Being in New York City for work from time to time, I’ve often taken advantage of the ability to score great seats for Broadway shows when buying only one, and this time I scored a seat in the front row of the center orchestra, the day after Penn & Teller on Broadway opened at the Marquis Theater in Times Square. Though I assumed I’d have a good time, my evening turned into an unexpected tale of the kind I like most: one that is fun, and just a little bit left of normal.
Penn & Teller are fairly unique on Broadway in that they encourage everyone to turn on their phones at the beginning of the show since they use a cell phone from someone in the audience in their first trick. Before the show we were all allowed to take pictures, and if you know me at all, you know that was something I just couldn’t pass up. This was my seat, which as you can see was the last seat in the front row in the center orchestra, seat AA 103.
The audience was invited on stage before the show to examine two props, and to sign one of them. The first was a large wooden box which you can see me leaning on in this photo. People climbed into it, took selfies in it, had other people take pics (as I did here, handing my camera to a random person who was happy to oblige), and generally proving to ourselves that the box was solid, wood, and otherwise normal. I won’t ruin the surprise for anyone who may attend the show, but I was pretty impressed when the box was used later on in the show.
My daughter, who has decided she wants to be on Broadway as a career, was quite jealous that I got to stand on a Broadway stage, and the day after opening night no less. By the way, the pianist who you can barely see in some of the photos is Mike Jones, and he was amazing. He was the source of all music before, during, and after the show, and he was absolutely mesmerizing.
To give you a further idea of how great my seat was, it’s the seat on the end of the first row in this image. Mike Jones can be seen behind the guy dressed in black with the black hat.
The reason I point out my seat is that Penn & Teller love to include the audience in their shows and everyone who gets called on stage gets to keep whatever prop they used. Though I did not get called on stage, at one point in the show they do something with a lemon, and after the bit Teller tossed the lemon to me in the audience. He picked me. He picked me! I was a part of the show! I’m still deciding if I can add “Performed on Broadway” to my resume.
Another great thing about Penn & Teller that I did not know is the fact that they like to go to the lobby after the show and mingle with the fans. In this theater, they went to separate points in the lobby where they were each immediately surrounded by hundreds of people.
Since Meghan collects signed Playbills and Posters from Broadway performances, I had to take the opportunity to get my Playbills signed. That meant waiting patiently in two throngs of people to meet celebrities, which is not something I’d normally do. For my daughters, though, I’d do anything, so I waited my turn for both of them.
Penn, who is a good six foot, six inches tall, towered over me and most everyone else in the crowd. He signed everything for everyone and took pictures with anyone that asked, calling everyone “Boss” as he tried to accommodate everyone.
For me the entire thing seemed like a security nightmare, but they both handled it with grace and aplomb, though I did notice that Penn always kept his back to one of the large pillars. Hell, I would have situated myself the same way.
Teller, who never speaks on stage, was delightfully charismatic while being surrounded by fans, having conversations with all of them, signing anything they offered, and taking selfies galore. When it was my turn I got my two Playbills signed (one for each daughter), and then asked with a smile if he would sign my lemon. He was delighted, held it up for the crowd and announced that sometimes audience members even get free lemons!
Getting the lemon back to my hotel room unharmed and unsmudged was a bit of a challenge, but I managed to keep it intact enough for the photo at the top of this page. One of the Playbills has already been secreted away to Meghan’s archival-quality Playbill Collection Book, and will probably end up in a frame. As for the lemon, it’s currently sitting on my desk slowly decomposing as citrus fruits are wont to do. My signed lemon won’t last long, but the memories will, and memories are almost always better than keepsakes, unless the keepsake in question is signed. And a lemon