Monday Smiles – 12/12/2010

Pasedena Playhouse

Some weeks, when life has been hectic or difficult, I know it’s not just time for a Date Night but a Nice Date Night.   That usually means a concert or theater followed by dinner.   My best resource, paticularly in these semi-retired times is Goldstar Events, the half-price ticket service that operates in a number of major cities, including Los Angeles.   By last Thursday, I knew it was one of those weeks but Goldstar wasn’t cooperating.   Oh, yeah, there was West Side Story at the Pantages, but the reviews said that much of the dialog in this version was in Spanish … probably appropriate for a play in which half the characters are Puerto Rican but not my choice as a paying customer.  At the Orange County Performing Arts Center was the musical, Peter Pan, but given the show times (matinee and early evening) as well as the time of year, I knew that the performances would be crowded with kids.  I have nothing against kids in general but not on Nice Date Nights.  The Pasadena Playhouse had a musical I’d never heard of, Uptown Downtown.   Reading on, I discovered it was a one woman show by Leslie Uggams about her life.    Leslie Uggams.   I vaguely remembered her from Sing Along with Mitch, the 1960s sing-along variety show, hardly a memory that encouraged me to buy tickets.   But the reviews were very good, so I took a chance.

Wow.   The plain-Jane girl from Sing Along with Mitch is now sixty-seven and fabulous.   Uptown Downtown traces her musical career as it took her from the Apollo theater in Harlem to television and Broadway.   Along the way she performed with many of the icons of music, including Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lena Horne.    Uggams pays homage to each of these greats with personal stories and by performing their songs in her own unique style.    She tells her story with warmth, humor and humility that the audience loves.   Accompanied by a fine seven piece band, the music covered pop, jazz, and blues, as well as Broadway tunes from Porgy and Bess and from her own Tony award winning, Hallelujah, Baby.   The best number was Hello, Young Lovers from The King and I, which she sang accompanied only by drums … absolutely amazing.   The skeptic is now a fan.  You can listen to selections from the show on Leslie Uggams website by clicking the player at the bottom of the homepage, here.

After the show, we had dinner at The Derby, a horse-racing themed steakhouse near Santa Anita Racetrack.   The restaurant is decorated with horse-themed paintings and with race memorabilia from such equine stars as Seabiscuit and Zenyatta.  It was also decorated beautifully for Christmas.   I had a bacon-wrapped Filet Mignon and my wife had scampi, which we shared.  We also splurged (both financially and calorically) on a desert sampler including chocolate mousse cake, whiskey bread pudding and cheesecake with fruit.  Everything was wonderful and the service was fantastic.

A Nice Date Night doesn’t make everything perfect.   But it sure makes it easier to face what’s not.  I feel very fortunate to be able to splurge now and then, especially when I know many are struggling financially.    It’s Monday and I’m smiling.

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5 Comments on “Monday Smiles – 12/12/2010”

  1. Caron Says:

    Sing along with Mitch Miller? With the bouncing ball over the lyrics? Another nice post …

  2. that doesn’t just sound like a A Nice Date Night – that sounded more like an AWESOMELY FANTASTIC Date Night!

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