As the month of December opened, I was reminded of a couple things: first, when the Red Sox win, the Red Sox rule. They dominate everything else in this town; and second, Boston has some pretty cool venues in addition to Fenway Park.
On the first Monday of the month, I was at the Colonial Theatre (now officially the Emerson Colonial) for the premier showing of the official 2018 World Series documentary. It was the first time I'd been in the old theatre since it reopened this past summer after undergoing extensive renovations, and let me tell you something -- the old girl looks more than pretty good; she looks great!
The oldest continuing operating theater in Boston -- and the most beautiful -- the Colonial first opened its doors in December of 1900. That makes it not only 12 years older than Fenway Park, but it's even older than the Red Sox themselves. The team wasn't born until 1901. The first production at the Colonial was Ben Hur, and it featured eight horses on stage in the famous horse race scene. One can imagine the sight of them must have brought the house down, but it's hard to believe that it got a bigger reaction than the appearance on-stage of Red Sox manager Alex Cora with the World Series trophy under his arm.
Back in 1943 the Colonial was the site of a pre-Broadway try-out of a new musical called Away We Go, written and composed by two veterans of the stage teaming together for the first time. Their names were Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and during the Boston run of the show they decided to change its name to Oklahoma. The rest, as they say, is history.
But back to more recent history, the showing of World Series documentary. If you ever want to have a good time, get 1700 friends together and show the CD. The whooping and hollering in the theater that night was almost like being at the ballpark; and it's not like no one knew how it was going to turn out (spoiler alert: it has a happy ending). The show even comes with villains for everyone to boo. There is, for example, that staple of baseball bad guys, Alex Rodriguez. He has become baseball's Bela Lugosi, the personification of all that is evil. He's always sure to raise the hackles of the crowd. And now he's joined by a new villain the crowd loves to hate: Manny Machado. He earned as many boos and catcalls when his image appeared on-screen as did A-Rod, and that's saying something.
The documentary is terrific, and getting to see it at the Emerson Colonial was a memorable experience.
Two nights after the documentary showing I was at another pretty good Boston venue that has a little history of its own, Symphony Hall. A National Historic Landmark, it's even older than the Colonial, but only by two months.
The occasion was the annual A Company Christmas at Pops, the kick-off to the orchestra's annual Christmas concerts which have for many years been a great Boston tradition. The orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus never sounded better. And where better to hear them than at Symphony Hall, world famous for its acoustics. Getting to recite Teddy at the Bat there several years ago with the full orchestra in back of me was the thrill of a lifetime.
But, you may ask, what has all that got to do with the Red Sox? First of all, at one point conductor Keith Lockhart stepped forward to announce that the next song, Sleigh Ride, first made popular by a Pops recording in 1949, would be led by a special guest conductor. And who should appear on stage but Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, who has morphed in recent years from a popular celebrity to a revered folk hero because of the manner in which he has navigated so many problems, both health and otherwise, with grit, determination, and good humor. Jerry took the baton in hand, and he did not disappoint. Never has the orchestra been conducted by anyone with more dance moves. The crowd roared in approval.
How could you top that? Well, a little later in the program Maestro Lockhart stepped forward once again. It was time for the traditional recitation of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (actual title, A Visit from St. Nicholas) by Clement Moore. Onto the stage, bathed in a huge ovation, marched Alex Cora. I'm telling you, the guy is everywhere these days. Judging from the reception he got from the more than two thousand music and Red Sox lovers in the hall, I'd venture to say that Marty Walsh is lucky that the mayoral election was last year and not this. Cora is the most popular guy in town, even more popular than Jerry Remy. Then he proceeded to recite Moore's classic poem in Spanish. The audience loved it even though most of us didn't know what the devil he was saying, except for when he recited the names of Santa's reindeer. Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen are the same in any language.
Being in Symphony Hall is like watching a game in Fenway Park. You are surrounded by history and tradition everywhere you look. The greatest artists of more than a century have been on that stage, and the greatest ballplayers of all time have played on the field at Fenway Park. Add the Emerson Colonial Theatre with all of its history to the mix, and you have the elements of what makes Boston unique. To have had the opportunity to experience all of it in a period of just forty-eight hours is something special.
The Emerson Colonial is back and going strong; Symphony Hall and the Boston Pops have never been better; and the Red Sox are World Series champions.
Life is good.
Dick Flavin is a New York Times bestselling author; the Boston Red Sox “Poet Laureate” and The Pilot’s recently minted Sports’ columnist.
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