Sunday, August 26, 2007

Theatre - Repeatedly & Retroactively

When I moved from Florida to the Tri-State area in 1985 it was with the wide-eyed hope that I would one day see Cats. Joke all you may but from our tropical little peninsula, Andrew Lloyd Webber was theatre's latest "it" boy. I arrived to Connecticut shortly before Les Miz reigned supreme as Broadway's newest sensation and little did I know that Sir Andrew was about to send Phantom our way.

As luck and budget would dictate, I ended up seeing the shows in reverse order of release: Phantom first, then Les Miz and finally Cats. And I saw each more than once. Yes, even Cats. Until this, my 38th year, Les Miz held the "Most-Attended Broadway Show" title for me. Tonight it will become tied with Spring Awakening, as I go for my 4th time. Of course, I saw Les Miz four times during its entire original run... SA hasn't even been on Broadway for a year!

Remember, I'm a theatre geek. It's okay. I get a certain pleasure seeing great shows more than once. Only then that you can spend time enjoying the subtle nuances of the performances, focus on staging and technical elements or spend a few minutes away from the action to watch Kimberly Grigsby deal with a busted piano string during a performance.

I was reminded of my reverse appreciation for theatre when I purchased my ticket for Parade at the Donmar Warehouse in London. My appreciation for several composers tends to be retroactive. Jason Robert Brown is a perfect example. I stumbled upon Parade when a friend of mine was telling me that one of his dream roles was Leo Frank. So I listened to the soundtrack and immediately became a fan of the show. Subsequently, I've become a fan of JRB's. Funny how theatre works out that way.

Oddly enough - and I'm sure I'll be slain for saying so - I was NOT a fan of Stephen Sondheim's for most of my theatrical life. I appreciated certain Sondheim shows but never really LOVED any of them, save West Side Story, which is only half his anyway. Maybe it was because I wasn't old enough. Or educated enough. But now I love his work. Perhaps it was being in Assassins that opened the floodgates. That was the first Sondheim show that I was ever in, so maybe that is the trick. Once you've performed it, the appreciation grows exponentially.

So the two theatricals lessons that I have to share in this post: (1) Always be open to new (and old) writers, composers and their bodies of work and (2) If you have the chance, see a show more than once. It will heighten your sense and appreciation the entire production and its building blocks. Well, at least it has for me...

Those are my thoughts for the day. Enjoy!

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