"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players"...William Shakespeare's "As You Like It."

Last fall, my niece Abby and I were making cupcakes. As we were working in the kitchen I said, "We need a little music." Abby, who was 12 at the time, loves music and singing. She has a beautiful voice. She had performed in Towamensing Elementary's musicals since she was in fourth grade and sings in our church's choir.

"Have you ever heard the music from "The Phantom of the Opera?" I asked.

"No," was her reply.

"You, my dear, are in for the musical treat of your life," I told her, as I inserted a cassette into the player, eagerly awaiting to see her reaction to the very dramatic beginning of, what I consider, the greatest musical ever written and performed.

I guess a lot of the world thinks so too for it is the longest running musical in Broadway's history, having celebrated its 25th year this last January.

It was over 23 years ago when I saw it for the first time. Words are inadequate to describe the experience. It was all pure emotion.

As I tried to describe to Abby what it was she was hearing, I knew she'd never fully comprehend this magnificent work unless she saw it for herself on stage.

When she opened her present from me on Christmas Day, she squealed in appreciation. I was taking her to see musical genius Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" when school was over.

We left early by bus last Wednesday for New York City. Her mom and sister went with us. When we arrived, we treated ourselves to delicious cupcakes from Crumbs. We walked to Times Square, visited the Discovery museum and had a delicious lunch at Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives' Guy Fieri's restaurant, American Kitchen and Bar. From there, Diane and Jennie Rose went to Central Park and a few shops while Abby and I made our way to the Majestic Theater.

The city itself is like the biggest stage anywhere. There is a constant air of excitement. As many times as I've been there, I'm always captivated with the sights and sounds. But nothing can compare to sitting in the eighth row, almost center orchestra seats in a beautifully appointed theater, listening to the orchestra tuning up, the lights dimming, as the curtains open, because you know something magical is about to happen.

From the first moment, Abby was in awe. We got goose bumps when the organ music swelled as the chandelier rose from the stage floor to the ceiling high above us. For two and a half hours, we sat enthralled with the story, the music, the costumes, the pageantry and the stage effects.

When the curtain came down for the final time, Abby turned to me and said, "That was sooooo awesome!" High praise indeed from a 13-year-old.

I had gone online to try to find someplace unique and different for dinner, someplace that would make a lasting impression with Abby. I read about Ellen's Stardust Diner and thought it would be perfect. It was.

When you enter the door, you're back in the 1950s. But what makes Ellen's Stardust Diner different is, it's a stage. The waitstaff are all singers who perform constantly. Some have been known to star in almost every Broadway and major off-Broadway musical or are striving to be the next Broadway star. Another thing they all have in common...every one is extremely talented. The musical selections range from classic show tunes, to Frank Sinatra, to 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and today's pop, rock. and rock and roll.

Our waiter was a nice looking young man named Matt. After he brought us our meal, it was his turn to perform. And perform he did, singing "Forget You" by Cee Lo Green. Later Matt told us he had performed in the musical "Hair" on Broadway, was part of the cast in the national tour of "Hair" and in London. He said he doesn't want to be a "star," he just wants to earn a living by singing. Always looking for a stage.

My friend, Pattie Mihalik, is a great proponent of appreciating what's in our own backyards.

It turns out, I've got a stage in mine.

The other day, as I was standing at the sink washing dishes gazing out my kitchen window, I was entranced by the sight of a spritely golden-haired fairy flitting by. I watched in delight as our four-year-old neighbor, Mikayla, skipped across the yard. She was barefooted and wearing fairy wings. She was heading to another neighbor's backyard where four-year-old Ryan and his friend were playing. Mikayla joined them. I chuckled at their antics. I watched as drama unfolded when Mikayla wanted to ride Ryan's battery-operated Jeep, which he wasn't ready to give up. The dainty looking little fairygirl let loose a blood-curdling scream of disappointment followed by award-winning histrionics worthy of any Broadway play. Ryan's mother came running. A discussion ensued. Ryan reluctantly relinquished his Jeep to Mikayla, stomping off to the swing set.

It's not every day you get to see a fairy gleefully driving a Jeep.

"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players."

Sometimes we don't even have to leave home to enjoy a stage production.