STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: The Grand Tour

STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: The Grand Tour Okay, the kids are out of school -- so where are you going for your summer vacation? This year, why not make that trip you've wanted to make for years. You know the one -- the Show Freak Trip in which you tour all the hot spots found in musicals.

Okay, the kids are out of school -- so where are you going for your summer vacation? This year, why not make that trip you've wanted to make for years. You know the one -- the Show Freak Trip in which you tour all the hot spots found in musicals.

Start in the upper northwest corner of the country, where Maine is the main thing. (Lobsters come from Maine.) Then, go south and do the Boston beguine. Go west, and soon you'll be 50 miles from Boston, then to Waterbury, Connecticut, where the women are fat in the ankles and they all kind of droop in the--well, never mind where. I'll be more of a gentleman than Sid Miller was.

Soon you'll be 45 Minutes from Broadway. Then it's off to Manhattan. New York, New York, a helluva town. See Greenwich Village, USA. The Tenderloin. 42nd Street. 1617 Broadway. Up in Central Park. Way out west on West End Avenue. Up north of Central Park. Inner City. Don't forget 127th Street. Wonderful town!

Say so long, 174th Street, and go way out west--in New Jersey. (Ain't the country lucky New Jersey gives us glue?) Take a happy journey to Trenton and Camden. Then go just across the river and see if it's hot as hell in foul, fetid, fumy, foggy, filthy Philadelphia. If so, well, there's plenty of Pennsylvania (from where pencils come, by the way) on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, where the toll gates and the Howard Johnsons grow. If you're looking for Bird-in-Hand, pass the second traffic light; you see a barn that's big and white; take the highway to the right. You can't miss it. Then keep going west and run into Oil City en route to Sweet Apple, Ohio. You may love the place so much that after you depart, you'll ask yourself, 'Why, oh, why, oh, why, oh, why did I ever leave Ohio?'

You could go down in the valley to Shenandoah. You may then feel, "Tuscaloosa's calling me--but I'm not going." All right -- where's north? Where the Windy City is. At least this time of the year, you won't find Chicago's 11 below and the forecast is snow for Chicago. Nor in Milwaukee are they freezing their tails. (I can tell you, it's just hell when it hails in Milwaukee.) By now, you'll be asking, "Which way do I choose? Left? Right? Left? Right? Torture!" Well, how about Dubuque, Des Moines, Davenport, Marshalltown, Mason City, Keokuk, Ames, Clear Lake? You ought to give Iowa a try. And if you don't like it, well, something's always happening on the river. By the way, if you run into Missitucky inside U.S.A, do let me know.

Head southwest, and see if everything really is up to date in Kansas City. Meet me in St. Louis. (They plow land in the cow land of Missoura, where most beef meant for roast beef seems to grow.) Then head south, to where the wind comes sweeping down the plain. (You know where I mean, don't you? Do I have to spell it out for you? O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A--okay?)

Then it's off to Big D, my oh yes, Big D, little a, double L, a-s! Stay until you say, "I'm Tired of Texas." Then go to Casamagordo, New Mexico. Do you know the way to Santa Fe? If so, go and see if Tom Collins ever opened that restaurant there.

Montana? Who needs it? See Seattle. There's a fortune waiting there for show people, so, with your easy money, swing down to Grant Avenue, San Francisco, California, USA. And you're going to Santa Rosa, and to Disneyland. (Magic Kingdom, Disneyland), followed by City of Angels -- Sunset Boulevard and forbidden Hollywood. If you ever get to Beverly Hills, don't drop in for lunch.

Afterwards, say, "California, there I went!" during your Mexican hayride. Then go to Jamaica. Once on this island, mama will provide. Go to Panama, and look up Hattie. And for the record, it's delightful down in Chile, more so than other South Americans found a new Argentina.

Why stop there? Unless you're the Leadville Johnny Brown type, you'll feel at home abroad. But who has the time to take a boat? Fly faster than sound. Lunch in London, or Gay Paree, where you'll meet 50 million Frenchmen.

Then take your ankles aweigh to Italy, by the beautiful sea. We next play Verona, then onto Cremona (Lotsa quail in Cremona). Our next jump is Parma (that heartless, tartless menace). Then Mantua, then Padua, then we open again, where? In Venice!

Spend a night in Venice. When in Berlin, stay at the Grand Hotel; if you can't afford it, well, certainly nearby, there's a small hotel. Attend a carnival in Flanders, then hear the song of Norway. Then where you going? Barcelona! Afterwards, you'll find it's fun to cast an anchor in lovely Casablan-ker. Fly to Singapore in time for tea (where, presumably, you'll hear the song of Singapore).

Make Pacific overtures. Go to the South Pacific (Hope you don't run into trouble in Tahiti), then north. Welcome to Kanagawa! Too bad we can't go back to Moscow, but we can go along the Hwang-Ho Valley, or even farther East. Dong-dong! You're in Hong Kong. The heat is on in Saigon.

After all this, will you be so tired that you'll be crying, "Stop the world -- I want to get off"? More likely you'll find this trip around the world, as Noel Coward called it in Private Lives, "highly enjoyable."

But if you're bored, go out of this world in a cabin in the sky on a starlight express. Space is so startling, so don't get lost in the stars.

-- Peter Filichia is the New Jersey drama critic for the Star-Ledger
You can e-mail him at PFilichia@aol.com