Monday, December 10, 2007

My year of living theatrically

It's doubtful I'll get to the theater again before the end of 2007, so here's my tally - 30 shows in 12 months. (Interestingly, the list is about evenly divided between plays and musicals). Not bad when you consider my total for 2006 was 1; for 1999-2005, 0.

Here's the list, in roughly chronological order:

1) Wicked
2) Our Town
3&4) A Moon for the Misbegotten
5) Curtains
6) Frost/Nixon
7) LoveMusik
8) Deuce
9) Hairspray
10) Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life
11) Parade
12) The Clean House
13) Mamma Mia!
14) 110 in the Shade
15) Mary Poppins
16) The Color Purple
17) Gypsy
18) Grey Gardens
19) Spring Awakening
20) The 39 Steps
21) The Elephant Man
22) August: Osage County
23) The Farnsworth Invention
24) Rock 'n' Roll
25) Cyrano
26) The Receptionist
27) Young Frankenstein
28) Sweeney Todd
29) The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
30) Memory House

I saw national tours and productions by local theater companies. I traveled to Boston and Broadway. I sat in tiny theaters of a few hundred seats and massive houses of several thousand. The ticket prices ranged from $15 to more money than I care to admit in public.

While I enjoyed some shows more than others, I always enjoyed the experience of going to the theater and losing myself in a story for a couple of hours. There are some shows I liked better than others, but I don't regret seeing a single one. There's so much that I loved, I can't even narrow it down to a Top 5 or a Top 10.

But I do want to single out "Wicked." It was my first trip to the theater this year. I saw it in January, on tour, sitting up in the mezzanine, and I was totally captivated by the music and the characters and the story. I walked out of the theater wanting to see more. It set the stage for a an absolutely terrific, unforgettable year.

"Wicked" works so well on so many different levels: as an homage to one of the most beloved and quotable movies ever (even if the flying monkeys did scare the heck out of me as a kid!), as a political allegory and as an exploration of the trials and tribulations of adolescence. After nearly a year, "For Good" still chokes me up. The most stirring love song in this musical is about the enduring nature of friendship. How great is that!

Three months later, I was sitting in the audience at my first Broadway show. I'll never forget seeing Kevin Spacey walk out on stage at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre about 30 minutes into "A Moon for the Misbegotten." He's one of my favorite actors and suddenly there he was, so close I could have reached out and touched him. (Don't worry, I didn't!) It was thrilling. I can't even compare it with seeing him on television or in a movie.

There's nothing quite like the experience of watching a group of people, in some cases standing only a few feet away, tell you a story. Kevin Spacey compares it to walking a tightrope every night - anything can happen. There are no car chases or elaborate special effects, simply the power of words, the beauty of the human voice, the gracefulness of movement.

Regardless of where I sat or how much I paid for my ticket, or the hype or whether or not I recognized the actors on stage, in the end it really came down to the story - whether or not it grabbed me, engaged me, resonated with me, held my interest, made me smile or laugh out loud or cry. Once the show ends, that's it. I can't see it in exactly the same way ever again. It can only live on in my mind's eye. That's what makes the experience so unique and so powerful.

I've already got a good start on 2008 with tickets to the national tours of Rent, Spamalot, The Wedding Singer and The Drowsy Chaperone. I'm hoping the theater will take me back to Broadway, and to some new places as well.


SarahB said...

You made wonderful choices and managed to see a few legends and some brilliant works while you were at it! Brava!

Esther said...

Thanks! Coming from such a discerning theatergoer as yourself, that's a great compliment. I just wish I lived in New York so I could see more.

I'm especially glad I got to see "Deuce." Even though it didn't get great critical reviews, I loved watching Marian Seldes and Angela Lansbury sit on stage and talk to each other for 90 minutes. I thought they were so believable in those roles and I really enjoyed listening in on the conversation between their characters. I feel privileged I had a chance to see them on stage.

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther - I'm thrilled that you've caught the theatre bug. I haven't been able to shake it, nor do I want to.

Going to see live theatre is such a magical experience, even if the show isn't the greatest or if mistakes occur right before yours eyes. It's the immediacy that matters.

And on a personal level, I'm thrilled that we've been able to share several of those experiences through 2007 and at least kibitz a bit on practically every other.

Here's to more opportunities in the New Year!

Esther said...

Thank-you for all of your great recommendations over the past year!

I remember last year at this time I was reading through your blog archives and realizing that you'd seen "Wicked" a lot! And you always wrote about it with so much enthusiasm, you made me want to see it. Thank-you so much for encouraging me to go, and for reassuring me that there would be no monkeys flying out into the audience!

Even when I've gone to the theater by myself in the past year, which is most of the time, I never felt like I was alone. I knew that I had a wonderful, theater-loving friend to discuss each show with. Thank-you for getting through all of my lengthy e-mails and sharing my new enthusiasm for the theater. I never would have gone this often without you. It just made all the difference knowing that I could write to Steve about what I'd seen - and he'd write back!

And I'm so delighted we had a chance to see some of these shows together. As great as it is having a friend to e-mail, it's even greater having a friend and a brother sitting right next to me.

I'm definitely planning on more opportunities in 2008. I hope it's a terrific theatergoing year for all of us!