On April 25th, 2006, Maribel and I finally realized a dream we've had since 1999-- to see Harry on stage on Broadway. We had tried over and over to see him, in various things-- first in '99 in "If Love Were All"; next in 2003 in the short lived "Imaginary Friends". Both times we were thwarted, first by the show being cancelled, second by the biggest snowstorm in over a century landing on New York City. But finally, after much patience and almost ten years, we were able to see Harry where he belongs-- starring on the Broadway stage in Monty Python's "Spamalot"!
April 25th was Harry's debut night as King Arthur; he will be there until at least October (hopefully longer). And as we hoped and expected, he was absolutely fabulous!! And my friend Maribel got an extra special surprise at the end of the show (completely unscripted, I might add!)
First, after settling in at our hotel, we swung by the theatre to see if they had any posters with Harry up yet. In the afternoon they still had the poster of Harry's predecessor, Simon Russell Beale. But later on in the day they had replaced it with one of Harry in his chain mail and king regalia (looking extremely handsome, I might add.) Maribel had bought our tickets over the internet, choosing randomly from one of two last front row pairs available. This is important to understand, in light of what happened later!
We had a wonderful day going to Toys R Us and the Hard Rock Cafe with Maribel's very good friend Maritza. Then it was time for the show. Maribel had printed a banner which we planned to hold up at the final bow for Harry to see, which read, "Nice work if you can get it", which was a nod to the song from Harry's Crazy For You days in the same theatre (a show which Maribel went to see four times.) We also bought a bouquet of roses to give him.
Maribel had previously seen Spamalot once-- with Tim Curry's understudy. Needless to say, Harry was much, much better!! He made a perfect King Arthur-- dashing and handsome, and yet with all the comedy instinct needed for a Monty Python play. They gave him a tap number on top of the Round Table, and he even gets a few *very* romantic kisses with the Lady of the Lake (Lauren Kennedy)! The whole cast was really excellent, really funny; in some places almost word for word from the movie, but also with plenty of new song and dance numbers.
For those who haven't seen the show, I'll spoil it a little by telling you that at the end, they select a person out of the audience to join the cast on stage. They do this by dropping a massive pointing finger out of the ceiling. When they did it that night, Maribel happened to be in the seat underneath!!! Harry brought her up on stage and asked, "What's your name, fair peasant?" just like he had never met her before. They gave her a cute little award for Best Peasant (a real brass foot!) along with a certificate, and then they took a polaroid picture of her with the cast! Understand, Maribel was there wayyy back in 1992 in the Shubert theatre, when Harry was doing Crazy For You. She had always dreamed of being on a Broadway stage, and to have that happen, much less with the very same performer she had fallen for all that time ago-- it was like cosmic karma, coming full circle to grant Maribel's wish. After the show, theatregoers were coming up to her, congratulating her on how professional she looked, asking how long she had known in advance that they were going to pick her. That's the thing you have to understand-- she *didn't* know she was going to be chosen. It was completely pure chance! Harry knew we were coming to see him the first night, but he certainly didn't know we were going to buy *those* particular seats, and they certainly had no reason to choose the seat Maribel was sitting in! It was pure, simple dumb luck. And I'm so happy it happened the way it did; Maribel had been watching Harry in that theatre long before I even knew who he was. She deserved that, in every way. I'm so glad they chose her!! :)
Anyway, afterward, we were trying to find Harry so we could give him his bouquet. We had unrolled the banner and we knew he had seen it; there were several of the cast pointing it out to him. But the curtain closed before we could give him the roses. We knew we had to find him at the stage door, but we were still so stunned by the fact that fate had chosen Maribel to be onstage that we were kind of shellshocked. I had a letter from Harry telling us that they were having a party after the show at a certain restaurant, but it took us most of an hour before we finally were able to find the correct place and reach it. When we got there, we were afraid it was closed already; the whole place was dark. However, closer inspection revealed that there were candle lights flickering within the restaurant's depths. We screwed up our courage and marched on in, with our bouquet and all. Almost immediately, one of the diners asked us, 'Are you Harry's friends?' They led us back to the rear room, where poor Harry was seated all by himself, in fact getting ready to leave! We had got there just in time!
He perked up at seeing us arrive at last; he had been waiting for some while. Maribel hugged him first, he told her how wonderful and amazing it was to have the hand pick her out of the blue. Then he hugged me. I tell you, being hugged by that man is worth any amount of money, any amount of frustration. :) At last, we sat down and ordered some food, though neither Maribel nor I were hungry. We were just so excited to finally be there with him!
