Tommy in Spandex (with pictures)

So, this weekend we were going to drive to Chicago to see Sweetheart’s brother, Tommy, who is playing an angry bass player in “Dee Snider’s Rock-n-Roll Christmas Tale.”

The poster outside the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place

I’ve been looking forward to it since June, when he’d got cast.

Tommy is a ridiculously talented singer, actor and bass player who’s done a fair bit of work locally, but this is the biggest thing he’s been in since I joined the family. And he’d been a Twisted Sister fan in high school. If I’d ever heard a Twisted Sister song , I wasn’t aware of it (I was married to First Husband and too busy with babies to pay attention to ‘80s hair metal when it was happening), but I knew the name Dee Snider and that he was big for something. So I was thrilled for Tom and excited to see the show. We were going to drive down and stay at a friend’s house, then stop to see First Husband’s father on the way home. He’s not in terrific shape, and I try to visit him once a month or so.

Ironically, however, Downtown Chicago was closed for Christmas. Driving was a non-option. Thanks to our sister-in-law J, we didn’t find this out the hard way. This is the e-mail she forwarded Friday morning:

“Subject: IMPORTANT – PLEASE READ Lights Festival Information


The Magnificent Mile Association’s Lights Festival Parade is going to be this SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 22nd. There are events that occur from Oak Street to the South Side of the Chicago River throughout the day on Saturday.

Street closures occur throughout the Broadway Playhouse neighborhood during the day and evening. The attached notice defines streets and times of the closures. Please know it will be EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO CROSS MICHIGAN AVENUE LATER IN THE AFTERNOON AND EVENING. Closures will begin as early as 7am and end as late as 10pm.”

She wondered if anyone wanted to ride the train with her. P, my mother-in-law, did. So did we. I arranged for a dog sitter (and cat feeder), called our friends M&G for a ride and met up with J and P at the train station. P bought us a hotel room – our anniversary is Thanksgiving Day and that was her gift – and off we went.

After settling in at the hotel, walking along my side of Michigan Avenue (the parade was in full swing and I had a great view of peoples’ backs and the tops of floats) I managed to score us a dinner reservation at Deca, thanks to Fadi and his colleagues, who were staffing a hot chocolate stand outside the Ritz-Carlton.  (Evidently Lights Festival Parade night is a big one for downtown restaurants and our hotel’s restaurant was full-up.) Three filet mignons later, we headed to Water Tower Place and the theater.

J’s parents and other family members were there. So was Sweetheart’s sister, her boyfriend and several of her friends. We took up the center section of two rows, and marveled at a guy with a dreadlock long enough to stuff into his back pocket.

Then the lights went down, and Dee came out and settled himself into the comfy leather chair in a nook at stage right set up as a study. He picked up a book and began to read the story of Daisy Cutter, a hair-metal band whose following had moved on decades before the curtain rose.

The show was silly, heartfelt, and a whole lot of fun. The music was great – all four actors played and sang (no lip-synching necessary), and the costumes alone – designed by Dee’s wife Suzette – were worth the price of admission. (Imagine technicolor Louis XIV crossed with stripper vibe times four, and you’ll kind of get the idea.)

The playbill said it ran 100 minutes (no intermission). It felt a lot quicker.

Afterward, Tommy introduced us to his castmates, and to Suzette and then Dee. Both hugged P and told her how much they adore her boy and what a great mom she clearly must be. (They got that one right.) They were gracious and open-hearted with the rest of us, too, as you can see from the pictures.

Group shot of Tommy, his mom and Suzette Snider
My mother-in-law, Tommy & Suzette. Suzette designed the costumes.
My mother-in-law with Dee Snider.
My mother-in-law with Dee. He is my hero for seeing what a great guy my brother-in-law is. I wouldn’t care if he couldn’t sing a note. (He can sing many notes, and did last night. But he is also a very generous performer and has great comic timing.)
Tommy, Sweetheart, Sister & Dee
Sweetheart is the one between Tommy and his sister. Dee is, of course, on the right. My other brother-in-law missing is the only thing keeping this from being an absolutely perfect photo. They make ’em photogenic in that family, I tell you.
Dee and me
Dee with me. Even I don’t look so terrible. (Side note: I’m probably going to write about the buffalo shirt at some point.)

If you’re in Chicago between now and January 4th and want a silly, uncomplicated laugh – even if, like me, you’re Jewish, go. You won’t be sorry.

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