I stole this idea. BUT, I will give her credit. Thanks for this, Alex! (labellefolie).
EDIT: I just re-read the blog I wrote on 9 to 5 shortly after I returned from NY. Reliving that excitement was bittersweet. Maybe this will further explain just what the show meant to me. Click here.
For the past couple of weeks I've been trying to put my finger on the reason I've been so horribly devastated (perhaps unreasonably so) about 9 to 5: The Musical's premature ending. And I think I just might have figured it out.
You're going to laugh. You really are. I was woken abrubtly at 3:15 this morning because one of my residents had locked herself out of her room. In some chilvarous attempt to not disturb the RA on duty, I suppose, she decided to come knocking on my door. So, after sleepily retrieving the master key and unlocking her door, I stumbled back to bed. College, as many of you know, does horrendous things to your sleep patterns. I mean, college students exist in another time zone of late nights and (sometimes) early mornings that can require three cups of coffee just so you can make it to lunch time. But, I digress. The point is that I did not fall back to sleep easily. And in that haze between sleep and consciousness the thought flitted into my head that it was finally September 6th and that 9 to 5 was about to see its final curtain. Cue: Epiphany.
I realized that I'd been upset for one very simple reason. The thoughts behind the reason were complex, but the reason itself was simple enough. We were all about to say goodbye to a show that had been a very special part of my life for the last year. So many emotions--crazy and wonderful emotions--are tied to this show.
Last summer there were the two sentence blurbs on the internet about the new Dolly Parton musical coming to Broadway. Dolly Parton writing a musical? What could be more fun, right? And then, Lord help me, the cast was announced. The excitement levels went THROUGH THE ROOF. After following the news of the LA tryouts came the time to buy tickets for the Broadway production. I sat huddled in front of my computer in my tiny apartment in France, waiting on that December evening for the tickets to switch over from the AmEx exclusive pre-sale to general sales. And then there was the excitement that always builds when waiting a long time for a trip, and the utter joy of seeing the show (JANNEY, 30 feet in front of me!!!) and the incredible experience at the stage door (JANNEY, SJB, MEGAN, talking to me and taking pictures). It's been such a strong memory for me all summer. Those emotions + the injustice that such a great show had to close so soon + the disappointment that I couldn't go to New York for closing weekend...AND we've hit the trifecta, ladies and gentleman.
Is it an overzealous and slightly crazy reaction to the whole situation? Probably. But I do everything big and I do it passionately. It's just the way I'm wired.
So, 9 to 5: I'm grateful for the memories and I'm sad to see you go. To the three fabulous leading ladies (and everyone else involved in this show): I will always love you.
I'm gonna shine like the sun
When these clouds roll away from my door...
...When the crying's all done
Well, I'm gonna shine like the sun
This is a companion piece to the first "A Special Place for Those Who Feel Left Out", which can be read here.
I’m officially on a crusade.
There are moments that are awful, that hurt so much that it feels like you were slammed in the chest hard enough to knock the breath out of you and send your heart plummeting into your stomach. There are those memories you desperately try to push from your mind; a good psychologist—and probably a bad one, too—would call it repression.
It was the stories of the suicides of two young children, pushed over the edge by bullying, that pulled one memory from the recesses of my mind. When I was in fourth grade I was pushed down on a playground and drug around because I had bad balance. It’s a horrifyingly vivid memory; I can close my eyes and remember exactly how I felt in those few moments 11 years ago. Then, I was humiliated and traumatized. Now, I’m almost grateful. I was mad as hell about it and that gave me a spirit to fight. It wasn’t a spirit of revenge. (We don’t get ringside seats for those moments that even the score for the people that cause us pain, nor should we.) No, as I got older, it made me want to fight to make sure that never happened to a kid again.
Children with physical disabilities are so much more special than they’ll ever realize. They’re often the brightest kids, with imaginations and creative abilities that would take your breath away. Now, I wasn’t that impressive as a kid, but I know not getting to play sports or dance made my imagination explode. It made me dream of the day that I would be special and matter to someone. I could make up stories and play them for hours and I loved to write. I still love to write. These children, despite reassurances from their parents, grow up thinking they’re just a little too different. In reality, they’re completely unaware that they’re slowly unlocking momentous potential.
