : )
Sending you wishes for blessing for this next year...

11:44 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

I love surprise birthday plays/concerts/events! They are so hard to pull off, birthday or no birthday.

The best date I ever put together was when I surprised my girlfriend of 3 months with an Alison Krauss concert (we were both fans). I managed to convince her that I blew the plans for our date, forgot to make reservations at a restaurant, and "let's just see where the road takes us."
I think she was pretty irritated.

We had been stuck in traffic and were running incredibly late. Inside I was panicking - I wanted the surprise to be just so - and it was a superhuman effort to maintain my "let's just see where the road takes us" demeanor while stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.

I managed to get us all the way inside the concert hall ("let's just see what's going on here!"), tickets hidden in my palm, before she began to think something was up. We weren't late at all. The timing was divinely perfect, as if somebody was looking out for me... she was just getting her bearings, wondering why on earth I had dragged her in here, having just caught Krauss's name on the marquis in the lobby, then saw me hand tickets to the usher who said "the show is just starting, hurry! hurry!", and after he showed us to our seats in the pitch dark, the lights came up, and literally, as our butts touched down, the MC said, "Ladies and Gentlemen! ALISON KRAAAAAUSS!!!"

I have never had my hand squeezed so hard or been looked at with such shining eyes as then, and it's a shame it was only a waystation of a relationship, because I may never top that date. You only get so much luck, and I would have liked to have saved it for my future wife.

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

And if that wasn't enough, she opened with this. (Just so you can experience the ambience.) The place was cavernous and totally quiet. Her crystal bell voice does that to people.

She closed with the Down To The River To Pray song from the Oh Brother soundtrack, also one of my favorites, but I can't track that one down.

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Cory said...

I'm completely green with envy upon hearing how you spent your birthday!

Les Mis is one of my favorite stories of all time. I've seen the old movie as well as the Liam Neeson version (butchery I say!), I've read the entire book, and have the musical on tape and video, but have never had the priviledge of sitting in a theater to see the grand spectacle. It's one of those things on my "To do before I expire" list. I've seen Phantom and Joseph, but my favorite stage musical has eluded me.

I guess that's the price I pay for lack of bankable education and marrying an artist! Oh well, I wouldn't trade my life in - I'd just upgrade my entertainment!

Happy belated birthday young'un.

Cory - the old f*rt. (Just can't completely own up to the title yet ;)

6:17 PM  

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