We gave him the banner and his flowers, which he loved. We talked for some time together, about many things-- the play, things that had been happening in our lives; how amazing it was that Maribel's seat had been chosen. Harry told us how he had continued a long-standing tradition he has of bestowing little rubber chicken keychains to every member of the show; a habit he has practiced for years on every production he's in. He just stocks up on rubber chickens and gives one to everybody; every player, every crew member, every usher, ect. He said it was his way of bringing a litle levity to the proceedings, no matter how serious the piece he's doing might be. He said some folks had even come up to him years later saying, "I've still got the chicken!"
He talked about how he met Eric Idle, who was part of the original Monty Python crew, during his audition and how nice he was. He mentioned how the costume he wears as King Arthur is very innovative, in that it has the microphone hidden in the crown, which he never takes off during the play. It's much better than the usual practice of having the mike hang down in his face, or be strapped to his back where anyone can see it. He said he's definitely in for the next six months, so if any of you want to go see him (and you should!), make sure to get there before October 25th! He says if all goes well (which hopefully it will) they will ask him to stay longer. This is a good thing, since the heap of reality TV has made it all but impossible for even young plastic faced twentysomething actors to get work during the fall season, much less professionals like himself. (Those aren't his words; my own description, there.) He also said that poor Dawn had wanted so badly to be there for his first night, but he had told her, when she is able to come to NY in June, that he will consider that his "debut night". I thought that was so sweet. :)
He must have been tired from his first night, but he very kindly humored Maribel and I for more than an hour, until the restaurant closed. We all exited the place and got on the street, and then it was time for another delicious bear hug. He thanked me for coming out so far, with my feet messed up the way they were. I told him, it was seven years we had been trying to see him on stage; and each time we had been thwarted by the show being cancelled or by the city being buried by snow or whatever. Finally, at last, the jinx is broken; at last we got to do what we've been planning since '99. We finally saw him live on Broadway!!
Maribel's recollection of the evening!
Yes, like Melanie said, the biggest dream of my life came true last Tuesday night, me standing on a Broadway stage.
I can't even tell you how that felt or what it meant to me. There are no words. And to have it happen on Harry's debut night, it's such an incredible coincidence it can't be a coincidence, period. Cosmic karma, like Mel said.
I saw Harry for the first time on that very stage, same theater, more than 10 years ago. I had seen many Broadway musicals before and lots after that, and no actor has ever affected me the way Harry did when I first saw him. It was like I knew him somehow, like he was different from all the others, something special about him.
I saw Crazy for You 4 times, and I live in Puerto Rico, LOL!!!! That's how much I was touched by Harry's performance.
I got to see Harry in Imaginary Friends back on Broadway and also in LA when he did a play with his wife Dawn, but I kept promising Melanie that she and I would someday get to see him together, back in Broadway where he belongs. And we did.
When King Arthur's aide, Patsy, got down to the stage to get the Holy Grail he mischieviously had hidden under my seat, I got up and then started to seat down again because I still didn't believe that they were picking me. He asked me to go with him onstage and then I knew it was me. Harry immediately grabbed both my hands very tightly and looked me straight in the eyes. We kinda communicated to each other that we had to play it like we didn't know each other so people wouldn't think I was a plant. Let me tell you, I saw Spamalot last year, and the understudy who played King Arthur then, he didn't TOUCH the girl they chose. I got both hands tightly grabbed, lol!!
And, no, I didn't know which seat they choose, I thought the person was chosen at random by the actor. I was soooooo wrong! LOL!
The most exciting moment of all was that they sang a whole song with my name on it!
They completely made it up right then and there. It was so funny!!! But neither Melanie or me can remember exactly what the song said. We were in such shock I bet neither of us even listened to it. It went something like, "Hooray, for Maribel Rios, the favorite peasant of all", but don't quote me, please.
Anyway, when the show was over, lots of people came to me to say how nice my acting was, and I had to swear several times that I WASN'T acting, that I knew nothing about it before the show. Maybe they thought that because I did my "Miss Congeniality" bit, you know, the fanning my face with my hands and acting all Miss America. I always wanted to do that, hee, hee. Maybe I over did it but, who cares? LOL!
But the point of this all is, Harry is spectacular as King Arthur, he's what the show needed to keep going strong, and we hope that he gets to do it for years and years.
Other than being a wonderful actor, he is a special kind of human being, who has a lot of love in his heart for everybody that surrounds him. That's so rare in show business right now. Melanie and I feel blessed to have had the honor of meeting him and calling ourselves fans, but now also his friends.
Long live King Harry!!
Click here to see the photo page