This was the first Broadway show I ever made a plan to see. I remember very clearly walking up to the box office and trying to find the best day and the best seat, and asking pointedly if Audra had any vacation time planned. I had watched Ragtime perform on the Tony Awards, and I saved and planned for those tickets from that day! And oh my goodness, seeing it live was beyond what I could have imagined. And the love story between Sarah and Coalhouse Walker Jr. was so complicated and romantic and beautiful and tragic. We happened to rehearse Parade at the rehearsal studio above the theatre, and imagine my excitement when I discovered that on matinee days I could hear them sing "Wheels of a Dream" over the PA system!
Mary Lennox and Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden
I saw the national tour of The Secret Garden in Los Angeles - in 1992, I think? I still have the program but it’s at my parent’s house! I believe I saw Melody Kay as Mary and, from Googling, I would venture to say Kevin McGuire played Archibald (oh and Audra McDonald was in the ensemble!). I was so taken with this show - the music, the staging… It was one of my favorite books growing up, and I was so impressed with how well they captured the story. The heart for me lay in the love story of Mary and Archibald as they found their way to a beautiful father (figure)/daughter relationship. It all came to such a beautiful conclusion in the Finale, when Archibald tells Mary that he and his son Colin are Mary’s family. “For as long as you have us, we are yours. For this is your home, and this my child ("Come to My Garden" music SWELLS!) is your GARDEN!” I had been involved in community theatre and some television at the time, but this cemented my desire to move to New York. I wanted to be surrounded by these shows and these actors.
I am a literature buff (I majored in English at Columbia because all I wanted to do was READ!), so that could explain why I saw Jane Eyre three times. But, really, it was the sweeping, dark, luscious storytelling by (yes, I admit) the creators of Daddy Long Legs — John Caird and Paul Gordon. I, of course, didn’t know either of them yet. And I think it took me months after we started DLL to admit how many times I saw the show, but I kept going back because of the love story. But not the love story you would think - between Jane (Marla Schaffel) and Rochester (James Barbour) - the love story that hooked me was Jane’s own love story. She was told her whole life that she was ugly and worthless and men were constantly attempting to retain power over her. Yet, she asserts herself in a patriarchal society and only accepts a marriage with Rochester once she determines they will be equals. Ultimate love, yes? The love of oneself!
Another show that I saw at least three times! I was there opening night on Broadway and then twice more to see my friend Krysta Rodriguez go on for each of the female leads! I could have seen the show ten MORE times. Everyone is saying Hamilton is revolutionizing musical theatre, which I don’t doubt! I haven’t seen it yet, but I definitely felt that way about In The Heights, too. Brilliant and new on every level. There were several beautiful love stories told, but the one that won out for me was the love of community. The last song, Usnavi and the company sing and rap about finding your home. Usnavi has been dreaming about an island - an escape - and he realizes he doesn’t need an escape. His love is in front of him - his community and his home. “I found my island! I’ve been on it this whole time and I’m home!” I don’t think I’ve ever felt as much love in a theatre as I did on opening night, watching Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company perform the finale. Mind-blowing.
I was so lucky to see the studio run through of Millie before it moved to the Marquis. This was way before my own involvement in the show (I was cast shortly after they won the Tony, to replace the departing Kate Baldwin in the ensemble) and certainly before Sutton and I became so close! I can’t even put into words my response to watching Sutton. No, really, I just tried and wrote and erased a bunch of sentences. It was stunning - WHO WAS THIS?! How did she sing like that, dance like that, and grasp comedy so well?! And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, in the middle of Act Two there was “I Turned the Corner.” It was like a moment of beautiful stillness, with Gavin’s gorgeous voice and a simple pas de deux (by the incomparable Rob Ashford) on a windowsill. And I thought, if Millie and Jimmy end up together, all will be right in the world!
I saw the BC/EFA benefit concert of Once on This Island in the spring of 2002, that also contributed to the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund in memory Calvin Gooding, LaChanze’s husband, who perished in the World Trade Center attacks. I knew the album of Once on This Island pretty well and was not going to miss the opportunity to hear it sung live, and with so much of the original cast. I don’t think I have ever cried more, watching the courage and beauty of LaChanze on that stage. Truly inspiring. I mean… “Waiting for Life to Begin” with all the hope and joy of that character, but coupled with the wisdom and weight of the current events... It was powerful.
My mom runs a graduate program for teachers of hearing impaired children, so I grew up learning some sign language. I was always very taken by its beauty and grace. I knew the minute I heard about this production that I needed to see it, but I’m not sure I knew what to expect. I didn’t know Big River all that well, though I had loved Michael McElroy’s voice since becoming obsessed with the original cast recording of Violet. The friendship and love that developed between Huck and Jim - two people from such different worlds - was such a wonderful relationship to focus on and believe in. It was truly incredible how DeafWest melded the hearing world and the signing world. The moment when all the voices dropped out during “Waiting for the Light to Shine,” but the voice of ASL took over. The silence was unlike any silence I’ve experienced. It was so full and rich and live. Unbelievably beautiful. I look forward to seeing DeafWest’s Spring Awakening!
I maybe saw this production too many times, but when your husband is in a two-person musical… well, you should talk to Adam about how many times he has seen Daddy Long Legs so far! But I was able to explore this show in a way I hadn’t before. I, of course, knew the score, but seeing it on its feet, with an audience on three sides, felt deeply intimate and illuminating. We experience so much before finding the person we ultimately end up with; it may be hurtful and wonderful and scarring altogether, but you wrap it up with a heart-wrenching score from Jason Robert Brown and two actors, who allowed the audience to see their flaws with honesty and humor, and you have a love story that feels so real. I found myself truly torn in my allegiance towards each well-meaning character, something I never anticipated. Adam and Katie were extraordinary - together and apart - and their voices! I could listen to them sing all day long.
Judith Light in Wit
It was a long time ago, but I saw Judith Light in the national tour in San Francisco. I know this is an exception to the love story theme I’m writing about today. But after all these years, I cannot get her performance out of my head. The lights went down after her final exit, and I burst into tears. I cried through the whole curtain call and then sat in my seat for ten minutes and cried some more. The play is extraordinary, and her performance was raw and engaging. I remember exactly where I sat and how her voice sounded as she spoke to us for two hours. Unforgettable.
I saw it at the Public and can’t wait to see it in its Broadway transfer. A complicated love story between father and daughter. Beautifully played by Michael Cerveris and three women as his daughter, at different ages in life. The storytelling is as good as it gets, the score is extraordinary, the cast is impeccable. If you haven’t seen it, you must. If you have seen it, you should go again!