For the love of Benedict (to Hamlet I go)

So. If you've read Em-i-lis for any length of time, you probably know what an enthused fan of Benedict Cumberbatch I am. Minus "The Blind Banker" episode in Season 1 and the overdone premier of Season 3, Sherlock was a complete thrill of a show, and Cumberbatch so perfectly inhabited the title character role that I never felt I was watching anyone except the animation of the man Conan Doyle wrote about so wonderfully. When you witness acting that is so completely transformational (in a seemingly effortless way) that you literally no longer see a visage you might know so well through magazines, other roles, general celebrity culture and so forth, but rather that very character come to life, it's real magic. Most actors can't pull this off; they are always themselves, just wearing another's name and clothes. Julia Roberts, though I like her, is always  Julia Roberts. On the contrary, Meryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis are never Meryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis. I mean, Lincoln played himself in that film, right?

Benedict Cumberbatch

In any case, through his various roles such as Peter Guillam in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate (a forgettable film), from Charles Aiken in August: Osage County to Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness and back to Sherlock again, I have come to really admire Cumberbatch's range as well as his incredibly entrancing cat-like green eyes. Yes, I have me a grade-school crush. He can definitely look goofy, and if you stare at any individual aspect of his face for too long, it may appear vaguely off. I think the sum of the parts sing with sexiness but I'll give it to those who disagree. My dear friend, C, for example, is skeeved out by my Ben. But really, that man can wear.a.suit. like nobody's business. And he seems so flipping nice. Charm oozes from his poreless face. Gah!

After a long day last week during which I felt quite sick and Lords Pillington and Poutington had made me see red for three hours straight, Tom came home to find me in bed, coloring in my Benedict colouring book (from London, natch) with my top-shelf pencils that I don't share with the kids. I think he loved me a little bit more with this discovery. Sweet man.

Benedict is saying "Yay!" because I've drawn him a hot meal but today I'm pretending it's because I'll be in his audience one night. Har! Friends regularly send me photos or links of Benedict, keeping me up to date on his goings-on. How do you think I found out about this colouring book, for the love? The Pound Ridge Scone Lady! Thank you, Liz!

And thanks to one my college besties, also an Emily, I learned a couple months back that none other than my Benedict was to play Hamlet on stage! In London! For a twelve-week run starting August 2015!

I am certain she did not imagine that upon receiving this news I IMMEDIATELY marked the date in my calendar that tickets for this event were to go on sale. That would be tomorrow. And so yesterday, I started plotting, checking calendars, making a username for the theatre and checking seat plans. And I talked to a friend who had just returned from bringing her kids to London's Harry Potter World. And what was once a grand idea started feeling like a life imperative.

I have never once regretted making the effort to see a phenomenal theatrical production. Often, I've gone with my mom or by myself. On Broadway, we've seen Daniel Radcliffe in Equus, Alan Rickman in Private Lives, Philip Seymour Hoffman (I'm still stinging from the loss of him) and John C. Reilly in Sam Shepard's Private Lives. And here, at D.C.'s Kennedy Center, we saw Cate Blanchett stunningly portray Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire.

During a weekend trip to New York with Tom, he chose to walk the High Line while I went to The Normal Heart, lucky to have found a last-minute ticket. I was spellbound, utterly awestruck, and continue to feel that show's profound impact on me. Ellen Barkin and Joe Mantello were incredible. Last summer, I took the train to and from NYC one Saturday to see Tom Hanks in Lucky Guy, a posthumous production of Nora Ephron's play about reporter Mike McAlary. Hanks was leaving the production three days later, and I just felt I couldn't miss seeing him. Again, the spontaneous seat I purchased late was terrific, and the entire cast was as great as Hanks was. It was marvelous.

Ages and ages ago, I saw the original cast in The Phantom of the Opera and an early showing of Les Mis, both with my dad and both on Broadway. I loved Rent and was, despite myself, really impressed by The Lion King. Oddly enough, the two most underwhelming shows I've seen (and the ones for which we paid the most for tickets) are the ones most built up: The Book of Mormon and South Pacific. Such is often the case with overwrought reviews: it's hard to live up to hype, and that's why I don't often read reviews anymore.

My sister is the trained actress and knows infinitely more than I about this world, but I do love the sense of being utterly transported by truly masterful performances. There is something about the stage versus the screen, something raw and live. Especially in tiny theaters like NY's Circle in the Square, you're there, right in it. You can see the actor's sweat fly, you can hear the remarkably few times they stumble over a word. It's intense, in a really great way. Yet another reason we mustn't cut funding for arts education or for the Arts in general. They are so critical for a broadly lived education, life and worldview.

This all came back to me this morning when I went online to The Barbican Theatre's site. I was getting a place in the queue, readying my cart for any late-August (2015) tickets I might be able to procure. But I got confused and because one of my life mantras is "It NEVER hurts to ask," I called The Barbican.

Hannah with a beautiful British accent answered and told me that if I were an Orange Member of The Barbican, I could certainly buy two tickets today. Swear to god y'all, it took me 0.No seconds to buy a membership to a theater I won't visit until my membership has expired. Do NOT tell my husband this. Hannah said I was saving myself gobs of stress and time in tomorrow's queue which would certainly be mayhem; 10,000 folks were already queued up! Agreed and with no qualms, Hannah. Right then and there she secured two tickets for me, good ones for next August 21. We finished things up, exchanged goodbye pleasantries and I have been on a wild, whooping high ever since.

Tom was so supportive of turning my crush into our 2015 family trip but exactly that meh about the play, so I called my sister to see if she could come in from Italy and use my second ticket. She put it on her calendar right then and there. Her hubby and son (who will then be just about 9 months old) will come too so it's all turning out to be a fabulous family get-together with the added bonuses of London, Benedict and Harry Potter. The kids are off their heads, but not more than am I.

And you know what I later realized? All of Yotam Ottolenghi's restaurants are in London. Mon dieu. I am the luckiest gal!