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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Suddenly, The Wheels are in Motion

Some successful cultural phenomena defy mortal understanding. One of them is the Broadway genre known as the jukebox musical, one that has turned the catalogues of pop artists or soundtracks from familiar films into excuses for shows — expensive-to-attend shows. With the exception of the GrandABBA of them all, Mamma Mia, Stephanie and I have avoided these with plaguelike precision. Until Sunday afternoon.

Having timed our way into hella discounted third-row tickets, we rolled the dice on Xanadu, a musical based mostly on the 1980 Olivia Newton-John vehicle of the same name, with a few extra ON-J and ELO chestnuts (a very music critic-y word) thrown in. About three notes into the very first resuscitated number, Electric Light Orchestra’s “I’m Alive,” I couldn’t help but think:

They made a musical out of this? They made a musical out of bleeping Xanadu? They made a musical out of perhaps the worst movie ever?

That they did. And with up-close seats that cost no more than some of your ritzier Gold, even Silver dates at Shea, I am compelled to report that Xanadu lived up to its surprisingly glowing notices. It moved fast, it was totally aware of itself (who would have thought roller disco could be so tolerable and leg warmers such a plot point?) and it starred the delightful Kerry Butler, whose performance as “checkerboard chick” Penny Pingleton charmed us so in Hairspray five years ago. The show was as fluid as the film was torpid.

I’m predisposed to like anything that features a Top 500 smash, which Xanadu most certainly did, specifically the No. 270 song of all-time, Olivia Newton-John’s “Magic”. It was my anthem for June and July and August of 1980, perfectly synced to those “Magic Is Back” Mets, continuing to echo in what’s left of the mind I had when I was 17. I couldn’t hear it Sunday without thinking of Steve Henderson and Allen Ripley and all that hope I invested in the Torreadors of 27 summers ago. My musings usually drift to baseball during stage productions (or anytime I’m in an audience), so having a legitimate shove like “come take my hand…” was all the more appreciated.

I mentioned it was a fast-moving show. It started at 3:00. It was over by 4:30. Just long enough to give us our money’s worth, just quick enough to get us out onto 44th Street in the second inning. You have to believe I switched the FAN on. Nothing could stand in my way.

Through dinner at the dependable Westway Diner on Ninth Ave., through the 10-block walk south to Penn Station, most of the trip home on the 6:04…everything stood in our way. Rafael Furcal…Nomar Garciaparra…that annoying Eric Stults from last September…the first seven innings sounded decidedly unmagical. I was beginning to really resent Xanadu for being set in and around Los Angeles.

But then! All over the world, gotta tell you what I just heard…

• The top of the eighth, somewhere east of Valley Stream: A Reyes double, a Milledge grounder, a Beltran fly ball. Dodgers 4 Mets 3.

• The top of the ninth, driving home from the station: infield single, wild pitch, helpful grounder, rightfield error. Dodgers 4 Mets 4.

• The top of the tenth, on the well-worn couch: Milledge and Beltran with the base hits, Wright with the beatout of the double play and the muse-assisted Chip Ambres finds a hole. Mets 5 Dodgers 4.

• The bottom of the tenth, edging from our seats: Billy Wagner, not without bumps (nor as smoothly as Heilman and Feliciano), strikes out three dangerous Dodgers. The Mets hang on to something it didn’t seem they would have at all.

And now, open your eyes and see, what we have made is real. We are in Xanadu.

Well, we’re in first place, still, even after the turbulence of one too many West Coast flights. We’re in first place, still, no matter how many pebbles have accumulated in our shoes. We’re in first place, still, despite having played few eighth, ninth and tenth innings as transcendent as the three final frames we gutted out Sunday afternoon.

Should these Mets use this 4-3 road trip, this 7-4 stretch since the break, as a launching pad for further momentum, to build a more impenetrable divisional margin, to ride to another Eastern title, to ascend Mount Olympus as planned but pre-empted a year ago, then this game was totally magic — the Chip Ambres Game, we’ll call it; he walks in and he’s suddenly a hero.

And if this was just one isolated sparkly Hollywood win and it’s back to wallowing in muddy waters on the shores of Flushing Bay against the Bucs and Nats, so what? It was still a helluva win. We’re alive and the world shines for us today.

10 comments to Suddenly, The Wheels are in Motion

  • Anonymous

    Second half is off to a nice start..I dont care if it aint pretty..Just win baby!!!
    See you Tuesday Greg..

  • Anonymous

    “Broadway genre known as the jukebox musical, one that has turned the catalogues of pop artists or soundtracks from familiar films into excuses for shows — expensive-to-attend shows. ”
    Hi Greg,
    Despite that, glad you enjoyed “Xandu” but a Broadway show lasting just 90 minutes? Seems like a ballgame being called after 4-1/2 innings. Maybe they sped-up the production so you could catch the Met game.
    Beatlemania” was the first of these Broadway “musicals” without original scores and I recall a story when Ringo was introduced to the actor playing Paul. Ringo's reply was simply “well, I know the real one”.

  • Anonymous

    “You have to believe I switched the FAN on. Nothing could stand in my way.”
    Nice bridge.

  • Anonymous

    Saw “Beatlemania” in a touring company a few weeks after John was killed. It was surprisingly moving in that context.
    In another era, “Xanadu” might have been a cabaret performance. Such are the economics of theater today that it would be tough to stage anywhere but Broadway. Perhaps that's not a lot of bang for the buck, 90 minutes, but anything that gets me back to the Mets is indeed a showstopper.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks! It's usually the kind people want to jump off of.

  • Anonymous

    Westway Diner is a great choice, I live across the street. They make a mean reuben.

  • Anonymous

    yep, i always give my kids a choice when we hit times square about where they want to eat, and they almost always go for westway. good sundaes.

  • Anonymous

    Half a point deducted for not having the Mets game on the big screen when we entered.
    Half a point restored for putting the Mets game on when we requested it.
    Bonus point awarded for the several Mets fans we witnessed eating in or taking out prior to the May 20 Sunday night Subway Series game when we were last there.
    Will try the Reuben next time we're at a show that allows one to build up an appetite. Or Gotay turns a double play.
    (I kid our second baseman of the moment…)

  • Anonymous

    After yesterday's Mets win and subsequent Braves loss, for the first time in a while I was actually starting to feel a bit smug. (Smugness always being a temporary feeling for me, but still.)
    I actually started to think the Braves won't catch the Mets, and why? Because they haven't yet, despite the Mets offering them almost every possible opportunity to do so over the last six weeks; in fact, they've actually backslid since the break, despite having an allegedly “easy” schedule of Pirates and Cardinals at home this past week while the Mets went to the Litter Box (TM) and Dodger Stadium. The Mets have held the door and held the door and held the door, and the Braves haven't managed to walk through it. So what makes anyone think they actually will? Are they going to get a better chance than this?
    I know we're not out of the woods yet, there are still nine games head to head and all that, but the Braves aren't going to win the division by beating only the Mets.

  • Anonymous

    And how about that Eric Stults?
    He looks different than his role as Rocky Dennis in “Mask”.