The Smile Reunion Concert

 Smile cast

Smile cast

I for one have avoided every reunion I’ve ever been invited to, which includes High School, College and Family.  And I’ll continue to do so (okay, maybe I’m so old that I’ll go to a family reunion some time) but the Smile Reunion Concert…now that was a really fine time.

First of all, and I know I’m prejudiced here, the score truly holds up.  And the show’s themes resonate still.  Brenda, the pageant director, trying desperately to remake her past, which of course, can’t happen.  Maria’s story (I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you know the show, at least in passing) is so resonant of today’s issues of bullying.  Doria, the striver and Robin, the girl who will leave the world of pageants and be the better for it.  And all those young women of the Young American Miss pageant – trying to win, to get attention, to make themselves into something the judges want.  The show is universal and timeless (though I love the timely/untimely 80’s references).

Monday, it was especially poignant to see the original cast, twenty-eight years later.  Jodi Benson welcomed the crowd to “Menopause, the Musical,” but in truth, what you saw was a group of terrifically talented women on stage celebrating the past without trying to relive it.  It was like Smile with a totally happy ending.  And I was interested to see that the original cast of Smile had gone the way many of the show’s fictional characters probably did – some have stayed in the business, some have moved on to very different worlds, some have remained New Yorkers, many have not.  And in a lovely piece of serendipity, Mana Allen’s (Miss El Centro) daughter, an actual “typical High School senior,” was onstage with her mom, singing in the chorus.

Director Richard Biever used clips from the 1986 Sixty Minutes piece that followed Smile to Broadway.  It was great to see both Howard and Marvin, and some doe eyed young actresses, worrying through rehearsals.   My favorite moment was when Marvin started playing “Until Tomorrow Night,” for Diane Sawyer, explaining the need for the song to build excitement for Act II while the actors watched and then took over the song.  Really a beautiful moment.

I don’t know who had more fun on Monday night – the actors or the audience.  Actually, I do know.  It was me.

Howard_Ashman_Smile_Poster_2 copy
Howard_Ashman_Smile_Poster_2 copy