Midtown is a mess. It still feels half-abandoned — or, especially if you read the Post every day, on the edge of chaos and lawlessness — but last night the machers of Manhattan did their best to jump-start the beating heart of the city: Broadway. Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg and David Geffen put their Rolodexes together to conjure up the glitziest possible opening night of the The Music Man — you know, the restaging, starring Hugh Jackman, of the 1957 Meredith Willson musical, which, adding to Broadway’s many troubles, was originally brought to you by the now-disgraced impresario Scott Rudin (now no longer involved).
And so, as they say, the show must go on; this magazine’s critic Helen Shaw basically gave it a thumbs-up, declaring, “As cheeseball and predictable as The Music Man might be, it will still surprise you.” (The Times, however, was less generous.)
On to the after-party, which unfurls at the Appel Room in Columbus Circle. I ask Diller, suited up in a velvety midnight-blue jacket, what tonight is all about. Is he saving Broadway? “First of all, I’m saving David Geffen and myself from a $24 million investment,” he cracks, before adding, “I never thought we’d make money — and who knows, maybe we will, but that’s not why we did it. We did it because we thought, Oh my God, Music Man is truly a great American musical, that, you know, was written and started in 1957 and now is more relevant about con men and decency and kindness and retribution.” Mayor Eric Adams has just arrived. What’s Diller make of him? “I’ve never felt stronger about anyone coming into office,” he says. “He is the coolest, smartest, most pragmatic — and listen, everybody gets thrown the cards they get thrown. Who knows what could happen, we could have locusts next, but he is so pitch-perfect.”
Gayle King, Diane Sawyer, Seth Meyers, Donna Karan, and Andy Cohen stroll up. In pour a procession of power brokers, taking their seats before a floor-to-ceiling view of Central Park. I spy Senator Chuck Schumer, supping beside Geffen. Mini hot dogs are doled out with plastic squeeze bottles of mustard. The real heat seems to be at table four. There’s Governor Kathy Hochul, seated between Nancy Pelosi and Diller. There’s probable pescatarian Eric Adams, seated between von Furstenberg and Anne Hathaway.
Anna Wintour, dressed in devil-red Prada, is at the next table over, betwixt Bloomy and Bryan Lourd. Of course, I’m seated light-years away, at table seven. (Across a heaping tower of fried chicken and a pot of macaroni, I notice at my table Wintour’s daughter, Bee Shaffer.) My source at table four tells me Pelosi was getting a kick out of Marjorie Taylor Greene accusing her of being the “Gazpacho Police” — Greene meant “gestapo” — and was showing people at the table a José Andrés tweet ridiculing the notorious MTG. (“Dear @RepMTG the Gazpacho police was created by me in 1993 to make sure that no one will add Tabasco or jalapeño or strange things to my beloved soup!”) Pelosi’s husband, Paul, once played Harold Hill in a production of The Music Man in San Francisco many years ago.
Hochul and Adams seem to be having much more fun than their cranky predecessors in the same jobs. Here’s an optimistic, Black mayor and a female, Irish governor, working over the fat cats in tandem. I ask the governor if she feels the city is finally getting its mojo back? “Oh, it’s back,” promises Hochul. “If you’re not here, and you’re camping out in Miami Beach, you’re missing the greatest comeback in the history of the country.”
The great unmasking is part of her strategy to make that so. “I can’t tell you how many business leaders who’ve told me, ‘Now, the workers will come back, now people will go on the subway,’” she says, referring to her decision this week to lift the mandate. “The mask was a statement that there’s something terribly wrong. And again, I didn’t do it until the numbers were low; the infection rate is 2 percent in Manhattan.” How is she adapting to being the headliner now that she is governor, trodding the planks amidst the bold-faced and billionaires of Manhattan? “I’m comfortable here,” she says. “I’m comfortable in a diner outside of Lackawanna, where I was born. I have a high comfort level wherever I am.”
Adams has to bounce — he apparently has two more events to hit after this — so a plate of apple pie is pushed aside and I rudely plop down in his seat, next to von Furstenberg. What’s her read on Hizzoner? “Hot, compassionate, strong, determined, earnest; I think we’re blessed,” she says, wrapped in a velvet kimono and gold-link necklace of actual tigers’ claws — “It’s the year of the tiger,” she notes — adding about Adams, “What I like about him is that he’s not afraid to be who he is.” About tonight’s production, she says that her husband, Diller, “has been at every rehearsal, he’s been so involved every night … his only regret is that he could not go onstage.” She’s joking, I think.