I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my dealings with Whedon actors and writers. They are truly some of the kindest people on earth, and probably the most open to their fans of any celebrities I’ve met. That was definitely the case for The Bells of West 87th.
I actually saw the show first as a staged reading, with Juliet Landau portraying the lead character, Molly Fein. The staged reading was interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I hoped that it would progress beyond the reading into a full run for the play. Eventually, that happened, and I was thrilled to discover that Juliet would be joined on stage by James Marsters playing Molly’s beau, Chris Germaine. Spike and Dru back together on stage could be nothing less than magical.
As soon as tickets went on sale, I purchased one for opening night, then talked to my family about the two special ‘Meet and Greet’ events that would take place. Due to the dates offered for those events, we decided to see the show as a family on the second ‘Meet and Greet.’ Prior to the show opening, I also talked with executive producer David Fury and his lovely wife, playwright Elin Hampton, and helped them get the Twitter account started for the play. I was also in touch with Juliet Landau, and she assured me that the play was wonderful and funnier than ever. We continued to keep in touch, and right before The Bells of West 87th started its first preview night, I sent Juliet a message about how excited I was to see her and to break a leg at that preview night.
Shortly after that message was sent, everything changed. Within an hour, David announced, via Twitter, that Juliet had to bow out due to other obligations. I was crushed, since I rarely get to see her and had been really looking forward to seeing her live on stage once again. This also had the effect of angering other fans who had bought tickets to see the show, since it was promoted as having Spike and Dru together again. Instead, Cameron Meyer stepped up from her understudy duties to be the play’s new lead, and absolutely mastered the role of Molly. The quick thinking of those involved with the play and Cameron’s bravery in stepping into Juliet’s place made The Bells of West 87th a complete success.
On opening night, September 7th, I joined a full house of theatre goers and reviewers in watching the show. In doing so, I met Marsia, one of the other lovely ladies at Whedonopolis, and that meeting actually facilitated my writing here. I also saw several of my friends, as well as some other former Whedonites. Opening night hosted Amber Benson, Adam Busch, J August Richards, and David Greenwalt. The show itself was wonderful, and though there were a couple stumbles, I think that was my favorite performance that I have seen. After the show, the whole cast was just glowing with joy that it had gone so well, and the audience had enjoyed it. I made my way outside the theatre post-show, and I had the chance to say hello to Amber and J August. To my knowledge, I’d never met Adam before, but he approached me first and told me how nice it was to see me. Amber and J August joined in our conversation, as did David Fury, and we had a nice chat which was interrupted by a request that David, Amber, Adam, and J August join James and David Greenwalt take a picture together. I let them go, then introduced myself to the other cast members to congratulate them on a job well done. Right before I left for the night, I caught James leaving, so I said hello to him and told him I hoped he would have an excellent evening and that I had thoroughly enjoyed the show and would see it again before it closed. I wasn’t at the show the following evening, but I found out via The Bells of West 87th‘s Facebook page that Jane Espenson, one of my favorite tv writers, had attended and also enjoyed the show.
The second time I saw the show was at the first Meet & Greet on September 15th. Once again, the show was wonderful, and Carol Locatell really blew me away as Ida. Something about her performance that night cemented in my mind the need to see the show at least a few more times. She plays the epitome of the stereotype of a Jewish maternal figure, and it was pure magic. I also remember that after the show ended, prior to the Q&A beginning, David Fury acknowledged two people in the audience: Charisma Carpenter and Adam Baldwin. I had the opportunity to speak with both of them, and as per my previous experiences with the Whedonverse family, they were great to talk with and very friendly.
After the quick recess post-play, both Charisma and Adam left, everyone who had paid for the Q&A was ushered back inside and the Q&A began. There were several fantastic questions, and I was lucky enough to have one of mine answered. I asked the cast how much of their own lives and experiences they used as a base for the characters they played, and it took the cast about five minutes to answer me. One of the other questions was about how the cast was linked to Joss Whedon, and out of all involved, only Cameron and Carol didn’t have a connection. The Q&A was a lot of fun, and I left with a deeper understanding of the play.
