Last week, my attention was focused on the Supreme Court nomination and the hearing with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh. Thankfully, I had two terrific events on my calendar to lift my spirits.
Thursday night I went to Marines’ Memorial Theatre to see Aaron Tveit in concert. I’ve been a fan since seeing him as Enjolras in the Les Misérables film (good performance, bad hair). I love his rendition of Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, and I also enjoyed the first season of Graceland on USA. The BrainDead Partridge Family salami sex scene with Tveit and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is insanely funny. I’ve seen some of the Broadway bootlegs of Next to Normal and Catch Me If You Can on YouTube, but Thursday was my first time seeing Tveit live.
The Marines’ Memorial Theatre is intimate (564 seats), with a very nice foyer that features comfy chairs and and a bar. I got there early, so I sat down and noticed that several ladies had autographed Aaron Tveit posters. I asked the two ladies nearest me where they got them. They told me their ticket package included a meet & greet earlier that night. A few moments later, the younger woman got my attention and said, “My mom wants you to have her poster.” Oohhh! I turned to her mom and told her, “That’s so nice, but you might change your mind after you see him live!” She replied, “I met him and got a hug. I’m happy.” We had a nice chat about Tveit’s work and traveling to London and Scotland.
Once the auditorium opened, I went up to my seat in the balcony with my new poster. I was in the second to the last row on the left side, but the balcony only has seven rows, so it wasn’t a bad seat. There’s not much leg room at all, but it’s still better than the Curran! The fellow on my left was nice and friendly, and the folks on my right moved as soon as the lights went down. This gave me some extra leg room, so I stretched out and relaxed.
The shallow stage had a piano, a stool, a microphone stand, and a music stand. Tveit’s pianist is also his music director, and he joined in on some of the songs and the banter in between. Tveit began with In Living Color from Catch Me If You Can, followed by Fight The Dragons from Big Fish. Other songs included a Sandy/Heart and Soul mash up, I Miss The Mountains (from Next to Normal), One Song Glory (Rent) and an Italian aria from La Boheme, Shut Up And Dance, Every Breath You Take, Thunder Road (Springsteen), Dancing On My Own, Irish Girls (The Last 5 Years), and Being Alive from Company. His encore was Come What May from Moulin Rouge, his most recent stage musical. I didn’t keep notes on his set list, but that’s what I remember. The theatre has lovely acoustics and Tveit sounded great. There were lots of hardcore fans in the small audience, because many folks clapped when he asked if any of them had seen Moulin Rouge in Boston over the summer. He told us his last trip to San Francisco was in 2006, which was well before I started following his career. The concert started a little after 8pm and was finished not long after 9pm, so short but sweet and well worth the effort
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Friday night I walked over to the JCCSF (Jewish Community Center of San Francisco) for Neil Patrick Harris at Kanbar Hall. NPH is on tour to promote The Magic Misfits: The Second Story, his second book in a series for middle grade readers. Our ticket included a pre-signed copy of the book and a raffle ticket. Five lucky winners and their plus ones were getting a VIP Meet & Greet with NPH at the end. My seat was in the front row, and on my left was an excited young woman in a vibrant red dress. We introduced ourselves, and I told Elisa that if won the raffle, she could be my plus one. Then I assured her that she didn’t have to reciprocate, since she was with her mom. She told me she was giving her mom’s copy of the book to a friend who also love NPH.
Kanbar Hall seats 460, and the event was sold out. There were kids in the audience but far more adults. Neil Patrick Harris sat on stage and answered questions from the young interviewer, then took questions from the audience. He was in the chair closer to me but angled away, so I appreciated how he regularly turned in our direction when speaking. He said his last trip to San Francisco was in 2012. Before that, he used to come up from LA often to see David Burtka when he was in The Opposite of Sex at the Magic Theatre here.
NPH is a man of many talents, but since he was promoting his book, the interviewer focused on his writing. When he asked how many in the audience hadn’t read the The Magic Misfits, lots of us raised our hands. (I’ve only read his Choose Your Own Autobiography.) There will be four books in the series, one for each suit in a deck of cards, and he’s currently busy writing the fourth one. Each book focuses on a different kid in the Misfits group. The kids do different kinds of practical magic (card tricks, illusions, sleight of hand, etc) since that’s the magic NPH is passionate and knowledgeable about. He talked about visiting a magic shop in the Albuquerque mall and watching Doug Henning’s yearly magic specials on TV when he was growing up. A friend from Theory11.com is currently helping him with card tricks, and the cards he used later were from the online shop.
