Friday, March 03, 2006
The Theatre Train
I have worked the 11:22 p.m. train from Grand Central to New Haven on and off for the past 20 years. The official name for this train is 1594 but we railroaders call it the “Theatre Train”. It has earned this moniker for three reasons: the most obvious reason is that it is the first available train for theatre-goers to take back to Connecticut after their show lets out.
The second reason is that Broadway actors and stagehands take this train home as well.
The last reason is that several passengers on this train are intoxicated. This always causes a lot of drama (sometimes trauma).
I have become somewhat of a Broadway pollster on this train. When I see a passenger reading a Playbill or discussing a show, I’ll ask: "What did you see? and "How did you like it?"
In all of my years polling people, I don’t think anyone has ever said, “ I hated it!” The degrees of like vary though, from the tepid, “We liked Mama Mia,” to the gushing, “We LOVED Wicked.” I attribute this to the fact that these people just dropped $100 a ticket on the show and probably went out to an expensive dinner beforehand. Add in the cost of the train ticket and they have just spent a bundle. I’d force myself to like the show too.
Two weeks ago, I had a group of five women returning home after seeing “The Pajama Game.” This is a new show that stars Harry Connick Jr. It also stars Mike, one of my regular commuters. That evening, Mike was sitting directly behind these woman as they flipped through their Playbills and critiqued each actor’s performance. I whispered to Mike that they were talking about his show. He gave me a knowing nod and put a finger to his lips as if to say, “Don’t say a word.”
They must have given Mike rave reviews. Just before he got off the train he stopped by and introduced himself. He happily posed for photos and signed their Playbills. As he got off the train he thanked them for seeing the show and for all their kind words.
There is a pod of about 15 stagehands that ride my train every night. They always sit together in the head car of the train so that they can commiserate and conspire against me. I have known most of these guys for years and we have a lot of fun bantering back and forth with each other. Jack, Richie and Guy work on The Producers, Pete works on Jersey Boys. Jeff is the head carpenter on The Light in the Piazza. Justin and sometimes his brother Bill, work the computers for Avenue Q. Mike and Kenny work on The Lion King. Giancarlo was a stagehand in his native Italy and now works for Phantom of the Opera.
One of the benefits of knowing so many stagehands is that whenever I go to a show, they get me house seats. These seats are always in the orchestra section, center stage. When we went to see The Producers, Guy gave my wife and I a back stage tour. When we went to see Phantom of the Opera, the Phantom himself (my friend and former passenger David Gaschen) gave us the backstage tour.
Whenever the Knicks, Rangers or Yankees are in town, my normally civilized theatre train becomes decidedly uncivilized. Middle-aged frat boys wearing their beer muscles, sometimes want to pick a fights. Sometimes with me, sometimes with other passengers. Occasionally they get out of control and I have to call the police and have them removed. Other times they pass out and miss their station stop. Sometimes by several miles. (hee!hee!)
Drunken party girls who ride this train tend to get loud. When I ask them to quiet down they cop an attitude and give me dirty looks. These nights usually end with them crying to friends and then getting sick in the aisle. It’s then when I call this train by another name…”The Vomit Comet.”