I didn’t know the New York City Public Library system had a Performing Arts library until my cousin Carrie got a job there. I was curious to see it.
I met Carrie in the lobby and she gave me a behind the scenes tour where she works helping to digitize the card catalog. The library has an amazing collection of video of Broadway shows, Playbills, and miniature scene models. I have no idea what else they have but I was thrilled to know that someone is keeping all of this in good order.
The Library also has special exhibits. I saw a portion of the Hilary Knight tribute and then in the gallery, “Radical Bodies: Anna Halprin, Simone Forti and Yvonne Rainer California and New York.” I am not a huge fan of the theater, but I LOVE libraries and this is a fine one.
My son surprised me by requesting to go to a Broadway show, preferably a musical, on the first night he joined me in the City. My cousin Carrie is my go-to on all things Broadway and the theater. First I looked up what was playing in the New Yorker magazine and what tickets were on sale on TodayTix. I came up with a short list of possible shows that I had not yet seen: The Play That Goes Wrong, War Paint, and Waitress. Carrie had already seen Waitress and wasn’t bowled over. She had friends who said pass on The Play That Goes Wrong. She could get discount tickets to War Paint through her theater union. We were set.
Carrie has a go to before the Theater dinner place that is in the district. We met up at the Hourglass and had a delicious meal at a reasonable price for New York City. The service ws speedy and luckily the cousins Tevis and Carrie and slight enough to share the tiny table with me.
We got to the theater in plenty of time to use the restroom and find our seats on the first level. The Nederlander Theatre on West 41st Street is large enough to be called a Broadway venue and have the musical considered for Tony awards–just big enough.
We didn’t tell Tevis that the plot was about two make-up mavens who defined 20th Century beauty for women. He gave us a hard time about it at intermission and admitted that there was enough fireworks over their business rivalry to make it interesting to all.
Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden has the first big number and her voice is strong and assured. I settled back in my chair knowing that once again the raised bar of Broadway was going to be met. This was confirmed with each subsequent performance and especially Arden’s nemesis Helena Rubenstein played by Patti LuPone.
Reminded of Steve Martin’s short story “Cruel Shoes”
Ironically, at my age you’d think I’d know the dangers of placing beauty above comfort. Alas I wore new shoes rather than ones that might clash with my outfit and paid the price. After walking to dinner and the theater from our hotel on 50th and Lexington I was in some pain. We took a cab back to the hotel. The rest of the trip I was reminded of the lessons I took away from War Paint: don’t accept unquestioningly society’s idea of beauty–look with your own eyes; don’t fall for marketing gimmicks that get you to pay three times more for “horse liniment” because it’s in a pretty package; and make peace with aging and change because it happens to everyone. And don’t wear uncomfortable clothing just to look good.