Thursday, November 19, 2009

A 30th to Remember

The other night our friend Brian Healy celebrated his 30th birthday at Marie's Crisis, the legendary theater sing-along piano bar in the West Village on Grove Street. I've known Brian since he was six; Ted remembers when he was born. The Healys are close friends and former neighbors, along with the Gabels, from Jane Street; we all traveled together, our little Jane Street coterie, a year ago to Amsterdam to visit Ton Mutsaer, the sister of our great Jane Street friend Gerard Mutsaer.

Marie's Crisis is a fantastic, ancient, New York institution which Ted and I used to frequent more regularly. Off of Grove Street, a few steps down lead into a ground floor bar, which is dark with low ceilings. Patrons sit on high stools and stand around the hard working piano player, singing out popular show tunes. The long bar is along the back wall which is lined with a huge, fading, dingy mirror. Strings of artificial autumn leaves interspersed with rust-colored lights circled the room where the walls met the low ceiling. Colorful traffic lights from the street outside twinkled through the sidewalk-level windows.

Marie's Crisis had never closed for a private event but Brian promised a big turnout, and they all came. Brian is an enthusiastic, ebullient, much-loved New Yorker and has a million friends. We found sitting at the piano the Healys and the Gabels and our great friends Tom Meehan, who wrote the Broadway musicals Annie, The Producers and Hairspray, and his wife Carolyn. There were lots of good looking young guys there; this fall they're wearing closely cropped beards and tweed jackets. It was fun to catch up with Brian's friends and relatives.

Some of his friends are professional theater and opera singers, and one at a time they came forward to sing a solo. Solos were also offered by the talented waitstaff at Marie's; it was like a Broadway show that went on and on.
A cake was lit

and a wish was made.

Brian's father Don offered everyone a drink on the house.
Here are the handsome Healys.

I'm not a big Broadway singer (Ted is) but after a couple Heinekens, what the hell.
At 11:00 the extremely talented piano player was replaced by another extremely talented piano player. His name was Danny Daly and he played everything by memory, with no sheet music.

Brian himself stepped forward and delivered a rousing rendition of Judy Garland's "Chicago" which brought down the house. By then everyone – man, woman and child – was belting out the show tunes. There were a lot of Judy and Liza numbers; those gals really did have the best songs – "Cabaret," "Over the Rainbow," "Maybe this Time," "The Man That Got Away," etc., etc. I was positively winded.

It was getting late, into the wee hours, and we were hoping we could outlast Tom and Carolyn, who were happily ensconced behind glittering martinis. But at last we had to fold, and bid them adieu. I was reminded of the story that Elaine Stritch told in her one woman show, At Liberty, about when she stayed up all night singing and drinking with Judy Garland. Finally, Judy Garland had to call it quits and she remarked, "Elaine, I never thought I'd say this, but 'Good night!'"

Many happy returns of the day to Brian Healy. It was a great birthday in New York. We'll see you for 30 more.


Laura said...

This sounds like an absolutely magical night. A friend took me to Marie's Crisis years ago and I was totally flummoxed, but in the best way possible. The place is unlike anywhere I've been, before or since. It inspires pure joy, and somehow creates an atmosphere of absolutely no inhibitions. Which I suppose is a state we should be striving for, no?

Bart Boehlert said...

Laura, Marie's definitely does take you to another place.