Do you know what the most beautiful part of this whole thing is? A lot of these kids are the happiest ones you’ll ever meet. They’re smart enough to count their blessings and they’re wonderfully sensitive and empathetic towards others. Because they grapple daily with the fact that “life’s not fair,” they’re able to relate to other injustices that are so much bigger than their little worlds.
At their core, these kids want something simple: They want to feel normal and they want to feel special. That yearning only intensifies with the onset of puberty (as if teenagers don’t have enough insecurities to deal with). At those times that the disability is impossible to hide, they exude an incredible strength. Why? Because they have no choice. Because we have no choice. Nobody gets to say that we don’t do the things that everyone else does. No one gets to say, “You can’t.”
If I had unlimited resources, if I was much more important and had much more influence than I do, I would give these kids, and especially these teenagers, a life-changing moment. Would they choose a chance to meet someone they admire? Would they choose to do something they thought was impossible? I would give them that moment to feel important. They would get a chance to feel special not because of their disability, but because someone recognized that they possess gifts much greater than they ever realized.
I’m 20-years-old and a stare that lasts a little too long when people watch me walk is still enough to make me wilt a little inside. We all just want to be seen for ourselves. My potential is not extraordinary, but I’ve felt everything and I want something to change. That’s all any of us can hope for—to leave the world just a little bit better than we found it. How are you changing the world?
I’ve been debating with myself on and off for the last few weeks about writing on this particular subject. I’ve decided to go ahead because I think it’s important and because I think I’ll feel better once I express my thoughts in a (somewhat) articulate manner.
Everyone knows that disabilities are physical or cognitive. Sometimes they’re a little of both. Everyone knows that they can be mild or severe impairments, or fall anywhere in between. Well, I’m going to write on behalf of people (especially children) who fall into the category of having a minor physical disability because I think we’ve been given a unique “burden” and a unique strength.
It’s easy to fall into pity mode when you hear the word “disability.” Most people want to be helpful and sensitive. You know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. Truly. But I also think it’s easy to, at first glance, focus on the limitation rather than on the individual strengths of a person.
I’m not naïve or jaded enough to think that this is true of everyone. I have been extremely lucky in my life to have had some amazing people look past cerebral palsy and realize that I want to be unstoppable when doing pretty much anything. But, I recently had an experience that stopped me in my tracks and prompted this crazy train of thought. I was told, in a rather condescending manner, that I was hired for a job because kids need to see that “everyone is different.” Not because I was intelligent or because I had something to offer the kids I was working with. My first reaction was humiliation. Then came the anger and indignation, and I allowed myself to be angry about it for awhile. Then, I decided that I was going to prove myself, just like I’ve tried to do my entire life. Sadly, I’ve gotten frustrated because this person is set in her ways. She’s going to think what she’s going to think, and nothing I do is going to change her mind. There’s nothing left to do but just do my job. I’m slowly coming to accept that.
I hear the word “strength” sometimes when people get to know me. The funny thing is, I think I’ve gotten weaker as I’ve gotten older, but I try everyday to hold on to that strength with everything I have. Children who have minor physical limitations and absolutely no cognitive impairment deal with different kinds of pain and possess a special outlook on life. Children are resilient. We see it and hear about it all the time. These children are growing up and they have more self-awareness than you’d think possible for a child. It’s hard to know that you have special talents just like everyone else, but you can’t be the normal kid because you’re just a little bit different. Sometimes you have to sit out during games at recess, sometimes you wish you could go to dance class or play baseball like all of your friends, and sometimes you’re humiliated when kids throw you off balance just to be mean.
We all know the Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I get a little closer to fully understanding that every single day. These children possess true strength, and many of them have much more than I could ever hope for. It’s because we believe that after all of the pain and the “being different” that there’s something truly wonderful in store for our lives.
I’ve struggled with putting these thoughts into words because I’ve hated talking about CP for most of my life. If I didn’t talk about it, if I didn’t think about it, then no one could pin being “the kid with CP” on me. It’s not who I am. I’m going to be relentless when I need to be.
