A Little Night Music

Have you ever seen the movie Camp? Set at a musical theater camp, the film has a wonderful climax involving Stephen Sondheim's arrival for the end-of-camp show. He gets out of a car (all we see at first are his sneakers), and is suddenly spotted by one-- then, two--then, three-- students, who yell "It's him! He's here!" Within seconds, he's being mobbed like a Beatle as he tries to walk in to the theater.

I thought of that scene this morning while waiting in line at the Oberlin Hall Auditorium for tickets to "An Evening With Stephen Sondheim and Frank RIch" (which has its one-night-only run next Monday). As readers of this blog have probably ascertained, Sondheim has long been one of my heroes, and RIch is my favorite Times columnist, so when I saw this listed in the Performing Arts Guide, I knew, as the great Butthead sagely put it, "We are so there, dude."

Tickets were due to go on sale today at noon. I duly got up this morning, showered and dressed, and thought I'd grab a bite before heading over to wait in line. Oberlin has a top-notch theater program and a world-famous music school, and I knew from three semesters of teaching a course on film musicals that there were plenty of Sondheim nuts roaming the campus-- some of them even more obsessed than me. But, surely, food could come first.

Hall Auditorium is on my way to school, anyway, so I swung by around 10:30 to see if crowds had gathered-- and they had. No one could get into the building for 90 minutes, but there were already a dozen folks forming a line on the steps.

Screw food! This was too important! I jogged over to the Gibson's bakery to secure needed coffee and pastries-- and thank God I brought my i-pod. I could wait it out with the best of them.

Good thing I settled in around 10:45 or so with my Plain Dealer and chocolate-frosted donut: within 45 minutes, the line went all across the steps, down onto the sidewalk and snaked around to near the back of the building. As more and more students crossed Tappan Square after class, you could see their faces fall, and some people were making plans with people in line for food runs and trading off spots in line.

It was actually a lot of fun waiting in line-- I saw some students from former and current classes, got to know some fellow Sondheim fans, and while I was still giving the evil eye to anyone who dared cut in line, I was actually very heartened by the crowds and the enthusiasm. I've been at other schools where folks gather days ahead of time for sports events, and that's a lot of fun too, but there was something very cool about seeing such a large turnout for the creator of Sunday In the Park With George.

As that show puts it: "The challenge; bring order to the whole...Through design, composition, tension, balance, light. And harmony." And somehow, despite feeling a bit like Dot (standing in the sun while those inside waited in the shade) everything did end up as ordered and harmonious as a Seurat painting: the doors opened, everyone quickly moved through-- and two tickets were mine.

Sondheim. Rich. Doan. Monday. It'll be a life-changer, I'm telling you.


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