Friday, January 29, 2010

A Truly Wicked Getaway

Well, as many of you know, I celebrated my farumph-humph birthday this week, and Carlos and I took a much needed midweek getaway up to Greenville, South Carolina.

Greenville, you say. South Carolina? Really?

Well, the reasons were two-fold. One, we had never been up to Greenville and we'd heard lovely things about it; And Two [well, really the Number Two reason was Number One] Wicked was playing at the Peace Center, and I have loved it since I first heard tell of the Witches Of Oz...before that girl came to town.

So, with Wicked coming to Greenville, we were going to Greenville.

Carlos and I took a couple of days off from work, got the sister of Round The Way Gay, David, to pet sit the ShoeBox Dog and Los Gatos, and off we went.

For those of you unfamiliar with all things, or anything, South Carolina, the state is divided into three sections: The Low Country....think Charleston; The Midlands....think Columbia or Smallville; and The Upstate....Greenville. Very close to the North Carolina border and seemingly a world away from Smallville.

Greenville is one of those rare small towns that has revived itself and is reinventing itself, thanks to things like a good strong university, and businesses like BMW and Michelin, which both have factories up there. Plus, Greenville seems to be able to bridge that gap between old town quaintness and big city life. There are all sorts of restaurants lining main street; art galleries; pet boutiques; gift shop; knickknack stores. And they maintain that sense of small town even with the new construction going on all over town. They respect the old and work with the new.

It really has become one of my favorite towns. And right here in little ole South Carolina!

Go figure.
We spent that first day strolling down Main Street, stopping into Trio for lunch; window shopping and just, Aaaah, relaxing. The downtown area is, and I hate this word but it applies, vibrant, even in mid-day. Business folks out for lunch hour, martini gals stopping by to get liquored up before carpooling the kids home; and homos. While it isn't really cool to be gay in Greenville, you don't get that Go Home Queer vibe you get from other southern cities.

At the Barkery Bistro, where we had to stop so Carlos could get a gift fro the ShoeBox Dog, we met Frank, who moved to Greenville from LA and San Francisco and Arizona. Frank is family and we spent a good deal of time talking to him; he told us where to go, before and after the show; what to see, which shops we should stop into. We found out the next day, at Mia Dimora, that he is affectionately known as Mister Downtown. He's kind of an unofficial Welcoming Committee Of One.

We took his advice and ended up discovering some great places and some fun people.

Greenville straddles the Reedy River, and they allow the buildings to take full advantage of the river, the falls, and the green areas. There are hotels and apartments, restaurants, and the Peace Center on both sides of the river west of Main Street, and then the Falls are on the east side. We strolled through the park, along the bridges and listened to the falls; you get the feeling that you are far away from everything, but you're still right there.

That night we ate a pre-show dinner at High Cotton, right along the river. Two glasses of birthday Champagne; seared rare Tuna with a pine nut vinaigrette, for me. Salmon for Carlos. A wonderful Pinot Noir with dinner; birthday apple tart for dessert with cappuccino.

Then it was off to the main event: Wicked. I've been a fan of this show since before it opened on Broadway and love to see it again and again. While I am considered a Friend Of Dorothy, I am also a friend of Elphaba and Galinda. And riding pants!

This production, the touring company, was really well done; though it helped that we had fabulous seats.
Heléne Yorke, as Galinda, before the Gah is silent, was hysterical; possessing the same gorgeous voice as Kristen Chenoweth, who originated the role. She was perky, and sweet, and sappy, and dorky. Totally Galinda.

Marcie Dodd, as Elphaba--the name comes from the original writer of the Oz books, L. Frank Baum--was spectacular as the misunderstood green witch. Her voice soared at all the right times, and she really captured the essence of both Idina Menzel and Margaret Hamilton; a tough feat.

Colin Donnell was Fiyero, the man who loved Galinda and fell in love with Elphaba. I mentioned the riding pants. There weren't the best part of his performance, but they were spectacular. Yum! But he also had a terrific voice, and alongside Yorke and Dodd, he really creates a vivid believable love triangle.

Plus, it didn't hurt at all that, the Peace Center used a full orchestra for the musical; when we saw it last in Ft Lauderdale, it was sung to recorded instrumentals. Good, but not as good as having the musicians right down front.

