Aladdin on Broadway: What a Trip!
I still couldn’t believe, I was here. “Mattie Burch . . . yes, me—sitting here on a train, all by myself, going to New York.
The morning sun was shining through the window and felt so good on my face, and the rhythmic sound of the train running along rails made my eyes feel so heavy. I started to nod off a bit. The warmth and the repeated clickity-clack teased me into a twilight sleep. Visions of my freckled-faced children pulling on my new cotton-print dress, tugging my hands, tears streaming down their faces played in my thoughts. A tall man with bright green eyes and black hair stood beside me on the platform. I was looking down at my babies when a finger under my chin pulled my head up, and for an instant, I saw that handsome face. He kissed me hard, picked me up, and swung me ‘round and ‘round in a long embrace.
The train hissed, the porter cried, “All aboard!” and my new shoes landed on the steps to the train car as the man I loved lowered me gently down.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart! Remember, you call us, now. Call a lot. I love you!”
The children cried, “I love you, Mama! Bye! I love you!”
The train car swayed as it left Selma, North Carolina. My mind drifted in and out of sleep. As always, the last words I remembered were from my favorite book: There once lived a poor tailor, who had a son . . . who would do nothing but play all day long in the streets with little idle boys like himself. . . .
“Next stop, Richmond, Virginia,” came the announcement over the loud speaker.
I jerked awake. People were shuffling to leave. Glancing out the window, I saw the James River—the longest in Virginia. As the train moved on through Ashland, the lush flowering dogwoods lined the streets and in each manicured yard stood a stately Dutch Colonial home. We passed over five rivers: the Quantico Creek, Neabsco Creek, Potomac River, Gunpowder River, and Susquehanna River. Further along, there sat skyscrapers of glass reflecting other skyscrapers in Washington, D.C. Wilmington had a building with a large mural: one side a giant whale breaching and the other, clouds. A good part of the rest of the trip was filled with industrial yards and older buildings worn from age.
Finally, we got to Penn Station. To tell you the truth, I was both excited and scared. I’d never left Selma before; New York was like a foreign country to me. After grabbing my things, I headed to the stairs. Before my foot hit the ground, a man in uniform offered me his hand.
“Mrs. Burch? I’m Stan, your limo driver. I will be escorting you to the Chatwal Hotel and then will pick you up tomorrow for the show.”
“Oh! Oh, my! I hadn’t expected anything like this. This is . . . it’s . . . well, it’s just amazing. Thank you.”
The limo cruised down the streets with tall buildings, everywhere, reaching up to the sky. All of them had digital and neon signs flashing. It seemed, my head was on a continual swivel trying to take it all in. I was so excited, I was about to bust wide open.
“Stan, did you know this was my birthday present?”
“No, Ma’am. I didn’t.”
“My sweet, wonderful husband entered this contest for all twelve years we’d been married. Every year—nothing—he didn’t win. Well, I thought he’d be sick to death already of my talking about coming to New York to see a show. And, can you believe it? This year he won. He won! On my thirtieth birthday, no less. And, on top of that, my most favorite story in the whole world is playing at the New Amsterdam Theater.”
The limo pulled up to the Chatwal Hotel’s front entrance. Another man in uniform met the car and escorted me to the lobby’s front desk.
“Hi! I’m Mattie Burch. My husband won that Contestee, New York Contest, on the Internet. I’m so happy to be here.”
“Yes. We know. We’re happy to have you, Mrs. Burch. You’re in the Signature Garden Suite on the seventh floor. Our bellman will take you to your room.”
The bellman took me down the hall to the elevator. The whole place had a rich, shiny, gold and brown, red accented, art deco style—just like I read in the brochures. Jason and I looked at all the brochures. I’d never seen anything like this in my entire life. I was just giddy from the high. When we got to the room, I just stood there with my mouth open. The suite and terrace were bigger than my whole house in Selma. Rich colors in gold-honey suede and dark brown tones covered the rooms. The white marble terrace had a fountain and pots of herbs all over. I felt like I was in another country. After soaking in all the lush richness, I flopped on the bed and fell into the best sleep of my life.
Waking up was glorious. I ordered room service for breakfast and had a feast. It was all paid for, so why not. Then, I just kicked back and relaxed. I could have gone sightseeing, but it was quiet here. The kids weren’t crying, complaining, nagging at me. It was just quiet. And, I soaked up the first bit of private time I’d had since I was eighteen years old.
The hours flew by and it was time to go. Stan was waiting for me at the lobby door. The drive to the theater was over in a flash. Stan opened the door for me and, you won’t believe this, but I walked into the most beautiful theater in New York City. Disney renovated the art nouveau New Amsterdam theater in 1994, taking a full four years. I remembered that from the brochure. The whole place was golden; everything sparkled in the lights. Everywhere I looked, there were complex plastered casts of grape clusters, peacocks, apples, and all sorts of pieces painted in soft tones that melted in with the color gold.
I found my seat—center orchestra, of all places. It wasn’t long before my dream-come-true birthday came to life. Colors danced and pranced around the stage in blindingly bright hues from the 300 different costumes the performers wore. The genie performed his magic in bold expression reminiscent of the great Cab Calloway in a bouncy jazz beat. The dancers, the music, the grandness of it all . . . Well, I couldn’t believe it. It was so exciting, even more than I had ever dreamed of. When Princess Jasmine and Aladdin floated by across the sky on their magic carpet, so in love, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I had to call Jason. I ran to the lobby. . . .
“Honey, are you okay? Mattie? What’s wrong?”
“I love you more than ice cream, Jason Burch. No! I love you more than this wonderful trip. I even love you more than Aladdin. This is the best show in the whole world. I can’t wait to get home to tell you about all of it. I am just in heaven. And, you . . . you will always be the genie of my dreams.”