I got back yesterday morning from a week in New York, but was too busy both there and since getting back to post my usual weekly update till now! The trip was squeezed in-between my weekly teaching commitments at ArtsEd — I left for Heathrow direct from Chiswick, which is where ArtsEd is handily located for such quick escapes, after an afternoon teaching last Monday, and then returned yesterday in time to head direct to the school from the airport again to teach again yesterday afternoon!
And on Sunday, of course, I also ran close to the wire, since that was the reason I was in New York last week in the first place — to officiate at the wedding of my friends Dana P Rowe and Andrew Scharf (pictured either side of me in artwork created by Thomas Mann), that took place that morning; but we had to fly home that night from New York so had to leave the reception by 3.30pm to get home, get our bags, and head to JFK by subway for an 8pm flight!
Still, we obviously made it. And I can’t say what a profound honour it was to be invited to officiate at a wedding in this way. Dana, a musical theatre composer who I first met back in 1997 when he came to London for pre-production meetings for his show The Fix that was being premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in a production that was directed by Sam Mendes and co-produced with Cameron Mackintosh, has been a friend for 18 years now. As Sondheim’s lyrics for I’m Still Here have it, “Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all/ And, my dear, I’m still here/ Plush velvet sometimes/ Sometimes just pretzels and beer, but I’m here.” Change the ‘I’m’ to ‘we’re’, and that’s Dana and me.
I calculate that I’ve been in five major relationships during that time, including (for the last seven years, my husband Mark), and Dana has been in three, including the man who became his husband on Sunday, Andrew Scharf. It took both of us a long time to find our own soul-mates in love, but we’ve been soul-mates in friendship for a long time.
I couldn’t have been happier when Dana P (as I always call him!) met Andrew four years ago. He’d just had some extremely bum times, and Mark and I had holidayed earlier that summer with Dana, on his own, in Provincetown. The following summer, Mark and I got married — and Dana brought Andrew to the event, before all four of us went on a group holiday to P-town as part of our honeymoon, and did so again the year after in 2014. It was on that trip that they excitedly shared some news with us: sitting on a little bench on Commercial Street, near the Purple Feather ice cream and chocolate parlour, Andrew had proposed — and Dana had accepted!
Fast forward to Sunday, and — after getting ordained through the Universal Life Church a few months ago, and subsequently making a group trip to City Hall to get me officially registered as an officiant — I was able to marry them to each other. I quoted John Dempsey’s lyrics to The Witches of Eastwick that Dana P wrote the music for in which the three title characters share their romantic aspirations: “Make him mine, make him mine/ Make him handsome as the devil/ yet perfectly divine. /Make him mine./The ultimate companion,/ The ideal design/ All manner of man in one man/ Make him mine.” And on Sunday, I told the gathered throng of family (including Dana’s adult son and daughter, and his two grandchildren by his daughter) and friends, “Today these handsome devils who are both perfectly divine are going to fulfil that as they become the other’s ultimate companion: all manner of man in one man for each other. (The grooms are pictured above with Dana P’s son Landon behind him and me behind Andrew).
It feels anti-climactic in the circumstances to talk about the various shows I shoe-horned into my visit, though I wouldn’t be a theatre addict if I hadn’t crammed them in — and I did, seven of them! Five were Broadway shows — three of which I’d seen before, the Tony winning Fun Home, the Tony missing Something Rotten (apart from one for featured actor Christian Borle), and Les Miserables to catch Alfie Boe joining the show). The other two off-Broadway, including Daddy Long Legs that’s now at the Davenport Theatre on W45th Street and I’d previously seen when it played a season at London’s St James.
But these were just diversions, not the main event. And another thing to look forward to when I got back was ArtsEd itself, where I’d persuaded my friend Scott Alan — who laid on that fantastic birthday party for me last month that I wrote about here — to come and share his experiences as a New York songwriter with them. Many of my students (pictured left with Scott on the front row, and me in the back row) are huge fans — one told me at the end of the class what an idol he was to him, and Scott duly filmed a video message for his sister!