Thursday, April 28, 2011

Radio Broadway

Last week, we took a family trip in to New Jersey for the first time in more than a year. Being more of a last minute planner by the year, this time we did virtually no planning. But there we were, last Thursday, on a last minute power drive from West Bloomfield to Millburn.

This led, by no means inevitably, to a pair of trips in the Manhattan on a very nice Friday. First, to catch up with Dave Marsh at Sirius/XM, and later, to see the Broadway show, Baby It's You.

The Sirius/XM thing came together so suddenly that I'm still a bit surprised it happened at all. Dave has a live radio show on Friday mornings called "Live From E Street Nation" on E Street Radio and I had determined that if I was ever in town on a Friday, I'd at least call. The show started at 10:30, and somehow we made it up to the 36th floor of the McGraw HIll Building at about 10:29, going right past a room that I recognized from pictures as having hosted a Bruce Springsteen interview a few months ago. Introduced to producer Jim Rotolo and intern Sarah Wexler, put on the headphones, and there I was, on the air, introduced by Dave as a "co-host."

Most of the show was a contest, in which callers tried to answer some very trivial questions to win the new Record Store Day record. The callers were helpless. Even the "easy" questions, they couldn't get. I'm not sure if we're really "supposed" to know Bruce history, but evidently, most fans -- at least the ones calling in the E Street Radio -- don't.

That evening, we were back in, this time with the kids and my siblings and mother, for the show. "Baby It's You" focuses on the story of Florence Greenberg, a New Jersey housewife who became a major record industry mogul, and her first starring group, The Shirelles. As a first full family Broadway affair, it seemed a safe enough bet: There'd be lots of good songs, including some that Aaron knew, since he knew some of their songs from learning The Beatles catalogue. And Elianna loves all things theater.

The show? Kids loved it. Elianna danced, and Aaron said it was "pretty good," which I think is high praise from him. Audience, especially those a bit older, sang along often. Never mind that the plot was razor thin, or that the characters were not developed (especially not The Shirelles). The costumes were great, the band was tight, the voices were strong, and the audience ate it up.

But, upon review, I noticed a bit of a parallel between myself as audience, and the contest callers from earlier in the day. I hadn't bothered to brush up on The Shirelles prior to the trip, and other than identifying the title song of the play as one the Beatles had done, I probably couldn't even have remembered that in 1964 John had famously called them his favorite American group. So, when the show, among its many wide variances from literal history, omitted any mention of The Shirelles' biggest hit, I didn't even notice.

Missing that one is, perhaps, akin to not knowing in which song Bruce Springsteen mentioned the casino (yes, that was one of the contest questions), or accepting an Elvis history without "Heartbreak Hotel." Maybe that shared amnesia helps make the entertainment value of the shows, I don't know.

In a couple weeks, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will open a new exhibit titled, Women Who Rock. We're going to need to go. Preferably with the kids.