The Roar of the Crowd: In a Booth at Chasen’s
By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher
Having grown up on Broadway, I go to plays once in a while in the hinterland, usually dreading the dramatic and the production quality. So I was extremely surprised and delighted by one of the best musical plays I’ve seen in years, IN A BOOT AT CHASEN’S by my good friend, Al Kasha, with the book by Sam Bennett and music and lyrics by Al Kasha and Phil Swann.
The musical tells the story of the real-life Hollywood romance of Ron and Nancy Reagan. It is only one act, but a powerful production for that one act. It not only told the story of Ron and Nancy Reagan, but I’m sure the story of many of us in the audience. When they met at Chasen’s, each of their careers had taken a downturn, but they don’t want to let the other person know that’s the case. Ron is no longer being called for movies, but for television, which is an insult to him. Nancy, as she says, is cute and adorable, but she’s never broken into the big time and gotten her own dressing room. The story of them getting to know each other is a universal story of love, complete with arguments, discouragement, hopes, dreams, and desire.
One of the best songs is “It’s Not Easy being You,” where Nancy pokes fun at Ron’s discouragement, since he is after all a working actor and head of the Screen Actors’ Guild, even if he’s not Clark Gable. In the middle of the song, Ron starts pointing out all the conditions that have gotten Nancy to whine about her career. By the end, they are more in love than ever. This is so true to real life and so absolutely brilliant. In fact, every song is brilliant. The other song that touches the heart is titled, “Is It You? Is It Me? Is It We?” where Ron transitions into “She Makes Me Right.”
IN A BOOTH AT CHASEN’S is not hagiography, that is, a gloss of who Ron and Nancy were. It shows their flaws, their humanity and eventually the potential for Ron’s greatness, if they go it together.
If you live in the Los Angeles area, this is a must-see musical celebration of romance, faith, and values, playing at the El Portal Theater on Lankershim Blvd. What a joy it is after a youth growing up on Broadway to attend a musical that is reminiscent and even better than many of the shows during the Golden Age of Broadway in the 1950s. The creative team, who together have won four Tony Awards, two Drama Desk Awards, two Academy Awards, excelled. The play runs until Nov. 25.