My third viewing of the play on September 21st included me bringing my best friend and roommate along for the ride. She enjoyed it just as much as I did, and she kindly took my picture with James after the show. That evening, I introduced her to the cast, and she was thrilled to meet them all and congratulate them on a fine performance.
The fourth time I saw the play was the next night, September 22nd. The previous evening, I’d talked with the cast and mentioned that since my immediate family would see the play on the next Meet & Greet, I would bring another family member the next night. I did exactly as promised. I brought my grandmother with me. She enjoyed the show and was a huge fan of the schmaltzy music that played before the show began and during intermission. Later that night, post-show, my grandmother told me that she also had really enjoyed meeting the cast and playwright. She said it was obvious that they had respect for me and were grateful for my patronage. I told her that I support the arts, and especially shows that I can so easily relate to.
There was a slight change up when I saw the show for the fifth time on September 27th. Instead of buying my own pass, I met up with some wonderful friends and one of them treated me to dinner and then the show. I think I enjoyed this particular outing to the play because I had such wonderful company and I got to enjoy them enjoying the play for the first time. After the show, there was a lot of gushing while we waited for the actors to come out and say hello. I had brought my signed Buffy box set with me, and I had Dagney Kerr sign the box. She was thrilled to do so, and Elin promised to do so on Sunday. I was thrilled! When my friends and I said our goodnights after that, we all knew that we’d see each other again on Sunday for the second Meet & Greet.
By the time the second Meet & Greet rolled around on September 29th, I practically had ants in my pants. I love The Bells of West 87th, and I was looking forward to seeing how my family reacted to the show. In all fairness, they’d gotten tired of me talking about the play, but they met me at the theatre after a slight traffic malfunction. Unbeknownst to us, there was some sort of street fair going on, so it was slightly more difficult to arrive at the theatre that night. However, my family arrived, and we all took our seats and enjoyed the show. As with the previous Q&A, after the show ended there was a slight break for snacks. My family all loved the show, and looked forward to the Q&A. Prior to it beginning, David announced that the show had been extended for another two weeks. The audience was thrilled! Then, once the Q&A began, I hesitantly raised my hand to ask a question. This time, I asked about a line that had been changed in the show from the earlier versions I’d seen of it. Elin gave a great explanation, and we all once again exited the theatre in excitement to wait for the actual Meet & Greet.
The Meet & Greet was packed with people, and I was fortunate to find most of the cast and introduce my family to them. The only person who my family didn’t meet was James because he was mobbed by other fans. It was slightly disappointing for my family, but they know that we’re going to see him in The Hound of the Baskervilles at LA Theatre Works next June, so it wasn’t a big deal. After my family left, I approached David and Elin, as both had previously promised to sign by signed Buffy Box. While signing, David told me that Bill Prady, the creator of The Big Bang Theory, had attended the show as well. I was happy to hear that, and I hope that it will possibly lead to a sequel of the play ending up on tv. (What’s the point of dreaming if you don’t dream big?) Anyways, I left the show happy and exhausted, fairly certain that I wouldn’t see it again. As that was only trip six of seven, that obviously ended up not being the case.
Due to pure luck and good fortune, I ended up making it to closing night on October 27th. One of the two friends I’d met up with exactly a month prior was there again, as well, and this time she brought her daughter, who is my age. We joined up with a couple other people, and we all enjoyed the show. After the show, we all complimented the cast and crew on putting together such a fun production, and told them that we hoped it would be picked up for performances somewhere else. It was a great way to end a wonderful production, and I sincerely hope that those who couldn’t make it to see the show will have opportunities to do so in the future.
The Bells of West 87th holds a special place in my heart, and I’ll miss it now that it’s gone. It’s a very special show.