My Year of Theater, Part One

This post was originally supposed to be published in September, but thanks to life and theater, that didn’t happen. But I haven’t seen any additional Broadway shows since the last one written about in Part Two, so I guess it still counts!

Ever since Broadway reopened last Fall, I’ve been an active patron. Though I did not return to NYC to see a show until January of this year, I was supporting the theatrical arts since September of last year. This is the first of two posts where I discuss all of the shows I’ve seen between September 2021 and September 2022.

September 2021

1. National Tour of Anastasia

My first foray back into seeing theater was actually a birthday celebration for my boyfriend. The touring production of the musical Anastasia came to my state and the venue was not too far from where I live. So the boyfriend and I decided to get tickets and spend a night out. The show had recently opened and our stop was only it’s second official one. While there were some technical hiccups (to be expected so early in the run and with that much tech), the show was incredible. The cast was truly stellar and we still talk about it to this day.

The tour is still active, having recently entered its second year. See if it’s coming to a city near you!

October 2021

2. Little Shop of Horrors Off-Broadway

My first theater back in NYC was with one of my good friends. We had heard that Jeremy Jordon was going to be starring in Little Shop of Horrors Off-Broadway when the production resumed performances after the shut-down. We decided that this was a must-see for us. This was also my first off-Broadway musical ever, which was nice. I was slightly familiar with the show, but had never seen it. I’m not even sure if I saw the movie or not. While not on my list of favorites, I was very glad to see some big Broadway names and I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the house. And the plant puppet is very cool! I may be returning to this show early next year to see another one of my favorite Broadway actors in the role of Seymour. Little Shop is playing at the Westside Theater in Midtown.

January 2022

3. Girl From the North Country

My first official Broadway show post-shutdown was a last-minute decision. The bf and I were coming back from Long Island and I remembered that Girl from the North Country was closing THAT day. I was always interested in seeing the show but never had the chance. We decided to buy seats in the car that morning and instead of heading towards CT, we kept going straight into Manhattan and caught what we thought would be it’s closing matinee.

This show utilizes the music of Bob Dylan and uses music as a way to accentuate the narrative of the play versus adding to it. Many of the songs only minimally reflect what is going on in the plot. The creators also chose to not allow for pauses due to applause from the audience. Which, in my opinion, was not a great directorial choice. Because the actors immediately went into their dialogue, you often missed what was happening.

The show did in the weeks leading up to the Tony Awards for which is was nominated for 7 awards, including Best Leading Actress, Best Book, and Best Direction. It ended up winning one for Best Orchestrations. Though I was unfamiliar with Dylan’s songs and I think that caused me to not completely understand how the music worked with the plot, it was still an incredible piece of theater. Plus seeing a show’s closing performance is unlike anything else.

February

4. Moulin Rouge

During the 2020 Tony Awards (which were actually held in 2021, but that’s a story for another time), the winner of the most awards of the night, including the top award, Best Musical was Moulin Rouge. I knew that night that it would be one I had to see. During a long weekend stay in NYC, and taking advantage of Broadway Week, the bf and I got tickets to this show as well as a couple others. This was hands-down the best thing I’ve seen on Broadway in a long time. Based on the musical of the same name from the early 2000s, the show is a stimulation overload in the best way and the cast does some incredible work on that stage. If you can’t get to Broadway, there is at least one National Tour visiting locations across North America. You can see their tour plan here. Broadway information is here.

5. Wicked

As a theater nerd who came of age in the aughts, I would be remiss if I didn’t stop by one of my all-time favorite musicals. It also helped that the bf hadn’t seen the show in years. To quote my bf while we were at dinner “We are about the see a show that is so well rehearsed…”and it didn’t disappoint. While our Elphaba was not as spectacular as we would have liked (we saw the standby), we both enjoyed returning to Oz. I’m not lying when I say if I could see Wicked every year, I would. This show was our second planned show of the weekend. It was also the first time I was in NYC late at night in a while. Though it was freezing in February, it was still a lot of fun. Productions’ Website

6. Phantom of the Opera

The second day of our trip we decided to hit up the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While we did go for some specific exhibits and even took a side trip to the Guggenheim in the morning, we were exhausted from all the walking by 4:00. With one more night in the city, and no real plans, we decided to see what was playing that night. Most shows only do a Sunday matinee at 3pm, but luckily for us, Phantom of the Opera does a 5:00. We purchased seats in the rear orchestra and after intermission, the ushers allowed us to move closer. Seeing Act II of Phantom four rows from the stage is a real treat. You can really appreciate how hard the cast is working when you’re that close to them. It had been over a decade since I saw Phantom in NYC and about three years since I saw the tour which featured different staging and choreography.

