November 29, 2021

When I was 15 years old, I attended a high school journalism conference at Columbia University. Our moderator, Miss Eileen Mullen, somehow arranged for us to get tickets to a new Broadway play -- Stephen Sondheim's "Company." Hardly the kind of pro-marriage and family traditional musical the nuns would approve, but we went.

And I fell in love. I still remember the set -- all chrome and glass, with elevators.

But mostly, I remember Elaine Stritch as Joanne. Yes, I got to see the Broadway diva perform her showstopper, "Ladies Who Lunch," in the original production of "Company." Of course, I didn't know at the time I was seeing Broadway history, I only knew I loved it.

And when I went home and started telling everyone I knew what an incredible show it was, they would smile indulgently and say, "Well, it's your first show."

(It wasn't my first Sondheim. Like many kids my age, I'd already memorized all of "West Side Story.")

I watched smugly as the show picked up six Tonys.

Little did I know at the time that this experience was my entree to the much more interesting world of high school theater geeks. I mean, I saw the original production of Sondheim's "Company," I was automatically cool. We passed around the cast album until it was worn out, and those other geeks taught me the art of entering the theaters after intermission and sliding into any available seat. (Since my dad worked for Penn Central, I'd lift my mother's train pass and head to Times Square from Philadelphia. I think I saw the second act of "Hair" a half-dozen times.)

And when I auditioned for a campus cabaret at Penn, of course I sang "Another Hundred People" from "Company."

Mr. Sondheim, thank you for the magic. Thanks for enriching so many lives.

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