This friend was in New York for the weekend and went to see the revival of Oklahoma, the classic Broadway musical, and also – on my recommendation, which always makes me a little nervous – Jolson & Company. I’ve been pushing the show because some of my college classmates put it together and because it always gets standing ovations and because . . . well, as I’ve mentioned, I have a little piece of it.
Wouldn’t you know it, the star of Jolson & Company, my classmate, who plays Jolson – virtually channels Jolson – was out sick Saturday night and the understudy had to fill in.
I didn’t know he even had an understudy. Does Jackie Mason have an understudy? Does Lily Tomlin? Springsteen?
‘So how was Oklahoma?’ I asked when he came back from New York, not wanting to rush right into my real interest.
‘OK,’ he shrugged.
‘Ha!’ I laughed, at his pun.
‘Huh?’ he said.
‘Ha!’ I repeated. ‘Good one.’
And then, realizing the pun was unintended, I continued: ‘Only OK? How did you like Jolson? Which did you like better?’
Well, it seems the understudy was terrific (which to me means just one thing: that there can be regional companies and subsidiary rights! my classmate is not the only one who can pull this off!).
And he thought that the gal who plays Mae West (and several other characters) was also terrific (does she have an understudy?) – she should get an Oscar, he said. (Or at least an Obie, we agreed.)
On balance, he said, he preferred Jolson to Oklahoma. He wasn’t jumping-up-and-down-raving, but he liked it a lot.
‘OK,’ I said.