At the top of the very short list of things that might lure me down to 42nd Street on a Saturday night: On the Town, which is playing at the newly renamed Lyric Theatre, an establishment that appears to rename itself on a whim every five years or so, like Puff Daddy. Whatever pays the bills, I guess. The cast of SPIDER-MAN! TURN OFF THE DARK! (worst title ever, exclams by me) famously crash-landed there a couple of years ago, but for this they've leased it to a trio of sailors who sing and dance and cruise the city for 24 hours on the lookout for chicks. Of course it all takes place in the 1940s, so even though the entire thing is about sex, it's wrapped up like a vintage valentine and tied together with a lot of brass instruments and clarinets and approximately 4,000 dream ballets. Never underestimate the power of a good dream ballet, especially at the tail end of a long week and a bitterly cold day. The sort of joy that comes from a show like this is the sort of joy that reaches up through the ground, that moves from your feet to your chest and whatever that part of you is that remembers certain smells and colors and what it is to be really safe and warm and happy. Plus at halftime you can just wave your hand at an usher and order a beer and they'll bring it right to your seat. Modern convenience, as they say. God bless us, everyone.
Then this morning I had a date to meet friends for breakfast but got the time wrong, so I bummed around Rockefeller Center, which is coincidentally right next to the building I work in. It was a weird feeling to be there on a non-work day, non-fighting my way through the crowds and non-caring about racing from hither to thither or picking up kleenex and tampons at Duane Reade. I can't see Rockefeller Center like a tourist anymore. I know too much. It's professional territory now, a daily conveyance-cum-battleground, and most of the time I just barrel my way through without ever lifting my head. You can't be a starry-eyed dreamer and survive here for very long as a resident, you'll get creamed by a cab every time you cross the street. But I sat down there today in the bowels of the concourse for a good half an hour, and since I was feeling all Bernstein-and-Comden-and-Greeny, I listened to the Broadway revival of Wonderful Town at top volume on my headphones, and through the strings and the pipes and the horns, for a few minutes I remembered. What it is to feel really safe and warm and happy and home.