Of course, I didn't go all the way to Cincinnati to see Dirty Blonde, which I saw three times in New York and will see yet again in Montclair, NJ in just a couple of weeks. I was in the area because I attended the wedding of Scott Cain and Janet Hogue, two of my more faithful readers and two terrific fans of Broadway musicals.
And so, after arriving at the airport in Covington, Kentucky, I got in my rental car and headed for a town called (I swear it) Mount Healthy, Ohio. Once I got to the the Mount Healthy Christian Church, I was handed a program that had been made to look just like the ones we receive at Broadway theaters, with the yellow band at the top and bold black lettering on it--only this one said "Stage Door" on it, rather than "Playbill." Underneath: "A Broadway Wedding, starring Janet Hogue and Scott Cain. One performance only, 6-15-02, 4:30 p.m." (The cover was in color because, of course, this was early in the show's run.)
Inside was a description of how Scott and Janet met. Back in September of 2000, Scott posted on Talkin' Broadway's "All That Chat" that he would be seeing Fosse in Cincinnati, which prompted another reader, Russell Florence, Jr., to mention that he was attending the same performance and perhaps they could meet. They did, and accompanying Russell to the show was Janet. Love at first sight between Janet and Scott? Not quite. As the program frankly stated when relating this tale, "They each had previously been in a failed marriage. Nether was sure that love would ever blossom again." But it has--"and I feel just like Dolly Levi," says Russell Florence, Jr. with unmitigated glee. The program continued: "Though [Scott and Janet] had thoughts of getting married in a theater, they wanted to include their Christian faith by marrying in a House of the Lord." Under those circumstances, I think they should have chosen the Mark Hellinger/Times Square Church.
The ceremony began with Florence playing an overture on piano that included the songs "Love Changes Everything," "Sunday," "Bring Him Home," "What Would I Do?" "Unlikely Lovers," "Embraceable You," "It Might as Well Be Spring," "All Good Gifts," "One Hand, One Heart," "Goodnight, My Someone," "One Boy," "All I Ask of You," "Sailing," "Loveland," "Where or When," "Johanna," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," "Make Someone Happy," "It Only Takes a Moment" and ended with "Another Op'nin, Another Show." We didn't applaud, which shouldn't be taken as a slight against Florence's abilities; we were in a church, after all.
The bride came down the aisle in an almost SRO-house as Florence played "Brave Enough to Love," which was followed by Rev. Michael Doerr's saying "Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome"--though he drew the line at being shirtless and glitter-nippled. To be frank, there were walkouts during the ceremony--but there always are at weddings, as mothers and fathers of infants who just won't stop crying eventually realize they'd better leave the church so that everyone else can hear what's going on.
What was going on, by the way, included me. As the program indicated, I was Guest Speaker, which awarded me fifth billing on the title page. That may not sound so good, but when you consider that the bride, groom, matron of honor, best man, and minister were the only ones billed above me, I'm pretty pleased with it. Actually, I was a little surprised that Scott and Janet asked me to speak, because I'm pretty well known as someone who isn't too crazy about marriage. Part of that is because I had just as much luck with my first marriage as Scott and Janet had with theirs. My girlfriend and I have now been together for 24 unmarried years, for we agree with the ol' adage, "Marry in haste; repent at leisure." So I assume Scott and Janet knew in their hearts that I wasn't going to deliver any sentimental discourse.
As it turned out, the crowd wasn't prepared for me. I began with, "In the 1966 Broadway musical I Do! I Do!--where a couple gets married--the husband and wife sing to each other, 'You can throw away your every care and doubt; for that's what married life is all about.' And," I added dourly, "if you believe that, my heart breaks for you." I expected a big, hearty laugh--have you ever once heard an anti-marriage joke that didn't get a big laugh in a theater?--but, instead, I received stone-cold silence. You've heard of the play We Bombed in New Haven? I bombed in Mount Healthy. Suddenly, I decided that I'd better not make the joke I had planned: that, in the Broadway musical Chicago, virtually every one of the married women we meet has previously murdered her husband. I had to switch gears, and fast.
"So," I said, "isn't it fitting...that Scott and Janet...should fall in love to Broadway musicals...because," I brightened, "Broadway musicals have always had love on their mind. Look at all the love songs," I said, struggling to find some, one, any! I quickly decided to go chronological--maybe that would help me think of songs--and said, "'You Are Love' from Show Boat," thinking as far back as I could. But, for the life of me, I couldn't come up with anything for the following year, or the year after that, or the year after that. Panic was setting in as I suddenly found myself jumping to "Love Is Sweeping the Country" from Of Thee I Sing (1931) before deciding I'd better go right to the '40s if I was going to pull this off.
That helped. Soon, I was tossing off "People Will Say We're in Love," "If I Loved You," "They Say That Falling in Love Is Wonderful," "If This Isn't Love," "A Fella Needs a Girl," "Some Enchanted Evening," "I'll Know (When My Love Comes Along)." And on through the seasons I sailed. I finally did dare to return to my original speech, though I knew my first sentence might cause eyebrows to raise: "As we all know, one out of every two marriages ends in divorce. Well, Scott and Janet have already had their divorce, so that means this is the marriage that's going to last." That did get a nice burst of laughter and, church or no church, I did get a smattering of applause.
We all sang "Amazing Grace," which, as the program mentioned, passed muster as a show song because it was used in Smoke on the Mountain. Then a 10-member handbell choir beautifully played "Come to My Garden," though I think "I Hear Bells" would have been more fitting. After the vows, the exchange of rings, the declaration of marriage, and the benediction, the song played during the recessional was "Alone in the Universe"--which may at first sound strange for a married couple but it really wasn't, for, as a line in the program explained, the song refers to "One true friend in the universe who believes in me."
As the happy new couple received their guests, Florence played "New York, New York," "On Broadway," "Lullaby of Broadway," "42nd Street," and "Manhattan," in honor of one of the sites where the Cains will spend their honeymoon. (Chicago, that toddlin' theater town, is also on the agenda.) At the reception, tables were littered with colorful ads for shows past, present, and even future--Everything's Ducky made an appearance--though those for One Mo' Time seemed to offer the most appropriate metaphor. The happy couple picked the perfect song to sing to each other: "Another Wedding Song" from Closer Than Ever, in which each previously divorced spouse tells his/her new love, "You are the first to be second." Janet then surprised Scott by singing "You Gotta Love That Man." For their first dance, they chose "Isn't It Strange That We Can Love Again" from the 1990 Off-Broadway musical Catch Me If I Fall. The matron of honor and best man then danced to "I Chose Right" from Baby and the parents came up for "Our Children"--not the one from All-American but the one from Ragtime.
While others started dancing, I stayed in my seat and ferreted through the program. On the last page, Scott and Janet listed their 10 favorite shows; hers ranged from Parade to Miss Saigon while his went from Les Misérables to Brownstone. Then they added their five least favorite shows. If I told you what number three on Janet's list was, many of you out there would go to Mount Healthy and commit Scott to an insane asylum for marrying her. So I'll never tell.
[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org]