For the Q&A with the audience, they had two portable microphones on either side of the auditorium. NPH asked that the lights be brought up partway so he could see out. I think he directed the staff to choose kids, which made a lot of sense as he was promoting a children’s book. No complaints from me, because the kids were cute and funny and their questions were better than mine. One boy at the beginning was given a black envelope for having such a good question, but NPH told him to hold on to it, don’t open it, and “don’t leave!” One of his longest answers was about the 2013 Tony Awards; he described rehearsing the opening number and learning the closing recap on the fly as it was written backstage throughout the show. NPH was adorable interacting with the kids, and he was funny as well.
NPH did one card trick, involving the three of hearts and the envelope he gave the boy during the Q&A. The woman sitting on my right criticized his card shuffling (“It’s not so fancy”) so she got most of the deck thrown at her, as well as a lot of grumbles and scowls.
At the end, NPH and a little boy pulled red tickets out of a fishbowl for the raffle. Elisa next to me was the fifth and final winner. The way she said “Yep” when her number was read was matter-of-fact, but I was stunned. Elisa assured me that I was her plus one, so we got red wristbands from a staff member before being led backstage. I thought all ten of us would do the meet & greet as a group, but instead we were taken in to the green room in pairs. Elisa and I got to go first, which was nice because her mom had to wait in the lobby/atrium. The green room was small and crowded, with lights and a blue background for the photos, a couch and coffee table with a cheese plate, several staff members, and of course, Neil Patrick Harris himself. A photographer was shooting us as we interacted with NPH, while another fellow took photos on our phones when we posed against the background. Elisa was the winner, so I stayed near the door and let her talk to Neil Patrick Harris first. They discussed her tattoos, and he looked genuinely interested as she described their significance.
Then NPH moved over to me. I awkwardly shook his hand, then told him I saw his Sweeney Todd with the San Francisco Symphony (summer 2001). He grinned and said he’d forgotten about that—a temporary lapse, I’m sure, not a Full Kavanaugh! I started to gush, saying back then we didn’t know he could sing and his song Not While I’m Around with PATTI…LuPone. He was looking at me with an expression that might have been “Um, yeah, I know; I was there.” I was trying to convey that his performance as Tobias stayed with me all these years, but yeah, not very coherent. I switched subjects to ask him why there were six kids on the book cover. We were on firmer ground again. He was adorably enthusiastic, explaining that the extra two were the twins Izzy and Olly. He held up the book, took off the dust jacket, and showed how the spines of the four books will have Magic Misfits spelled across them. (The Second Story has ICM.) Izzy and Olly are comic relief in the series, but they don’t get their own book. Since jokers aren’t part of the four card suits, there could be a fifth book in the series, but hey, that’s for NPH to decide!
Next, we had our photos taken with NPH. I went after Elisa; she told everyone that we’d only just met that night, probably to explain why we wanted separate pictures. After NPH put his arm around me (gently), I put mine around him (very gently) because the photo would be that much more awkward if my arm was down between us. I think Elisa and I both were pretty dazed after that, because NPH had to remind us that he’d personalize our pre-signed books. I told Elisa to have my copy signed to her friend, and I would take the one her mom had in the lobby. It was only fair, since Elisa and her mom were so generous with me. Elisa also had a playing card from the magic trick, and NPH kindly signed that as well.
When we came out of the green room, it seemed like there were more than eight people waiting to go in, but I didn’t count. A fellow with clipboard asked for our contact info and signatures to allow the JCCSF to use any of the photos taken for their social media. He also said they might send us some of the good ones, but so far that hasn’t happened. Many of the JCCSF events are available to watch online later, but I didn’t see any cameras, so I don’t think one will be shared.
So, thanks to Aaron Tveit, Neil Patrick Harris, and two generous moms and their daughters, I have a new poster, a new book, a new screensaver, and another awkward “stage door” story.