Last night’s show turned out to be the Berlin premier of this new production of Paul Abraham’s Roxy and her Wonder Team. My seat was excellent. While it was on the far right of the theater, I was in the 8th row of the Parquet. In other words, I sat close enough to appreciate all the facial expressions of the actors, with no need for any opera glasses. Several of the people around me were friends of performers or the production team.
The operetta was simply a delight. The plot is eminently silly: the Hungarian soccer team defeats the English while playing in London. As they celebrate in the locker room, the team owner, the Baron arrives to tell them the English have challenged them to a counter match in Budapest. In order to guarantee their victory before the home crowd, he wants them to spend the next three weeks training at his villa on Lake Balaton, with no women, no booze, and no sex.
Shortly thereafter, Roxy, a young bride (played, in this case by a 53-year old man in drag – though the role was written for a woman and is played that way), burst through their hotel room door asking to be hidden from skin-flint uncle who wants her to marry a man to further his business interest. She overwhelms the players and they agree to hide her and sneak her into Hungary.
Pursued by her angry uncle and abandoned groom, she urges the soccer players to embrace sex and partying. This is made easier by the fact that the villa has been leased out in secret to members of a girls’ finishing school, whose headmistress is trying to impress on them the value of gymnastics. “Unless you learn how to straddle,” she berates them, “you’ll never get far in this world.”
Both the girls and boys are delighted to discover that the villa is now co-ed, and lots of partying and carousing ensues.
In the final act, the girls and Roxy are confined under quasi arrest in the girls school, while the soccer players are behind after the first half as they have lost their reason to play. Roxy sings to the girls that while in the past women could go to bars and cinemas, now men prefer domestic women with “feine Handarbeit,” a line that far eclipses any double entendre Mae West ever made. The girls escape and make it to the stadium to inspire the men to victorious finish over the English.
A remarkably funny play with astonishingly provocative lyrics for the 1930s and with great music, the musical was very well received, with nearly 15 minutes of applause and numerous curtain calls.
Since I had to wake up early this morning, I woke up even earlier than I wanted. Fine, the sooner I got out that hostel the better. They were out of milk at breakfast, and at no time today or yesterday did I ever see any napkins to keep myself clean. Well, the sooner I left the better. Yet, when I went upstairs to get my luggage, my key wouldn’t work.
“Das Schlüssel ist kaputt!” I told the front desk clerk. He issued me a new card and went back upstairs. Yet, this didn’t work either.
“Dieses Schlüssel ist auch kaputt!!” He authorized yet another card, I climbed the four flights to my room and hoped that the third time was the charm. It wasn’t.
Walking back down to the lobby I was seething. The clerk was still arguing with the same person he had for the last 15 minutes who apparently didn’t have a proper reservation. I demanded that he open my door, and he agreed. Of course, he had to check for himself that the key wouldn’t work. He tried three times. Then he took out the pass key, and, with some difficulty, got the door open. I did one last search, grabbed my suitcase and bag, and left.
I saw the clerk waiting for the elevator, but I took the stairs. We arrived at the same time in the lobby, but now the number of people waiting for him was a line that stretched across the entire lobby and up the stairs. I have no intention of ever staying there again.
I went to the new hostel and dropped of my stuff and then headed to Tegel airport to meet my students. My first student arrived at 8:20, so we chatted for an hour until the second wave arrived at 11. Then, I escorted them all back to the hostel where, miracle of miracles, our rooms were ready.
Lunch was at a small café a few doors down. They had bagel sandwiches that went over well (though the students agreed that for a “California” bagel to earn the name, it better have avocado (it didn’t). Then it was off to get them ATMs, drug store purchase, money exchange, and cell phone covers. I got them back to the hostel by 3 pm, and then I headed back to Tegel for the final wave.
We made it back to the hostel by 7:30 pm, and then around 8, we went across the street to the anarchist pizzeria. It was a very warm evening, so we sat outside. I warned the students that the restaurant was run by anarchists, but I think they were still surprised when the waiter snatched a knife and fork set away from one of the students to give it to someone at another table. The pizzas were good, as was the elderflower lemonade. Still, I think all of us could have done without the baby rat that was running around on the patio including, at one point, under our table (we all lifted our feet). People at all the tables were pointing and photographing it as it ran from table to table.
Now, we’re all back at the hostel. Breakfast is at 7 and the students need to be ready to go tomorrow at 10 am. That gives them 10 hours to sleep.