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Help!!!

"This is the Broadway Emergency Hotline, how may I help you?"

By New York City
Eden Espinosa and Ramona Keller in Brooklyn(Photo © Joan Marcus)
Eden Espinosa and Ramona Keller in Brooklyn
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
I got out of the Plymouth Theatre and went immediately to my car, but as soon as I got in, I knew that I was in no condition to drive. I had to make a phone call. While my car is outfitted with OnStar -- the system that connects to a live advisor who can help in automobile emergencies -- I reached for the button next to it, which automatically calls Plaza-0-4433 and connects me to the Broadway Emergency Hotline. This is an actual transcript of the conversation that took place on Tuesday night, beginning at 10:14pm.

********************

BROADWAY EMERGENCY HOTLINE WORKER: Broadway Emergency Hotline, how may I help you?

PETER FILICHIA [in a shaky voice]: Oh, thank you for being there, thank you. I just got out of a show and I'm so distressed. I don't know where else to turn.

BEHW: That's all right, sir, that's what we're here for -- to help those who have seen shows that damage their psyches and their sense of art.

PF: Oh, God love you. Listen, I just came out of Brooklyn.

BEHW: And it wasn't good?

PF [very agitated]: You mean thousands of theatergoers haven't already called you for emergency mental triage?

BEHW: Well, Brooklyn began previews on September 23 and I went on vacation on September 22. After all those calls about Dracula in August and September, I really needed a break. Now I'm tanned, rested, and ready to help.

PF: All right, but I hope you're up to this. It's a very sad case, it's a very sad case -- much more sad than Mrs. Primrose's.

BEHW: Why don't you start at the very beginning?

PF: That's not a very good place to start where Brooklyn is concerned. The show is framed by this device that a group of street people are telling you a story...

BEHW: Oh, like Godspell?

PF: Yes, but not nearly as good. The street people are called City Weeds...

BEHW: Called what?

PF: City Weeds! Not flowers. Not even artificial flowers, and certainly not artificial flowers for ladies of fashion to wear. Anyway, they tell us about Taylor, a Vietnam-veteran musician from Brooklyn who's in Paris and meets a woman named Faith, by whom he has an illegitimate child she names Brooklyn.

BEHW: What's the kid's name?

PF: Brooklyn! Are you sure you're up to this?

BEHW: Yes, though I may have to call one of my more experienced supervisors.

PF: You will! Taylor leaves Faith and she's so upset that she kills herself. Brooklyn grows up -- without a French accent, by the way. She comes to New York to find her father and, in 15 days, becomes a pop sensation.

BEHW: You mean 15 months?

PF: Days! Days!! Days!!!

BEHW: Please try to calm down, sir.

PF: And, also within 15 days, she gets to star in a big concert at Carnegie Hall. So much for "If you want to get to Carnegie Hall, you have to practice, kid, practice." Anyway, a diva named Paradice is threatened by Brooklyn's sudden success, and the two compete in a contest for a winner-take-all pot of money. Brooklyn says that if she wins, she'll give it all to charity. Paradice says that if she wins, she'll keep every last dime. And that was the most interesting moment of the show. Want to know why?

BEHW: Let it all out.

PF: Because when Brooklyn said that she'd give the money away, the audience just sat there without comment; but when Paradice said that she'd keep every last cent, the audience applauded.

BEHW: Whatever happened to class?

PF: Meanwhile, though Brooklyn now has money and fame, but she's still not really happy because she's never met her father. You know how in Two's Company, Bette Davis sang that "musical comedy is not melodrama-dy"?

BEHW: Of course. We're very well trained here.

PF: Well, Brooklyn is amazingly melodrama-dy, right down to a plot point where there's some forced poignancy about an undelivered letter that would have changed things if it had only been delivered.

BEHW: No!

PF: Yes!! It's around this time that the narrator -- there's a narrator -- tells us, "This is the moment that you've all been waiting for."

BEHW: Oh, the house lights came up so everyone could go home?

Ramona Keller (foreground) and the cast of Brooklyn(Photo © Joan Marcus)
Ramona Keller (foreground) and the cast of Brooklyn
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
PF: Hardly. But at least at that point, something soothing happened.

BEHW: What?

PF: A cell phone went off -- and you know, it was the best sound I heard all night.

BEHW: Let me guess: The show was over-amplified.

PF: Those cheek microphones that Rent wrought are worn by everyone in the cast. I guess these street people must be doing quite well from donations from passers-by to be able to afford them, because everyone in the cast has them. And guess how many are in the cast of this Broadway musical? Five!

BEHW: All right, five principals, but how many in the chorus?

PF: No chorus. Five people total! A narrator, Brooklyn, Paradice, Faith, and Taylor.

BEHW: Does Brooklyn ever find her dad?

PF: Yes, but how isn't made especially clear. And guess what he tells her: that he actually loved Faith "more than life itself."

BEHW: But you said he'd abandoned her!

PF: Yes! [Sound of buzzing in the background] Do you have to get that?

BEHW: Just one second. [Actually, a few seconds later:] Sorry. How are the sets?

PF: As Ruth Sherwood would say, "I'm afraid you've made a grammatical error." Where Brooklyn is concerned, never ask "How are the sets?" Ask "How is the set?"

BEHW: How is the set?

PF: Uglier than the show's logo.

BEHW: Ooooh!

PF: It's a reddish-brown brick wall that's been terribly distressed, so what it resembles is Joe Allen's after a bomb hit it and knocked down all the window cards of such flops as Ari, Kelly, and Brooklyn. [Sound of buzzing in the background] Do you have to get that?

BEHW: Just one second. [Actually, a few seconds later:] Sorry. How's the songwriting craft?

PF: You know the famous story about Kaufman and Ryskind watching the Marx Brothers on stage improvising and playing havoc with their script?

BEHW: Sure. Kaufman said to Ryskind, "I may be wrong, but I think I just heard one of the original lines."

PF: Well, I may be wrong, but every now and then I heard a rhyme in Brooklyn. Otherwise, it was all that sloppy a-vowel-is-close-enough stuff. [Sound of buzzing in the background] Do you have to get that?

BEHW: Just one second. [Actually, a few seconds later:] Sorry. How was the music?

PF: Only concerned with giving performers notes they can screech and hold until the audience applauds. [Sound of buzzing in the background] Do you have to get that?

BEHW: Just one second. [Actually, a few seconds later:] Sorry. Could it be that you just don't respond to rock musicals?

PF: Listen, I was one of the first to jump on the Hair bandwagon in the '60s, and I've loved good rock musicals right up to Altar Boyz a few weeks ago. [Sound of buzzing in the background] Do you have to get that?

BEHW: Just one second. [Actually, a few seconds later:] Sorry.

PF: What's going on?

BEHW: Well, the switchboard is lighting up like a Christmas tree. So many people are calling to seek help about Brooklyn!

********************

[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at pfilichia@theatermania.com]


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