Love Stories from The Lounge: “I saved you a seat.”

In its 146 years, The Music Hall’s Historic Theater has played its part in many a relationship, serving as the site of everything from meet-cutes to marriages. There was a full house on hand when Andrew Gutauskas (who was playing in the orchestra) jumped onstage to propose to his girlfriend Diana Huey (who was playing lead sweetheart, Jovie) following the closing performance of Elf in 2022. (She said “Yes!”). But not many know that The Lounge, in its relatively short existence, has also played matchmaker.

Let’s go back to Sunday, August 28, 2022, when a crowd gathered at the (very recently remodeled) Music Hall Lounge. Patrons were enjoying the opportunity to get up close and personal with that afternoon’s guest, Chris van Allsburg (the Caldecott Medal-winning writer and illustrator of children’s books including Jumanji and The Polar Express) at tables next to the stage, while others, like Mike Bailey, found a bit more space at the bar.

Chris taught where Mike went to college, the Rhode Island School of Design, affectionately known as RISD. When Mike, who was new to the Seacoast, saw that Chris would be in town for an event, he bought a ticket, securing the last seat available, which was at the end of the bar. Music Hall member and Trustee Jude Blake, who comes to many shows, almost didn’t make that one. She was running behind but ended her internal debate, telling herself that she really wanted to experience the new Lounge and indulge her passion for children’s book illustrators. And she knew she was seated at the bar, so by coming in late and keeping to the back, she would minimize any disruption. As she slid into her empty chair, Mike, who was seated next to her, welcomed her, and quipped, “Oh, I saved you a seat!” He followed that with an offer to buy Jude a drink, as they sat companionably through Chris’ talk. When it was over, they headed out – in the same direction. As they walked, they got to talking, Mike revealed that he’d just moved to town, and Jude, a veritable one-woman welcome wagon, offered to introduce him around. They exchanged numbers and the rest is history! This past August they celebrated their one-year anniversary – and the spot that started it all – with a private party in The Lounge featuring a performance by Nat Zegree. 

These days you can find Mike and Jude on their daily walk around Portsmouth, doing good deeds for their neighbors new and old, or cozied up in the corner seats at the bar in The Lounge, taking in any number of acts, from literary to music. Avid film aficionados, you’ll see them at many a film festival or screening, first in line to secure the best seats. Rumor has it Mike has completed a film inspired by Jude and is considering submitting it to the New Hampshire Film Festival this year; maybe the next part of their journey will unfold on the silver screen. Get your tickets now; we’ll save you a seat!