Thursday, June 24, 2010


Yesterday we went to pray for my friend, John, who just had replacement surgery on his knee.  He really looked great, and his wife, Helen,  looked stunning (as usual) and smart, so she, Joy and I went to  the hospital cafeteria for a cup of coffee afterward.

We all got talking about movies, especially one I had just seen.  It was quirky, cute, but not everyone's cup of tea.  

Helen shared with us that they had just attended a live production of "The Boys in the Photograph" in Johannesburg's  Civic Theater.  Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton, the musical is based around the fortunes of a Belfast-based football team.  The review from Helen was astounding.  She gave it ten stars, and only said that the greatest disappointment was a gloomy subject matter.... but to hear her review was wonderful.   

She praised the sets (moveable and uniquely changing to highlight the story); the acting (all Joburg actors); and the incredible songs (performed with ease and passion).  Helen missed her calling.  She could have been a theater critic.  

It reminded me of my father-in-law, Chev Rogers, and his career on (and off) Broadway, in New York City.  I briefly mentioned that it is why Mario refuses to see stage performances here, or anywhere, for that matter.  He's seen the best of the best.  

Chev left his family to pursue his stage dreams when Mario was only five, but he kept in close contact throughout Mario's life via letters and phone calls (one of the treasured possessions Mario still keeps is a stack of letters from his father).   Mario tells of his childhood as an ordinary boy with an extraordinarily talented father.  During the summer holidays,  Mario would occasionally visit him in New York City.   Remarried to Alice Evans, also a broadway actress, Mario would be escorted into their private and exciting world, during the days when Broadway was really Broadway.  No microphones, no bodyguards...just actors pumping with passion and fire and magic... bringing two shows a day; sometimes three.

By the time I met Chev and Alice (in 1986) they had done several first-run plays (mostly musicals) performed on cruise ships and had several "acts" in local establishments.  Their personal play that they wrote ("All I Dreamed...and Then Some") had just gone through several revisions, and were grieving the loss of a viable buyer.  Still, they received me gladly into their lives and home (a Manhattan apartment on West End Avenue).  At the time, Chev was working at the American Place Theater and Alice was working for a hand therapist, both of them trying to pay the rent.  Still, they vibrated with the "Show Business" vibe that is so attractive and genuine...a vibe that the world depends on to be distracted from their problems...

Chev seemed a pale version of what Mario portrayed him to be.  His famous "donuts notes" we witnessed as he was in a specific donut shop on Main street... as usual, Chev larger than life.  He really was taking us back though, trying to show us a specific journaling technique while waiting for a breakthrough...a new job that would recognize his true talent....talent that was genuinely there.  

Living close up to him we could truly see that The Big Apple is riddled with broken dreams and  actors working as waiters in cafes.  Where do they all go??  The flock to other major cities and pour their hearts into the same medium...the one that stole their hearts.  Instead of the fabulous tourist crowd, local theater enthusiasts become a more merciful audience.

Alice( one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen up close), had an amazing influence on our lives ("Alicia" is what Chev called her, and so we named our only daughter).  She also belted out songs with such gusto she rattled windows.  She (still) loves and laughs with definite fervor... and still manages to be gentle.  She is literally one of my favorite women.  (Alice is performing "Wallenberg" in Westchester at the White Plains Performing Arts Center in Late October-- catch it if you can!!)

Flashback to Helen... as she relayed her strong approval of local theater, I hoped we could one day go see a show locally.    Today Mario told me that he wants to go to the Barnyard (a local theater in Northern Joburg) with our friends, Bonnie and Terry to see a show one of these days.

I can't wait.

There's hope.

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