Beloveds, is there any bigger a quarantine mood than Audra McDonald (aka Theatre Beyoncé), Meryl Streep (Oscars Beyoncé) and Christine Baranski (Baranski Beyonské) dialing into a Zoom Happy Hour to belt at each other whilst wearing white bathrobes? Every single Houseparty, JackBox game night, FaceTime coffee klatch, and 50-person Zoom birthday party just felt a chill as the new Supreme of quarantine communication connected to the call using computer audio. The purpose of this call? A performance of “Ladies Who Lunch” by the three award-winning icons and Good Fight performers. (Meryl Streep is not actually on The Good Fight but she is, spiritually, a character in the Good Fight/Wife cinematic universe.)
Future historians will want to know when everything changed, when humanity decided that it was worth carrying on, and when I, personally, gained my superpowers and the ancient ones will pull up this video and rasp “Just watch.” Was it when Meryl Streep used her shaker as a metronome? Was it when Audra McDonald joined the call at a full belt? Was it when Christine Baranski dumped gallons of red wine into a Scandal-size glass? Or was it all of those tiny things and more? Living by inches! What a glamorous life!
To celebrate Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday, Broadway.com streamed a live and live-to-tape concert celebration that accomplished so many things, chief among them 1) raising funds for Artists Striving to End Poverty; 2) giving viewers very important and bemusing glimpses into the homes of Bernadette Peters and Neil Patrick Harris and the bathroom of Laura Benanti; 3) sending me, personally, into a tailspin of joy from which I will never recover. It became clear at a certain point late in the evening that the producers of the special, titled “Take Me to the World”, would not be removing their foot from my neck when, at the nearly two-hour mark, they unleashed Donna Murphy performing “Send in the Clowns” in front of a player-less piano with a flickering candle behind her. Somewhere in my apartment a voice called out “One midnight gone!” And then the minute Murphy finished, the video cut to an illustration of Elaine Stritch, who made the song “Ladies Who Lunch” famous with her portrayal of Company‘s Joanne. From the gift wrap closet in my apartment a voice yelled “Two midnights gone!”
And then Christine Baranski, swaddled in the kind of white bathrobe I couldn’t even dream of stealing from a hotel, popped up on the screen, pouring herself a glass of red wine and purring “I’d like to propose a toast.” All the clocks in my home started chiming at once (which is weird because I don’t believe in the concept of time.) Then Baranksi’s Mamma Mia co-star Meryl Streep showed up and it became clear that the premise of this video was “a Zoom call? About day drinking? Somehow in the Joanne multi-verse?” and I got nervous because if they were leading with Baranski and then putting Meryl in the second slot, who could possibly follow? Were we getting Patti? Were we getting a hologram of Stritchy? Were we getting me, drunk at a piano bar, singing my unlicensed parody “Gay Who Have Brunch”? Literally anything and everything was on the table. I’m off-book and the world is shaking.
I was so caught up trying to calculate how much it would cost to give Anna Kendrick CGI de-aging so that she could be her Camp character again that I was completely caught off-guard when the only possible answer to the question of the third slot appeared on screen. It was six-time Tony Award-winner and Ricki and the Flash starAudra McDonald, in a bathrobe, clutching a bottle of booze and sitting on her floor, both the most and least relatable thing I have ever seen.
Can we talk about the backgrounds for a minute? Baranski dialed into this call (on a device named “CB’s iPad”) from a completely blank room in her home. Literally nothing on the walls. Just a room dedicated to Zooms that will be made public. Meanwhile, Meryl has an enormous nearly-empty bookcase with one (1) photo and one (1) bird. I will be studying this like I used to study episodes of Lost. Then there’s Audra’s cozy room, with the orange walls and the shrine (so many candles in the homes of Broadway stars!) and the abstract art. This is the ultimate instance of “choose your quarantine house.” This will sustain me for months.
What did we do to deserve this? Absolutely nothing. We do not deserve! But as is the case with Patti Lupone’s impromptu basement tours, Stanley Tucci’s BSDM cocktail tutorials, and the promise of one day being able to get our roots dyed again, we will spend the rest of our lives trying to be worthy of it. Until then, to quote Stritch in the Company documentary, “I’m just screaming.”