Seventeen years ago, George M. Patterson met the girl in pink tights--a redhead named Nanette--and it was kismet. Every Sunday in the park with George, Nanette felt he was Mr. Wonderful; he, meanwhile, was realizing "She loves me!" and called her "My fair lady." What really made each think the other a class act was the fact that they both liked to go on the town to see their favorite form of entertainment, a Broadway musical. (What was the average number of times they'd see each show? Nine.)
Often, after a performance, they'd go to a cabaret to catch the act of a late-nite comic. Then, once upon a mattress, each said: "I had a ball! One mo' time!" But one night at the club--just when comic Hazel Flagg, a new girl in town and a distant relative of Fanny, was saying, "Lovely ladies, kind gentlemen"--George handed his pretty belle a platinum ring. He said, "Marry me." A little later, they said "I do! I do!" and had an out-of-this-world celebration in a ballroom. Through the years, they and their three little girls were all in love, living in a skyscraper near 42nd Street and making attendance at every Broadway musical a family affair. Life was happiness, indeed.
But one hot September day, when George was working, he got a phone call from his boss--a real Jekyll & Hyde. "I'm calling about your promotion," the boss said in a very unmusical way, as George thought: "Promises, promises. Is this a pipe dream?" "But first," said the boss, "We want you to take a business trip." "To Sunset Boulevard?" George asked hopefully. "Will I have a day in Hollywood?" "A night in the Ukraine," the boss said. "And take your wife and kids with you. We may want you to relocate there. Stay in the company house."
When George arrived home again, home again, he was not in seventh heaven--especially not with his youngest daughter, Bess, incessantly practicing her Italian (she wanted to better understand the cast album of Rugantino); with Nanette chiding their middle daughter, Charlotte, for giving away her Flahooley doll ("Charlotte, sweet, charity begins at home"); and with their eldest daughter, Mary, telling the boy friend, "You're a good man, Charlie Brown." "Oh, brother," thought George, who wouldn't give half a sixpence for that kid.
"Georgy!" said Nanette, upon seeing her spouse. "How now, Dow Jones?" "1776," he said. "Nowhere to go but up," she replied in a sunny voice. "Don't bother me, I can't cope," he stated. "Oh-kay," Nanette said hesitantly, then brightened: "Good news! Here's some tenderloin, candide yams, porgy--and Bess, don't forget the milk and honey." "I remember, mama," the child answered.
"Where's Charley?" Nanette said suddenly. "Gone with the wind," replied Mary, bursting into a golden rainbow's worth of tears: "He's girl crazy." "Some golden boy!" groused George. "I thought he was crazy for you!" said Bess. "What a Goodtime Charley." "That," replied Mary, "is not funny, girl!" "It's no way to treat a lady," admitted George.
"Can-can I go to my room?" asked Mary, but the family encouraged her to sit down and eat. (She was always the girl who came to supper last, anyway.) They ate everything from soup bajour ("The best," said Bess, "bar-num!") all the way to a dessert of golden apples. As George was putting some bubbling brown sugar in his coco, he told them that his boss had demanded that he take them on his next business trip, in case he'd be permanently transferred to the new place.
"A day in Hollywood?" they all said in chorus. "A night in the Ukraine," George said with a bittersweet smile. "I too was hoping we'd move to the City of Angels. Then I'd be a man of L.A." "Mangia, Mary," urged Bess, practicing her Italian. Said Nanette, "I'd love life there. The kids could have a yard with a greenwillow, seesaw, and swing, and we'd have a big house--of flowers," she added. "Yes," cooed Bess, "Fiorello!"
George said, "We can't catch the five o'clock, girl; but we'll leave tonight at 8:30 and fly through Chicago. And we won't be staying in a grand hotel." So, George got in trousers, Nanette in silk stockings, and they flew with their babes in arms over the south pacific, overtures from musicals humming through their heads. As they all looked at the moon in their windows, they thought, "And the world goes 'round."
Finally they arrived. They got a ride in a lopsided bus and then hit the trail to go on the grand tour. "Cry for us all," said George, before telling Nanette, "I need a sherry." "Or a pousse-cafe," she countered. They went into the woods and came to a big river, beside which there stood a Kelly green house. Two by two they approached, not walking happy. (When you're far away from New York town, that's what happens.) "Maybe it has a secret garden," hoped Mary.
"It's big enough for 13 daughters!" Nanette said bravely. George tried to match her fortitude: "We could have 70 girls." "70?" shrieked Nanette. "Too many girls!" But George gave his teeth a grind. He felt no passion. He was not in high spirits. This sure wasn't Brigadoon; the terrain was rocky. "Horror show, this is," Mary suddenly said, "I'd be bored a little..." "...Mary..." "Sunshine is nice," she admitted, "but, Daddy, goodness! If we lived here, how could we go see musicals? The only thing you'd get here is that smoke on the mountain! And I wouldn't be happy hunting."
"There may someday be a parade passing by, but there wouldn't be a production of Parade," cried Charlotte. "The best we could hope for is a side show, but I wouldn't count on a production of Side Show." Said Bess, "Our neighbors might have a wild party, but certainly not two, like we got in New York."
"It ain't nothin' but the blues here," Nanette knew. "This is worse than Urinetown," she said before hastily adding: "the place, not the musical. Say, darling," she said, turning to George, "would living here be the happy time?" "No, no, Nanette," he (inevitably) said, before turning to Mary. "Baby, you've brought us into the light. Merrily we roll along! Take me back to Manhattan!" Nanette and each of the girls cried "Take me along!" Fade out.
Fade in. They saw Miss Liberty from the air and, as they were comin' uptown past Greenwich Village, U.S.A., George cried: "Here's where I belong! Over here!" he then said, pointing to the TKTS booth. "I'd rather be right here." "Whoopee!" yelled the rest of the family. "Kean!"
George called his boss on his cell phone: "And I am telling you, I am not going!" On line, Mary met Eddie, who told her everything he knew about musicals (which was considerable). "Very good, Eddie," she cooed, not at all wondering "Where's Charley?" "Here's love," predicted her parents. And somehow, somewhere--just like in a musical--came the sound of music in the air. "They're playing our song!" cried George. "It's a time for singing!" responded Nanette. And dancin'--which they did. "Dance a little closer," said their children. Nanette answered back: "Tap dance, kids!" "Look ma, I'm dancin'" said each girl during her song and dance.
George told Nanette, "You're my one and only! Woman of the year!" "I'm the happiest girl in the world," she said, kissing him. "I love my wife," he responded, kissing her back. Happy end.
[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at email@example.com]
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