There’s something about live theatre that brings performances to life in a way that television and movies can never quite capture. True, it’s probably because you’re actually seeing it in person — the theatre has a sort of live performance magic to it that gets lost when translated through the lens of a camera. I’ve been blessed enough throughout my life to have had the opportunity to see many live plays and musicals, with nothing like the perfection of performance seen on Broadway in NYC, or in London West End theatres. Over the years, I’ve found that there are a few shows that strike me in a particular way and keep me coming back, earning a way into my heart as favorites: here they are!
Phantom of the Opera – Andrew Lloyd Webber
- This love story is truly a classic for the ages; it’s no wonder it received the Guinness World Record in 2013 for being the longest running Broadway show of all time, overtaking Cats. The music is phenomenal and really gives a beautiful operatic performance enjoyable by even those who don’t like opera. Even if you’ve already seen the movie with Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum, which I find a glorious work of musical on film, you still haven’t truly experienced The Phantom until you’ve seen it live. The first live performance I saw of Phantom was in the 90’s on a spectacular stage in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Spamalot – Eric Idle
- This show has received contention for some “inappropriate” parts as judged by those lacking funny bones, but for anyone who grew up watching Monty Python, you’ll find the style of humor to be very similar. Adapted from Monty Python and the Holy Grail – though distinctively differing from the film in its own right – Spamalot is definitely not intended for children, regardless of how childish the jokes may seem. However, I have never laughed harder at any musical performance then watching Spamalot at a Las Vegas theatre. For heavens’ sake, “I’m NOT DEAD YET!” and laughter is one way to prove it!
Wicked – Stephen Schwartz
- Growing up, The Wizard of Oz was one of my favorite movies, one of the first magical “in color” shows for us oldsters. So when Wicked hit the big stage in 2003, I knew I had to see it. For those of you unfamiliar, Wicked tells the tale of the Wicked Witch of the West, Glinda the Good Witch, and the Wizard at a time before Dorothy visited Oz. Many of the characters are familiar, but you see a side of them you may never have expected. The story itself is phenomenal, and mixed with the lyrics and musical perfection of Stephen Schwartz (see: Godspell, Pocahontas, and Enchanted), it’s an all around amazing show. I saw it live on Broadway with Idina Menzel as Elphaba, unforgettable is an understatement.
Godspell – Stephen Schwartz
- I saw the most recent Broadway production of this New Testament based musical, with awe and glee and some sentimentality as I was an actor in this show for Kauai Community Theatre playing my guitar and singing “By My Side.” I have also performed in another Stephen Schwartz gem called Pippin as a player in Western Washington University’s summer stock program and am a huge fan of Schwartz. Godspell is a musical theatre version of parts of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, with skits and songs that play out parables and messages of the love of God. The song “Day By Day” hit #13 on the Billboard pop singles chart in 1972. The recent Broadway version was colorfully produced as a “theatre in the round” with actors running, dancing, jumping, and popping up in the center of the audience, close enough to touch. “Come sing with sweet rejoicing, come sing with love…we’re not afraid of voicing all the things we’re dreaming of…oh, high and lo, and everywhere we go..we can build a Beautiful City, yes, we can, yes we can…” With music, dance, and love…we Can build beauty together on our planet.
HAIR – James Rado and Gerome Ragni
- This is the R rated story of the Vietnam War and the Hippie movement and drugs that engulfed American youth as they were drafted without a clear purpose right out of high school into the rice paddies of blood, Agent Orange, and death that awaited them on foreign soil. I wonder if a similar circumstance and draft happened to today’s youth who are often transfixed in front of a computer screen, if their parents would be the ones protesting in the streets. HAIR tells a story that was true for many: do what the government makes you do and come home in a body bag, no one really sure if that was the best use of your life. Vietnam Vets are heroes at another level of suffering. One way to tell authority “you can’t control me” is to grow your HAIR. “Fill your head with HAIR, long beautiful HAIR, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen…” At one point in this show the actors stand on stage buck naked — to me, showing a testimony to birth, death, surrender, and resistance. Ah, but a thrilling part of HAIR on Broadway is that the actors call the audience up on stage to dance with them at the end…so yes, I have danced and sang on a Broadway stage, with my HAIR flying… “Let the Sun Shine!”
Fiddler On The Roof – Jerry Bock, lyrics and Sheldon Harnick
- This musical became a favorite recently thanks to an AMAZINGLY PERFECT production by the Arizona Theatre Company. ATC’s Broadway-level production had outstanding casting, directing, and performances that I will remember for a very long time. The theme of women’s rights to think, feel, and act upon their own minds apart from “tradition” and patriarchal considerations, remains a thread of contention through many cultures and times. When Love wins over “how it’s always been,” the audience is transcended at a soul level, because we do intrinsically realize, as humans, that Love is the Most Important Thing, even as tradition and prejudice may try to hold us down and sometimes cause despair. The story of three daughters and a very traditional Papa holds hearts and reteaches lessons of hope.