I didn’t realize how much I’d grown to like Long Beach until I booked the national tour of Billy Elliot.  The knowledge that I would be leaving and would have to endure hotel after hotel with an entirely new group of people made me appreciate the cozy lemon of an apartment my husband and I shared on the corner of 3rd and Hermosa.

“Life out here doesn’t suck,” I said to friends with more than a touch of surprise.  Living blocks from the ocean is every bit as cool as I’d imagined.  Even though I have yet to take the plunge into the somewhat frigid waters of the Pacific, I have driven, jogged and biked beside it under the hot-but-not-too-blazing sun for weeks now.  I love the water.  I love the Olympic-sized pool where I swim laps under the flags of other countries.  I love the thrift stores and restaurants.  I am even growing to love our quirky apartment, where one window is still painted open and the lesbian couple below us engage in violent domestic disputes.

The discovery that I love my life came at the end of a long day of traveling.  I had flown back from New York for the second time that month.  The first had been for an audition for the Broadway company of Matilda.  I am pretty sure I blew that audition, not because of my performance in the room, but because I have a strongly held superstition that the more people I tell about an audition, the lower my chances of booking it.  And due to circumstance I had had to tell everybody what the hell I was doing in New York:  my sister, her husband, her college roommate, my soon-to-be-married friends Eve and Charley, my recent homeowner friends the Boags, the book club, and almost the entire cast of Mary Poppins.  The second time I was much more discreet.

Having auditioned for Billy a million times I was fortunate to have to simply audition privately for the dance and the music supervisors.  The director, apparently, already wanted me.  I had flown to New York so they could cover all their bases, or at least that’s how my agent made it sound.  I tried to work up audition nerves, but two months in SoCal had worked their magic, and all I could work up was a Zen-like tranquility.

When I got back to California, I walked into our comfortable house filled with flea-market furniture, and I didn’t want to leave.  I found myself hoping the call wouldn’t come.

It did the next day.  I was comforted by the tour schedule, which had a whole slew of gaps in it according to the Billy website.  I would be able to come home every couple of weeks to see Andre.  He and I agreed that it was the ideal situation:  grad school kept him so busy that it was a matter of time before I would begin to feel neglected, and I could earn money and insurance weeks doing a show I’d always wanted to do.  That illusion was shattered the following week, when I got the actual tour schedule, which filled in the weeks not posted yet on the internet.  We’re going to some cool cities:  Austin, Vancouver, Montreal, and some clunkers:  Fayetteville, Peoria, Greenville, SC.  But from January to March I’d be hard pressed to see Andre.  This depressed us.  We headed out to the mountain town of Idyllwild, California to celebrate our anniversary, determined not to talk about it.

But in the car I pondered.  Is this how Jay-Z and Beyonce feel when one of them has to go on tour?  It is the nature of our business to be apart, and we knew this when we got married.  One of us needs to be working– subsisting on unemployment and student loans has been stressing us both out.  And I was glad to get the job.  But after the vibrance of California, life on the road seems to be a dismal proposition.

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I regret that due to an insane schedule, I am only able to write about events some weeks or days after they happen.  It has been my intent for some time to write a review of the funny, under appreciated 9 to 5.

I had been encouraged to see 9 to 5 by some theatre-crowd friends whose opinions I respected, so I eagerly accepted my first invitation to go.  Reviews, I understood, had been lukewarm, which in the theatre world usually means everyone loved it but the Times or vice versa.  I didn’t read the Times review until just now (for inspiration).  Having seen the show, I can only assume that Ben Brantley meant to write a piece entitled, “A Stodgy Old Fart Goes to Broadway.”

The curmudgeonly review opens by comparing 9 to 5 to Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist work, Exit the King. This is like comparing Ace Ventura: Pet Detective to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  Both movies feature Jim Carrey, just as both shows are on Broadway.  But other than that, he is comparing apples to oranges, to put it mildly.  They are just completely different shows.  Brantley’s point is that in such an intellectually exciting season, 9 to 5 feels like tourist-pandering  froth.  And to that end, he’s right.  Movie musicals appeal to the ignorant tourist as well as to the risk-averse investor.  But that doesn’t mean the show’s not good.

Scenerychewer, for one, is glad to see a good, old-fashioned book musical starring adult actors in undeniably grown-up situations.  I am happy to hear a score that sounds like it was written for the stage with songs that, believe it or not, advance the plot and reveal new aspects of the characters.  I am happy to see three gifted actresses strut their stuff on a stage filled with unleashed character actors.  In short, the show is a stitch.  Go see it.  You’ll have a ball.

Scenerychewer is not proposing the show is without its flaws.  The only particularly memorable song is the title number, although there are plenty of memorable moments within the songs.  Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography, which I liked so much in In the Heights, is a trifle too busy for my taste.  It seemed to be compensating for a slight lack of direction.  But the cast is first-rate, particularly Alison Janney and the hilarious Kathy Fitzgerald.  If you love good acting, a good laugh, and most of all, if you love musical theatre, go see this show.  You won’t be disappointed.

http://theater2.nytimes.com/2009/05/01/theater/reviews/01nine.html