5 a.m. the alarm wakes. Predawn light electrifies the horizon. Slide open the balcony door and breathe in the frosty crisp air as the sun blinds bright and welcome. Fast-forward, I’m texting this blog entry seated in the waiting room of DuPage Eye Surgery Center in Wheaton. Trent is sitting to my side reading a book, Ali Smith’s Autumn. I’m about to have cataract surgery. A little nervous, hungry, dehydrated and would kill for a cup of coffee. This afternoon is Paramount’s Beauty and the Beast wandelprobe, “the rehearsal in opera and musical theater where actors, the orchestra and blocking (and choreography) come together for the first time.”

“Jim?” a woman’s voice calls.

(Gulp) It’s time.

Overcompensating for lack of sleep, I’m bounding up to the nurse greeting me and get a rise out of my fellow seniors in attendance:

“He’s ready to go!”

“It’s unavoidable!” I quip, following her through the double doors to the table at the foot of the gurney, my ride for this procedure.

Anesthesia is a syringe of cough syrupy tasting stuff that soon has pleasantly put my lights out until I’m awakened to move to the OR.

Right eye has been doused and is doused some more til my very cheerful doctor proceeds to do his thing. A paper-like sheet with an eye hole and gentle adhesive sets my eye open. Then he goes in as a bizarre physical sensation gives way to a visually remarkable light show of soft tissue colorfully shifting shapes, quite entertaining. The post op upbeat banter continues and then a bit blurry-eyed I’m back with Trent on the road where I continue to text this on the way to Harner’s for a celebratory breakfast. Homemade biscuits and jam, spinach-tomato-cheddar omelette, crisp bacon, hash browns and coffee. Now that’s how to recover from a fast!

Headed to the theater to hear the cast and orchestra make music together for their first time!

I can’t wait for tomorrow night to hear the cheers of our first Preview audience!

I get there just as Be Our Guest is in full swing! This ensemble sounds like a million bucks! So much of Musical Director/Conductor Kory Danielson’s superb work with them would be lost without the excellence of Adam Rosenthal’s sound design. How voices and musicians are optimally mixed to fill this palace is no mean feat. Rich and grand, simply magnificent, it has to be heard to be believed. Our holiday crowd is in for a treat! This Alan Menken score is astonishing and given everything its due in a bright new version stunningly orchestrated and sung here. Alright now, The Beast, Paul-Jordan Jansen is singing the reprise of “If I Can’t Love Her.” Hold on, I’ve got to stop and listen.

This young man’s power and passion is thrilling, ending this compelling soliloquy with his fellow actors screams and shouts of praise. I can’t wait for tomorrow night to hear the cheers of our first Preview audience! Now that’s how you bring down the Act One Curtain!

Love and thanks!