Our Overnight in Boston to See Amanda Palmer in Cabaret by Leslie

I've never been away from the kids overnight. That's four and a half years of snuggling with my little guys almost all night, every night. Milo slept over at his Gram's house for two nights a few months ago, but I still had Quinn. At four, Milo is completely okay with being away from us at night, but Quinn is two and still needs me in the middle of the night. No one, not even Daddy, will do. Despite this, when Chris and I heard that Amanda Palmer was going to be in a production of Cabaret in Boston in September, we thought it would be the perfect way to celebrate my 35th birthday and our first overnight trip away from the kids.


My Mom, wanting to come for a visit for my birthday, offered to come from Canada to watch them here at our house. She arrived on Wednesday and Friday morning Chris and I set off for a fabulous night of all things that do not go with kids. The setting off part was a bit harder than I thought it would be. Not for them but for me. It wasn't that I was worried about them, or thinking that something would go wrong. It was kind of like I was leaving an arm behind. It was just weird. Also, packing for one person instead of three? What a novelty.

So off we go to Boston. I brought two books on tape, two books of questions and the newspaper because I wondered what on earth would Chris and I talk about for four hours in the car, much less 36 hours alone? Well, we didn't need any props. When we weren't chatting about something or other, we would just sit and enjoy the silence, or the music, or just stare out the window without having to do anything. It was lovely.

We got to The Charles Hotel, valet parked, checked in and went up to the room to settle in. Again, it was strange to be without the kids, but it was starting to come back to me, how to be alone with Chris, how to enjoy new places without having to identify exits and bathrooms. How to stay in a hotel. How to relax. Chris had ordered an insanely expensive "Get in the Mood" package, which consisted of a little plate of chocolate covered strawberries and a bottle of champagne. Rather than "get me in the mood" it just made me sleepy, so instead of the obvious activity when you are alone in a hotel room with your mate, I read a book to Chris and he had a cat nap. It was a tiny bit romantic but I was pretty far from "in the mood". Like most guys, Chris is always in the mood, but for me, since having kids, getting in the mood is something that I have to work at. 

Strawberries & Champagne

Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for our dinner reservations at 7:30. It's so fun (funny?) to dress up after spending all my time in jeans and t-shirts. I thought it would be good to dress the part for Cabaret, so I had ordered a flapper inspired dress, a modern fascinator hat and herringbone booties from the online vintage retailer ModCloth. I also packed my old fishnets, that I had worn shamelessly when dating Chris almost 10 years ago. They still fit.

Cabaret Outfit

 I don't know what I was thinking ordering four and a half inch heels to walk around Boston in, besides that they looked good with the dress. Whether or not I could walk in them hadn't occurred to me. But it should have, I wear flats almost all the time now and my legs are not used to walking around in heels.

Unfortunately all we got was this shadowy iPhone photo of us all dressed up, but let me tell you, we looked fantastic! And we felt fantastic. At least until I started walking. 

Leslie & Chris Cabaret

We arrived at the restaurant, OM (turn your volume down before visiting the site), exactly on time and were impressed by the decor. We were shown to a half circle booth and sat down a little awkwardly. Did I already say that it was weird to be without the kids? I felt like we were on our first date or something. We ordered fancy drinks, I got the Sassy Miss, and we were given a delicious popcorn appetizer. Soon we were at ease again, chatting away. I felt a little silly in my hat, like the dog in "Go Dog Go" who keeps saying "Do you like my hat?!" Chris said it looked good on me though, so I tried to own it and feel bold. 

Go Dog Go

Our appetiser arrived, Sweet Bread and Scallion Pancakes. At least that's how I read it. I think that it was "sweetbread" though, all one word, and it turns out it is the best misnomer in cuisine. Do you know what sweetbread is? I didn't. I thought it was a pastry or something. I've just swallowed my first bite and Chris says, "Oh no..." You never want to hear THAT in a restaurant. Chris doesn't want to tell me what he thinks it is, but I beg him. Finally, he tells me that he thinks it's cow brains. I said, "COW BRAINS? Are you serious? They can't serve that, isn't that how people die?" We called the waiter over and asked what we were eating. He said he wasn't sure and that he would ask the cook. Even the waiter didn't know what it was! While he was gone, we looked it up on my iPhone. Wikipedia says sweetbread is throat or heart or stomach. It's not brains, but I'm not really too keen on eating a stomach either. After what seemed like forever, the waiter returned and said that it was veal. We didn't bother to find out what part. He took it away and we ordered the vegetarian spring rolls. There is nothing strange or disgusting about deep fried vegetables.

The rest of the meal is edible although a bit pretentious. My Tuna Tartier comes with long green beans in a tempura batter. I should have known that tartier was close enough to tartar that it meant that the tuna would be raw but it wasn't obvious to me. Once again, I was excepting something else. I've had sushi, so it's fine, but it's just not what I thought it would be. Also, the long green beans? It's just ONE long green bean and it's tied in a knot. Chris and I are really more steak people and we should have gone with something a bit less artistic. But at least we had a good laugh at dinner.

So now it's 9:30 pm and we are headed to the theater for the 10:30 pm Cabaret. Normally at this time, at home, the kids have just gone to bed and Chris and I will watch TV or work on our computers. But here we are, a little tipsy, me walking on four inch heels with a bird's nest on my head, holding onto my husband's arm so I don't fall, through a part of Boston just littered with young, sexy, child-free people. It's fun to pretend that I am more like them for the night, than like the person that I am when I'm at home.

