Once Is Not Enough for These Broadway Fans
Ron and Staci Schnell have seen “They’re Playing Our Song” a lot. The chance to share their story — replete with photos of the programs they’ve collected along the way — prompted us to put the question to other readers: What show have you seen again and again, and why? Some very passionate — and necessarily edited — responses follow.
My husband and I got tickets to “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” with Neil Patrick Harris on a whim. (We lived in Pittsburgh at the time and had tickets to see “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” at 8 and realized that we could fit in a 10 p.m. show of “Hedwig” right after it.) We loved the production so much, and were absolutely blown away by Lena Hall’s much deserved Tony-winning turn as Yitzhak. As soon as we left the theater we scooped up tickets to see it again before NPH left the show.
We happened to be planning a trip to New York that Christmas season with my sister and her husband, and Michael C. Hall had taken over the role. Still wonderful and worth every penny, especially with Ms. Hall still inhabiting Yitzhak. Later it was announced that John Cameron Mitchell was taking over the part. How could we not go back for the O. G.??? GENA JOHNSON, Pittsfield, Mass.
After traveling to London in 1987 to see “Phantom of the Opera” — and after four hours in line for a cancellation — I got a front stalls seat. I almost fell asleep during the first act, due to the long wait for a ticket. Sarah Brightman was out, but Michael Crawford was magnificent.
I bought a ticket to the New York production for February 1988 and for July the same year. Little did I know I would be seeing the show over 25 times — from repeat visits with friends and family to working at the theater. I got to know a person who saw the show over 200 times. Crazy, huh? DAVID PANDOZZI
My repeat attendance reached its peak with “Rent,” which I have probably seen more than 150 times. I was one of those people who slept on the sidewalk outside the Nederlander Theater to get a front-row seat when any one of the original cast was having their final performance. I went to London and slept, again on the sidewalk, to get a front row ticket to the opening night performance at the Shaftesbury Theater. I still cry whenever I see the show, because of the humanity of the characters, and because through life and death they are there for each other, the way I wish my friends are, and will be, there for me. JOHN-JOHN MANTULAC, New York
I have seen “Beautiful” 9 times. “Evita” and “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” and “Dreamgirls” 7 times and “The Color Purple” 6 times. I am a serial repeater and a huge LaChanze fan. JUDI RADIN, New York
“Here Lies Love,” 10 times … I think. Loved the music, energy, storytelling. Plus I didn’t hate a shirtless Jose Llana — I’m not made of stone. But the show that I’ve seen the most is “In the Heights”: six or seven times on Broadway, four times in London, plus eight different productions from a high school to dinner theater! MARK A. NEWMAN, Falls Church, Va.
The first time was to see Ben Vereen again in “Pippin” — two times. The next was to see Jim Dale in “Barnum” — also two times. “The Drowsy Chaperone” was wildly clever, plus it starred Sutton Foster (three times). Finally, “Farinelli and the King,” because of the fabulous production but mostly because of Mark Rylance. I hope you will publish this as I went to the trouble of searching Google for the correct spelling of chaperone, and then I went to the drink cup I bought at the theater for the correct spelling of Farinelli. BARBARA MATTER, New York
I’m a folk singer/songwriter who has the great good fortune of having one of my songs, “Air Conditioner,” sung by Sutton Foster in concert. Not long after, in 2006, I learned that a show called “The Drowsy Chaperone,” starring the very same Sutton Foster, just had its first preview. Garth Kravits, an actor-singer I knew, was in it. I asked how it went? He gave me a slow, sly smile and said, “Better than any of us could have hoped.”
I decided right then and there to get a ticket for the next night’s performance. I remember sitting down in the fifth row of the orchestra section, with a very bitchy, very SELFISH thought: I hope for Sutton’s sake it will be a hit, but if it flops, she’ll be doing a lot more concerts and will be singing my song all over the country. I can’t lose!
When that preview performance was over, I slowly got up from my seat with a whole different thought: I must see this show again. And again. And again. And I did. All told, I saw the Broadway production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” 68 times. How do I know? Not only did I save my tickets, I xeroxed them and made them into place mats. CHRISTINE LAVIN, New York
It was the summer of 1993. I was on the verge of turning 40 and looking forward to a new job. To celebrate I joined an older friend for a N.Y.C. trip — one of those six-shows-in-four-days trips. I don’t recall all those shows right now, but “Kiss of the Spider Woman” left an indelible impression. I had never seen Chita Rivera on stage but the moment she entered I realized that she was indeed a star. I felt I was witnessing a historical performance. I flew back to New York a few months later and saw her two more times, and then later flew up and saw her again. As a native New Yorker who joined me in one of these viewings exclaimed in her delicious New York cadence, “Dahling, Chita is a stah!” Absolutely. BILLY PULLEN, Memphis
“Hello, Dolly!” Many, many times. The first was with Ginger Rogers, took the whole family for Christmas, 12 second-row orchestra seats for $10 apiece. Do you believe that? Then came Martha Raye. She was fantastic. Then Phyllis Diller — what a surprise, she was really good. Then Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway, twice. Finally got to see Carol Channing, again twice. Closing night of the original Broadway run with Ethel Merman. Sorry, missed Betty Grable. Almost went to Chicago to see Eve Arden. Missed out on Bette and Bernadette because I would not pay $500 for front orchestra. DAVID VELEZ, New York
I saw the original production of “A Chorus Line” three times, leaning on the Shubert Theater red velvet back railing opening week in 1975. If I recall, standing room tickets at the time were $5 and the ticket line formed between 4:30 and 5 the morning of the performance. During the 15-year run I saw the show at least once during each visit (usually three or four a year) to N.Y.C. from my home in Ohio. I totally missed the 2006 production at the Schoenfeld Theater due to caregiving responsibilities that kept me away from N.Y.C. However, I was able to get to one performance of the wonderful 2018 New York City Center production. Between the two productions I have seen “A Chorus Line” more than 50 times in N.Y.C. This does not take into account touring productions and the (disastrous) movie which I could only sit through once. MICHAEL CORDRAY, Fairborn, Ohio
I saw the original “Chorus Line” 17 times! Every young actor in New York was mesmerized by “their stories” presented live onstage. Plus standing room was just three bucks, a lot cheaper than therapy. GERRY CORNEZ, New York
I flew to New York to see Neil Patrick Harris in “Hedwig” on Broadway; I attended a production translated into Swedish in Stockholm; I saw Lena Hall step into the starring role on the show’s national tour; and in a tiny San Francisco theater, I even saw a production in which numerous actors shared the lead role. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, I still cry every time Hedwig hands Yitzhak the wig during “Midnight Radio” — my all-time favorite theatrical moment. SUE TROWBRIDGE, Alameda, Calif.