Do you know a kid like the ones I’ve been talking about? My request is that you look for ways to help them feel like every other kid. Is there a simple dance class he/she could join? Is there a coach who’s willing to spend some one-on-one time so he/she can play sports? And finally, simply look for the amazing talents that make every kid special.
“God has a special place for those who feel left out.” -Max Lucado, The Crippled Lamb
For those of you who have been waiting anxiously for this next installment (yeah, right), my apologies. I’ve had a cold for the last few days and decided to be absolutely worthless yesterday.
Before I continue, I wanted to mention that I’m thrilled that all the money from the Glitter Meet n Greet with Kristin is going to the 3 Angels Memorial Fund for ACD Research, a cause that has really moved me to act. Over $2000 was raised. Well done, Glitterites. You can learn more about 3 Angels and alveolar capillary dysplasia (ACD) at http://www.3angelsfund.org.
I will now hop down off my soapbox and give you some more of the story.
May 12 (cont.) – 9 to 5: The Musical
So, we’ll start post-Cheno amazingness. Jennifer and I sat down in a little courtyard with some picnic tables a short distance from the theater. I called my mom and promptly spazzed out (and continued spazzing for the next 10 minutes or so). I think I was on an adrenaline rush during the actual event because afterwards I was really emotional. An afternoon anticipated for so long had come and gone; there’s a small let down after excitement like that. But I couldn’t focus on that for too long because pretty soon it was time to grab some dinner and head over to the Marquis Theatre for 9 to 5.
I don’t want to downplay meeting Kristin Chenoweth one bit because it was one of the best moments of my life, but it all happened by chance. I found out about the City Center Gala a couple of months before the trip and managed to snag tickets for the Meet n Greet only a couple of weeks in advance. I have no doubt we were meant to be there for that. I tell you this to underline this next part. 9 to 5 tickets went on sale at the beginning of December and I bought them within the first hour that they were available. I was staked out at my computer in France to get these tickets. That’s how excited I was about this new musical. And, as you can imagine, my excitement levels about seeing the show have been through the roof for months.
So, we stood outside the box office entrance for a little while until a nice man finally told us we had to go into the Marriott to get to the theater. And let me just take this opportunity to say that the Marriott has the coolest glass elevators ever, but we didn’t ride in them. We finally got to where we were supposed to be and through the glass doors I could see posters of all the shows that have played there. [For example, Annie Get Your Gun (with Bernadette Peters) and Victor/Victoria (with Julie Andrews! AHHHH).] Not really a defining moment of the trip, but still very cool. When the doors opened, Jennifer and I stopped to get the necessary memorabilia (t-shirts and posters) and then made our way to our seats. And I would just like to say that I booked perfect seats. We were smack dab center stage about 10 or 12 rows back. It was awesome! The curtain for the show is really cool, too. It’s made out of telephone cords (or look-alikes).
I’m going to give a very vague review of the show. I certainly don’t want to ruin it for anyone who wants to go see it. On that note, GO SEE THIS SHOW! The room was flooded with energy as soon as those first notes came from the pit. And I was grinning from ear to ear. That smile only got bigger as soon as Allison Janney made her entrance! If you think the woman is entrancing on screen, well, it’s nothing compared to a live performance. It’s hard to stop watching her and pay attention to the other stuff that’s going on. But she’s well-matched with the ridiculously talented Stephanie J. Block and Megan Hilty. And Marc Kudisch is deliciously sexist as Mr. Hart. Wow, never thought I’d say something like that. All of my fellow feminist, Hillary Clinton-loving friends are going to disown me.
Now, let me address the question in everyone’s mind. Allison Janney singing? Really? She doesn’t have the voice of a trained musical theater actress, but she’s holding her own against Megan and Stephanie who have both been blessed with golden voices. That’s no small accomplishment in my book. She sounds pretty darn good. And she brings that same loveable quality to Violet that she brings to every character. I’ve never been able to put my finger on where that charisma comes from exactly, but she makes you fall in love with Violet the same way you fell in love with CJ Cregg, or the stepmom in Juno, or even the hilarious Peach in Finding Nemo. The woman is brilliant.