I’m glad I got to see it one more time. A few weeks ago, it was announced that Phantom will be closing on Broadway in February of next year. This is a huge deal for the theater community. Phantom is the longest running show in Broadway history, where it will reach 35 years next year a few weeks before it’s closing performance. Get the tickets while you still can! They DO NOT make shows like this anymore.

March

After we did our long, theater-filled weekend in February, we decided that doing two-show days were kind of our thing. So in March, the bf and I took advantage of having tickets to a matinee and we decided to catch and evening show too.

7. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

For Christmas, we were gifted tickets to see Harry Potter. I had seen in twice before, when it was still two parts, but I was excited to see the new, condensed version. For those of you may be wondering: yes, the thrill is still there! The flashbacks are not and though I was disappointed about that, it doesn’t really add anything to the narrative. The magic and the sounds and the excitement of seeing this world come to life in front of you is something to be seen. While some of the dialogue was hard to understand since the actors were speaking so quickly, the act break is now even more dramatic that ever before. Does it need to be two parts? No. But was it even more incredible? Yes. Website

The fact that this show is now only a single performances means we had a chance to catch another show. We decided to give some new work a try. We also decided that we really loved seeing a show up close, so we treated ourselves and got really amazing seats to the next show as well.

8 & 9. Paradise Square

This show…it has my heart. In so many ways. For non-theater fans, I recommend you google search this production to find out about all of the behind-the-scenes drama that riddled this production. Out of respect for the actors, that is all I will say on the subject. It is not their fault.

A historical piece with an incredible score stole my heart from the minute the opening number finished. The production was not well-reviewed and had low ticket sales from the start. Partly due to its terrible marketing and poor notices. But, the script, the music, the acting, everything was so wonderful. Nominated for the most Tony Awards of the season (10), the show walked away with a single award for its lead actress: Joaquina Kalukango for her powerhouse performance of Nellie O’Brien.

In fact, I loved this show so much that I saw it again, three days later after winning the ticket lottery. Every theater fan needs a Broadway flop. Paradise Square is mine. I vowed to see the show again before it closed. I knew it wouldn’t last too long since I keep tabs on the Weekly Grosses and knew it wasn’t doing well from the start. But, for what it’s worth, I’m a huge fan. And I hope the world gets to see it somehow in the future.

April

10. Birthday Candles

I’m a huge fan of Debra Messing. She was Grace on Will & Grace as well as one of the leading characters in my favorite show: Smash. So, when I heard she was coming to Broadway in a new play I had to get tickets. Turns out my friends wanted to go, too. So we all got tickets to Roundabout Theater’s production of Birthday Candles. It follows the main character from age 17 to age 107. The actress never leaves the stage and barely changes costume. Oh, she also bakes a cake…in real time,,, during the show! How Messing was passed over for a Tony is beyond me. It was a moving piece of theater and one I think would be perfect for community theaters to produce.

May

11. Into the Woods at NY City Center

For people in the theater community, the talk of the season was New York City Center’s production of Into the Woods. Featuring a “stacked cast” including Sara Bareillies, Neil Patrick Harris, Heather Headley, Ann Harada, Denee Benton, Gavin Creel, and more, this production was “the one” to see! It was also the first of two Stephen Sondheim works I got to see this year. I’m not sure why this one was so popular. Perhaps it was the incredibly talented and name-filled cast. Or, it may have had something to do with the fact that Stephen Sondheim died in November of 2021, the day after Thanksgiving. A creator’s work always becomes more popular after they’re gone, and Broadway is no different.

I was so grateful that I was able to get tickets and experience this lighting in a bottle production. The energy in the room was electric from the moment the curtain rose and it didn’t end until the house was empty. It’s not wonder the production transferred to Broadway. And once it was announced, we got tickets to that as well. But we didn’t see that for a couple months.


Next week, I’ll post Part Two and continue on with the latter half of the year. We saw a lot of shows over the summer! And to be honest, the ones in the summer were even better than the ones in the spring. Some of them have become favorites and two are in my top five shows of all time!

2 thoughts on “My Year of Theater, Part One

  1. Well, when it comes to Broadway musicals, I have to rely on the tours

    Here is my 2022 year so far:

    1. Frozen- June
    2. Anastasia- October

    Loved them both- had a bigger excitement level for them this year than prior; they were supposed to be seen in 2020, but got postponed thanks to the pandemic

    November has a show coming up, which is Hadestown

    Like

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