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By John A. Schwarz                                                                              

I come from a show business family. My mother was a dancer and my uncle a bandleader, singer, and movie actor. My grandfather was also an actor, who I loved to see perform on Broadway. And there were generations in show business before him, going back to Ireland, so it’s not surprising that I love the theater.

When in my teens, I started going to Broadway musicals. Until recently, my two favorites were the original production of “Evita”, which opened on Broadway in 1979 and starred Patti Lupone, and Lerner and Loewe’s “Camelot”, which opened in 1960 with Julie Andrews as Queen Guinevere, Richard Burton as King Arthur, and Robert Goulet as Sir Lancelot.

Now I have three all-time favorites.

We saw “Hello Dolly” when it opened in 1964. It starred Carol Channing and was a huge hit, setting a record for longevity and running for six years.

We thought it was great.

Revivals are rarely as exciting as the originals, but that’s not the case with the production currently on Broadway, which we saw this fall. Bette Midler is a tour de force and was born to play the role of Dolly.

Everything about “Hello Dolly” is superb, from the costumes to the sets to the singer and dancers and the pit orchestra. To top it off, Bette Midler not only has a wonderful voice, she’s also screamingly funny.

I’ve been to numerous shows where the audience gave the actors a standing ovation at the end, but what happened in the middle of the second act of “Hello Dolly” is unprecedented. Every single person in the theater leapt to their feet and shouted and applauded for probably five minutes. When we walked out of the theater, we couldn’t believe what we’d just experienced.

The bad news is that Bette Midler is leaving the show in mid-January. The good news is that she is being replaced by Bernadette Peters, the only singer/actress in the world who could replace Bette Midler because she too is a great comedienne.

The Shubert Theatre is quite large, seating 1,420 people. Even so, you will have to wait a while to see the show. Believe me, it is worth the wait.     

That Robot on the Phone

By John A. Schwarz

Every now and then you discover something going on that is irritating, in some cases very obnoxious, which you realize has become common practice. For example, you call the newspaper you receive every day to instruct them to please not deliver it for the next two weeks. You are then asked by the robot that answers if you would like to participate in a survey. Who came up with that idea? It’s spread like the measles did when I was a kid.  

I’m constantly being asked if I would like to participate in surveys. Naturally, the answer is always “no”. It has got me wondering if anybody ever says “yes”. If so, who are these people?

Can you think of anything less interesting then spending part of each day participating in surveys? The vast majority of people who are saying “no” obviously have far better things to do. Those few who say “yes” are either really good people or ones who hang around and watch shows like “Days of Our Lives” or “Dr. Phil” all day long and thus are excited to participate in a survey.

What is so terrible is that you can’t get the robot to stop speaking. It always ends up the same way. I finally get to speak to a person, but what I have go through to get to the person I need to speak to defies belief. When I dial whatever entity I want to speak to, a robot always answers and immediately goes into its routine. I say, “Can I please speak to a person?” and the robot just keeps saying the same thing over and over. I repeat this six times. 

Starting with the fourth time my voice definitely begins to develop a rising inflection. I switch to screaming: “I want to speak to a HUMAN BEING”. This is not accompanied with a “please”. After the fourth time, the robot always comes back with “I’m connecting you to an agent.” Only then do I finally get to speak to a person (a/k/a human being).

You can now see why I used the word obnoxious in the first sentence.

By John Schwarz

Every now and then you learn something that absolutely flabbergasts you. It happened to me last Sunday. Anita and I have a large family: two daughters, three sons, nine grandsons, and nine granddaughters. Quite a few were at our home that day. I was busy making vanilla frosties and serving them Oreos. When two of the girls, identical twins, had to go home, I volunteered to drive them the mile and a half to their house. On the way, I asked them if there were any other sets of twins in their school. The answer I expected didn’t come back to me. “There are four sets, Pa,” replied one of my granddaughters. (I’m Pa if you were wondering.)

I almost swerved off of North Street. “You’re telling me there are four sets of twins at Sacred Heart?”

“No Pa, there are four sets of twins in the sixth grade.”

I assumed they were kidding around with me, but they stubbornly maintained that they were telling the truth. I couldn’t wait until Monday morning so I could call the school and confirm that Madeline and Sabrina were the only twins at Sacred Heart. The person I spoke to said graciously, “Your granddaughters are right, Mr. Schwarz. There are indeed four sets of twins in the sixth grade.” Shaken, I thanked her and hung up.