Megan Hilty was the perfect choice for Doralee. She kept me laughing the whole show. During her first lines Jennifer and I were whispering, “Oh my gosh, she sounds exactly like Dolly!” Her southern accent was pitch-perfect. Loved it. And after that initial moment I stopped thinking about Dolly as Doralee. Megan has successfully made the character her own.
I need to sit here with my jaw on the floor for a few minutes just thinking about Stephanie J. Block. Holy moly, she’s incredible! It’s hard to think of a moment I enjoyed more than “Get Out and Stay Out”, the 11 o’clock number in the show that is Stephanie’s solo. Sure, there are moments I probably enjoyed just as much as that one (like Allison and Megan’s respective big numbers), but not more. It’s hard to describe, but Stephanie brings a sweet and feisty innocence to Judy.
Marc Kudisch. Oh, Marc Kudisch. He plays Mr. Hart so well. It’s disgusting and it’s degrading, but it’s hilarious because you know he’s gonna get it at the end. If you go see the show, please enjoy his final costume and think of me because I laughed for ages.
There are so many other things about this show worth mentioning. Kathy Fitzgerald is wonderful as Roz and her number about Mr. Hart is one of the funniest moments of the whole show. She makes a very unlikeable character likeable. The whole ensemble is just phenomenal. Every single person in this show is working hard and having fun and it shows. It's joyous and I felt like I knew them. Not Violet, Judy and Doralee, but Allison, Stephanie and Megan. It's a special feeling. The energy levels sustained throughout the entire show are quite impressive. They have to be exhausted, but I’m grateful for each and every one of them.
And we finally come to Ms. Dolly Parton. The woman’s smarter than anything and has more talent than you can shake a stick at. (Dolly brings out the true Georgian in me!) Don’t shy away from this show because you think it’s going to be all country music. It’s not. Each song has a completely different style and they fit the characters perfectly. She’s a wonder, that’s for sure. I’m pretty sure she can do anything.
After the curtain call, Jennifer and I hauled ass to stage door. I’m pretty sure a woman behind me was really unhappy when I cut her off on the escalator. But that’s the glory of being in New York City and never seeing someone again. HA! It was a good thing we hurried, too. Stephanie came out really quickly. She was really sweet and signed our posters and took pictures with us. I was really excited and jumped the gun on asking for pictures when she hadn’t even signed my poster yet. I’m a dweeb, but she was still awesome. I’m a new big Stephanie J. Block fan! What is it that I’m supposed to call myself now? A Blockhead?
Then we stood there for awhile. Several ensemble members came out and I was really happy to get them to sign the poster ‘cause they were really good. (Yeah, I know I’ve already said that.) And then Megan came out hoisting a very large trunk/case of something. I don’t know what it was, but the stage door guy kindly took it off her hands so she could sign stuff and take pictures. And I have to tell you that Megan Hilty is pretty much the sweetest person ever. I’d also gotten to meet her a few years ago when I saw her in Wicked and she’s just so warm and friendly at stage door. So, so fantastic. I love her.
I had read an interview with Allison about a week before we left that said she loved that everyone waited at stage door, but it was a really new and overwhelming experience for her. So, sometimes she didn’t come out stage door. I prayed and prayed and prayed that this would not be a night she decided to slip out another way. So I was ecstatic when she appeared. Marc Kudisch came out right after her, but he was moving more quickly. He got to us and signed the poster and took a picture with Jennifer, but I shamefully admit that I passed on the picture because Allison had made her way to the person next to us at that point and I didn’t want her to skip us! I’m sorry, Marc! I still think you’re fabulous!
