Sex And Friends In New York

“Masturbation can be fun” sang the hippies in Hair, and to prove the point, the sensational new Broadway musical of Spring Awakening contains what is surely the White Way’s first self-abuse hand-job solo number. Myself, I could have lived without it. One sees quite enough of that sort of thing at home.

Also, the show, which is both a beautifully accurate and highly imaginative account of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 shocker about adolescent sexuality and suicide, is unnecessarily over-explicit in the central copulation scene (“all titties and butts” cracked a customer on the phone home in the intermission). I’m not being puritanical; too much tenderness is thus trampled.

Otherwise, the book and lyrics by Steven Sater (who happens to be Michael Rudman’s cousin) and music by Duncan Sheik truly are in the class and spirit of Hair and indeed of Rent, with a strong resemblance to both shows. How refreshing to see a new American musical without a shadow of Sondheim! I hope it wins a few of the eleven Tony awards it’s nominated for on 10 June.

My other great treat yesterday was lunch in the Boat Basin café down on the Hudson at 79th Street with one very old (in the sense of long-established only) friend, Elisabeth Hayes, the New York-based Parisian arts facilitator and producer, and one very new friend, Jacqueline Davis of the Lincoln Center performing arts library.

It is amazing how there are far fewer than six degrees of separation in this life; we all have friends in common, and while munching on our delicious salads in the sunshine, one of them, Peter Tear, director of the East 59th Street Theatre and impresario of the Brits Off Broadway season, comes on the phone to Elisabeth about something else entirely.

I’m dragging myself away now to get back in time for Henry Goodman in Fiddler on the Roof at the Savoy tomorrow night. Still a few hours, though, to catch some Memorial Day shopping and have lunch with Michael Sheen. Oh, and another friend, London-based actors’ agent Kevin Francis, calls to say “hi” – he’s in New York to see clients – and remind me that he was in the National Youth Theatre with Sheen in a production of The Shoemakers’ Holiday twenty years ago. See what I mean?

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