Great. Just great.
We get to the theater for the 8 PM show, and when the guy scans our tickets, the expression on his face is a cross between that of a mortician and a comedian. He is sympathetic, yet he appears to be suppressing a tragic joke.
“Your tickets (cough) are for … um, were for … the 2 PM matinee. You cannot get into this performance. We are sold out tonight. Did you realize that?”
(No. Actually, I did not realize that. I was under the impression that if I am holding two broadway tickets, for which I have spent a ludicrous amount of money, I am entitled to enter any performance on any day I want, sir … )
I don’t answer him. I just drop my head in my hands, speechless.
“That’s okay,” he may be smiling as he says this. “You can buy other tickets and come again. You live around here, right?”
“Texas,” is all I can squeak out.
“Oh! Then we had better do something about this,” he hurries us to a row of chairs in the corner to wait until the show starts. I am thankful that my mother chooses not to speak a word during this time period.
One of the ushers sees me crying and says, “Don’t worry. We are going to put you in the emergency seating in removable chairs in the back. You can see really well from there. In fact, these emergency seats are probably better than your original seats were. Let me have a look at your tickets,” she takes the tickets and examines closely. “Oh, no! These were very good seats. I mean, these were EXCELLENT seats! You shouldn’t have missed these. Why did you miss these?” I start crying again. She walks away, muttering ” … zipping, zipping, zipping my lips … gotta learn to zip my lips …”
Later, from my temporary chair behind the last row, I cry silently through the first act. I am so angry (!!!) at myself for not double-checking the tickets, which I purchased months ago. Why had I written the wrong time in my planner? Why had I only consulted it and not the tickets themselves? Tears are rolling down my cheeks in the dark theater, falling onto the balled fists in my lap.
You know, I should have been thrilled that they let us see the show at all. I should have been smiling and very grateful. I should have been enjoying every second. By now I have learned my lesson about moving on from disappointment and being content with what you have.
Because right before the last song of ACT I (which is Hakuna Matata—”No Worries,” ironically enough) the set freezes. Nothing works. All of the actors leave the stage, and the orchestra plays for a long time. Then the curtain falls, and an announcer asks everyone to begin Intermission early. More than an hour later, people in the audience are fanning themselves and asking questions. Someone starts “the slow clap” and others start to “boo” loudly. Quite rude.
Finally, the curtain rises, and the entire cast is standing there, apologetic. The actor who plays “Scar” says this has never happened in the history of The Lion King on Broadway. All of the mechanisms are frozen, and they cannot continue the show in any form of its intended glory. The stage is not even stuck flat … which would have been better, because the performers could have danced. Rather, it is stuck at a sharp incline with dramatic (and dangerous) drops on either side, and with “Pride Rock” extending in the middle. He explains that they will understand if everyone gets up and leaves, but that those of us who stay will get a heartfelt delivery in choral style. They will do the best they possibly can, he says, to give us a show. They are willing to stay late (they kept singing until almost midnight). Again, he repeats, this has never happened in the nine years he has performed with The Lion King.
“What you are about to see is completely unrehearsed”, he says, walking off stage, shaking his head.
We stay, of course, but a lot of people leave upset. I have to hand it to the performers, who obviously were frustrated. There were no more fantastic costume changes, no more animals and what not, no more props. Everyone just stood in a line, in what little room they had on stage, and sang their lungs out to orchestration. There was swaying, where there were supposed to have been big dance numbers. The techs even left the stage lights and curtain up the whole second act. During some fight scenes, the actors slapped at themselves and laughed, inserting some impromptu jokes when they could. (Scar: “Why doesn’t anybody like me now that I am king? What did King Mufasa have that I don’t have?” Zazu: “He had strength … and a working set.”) They tried to act like they were flying on cables and participating in all of the other spectacular effects, but, you know, it wasn’t so spectacular.
All in all, I got even more than I bargained for, because I adore it when people display their passion. It was clear that the cast truly believed that “the show must go on,” because they sang with gusto, even as the audience filed out the door noisily. (Again, rude). Those of us who remained gave a standing ovation and all of our sincere appreciation.
And the show WILL go on, but not for me. Everyone who had tickets for that 8 PM show received automatic refunds from Ticketmaster … EXCEPT for the girl from Texas who had tickets to the 2 PM show.
Hear me roar.