A moment later I was having another surreal, out-of-body experience. Seriously, that’s almost too much happiness for a girl to handle in the span of just a few hours. Allison Janney was standing in front of me. AHHH! I’m going to be a geeky AJ fan for a minute, okay? I noticed a couple of things. First, it’s been well-established that she’s very tall and I’m very short, but I never felt like she was towering over me or anything. Second, she was very soft-spoken. I always try to separate an actor from a character in these situations, but I was still surprised. I mean, she’s known for roles like CJ Cregg and now Violet Newstead. These are smart, outspoken, kick-ass women. It was just interesting to me. She was probably overwhelmed by the number of people waiting. I was not the least bit disappointed, though. When you meet people you’ve loved and admired for so long there is always a fear that the illusion is going to be shattered. But Allison is just so lovely and gracious. I try very hard to be respectful at stage door and not be a crazy, scary, squealing fangirl. I am one, but I try not to act like it. There were people there crowding around her and following her to her car that was waiting at the curb, but I just can’t do stuff like that. For me, part of admiring her is respecting her enough to not invade her space, to respect her privacy and the fact that she must certainly be exhausted. That goes for anyone. Allison Janney won’t remember me from Adam, but I hope that, in that one brief moment, I made a good impression. She probably won’t remember, but it was important for me to get to congratulate her on her Tony nomination. (Her “Thank you” when I said that was so genuine!) I know she had to be exhausted, they all did, but she took time to make some incredible memories for me. I couldn’t be any more grateful for that.
with Allison Janney
with Stephanie J. Block
with Megan Hilty
K, I don't think anyone reads this anymore. But this entry is mostly for me anyway, so I can remember a truly marvelous week. This is a (probably very long) recap of my week in NYC (May 11-15, 2009).
NOTE: This is just Part 1. The whole thing is going to be really long. Read only if you really care. LOL. There is a picture and a video at the bottom.
Woke up at 5am. I got ready, threw some last minute things in the suitcase, and then headed to pick up Jennifer. We had some yummy Chick-Fil-A (I needed that last sweet tea fix to get me through the week), and then took the 7.30 Groome to the Atlanta airport. Jen and I chatted endlessly the whole way because we were so excited, and then we had a random conversation with a man we didn’t know on the van. Anyway, this will get excruciatingly long if I recount every second. We finally arrived at LaGuardia and by the time we got off the plane and went to the bathroom our bags were already on the carousel. Sweet.
Every person/tourist needs to do one really stupid thing in New York, right? A guy asked us if we needed a taxi and then led us across several parking lots where we discovered it was actually a town car. Let’s just say we got gypped. We chilled for a few and changed clothes for the Kristin Chenoweth Gala at City Center when we finally got to the hotel. Let me say that Comfort Inn Midtown is a nice place to stay. Pretty reasonably priced and a perfect location, especially if you’re there for theater (and that’s exactly what Jennifer and I were there for).
Alrighty, let’s get on to the good stuff. 90 minutes of heaven on earth. We got to City Center and were told to wait in line outside. And then one of the most hilarious moments of the entire trip happened. A woman came up waving her ticket. The guy politely told her she had to wait in line, so she stormed off. “I’ll just talk to somebody else!” You had to be there, but it was classic. I barely held my cackle in until she was out of earshot. People who think they’re entitled just amaze me.
Finally, they let us in. Jennifer and I hiked up about a trillion stairs to the rear gallery. (I’m really out of shape.) We got to our seats and could barely see the stage. Seriously, I couldn’t see anything in front of the curtain. These seats were in the rafters. Thankfully, Kristin stood behind the curtain line during the concert. The concert started and they had to give away some award for something or other. I wasn’t really listening. Awful, right? I was waiting really impatiently for Kristin to get on that stage and they were taking their sweet time. I know Bill Moyers and his wife were presenting the award, but that’s all I can tell you.
I was really excited that I could actually see her when Kristin finally made her entrance. Some of the concert is a blur just because of pure excitement, but I will always remember exactly how I was feeling. I’ve listened to Kristin’s CDs over and over and over again during the past few years, but nothing can compare to hearing that soaring voice live. Everything I was feeling is corny and cliché, but it’s so true. Her voice is pure and magical and one of the most beautiful sounds that God put on this earth. Her repertoire was really difficult, making it all the more impressive.