If you haven't seen Wicked, you should go. It plays along nicely with The Wizard of Oz, and yet stands completely on its own.


Funny note, though; while leaving the theater and strolling back across the river to the car, I overheard two women talking about the musical. One said, I can't believe they didn't sing "Over The Rainbow!" it's one of the most popular songs ever!

This was after the show, and yet she still thought she was seeing The Wizard Of Oz. I felt like dousing her with a bucket of water.

The next day we slept in a bit, and then had a lazy breakfast at the Coffee Underground. Full on delicious breakfast for two, for well under $20! I know! Then we took a walk back up to the Barkery Bistro to give Frank a recap of the show, and to trade email addresses and such. If he ever comes to Smallville, we'll show him the sight.....yes, sight. Singular. Oh well.
Then Frank sent us off to Mia Dimora, a designer store with all sorts of things for the house. I found a great metal calendar--you use magnets to note the month, date and day--with a lovely pig chalkboard. it's a little bit country, and a little bit cool. We found a great ceramic baking pan for roasting peppers, and a stone you set in a bread basket to keep bread warm all through dinner. The owner of the shop, Elaine McCanless, and I talked kitchens and pets, Smallville and Greenville, while Carlos talked music and orchestra with Derek, who was unloading a shipment of new stuff. It's refreshing to walk into a shop and find the owners and workers so friendly, and willing to talk about, well, nothing really.

We visited the Mast General Store, an old-fashioned emporium that sells everything from camping gear to candy, shoes to mugs. Carlos found a, um, cowboy hat he simply had to have, but, I'll give him credit: he's handsome in a hat, straw or cowboy. I got some flannel jammie pants and a couple of cool Mast General store coffee mugs: Masquerading as a normal person day after day is Exhausting and I live in my own world, but it's okay, they like me here. And, to counter Cowboy Carlos, I got a ball cap.

We continued our walking tour and found ourselves at the far end of town where the revitalization has just begun. Old buildings house new restaurants; new buildings look old and house....housing. There's baseball field, for the Greenville Drive farm team, and I thought, I'd love to come up to a game one weekend. But then I thought of the last time Carlos and I went to a ball game. To see the Marlins. We went with a group of his coworkers, and had a hot dog and drank some beer, and then, just after the third inning ended, Carlos stands up and announces, Well, that was fun.

I told him the game had six more innings. He sat back down.

Maybe we'll do the Shakespeare Festival in Greenville. I don't think they have innings.


Mistress Maddie said...

What a great trip it looks to be! Sometimes I think small towns have just as much to see and do that the big metropolis have to offer. And I remember seeing Wicked when it first came out. It really is a wonderful production. I also have the book which I have read from time to time. I wonder what a movie production would be like?

Wonder Man said...

I miss small towns sometimes

Anonymous said...

I have never sported a cowboy hat.
Cowboys look delicious under their hats BUT (the Cow boy hat) is NOT my style.
The mentioned hat is a Country style felt hat. Now ofcourse I look handsome wearing it... no discussion... any questions??
The other one

Ray Ray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

[sorry sweetie, i left my previous comment under the wrong name. silly me!] I love the Glinda character, she's awesome! Glad to see you enjoyed celebrating your 39th b-day! :)

Larry Ohio said...

I've never been any near Greenville. Now after seeing your post, I think it's time to make an effort to go there.

I'm glad you guys loved Wicked, but how could you not?

Joy said...

I didn't realize Greenville was such a neat place! Now I want to go. Maybe I can work it in along with Asheville.

Sounds like a wonderfully fun and full weekend! I'm so glad. Happy Birthday to you again!

Kyle Leach said...

Sounds like a wonderful night Bob. You packed a lot into your visit. Glad you were able to see Wicked, and for your B-day no less. Now that is a present.

Ken Riches said...

Greenville sounds awesome, as does Wicked.

Glad you had a great mini-vacation and birthday :o)

Beth said...

So glad to hear you had such a great time! It sounds wonderful.

I'd forgotten that the Mast General Store is in Greenville...I've ordered from them online! In fact, I'm wearing a pair of wool hiking socks I got from them! Small world!

Mark in DE said...

Sounds like a tres fab birthday getaway!!