Back in January 1999, in the basement of Lincoln Center Theater, I took part in a workshop of a new dance play called “contact” by Susan Stroman and John Weidman that within in the year would be elongated with a second workshop, open Off-Broadway at the Mitzi Newhouse, garner raves reviews and the New York Times anointing it a “new musical”, extend into the new year and then, re-open upstairs in the Broadway sized Vivian Beaumont Theater. Within a few months “contact” would become the Tony Award-winning musical of the the year 2000. Whirlwind. My face on buses throughout the city, pictorial spreads in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and I made the cover of Dance Magazine.
At the first rehearsal Lincoln Center’s Bernie Gersten remarked that the last time he spoke to a group of dancing actors at the commencement of a workshop of a new piece it was at the Public Theater in the early 1970s and that cast would go on to create “A Chorus Line”. It was an encouraging first day speech. When we presented “contact” four weeks later the reaction in the rehearsal room was ecstatic. Our friends, agents, producers, casting people and creatives present all gushed over the work they’d just witnessed. The quality of “contact” was evidenced just a year later as it garnered multiple awards, including 4 Tonys Awards. It was the hit show of the season. For an actor nothing compares to opening a hit show on Broadway.
The response to the recent workshop of Only Gold was so profoundly and excitedly positive I can only compare it to that feeling from 20 years earlier at Lincoln Center with “contact”. Theatrical alchemy. There’s no formula but we know it when we see it.