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Broadway, Us, and the Man in Beige - Adriana Añon

That night, our tickets buried inside the deepest pocket of my bag, my daughter and I walked out of the Brooks Atckinson Theater’s ticket booth, arms-linked, relishing with anticipation. Added to the usual thrill of seeing a musical on Broadway, was the fact that we no longer live in New York. We had to fly to this familiar place that once was home, and having settled in the dorm-like midtown hotel, walked crosstown the night before the show to purchase our tickets the old-school way. At the window in the theater’s foyer, a friendly young woman showed us enticing, affordable options. We chose seats 11 and 12 on row K of the orchestra section.


Broadway lit up the dark sky, quickened our pace, and filled us with expectation.


We were going to watch “Waitress”, and what’s more, several posters on the street suggested that the male part would be played by Jeremy Jordan. When she saw this, my fifteen-year-old daughter announced: “I’ve loved him since I was 10.”


The next day, after a drizzly walk, we arrived at the theater, where the line was so long, it rounded the corner all the way to 8th Avenue.


“Is this the line for ‘Waitress’?” Everyone asked at the end of it. It was. A few minutes later we were inside searching for our seats. There was only one man already sitting in our row.


If there’s a look to this heterogeneous musical-going crowd, his wasn’t it. Nestled deep into his seat a little sideways, he looked uncomfortable. He wore a light beige trench coat, pants to match, and a serious expression frowned his brow. His only stand-out feature were some wiry wisps of white hair on the sides of his balding head. I wondered how he’d come to find himself sitting alone, waiting for “Waitress” to start on this rainy evening. Beside him, my daughter bubbled with contained excitement.


When the show began I shifted my attention. The moment Shoshana Bean opened her mouth to sing, I was hooked. As the story unfolded, things got deep, heartfelt, true. I didn’t need to look at my daughter to know the parts that made her cry. I felt her hand come up to her face to wipe away her tears. And I wiped mine. All this, I’d expected.


But it was the man in beige that surprised me. How enthralled he had become by the performance. How involved. How spontaneously he laughed at every joke and eagerly clapped after each number. And by the end of the show, it was he who stood up first, leading the rest of us into a standing ovation. No longer quiet, uncomfortable, nor even slightly lonely. His hands applauding above his small frame made him look taller now, transformed, and he might as well have been wearing red.


The following day, when we discussed just how wonderful it had all been, my daughter Sabrina asked me if I’d noticed the man beside herthe man in beige. I said that I had.


“It’s great,” she said, “to sit next to people who get it, you know? People who understand.”


It’s been weeks since, but my daughter and I continue to feel the echoes of what we saw that nightthe lingering thrill of the performance makes us feel giddy still, uplifted. And although we’re simply strangers who’ve never met, I’m almost certain the man in beige feels the same way.

 

Adriana Añon is a Uruguayan teacher and writer who continues to move around the world and occasionally returns to New York, where she has always felt at home. Her personal essays seek to reveal something universal about our humanity. Her work has appeared in Teachers and Writers Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, The Globe and Mail, Eaten Magazine, Victoria Magazine, Readers Digest Canada, and others. She dreams of the day she can return to Broadway with her daughter and watch another musical.

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