The magical and majestic Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale opened its 50th anniversary season this month with a nostalgic performance by the legendary singer Donovan, showcasing a 50th anniversary tour. The Hurdy Gurdy man, grayer and older, was a long way from Glasgow.
Right away you could tell his voice was not the same, but who am I to complain? Neither is my pitching arm as strong as it was once. I don't run as fast as I used to. I don't look as good as I once did, either. But I'm here and I'm happy.
Still, I can't deny it, the twang in Donovan's voice that once sent a visceral chill down my spine was gone. The audience was nevertheless respectful and receptive. We all had something in common. We are survivors.
Donovan was alone on stage with his guitar in a theater exceptionally set up for a solo artist. But this was a theater once also made grand by Zev Bufman and his production company; a stage graced by many talented winners of Oscar and Tony Awards.
Welcome then to this year's arts and entertainment issue, the Mirror's annual tribute and salute to outstanding musicals, live performances, and marvelous actors. From ballet dancers to dramatic plays, there is something somewhere for everyone. There is a song that will capture your heart, a scene to reawaken a memory, and a plot line to share with a friend.
As I have written before, for me, there will always be an empty seat next to me on opening nights. It's an evening I always shared with mom, who passed away at age 90, five years ago. She was a Broadway dancer in the 1940's but made the cover of the Sun Sentinel in 1995 as a hoofer for the Lime Bay Tappettes.
Oh, did mom ever love the theater! And Parker Playhouse in particular. How can you not? It's an easily accessible, historic, intimate venue, a place where the Broadway Center 20 years ago debuted its own run by hosting 'The Phantom of the Opera.'
There is nothing like live theater. The lights go on, and the actors are alone on stage with their bodies and their minds, remembering their lines and finding their spots. They are painting a canvas with no second chances- for our pleasure and enjoyment. But don't forget their spontaneity arose only from oh so many daily rehearsals.
Donovan took an early break after only thirty minutes of song. He says he had to respect the many people in the audience his age that may need to use the 'facilities.' I am guessing the concerts he gave in Trafalgar Square in 1966 did not have such an interruption. But then, most of his audience then was not taking heart and water pills, or medicine for high cholesterol or low blood sugar.
Ever a political activist, Donovan shared a story about how he got busted once for possession of pot. He received loud and approving applause from the sold out crowd of 1,200 when he remarked "it's taken us 50 years to realize there is nothing dangerous about pot." He then related an episode about John Lennon's near arrest in Great BritIn six months after his own.
"Lennon called me up when he heard the bobbys were coming to raid his house," Donovan said "then he asked 'what do I do?,' you're the expert!"
The vocals were not what they used to be, but a seasoned performer kept his audience captivated, singing songs of love and social responsibility, playing with the past and tugging at memories of days gone by.
All of us, at every age, are trying to catch the wind, find our Juniper, and sway comfortably in the breeze. From Palm Beach to Key West, there is a show and a stage advertised on these pages of The Mirror that will take you there.
Buy a ticket and take a seat.
There is a performance with your name on it coming to a stage near you. It's a beautiful noise, and it will make you feel good. It's a production that will capture your imagination, leave you breathless and inspire you to new horizons. Maybe there is a sunshine superman out there awaiting you.
Enjoy reading the Mirror today and SFGN every week. Join us in the journey to make each day special and every evening mystical. Theater can do that for you. I know it has for me.