“Closing time! Open all the doors and let you out into the world…”

It was exactly as Dickens wrote: the best of times and the worst of times. Indeed from July’s first rehearsal through Sunday’s final curtain of “The Fantasticks”, I was seeking a comfort zone. Oh, the show found critical acclaim, to be sure, but the subtle yet persistent tension to it all kept the process compelling and kept me stretching. When the dust finally settled…both emotionally and physically…I was drained.

It’s a simple show really, but for me so difficult. Part rhyme, part free verse, this tale of fathers and their children chronicles the minefields of love and life. As musical comedies go this one — heavy on music and light on comedy — is just not in my wheelhouse. Can I sing harmony? (Not even in the shower). Can I dance (At Bar Mitzvahs).

So what was I doing in the show? (you might ask). Easy answer: I’m great at auditions. Others get nervous; I don’t. Others try to impress with mournful ballads or textured arias; I don’t. I sell schmaltz, my friends. No more, no less. For twenty years now every director for whom I’ve tried out has heard me sing the same song. Unabashed, unembarrassed, I strut to the century-old “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”. Schmaltz, I tell you!

And…not always but often…I get cast. And as such, every now and then…I’m out of my league.

“…Closing time: You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here…”

For eight weeks we rehearsed, and I drove a half hour each way.
For three weeks we ran, with calls two hours pre-curtain. For a lot of time I was driving, sitting, thinking…reading the script, hearing the lines…and relating.

— To the passage of time, and my children.
— And the passage of time, and their growth.
— And the passage of time, and the future.

What parent hasn’t time-travelled back? What father, wistful in thought, hasn’t hurt for his kids? What parent, right or wrong, hasn’t regretted?


Backstage I’d sit, juxtaposing fears for my next dance ‘gainst the lines of the show. The climax approaching I walk on:

“Not a word,” I tell the audience. “He’s been gone a month and I haven’t had a single word.”

How could I not think of Jamie? Every night.

I love every word of that show—every word. Not a night went by that my eyes didn’t moisten, that some part didn’t move me.
Believe me.

“…I know what I want to take home…”

What I’ll remember most, though, was the last show— and one pregnant moment. We had just finished “Plant A Radish”, an upbeat (and on a few nights even show-stopping) duet. Having walked offstage, resting, I knew: excepting a sequence at the tail of the show I was done. All in. Pressure off. Fifteen minutes from final curtain, my work now concluded, I let go. And teared. Quietly. With multiple emotions — and gratitude.

A myriad of good people had pushed me through the process — all three months of it.

—Cast members’ patience with my voice…
—The other “father”’s endurance of our dances…
—The pep talk from Grover (a real actor—equity, no less)…
—Good wishes from the Caryn Millers of the world as I opened…
—Multiple voice mails from Lucy through the run.

“Break a leg, Pappy”, I’d play for the cast.

— And Carrie, and her home where my heart is….
— Where whether I dance or sing, I can play leading man.

“…Closing time: Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end….”

(Dan Wilson/Semisonic, adapted).


3 Responses to “CLOSING TIME”

  1. Mark Miloro says:


    It was a pleasure having you involved with this show. As another actor who does not sing or dance well, I know the challenges of fitting with those who make it seem effortless. You, my friend fit in perfectly well. In my, not very humble opinion, you were a “first class” Hucklebee. I’m glad you’ve joined our little troupe out here in the snow belt, and look forward to seeing more of you.

    Oh… and thanks to Amy Kalk for introducing me to your blog!

    Mark Miloro

  2. Aunt Helen says:

    I think you dance very well. Indeed.

  3. Up From Dysfunction says:

    Thank you, Aunt Helen…but I think all 100-year old aunts see with a vision that has their nephews look like Fred Astaire.

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