Charlotte and I have been best friends since kindergarten. While neither of us will admit how long we’ve been celebrating our thirty-ninth birthdays, it certainly has been for a while.
Our mothers bred us to marry rich men. Marty and I were going steady when I was in my freshman year of college and he was a pre-med sophomore. I put him through medical school, and today his ads proclaim him the “Nose Job King of Queens.”
Charlotte also married very well. Richie’s father owns a chain of nursing homes. And though the elder Mr. Feinberg has been indicted for Medicaid fraud a few times, he proudly points out that he has never been convicted. As Charlotte likes to say, “I lend the Feinberg family a touch of class.”
I suppose that’s true. Charlotte had always wanted to be an actress. She’d starred in every play since middle school. But before we finished college, it was sadly apparent that the only way she would ever appear in even an off-off-Broadway play would be if the Feinberg family produced it.
When Charlotte half-jokingly mentioned the idea to her father-in-law, he got a good laugh out of it. “Believe me,” he said, “the nursing home business gives our family enough entertainment.”
Perhaps that was the exact moment when the dream died: Charlotte realized that her role in life – at least for the next fifteen years – would be a full-time mother.
Our families live on the same block in the Douglaston section of Queens, a well-to-do community on the Nassau County line. Our kids play together, our husbands are buddies, and most importantly, we have fulfilled our mothers’ dreams.
But was this all there was in life? More and more, Charlotte would whine about how she missed “Broadway.” And my response was always, “Charlotte, we can get front row seats for any Broadway play. And we’ve seen every hit in the last twenty years.”
“That’s not what I mean and you know it, Connie!”
“Charlotte, you know and I know that it’s way too late to resume your acting career.”
“Who said anything about acting? I’ve decided to become a Broadway producer.”
“You and who else?”
“Funny you should ask.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Connie, you and I are going to produce a Broadway play.”
“Are you insane?”
“I’ve never been saner in my entire life!”
“Charlotte, you need help! Should I call a doctor?”
“Who, Marty?” We both burst out laughing. She reached out and hugged me. Still laughing, Charlotte said, “Do you really think I need a nose job?”
“Sure. Marty could do an enhancement, so your nose would be in proper proportion to your swelled head.” We just laughed and laughed.
Finally, I asked, “You are serious, aren’t you?”
“Connie, I’ve never been more serious in my life.”
“How much will it cost us?”
“About a quarter of a million each.”
“There are several other backers.”
“How did you get involved in this?”
“You remember my niece, Marcy?”
“Oh, sure! The actress who has been following in your footsteps.”
“Well, let me tell you something, Connie. Little Marcy is all grown up now. She’s had parts in a few off-Broadway plays, and now she’s up for a great part in a Broadway play: It’s the chance of a lifetime!”
“That’s great, Charlotte!”
“Well, it could be great! The only problem is that the backers are half a million short.”
“Look, Charlotte, if it means that much to you, I’ll talk to Marty. I’m sure we can swing it.”
The next day I called Charlotte to tell her that Marty and I were in. But I felt just a little uneasy when she said that we would actually be associate producers, and that our names would appear in the playbill. “But don’t worry: we won’t have to do any of the work.”
As it turned out, just a few weeks later we were summoned to a backers meeting. Unless each of us came up with an additional hundred thousand dollars, the show would be cancelled. The rent for the theater needed to be paid upfront.
There was a lot of yelling and screaming. One woman, with a thick Brooklyn accent, shouted that she thought the rent was already taken care of by the money we had laid out. But after about an hour of acrimonious discussion, each of the backers agreed to pony up an additional hundred thousand dollars.
As Charlotte and I left the meeting, she said that with just a week to go before previews, she certainly hoped that there wouldn’t be any further surprises. I just nodded my head, while crossing my fingers.
Amazingly, everything went smoothly right up to opening night. Marty and Richie would wear their tuxedos, and Charlotte and I had bought beautiful evening gowns for the occasion. Immediately after the performance, we would attend a cast party at Sardi’s, which would set back each of the producers another five thousand bucks. It would be exciting to hear the first reviews read to what Charlotte was calling “our team.”
Just a few minutes before we would be leaving for the theater, Charlotte got a phone call from Marcy. The show was cancelled!
The producer had never paid the theater, so we had been locked out. The producer had screwed the actors, swindled the backers, and disappeared with all their money. And even if we somehow came up with all the rent money, it was now too late. The show would not go on.
“But what about the cast party?” I asked.
“Well, I guess that’s still on. But it won’t be much of a party.”
“So are we going?”
“Why not? I mean, it is paid for. And besides, I really want to be there for Marcy.”
When we got to the party, the entire cast was already there. And every one of them was crying. Charlotte went over to Marcy, and Marty, Richie, and I headed to the bar.
Charlotte spent a lot of time with Marcy, but there was no consoling the girl. This was probably her only shot at being in a Broadway play. When Charlotte joined us, there were tears in her eyes.
We stuck it out till the end of the party. When Marty remarked how happy he was that we hadn’t driven into the city, we all agreed. None of us was in any shape to drive home In fact, Richie looked like we might have to carry him out to the street.
As we left the restaurant I said to Charlotte, “This must have been the worst day of Marcy’s life. And probably of the lives of most of the other cast members.”
“And I feel really stupid about being swindled for all that money.”
“Yeah, I know exactly how you feel!” added Marty.
“Connie, I’m so sorry I got you into this.”
“Hey, it’s only money!”
“Yeah, that’s true. And I hope that someday we’ll look back at this and maybe even laugh at our stupidity.”
“Oh look, there’s a cab that’s actually not ‘off duty;’” So we hailed it, got in, and told the driver to take us to Douglaston.
He asked if we were coming from the theater. Rather that tell him our long sob story, I just said that we were. Then, perhaps to be polite, Charlotte asked him if he was an actor. He certainly was very handsome.
“Yes, I actually am an actor”
“Really?” said Charlotte. She paused for three or four seconds. “We’re Broadway producers!”
Artwork by @MurjArt
Toronto! We’re days away from BARE. Can’t wait to see you there.