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 Newport Playhouse

When I signed up for a bus tour to Newport at the Senior Center last May, I didn’t realize how much we had in store. It was billed a “Lobster Fest with Theater and Cabaret,” and they came through in spades. Newport R.I. is a two-hour drive from northern Connecticut – four hours round trip on a bus with 42 other people. I was able to get a seat up front, and it turned out to be very comfortable. However, on the outgoing trip, we were delayed by a 20-minute pit stop and some heavy Sunday traffic on the highway, making it three hours. But the bus driver was unruffled and did an excellent job maneuvering through.

We arrived at 11:30 and were immediately seated. However, we did not get to the buffet until 1 pm. Fortunately, we had like-minded seating companions to talk to. I was fortunate to meet a Chinese-American woman who was by herself entertainment. We talked and laughed for a long time. The buffet featured hot steamed lobsters, mussels, shrimp, vegetables, fruit, and dessert. My lobster had such a hard shell that I had to have my server crack open the claws for me. By the time that happened, the lobster and melted butter were cold. But the tail was easily accessed and I quickly made my way through that. All was delicious and as much as anyone could eat. One could also order from the bar, but I did not.

I did not take my camera, as I was trying to travel light. Consequently the photo above from the playhouse website is all I have to show you, and unfortunately it does not show you very much. It is a tiny playhouse and dinner theater, family owned for 31 years according to their website. Three other tour buses unloaded another 40 or so passengers each, making 160 people, crowded together shoulder to shoulder in a large dining room on mostly long tables with a few smaller ones. They really packed them in and I’m sure got maximum dollars for the afternoon. We were told there is a maximum of 165 seats in the dining room. But the din of that many people in one room soon made my head swirl and claustrophobia set in. I was happy to get up and walk about before we were ushered into the intimate theater at about two. There, we were entertained by a three-member cast in a farcical play about an unlikely love triangle, too complicated to relate, called “Murder at The Howard Johnson’s.” Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and there was a lot of laughter.

Better than the play and the most entertaining thing to me was watching all the “gray-hairs” walking in, some with canes, trying to find their seats, having to stand up to let others squeeze in front of them to get to their seats, fat bottoms squishing together in a comical dance of the elderly. What a show. At one point during the final minutes of act three, a small elderly gentleman, stooped with arthritis and using a walker, and who sat in the front row, had had enough. He got up and struggled to the Exit door, the walker falling in front of him and he on top of it. A gang of people got up to help him. He was undeterred and made it outside without further incident, and the play continued to its end, uninterrupted. “The play’s the thing.” I only hope he was alright once he was outside. I did not see him again. People watching is so much fun.

Next we went back into the large room, where we were treated to an excellent cabaret. Eight singers and dancers, including those from the play we just saw, entertained us with familiar and lively songs, such as “Let me Call You Sweetheart,” and I wish I could remember the others. I was amused to see my waiter smiling and singing – a singing waiter, how fun. He was very handsome and talented, as were they all. I enjoyed this more than the play. There were some solo numbers that were very sweet and amusing, and group numbers that were very lively, all accompanied by a pianist and a drummer. I was seated in a great spot very close to the stage and could have touched them. What a treat.

We left the theater about  5 pm, with ample restroom time, very important before a long ride home. The entertainers stood at the door as we departed so we could shake their hands and compliment them as we left. They enjoyed that too and said we were all a terrific audience. After 4 1/2  hours of confinement in that small space, it was liberating and spirit-lifting to see the sun again as we got onto the bus.

Our tour director, employee of the senior center, was extremely cordial and helpful, and provided us with more entertainment on both legs of the trip, in the form of movies. My favorite of the two was “Last Vegas” starring Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline. It takes place in Las Vegas, a weekend for four friends from childhood in Brooklyn. Now, 58 years later and living in four different places in the country, they spend this weekend in lively form and getting into lots of trouble. I highly recommend it.

I should mention that the drive into Newport is gorgeous, the beautiful sunny weather enhancing the scenery. We drove over two high bridges as we approached Newport and saw hundreds of boats, blue water and sky, and stately homes, all from a very high elevation. I am sure that those of you who live near the water can appreciate this. I need to go back on my own and spend time near the rocks and water. I arrived home at 7:30, quite exhausted from the entertainment overload, but was happy I went. It being Sunday night, I checked in to my local PBS station to watch a documentary on The Charles W. Morgan whaling ship, and a repeat of “Sherlock.” More overload.

I believe that most of us want, and maybe need, to be entertained. It is something I have thought about over the years. When I look at all we have to entertain us and how much time we spend doing those things, from electronic gadgets, film, television, books, to groups we belong to, and the amount of money we spend in upgrading our electronics, memberships, and so much more – well, it is quite mind-boggling. That subject would take up its own blog, or book. Something to think about.