Is Tommy Tune Stuck in the Mezzanine?
Broadway theatres: for many of us, they are glorious houses of worship where we come to together to celebrate and praise the Gods of Theatre. It’s a place of magic, mystery, melody, and mayhem. It is a temple for emotional catharsis, where a recalibration of our senses and our souls unfolds. It is a place of meditation, contemplation, and spiritual rejuvenation. Theatres are a cozy respite from the outside world, a safe haven to congregate and commune while sitting back and collectively sharing an experience in the coziness of your seat.
Unless you have long legs, that is.
If your lower extremities are long (like mine), good luck finding any comfort in a Broadway house. In most seats, you can barely squeeze your legs in behind the seat in front of you. Never mind if the patron sitting in that seat one aisle ahead decides to sit down hard and slam back. Your knees are going to hurt. If you are arthritic, you will jump to the moon in pain. On a recent visit to Broadway to see the revival of Hello, Dolly! at the Shubert Theatre, this happened to me. I was in the second row of the mezzanine (quite good seats, in fact), but I could not fit my legs. I’m only 6’ 1”, and I know there are plenty of people who are taller than I am, so I assume that I am not the only person who has had this problem. My only options are to position myself on the very edge of my seat and tuck my legs, crossed, under my seat at uncomfortably peculiar angles and lean forward for balance, or to wedge my legs behind the seats seat in front of me, lean back, and accept the bruises and scrapes that are often a result of my trip to the theatre.
I get it. Most Broadway theatres were built in a time when people were much shorter and it was rare for a person to be over 5’8”. Human beings have changed a lot in since the late 1800s, and they are not only much heavier, they are much-taller. Some of the newer theatres seem to have caught on to how human beings have changed in the last century (give or take twenty-years) and have realized that leg room is not just a luxury, but a necessity. Theatres like the Gershwin (after it was converted from the Uris), the Lyric, the Marquis, the Minskoff, and the New Amsterdam don’t seem to have this problem. I’ve never had to wedge myself into a seat in one of these houses. The older houses must face losing revenue by removing seats (or rows of seats) to adjust for leg room. It’s probably not going to happen in the Shubert, the St. James or the Al Hirshfeld. I’m just going to have to learn to sit through shows in discomfort, paying for my $150 hours of equal parts heaven and hell.
Tommy Tune, one of Broadway’s greatest director/choreographers /performers is practically all legs. This legend of the theatre is 6’6” tall. I’ve seen him walk the red carpet, so I know he has attended some opening nights in his day. Where, unless he’s in a front row, does this guy sit when he goes to the theatre? Is he possibly wedged into a seat somewhere in the mezzanine? Has anyone checked? I guarantee he fits less comfortably in some of the theatre seats than I do. If you can’t do something about it for me, can you at least do it for poor Tommy Tune, wedged in Row G at the Music Box, probably stuck there for life handing out Playbills?