Musical Theatre Blog: The Great White Way

Going to New York City and seeing a Broadway show is every theatre fans dream. Whether its where the obsession started, or where it was cultivated, or where your end game resides, for most American theatre lovers, Broadway remains the pinnacle. I was able to elevate my musical mania on the week of my 21st birthday. I was able to drink alcohol legally for the first time, and I boarded a plane super hungover and landed in rainy New York City on April 9th, 2007.

So many wonderful shows were open at the time, and we saw most of them. We had tickets to 10 shows, so basically every slot time a show was playing, including a Monday night (when theatres usually don’t have a show). My very first introduction was that very evening we landed. We saw Forbidden Broadway: SVU and It was awesome. Forbidden Broadway has a handful of shows including a ‘Greatest Hits’ that one could get the rights to, and is performed all over the place, but the off-Broadway performance I saw was making fun of the shows that were currently running or were very popular at the time like Ave. Q and Wicked. It was a fun start to the week. Here's a fun fact: the section of Broadway containing the Theatre District was one of the first streets to be lit by electric lights, giving it the nickname The Great White Way

Walking out of the Walter Kerr Theatre with my head spinning after seeing Grey Gardens was probably my favorite experience. It was the most amazing show. It was pretty new on Broadway, and the Grey Gardens story had not been told as much then as it is part of the zeitgeist now, with the release of the movie with Drew Barrymore and references in popular culture. Seeing Christine Ebersole (or as I referred to her, Richie Rich’s Mom) in such an amazingly complex role, well, two roles, was the thrill of a lifetime for an audience member. She was amazing, and she absolutely deserved the Tony that she won that year. I also was not able to get over the sets and lighting of that piece. It was so stunning. The first act was so opulent and affluent with grand staircases, and silk dresses, and the second act was a picture of so much squalor and destitution. It was more than a show, but an experience. I loved that show so very much.

Crying in public is something that I try to not do as much as possible as well, but during the funeral scene in Spring Awakening, I couldn’t help myself. I had to cover my mouth to keep from sobbing out loud at the moment Melchoir touches Mortiz’s father, and he crumbles into a heap of blubbering. It was such a powerful moment in the life of a musical. I have seen the show several times since then, and the moment is always powerful. Most of the original cast was on that stage when I saw the show; with the exception of one Lea Michele (pre-Glee) but her standby was none other than the now smashingly successful Krysta Rodriguez. Plus seeing Jonathan Groff’s ass is ALWAYS a good thing.

It is always such a surreal thing to talk about my experience with New York City. It wasn't the best time for me, on an emotional level. There were a lot of private, tumultuous things happening, and it also rained the entire time we were there, which was honestly just par for the course. However, I saw so much great theatre that touched me deeply. Raul Esparza sobbing as he sung Being Alive alone on a perfectly lit stage in Stephen Sondheim’s Company Revival was one of the most touching interpretations of that song I have ever seen or heard. The technical design of the set of Disney’s Mary Poppins will forever remain true magic in my mind. I still have a hard time convincing myself of seeing a three-story house (with a floating top-floor nursery) on the stage at the New Amsterdam.

Like many other people I dream of going back, seeing those original shows, some that may not make it passed the great white way and some that may not every hold the same gravity that they did on the stages where they were originated. I love the idea of being there from the beginning, and seeing stars shine, new and old, fresh and established alike. The glitz and the glamour of Broadway shows holds its allure for a special reason, there is nothing quite like it. Those bright lights, and the history and charm of Times Square and the Theatre District have been written, and sung about for decades.

This is a complete list of the shows I saw April 9 - April 16, 2007

Spring Awakening

The Drowsy Chaperone

Disney’s Tarzan

Disney’s Mary Poppins

The Phantom of the Opera

Company 2006 Revival

Grey Gardens

Legally Blonde: The Musical

(Off-Broadway) Forbidden Broadway: SVU

(Off-Broadway) Altar Boyz Have you been to NYC to see shows? What was your experience like?

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