There’s nothing nicer than seeing your friends strut their stuff. Especially when they’re old friends. I decided I was due for an evening out and went to Extra Virgin in Shirlington last night to hear Steve McWilliams and Mike Kozemchak singing and playing guitar.
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’ve known Steve since he was eighteen. He was a hot-shot teenager who was cast in the leading role of Danny Zuko in the first show I did in DC – a 1983 community theatre production of Grease. I was playing Rizzo (at the advanced age of 27); also in the cast was Tony Westbrook (who frequently posts here) as Roger and fresh-out-of-college Amy Bruch as Sandy. In a couple of years Amy and Steve would get married (yes, they did; I saw them) and Amy would become Amy McWilliams.
I got to Extra Virgin right on the dot of 9:00 as Steve and Mike were tuning up. J. Fred Shiffman had scored a prime seating area in the wine bar and was holding it against all comers. Fred is one of those Washington area actors of whom I’d heard for years, but had never actually met. I now know why, when people say his name, they give it a musical lilt, sigh happily and smile. We met through the good graces of mutual friend Stephen Gregory Smith, who will need a blog entry all his own one of these days. With our glasses of Pinor Noir, Absolut and Chardonnay, we hunkered down to listen to the guys’ first set.
Steve and Mike had a nice, eclectic selection of music, which went down well with the post-work Friday night crowd. There was some competition from a TV in the corner tuned to the game, but the occasional whoop over a score only served as counterpoint to the whoops and applause at the end of each number. Two sports enthusiasts dumbly positioned themselves right in front of the musicians to watch the game; I was starting to get irked about it until I realized that one of them, although focused rapturously on the game, was singing along with Steve’s rendition of “Maggie May.” (They realized their mistake in short order and moved.)
People kept streaming in, and I knew a surprising number of them. Longtime Signature Theatre supporters Julianna and Donald Mahley, Wendy Rahm and Jay Schulman were there, as well as old friend Jane Petkofsky and her fiancé, Kevin Adams; Matt Conner and Jenny Cartney showed up, and the BIG surprise: David Jourdan. I didn’t know he was even in the house until I heard his unmistakeable gruff rock ‘n’ roller voice at the microphone, singing Creedence. I hadn’t seen David in what seems like (and probably is) years; it was great to talk to the big sexy teddy bear afterward (and if you don’t think a teddy bear is sexy – well, you haven’t met David).
Stephen Gregory took the microphone for a rendition of “Landslide” that made the noisy crowd go quiet for a few minutes; Amy and her husband did a whole cycle of duets. The restaurant staff seemed happy with the turnout; waiters kept trying to help by adjusting the sound board, moving the tip bowl to a more prominent place and generally being helpful and pleasant. Steve told me at the start of the evening that they’d warned him it would probably be a slow night; he had responded “No, it won’t” and he was right. I think at least half the crowd were friends; it’s good to see people willing to drop some cash to make sure that a premiere gig is a success. I’m sure Extra Virgin will be inviting Steve and Mike back.
12:30 rolled around and I knew it was either going to be another glass of Pinot and a possible DUI citation, or go home NOW. I jangled my keys, said my adieux, threw a little folding green in the tip bowl and headed home.
Thanks, guys. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.