Some of the stuff she sang:
· The Doll’s Song (she told us the next day that it’s from something called “The Tales of Hoffman”)
· Till There Was You
· Ice Cream
· A wonderful, hilarious “medley” with Douglas Sills
· The Girl in 14G
· Goin ‘ to the Dance With You
I was just about in tears during “Till There Was You”. Something about it really struck home; it was just so simply beautiful. She did “Glitter and Be Gay” for one of her encores and I thought I was going to stroke. There are not words to describe those high notes or hearing that song live. Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. That concert will forever remain a vivid, beautiful memory. I’ve loved listening to that voice for so long. I’m the luckiest.
Also, Hugh Jackman was in the audience, so I’ve also got that going for me. Jennifer and I left the concert walking on air.
Okay, May 12, 2009 goes in the books as one of the greatest days of my life. Maybe the greatest day of my life so far and I’m sure it’ll still rank way up there in the years to come. This, my friends, is the day I met two fantastic women that I’ve admired and loved for so long.
I think Jennifer and I both woke up pretty happy because of the night before. Jennifer’s phone sang “Popular” at us at 8am, so she hit the snooze. I rolled over and fully intended to go back to sleep, but my heart was already pounding out of my chest just thinking about the day ahead.
We spent the morning at Toys-R-Us in Times Square, embracing our lost childhoods. :-P They have every toy imaginable in there. We even had a fantastic time riding the ferris wheel in the store. We got to ride in the Toy Story car. We’re cool. Actually, it was more fun than I care to admit.
And then it was time to head to the Duffy Theater at the Snapple Theater Center for the Glitter 5th Anniversary Meet n Greet with Kristin Chenoweth. For anyone who doesn’t know, Glitter is Kristin Chenoweth’s fan club and the G-Staff put together an intimate Q&A session/signing table exclusively for Glitter members. The G-Staff is utterly amazing. There were only around 100 people there. Jennifer and I got seats in the second row and it was a TINY theater, so we were sitting really close to Kristin during the Q&A. People asked some really interesting questions. Someone asked her to sing a little bit of “Taylor, the Latte Boy”. She did and it was magical, even though she said it would sound like crap. Yeah, right, KC. I wish I could hang on to every second of the time she was talking, but my excitement and my utter disbelief that I was so close to her has blurred some of it. The lingering memory is just a feeling of true euphoria. I mean that. She’s everything I ever thought she would be in person. She’s kind, funny, genuine, beautiful, and really thankful for her fans. I waited 4.5 years to meet her and the experience was more than I ever dreamed of.
After the Q&A was the signing table. Everyone was allowed one photo and one autograph. I was really nervous as we got in line, but I was determined to act like an intelligent human being in front of Kristin. And here comes the truly amazing moment of the day. (Back story: Kristin Chenoweth LOVES Chick-Fil-A. Loves it. And Jennifer works at Chick-Fil-A. How convenient!) Jennifer got a whole bunch of Chick-Fil-A goodies to take to Kristin. So, as we approached the table, I hung back to catch Kristin’s reaction on video as Jennifer presented Kristin with her Chick-Fil-A travel mug, cow, PEZ dispenser, coupons, and nametag. Kristin freaked out. Basically, Jennifer is Kristin’s new BFF. So, that was really neat. Really,really unforgettable.
And then… Cue drumroll, please. It was my turn. My nerves completely disappeared because I realized something. Kristin has been blessed with an incredible talent, but she’s so…normal. You look at her and she completely puts you at ease. I remember her saying, “Okay, Miss Laura…” as she reached for my book and asking me if I was from Georgia and liked Chick-Fil-A, too, but other than that I can’t remember what was said. But I realized the words weren’t important. I was standing in the presence of someone I’ve loved and respected, who has been a role model for me as a Christian woman in a tough entertainment industry. It was a fantastic moment and I wish I had been able to convey some of what I was feeling to her, but everything was moving really quickly. She’s an amazing woman. She took time with every single person there.
I could be teased endlessly for all this, but I don’t even care.
The funny thing is, all this Kristin stuff just sort of happened. It was meant to be. We just happened to be in the city when all this amazing stuff was going on. The real reason we planned the trip, 9 to 5: The Musical, is coming up next.
To be continued…
VIDEO: Kristin Chenoweth on Chick-Fil-A