OberonEntrance Oberon Entrance. Photo by Amanda Palmer.

The American Repertory Theater's production of Cabaret is at the Oberon. It's a cool nightclub setting and we are excited to see Amanda Palmer live for the first time. We've been casual fans of The Dresden Dolls for a while, but I really started paying attention to her when she became engaged to my favorite author Neil Gaiman. She quickly became an inspiration to me and she's constantly doing amazing things with all kinds of interesting people. I sent her a twitter earlier in the day telling her that we were coming and she retweeted me (to her half a million followers) and added "see you soon. holla!!" I'll admit, it's exciting when celebrities tweet you, much less retweet you. I had also seen on Twitter that she was looking forward to the first late night show and wanted the crowd to be loud and enthusiastic.

If you've seen Cabaret, you'll know that it's all about engaging the audience and making them feel like they are a part of the show. At the beginning, it's like you are really at the Kit Kat Klub, so we got right into it, cheering and yelling and whooping. The girl at the merchandise table said it was the first performance of the run that was filled with a younger crowd who dressed the part and were Amanda Palmer fans. Previous shows had been attended mostly by A.R.T. members.

At the KlubAt the Klub. Photo by Marcus Stern.

It was incredible. It was dark and edgy. It was devastating. The emotional journey that you go through is raw and disorienting. The highlight for me was during the New Year's Eve scene when Amanda as the Emcee is going through the crowd toasting everyone. I halfway get up to reach out and toast her and she looks at me and says, "You...I have to kiss." I just about died. She didn't kiss everyone, just me and the girl next to me. I was so thrilled. It was amazing. And you should have seen the look on Chris's face.

Amanda PalmerAmanda Palmer (the Emcee). Photo by Marcus Stern.

The scenes take place all over the club, around us, next to us, above us. Because of the small space it's incredibly well integrated and heightens the feeling that we, as the audience, are a critical part of the show. The actors that make up the Cabaret troupe are riveting, with beautiful bodies and movements, but garish and frightening makeup. They are like ghosts. I couldn't take my eyes off of Lucille Duncan as Rosie. The rest of the cast is flawless, the singing is amazing, the roles are well cast. I'm not really a fan of musicals, but this one works for me. Aly Trasher as Sally Bowles is awesome, her journey through the play is so tragic and sad. And Thomas Derrah as Fraulein Schneider couldn't be more perfect. I love that they cast a man in this role and it really works.

Amanda Palmer"Don't Tell Mama" - Eric Johnson (Frenchie), Renee-Marie Brewster (Fritzie), Tamara Hickey (Texas), Aly Trasher (Sally), Jordy Lievers (Helga), Lucille Duncan (Rosie). Photo by Marcus Stern.

Amanda Palmer Tamara Hickey (Texas), Thomas Derrah (Fraulein Schneider), Matt Wood (Cliff Bradshaw). Photo by Marcus Stern.

As thrilling and sexy and daring as the beginning of the show is, the end of the show is heart breaking and chilling when the Holocaust references become more apparent. There are vulgar and shocking scenes that just leave the audience silent and breathless. It's the worst kind of downer, it's depressing. I went from loving Amanda, to hating her. Which of course means that she did a fabulous job. 

Kit Kat Klub dancersThe Kit Kat Klub Dancers. Photo by Marcus Stern.

Chris and I walked back to the hotel at 1:30 am in a daze. The show was amazing but it forces you to talk about Nazi Germany and all the terrible things that happened. To ask ourselves again, how *could* it have happened. But we loved the performance, it was arresting and perfectly executed. We talked about it until we were so tired that all we could do was sleep.

Luckily, after a good nights sleep and a little distance from the heaviness of the night before, we woke up late and were finally "in the mood". We checked out at noon and headed out to find lunch. Cafe Pamplona had amazing coffee and delicious panini sandwiches. We read the paper and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather while listening to three young friends speaking Italian to each other. I wish we could have spent all afternoon walking around Harvard Square, but after talking to my Mom and hearing that things went well, but that half the night had been spent sleeping on the couch with the kids because Quinn would cry if she went anywhere near the bedrooms, we decided to head home around 2:00 pm so that we could be home by dinner.

Cafe Pamplona Cafe Pamplona, Boston, MA.

Grandma and the BoysGrandma with Milo and Quinn.

We had a great time and it was well worth it, but Quinn is still a bit too young to be leaving him all night long. Chris and I look forward to more nights like this though! It's so important to take a step back sometimes and rekindle the love. To remember who we were before we had kids. My favorite thing about the whole trip was that because Chris wasn't taking care of the kids, he was taking care of me again. That felt good.

“Ah! lève-toi, soleil!” by Leslie

RomeojulietteLast night Chris and I went to see Guy Joosten’s new Metropolitan Opera production of Romeo and Juliette. It was amazing. It is, of course, a very familiar story and we saw the ballet of it the night that Chris proposed to me. The opera was a wonderful change. The stage set, designed by Johannes Leiacker, was elegant and beautiful with a celestial theme. There was a large circular video screen for the backdrop that showed images of space, the moon and the sun to set the time of day and mood. The set right after intermission, at the beginning of the fourth act, is simply breathtaking. Romeo and Juliette appear to be in a dream-scape with stars and a floating bed with billowing sheets that drew applause from the audience immediately. The singing was also beautiful and while opera can sometimes be a little bit over-the-top for me, this had the right balance of flare and simplicity. There are only 2 more performances, so if you are in the city and you like this kind of thing, I recommend that you try to go.