101 in 1001 #5: See a Broadway show...on Broadway!

You guys, hi! I’m fresh off a very lengthy blog break (partly intentional, partly accidental) and a fantastic trip to New York City with my parents and brother to celebrate my dad’s birthday. We had an absolutely outstanding weekend – shopping, drinking, sightseeing, and dining to our hearts’ content – but the unequivocal highlight of the weekend, for me, was seeing my first (and second!) Broadway show and checking off my 101 in 1001 #5!

I’ve grown up absolutely obsessed with Broadway musicals. My first trip to a show, the touring production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” with Donny Osmond, took place at the tender age of six…and my family never looked back. As anyone who reads this space knows, we all fell HARD for “Hamilton,” my dad and I share an affinity for “Phantom” that goes back over a decade, and I’ve seen too many touring productions on stage to even count up at this point. As much as we all love musicals, though, I’d never actually seen a show on Broadway before. Needless to say, when my parents floated the idea of a trip for Dad’s birthday, including seeing shows, I was all over it.

One of my deepest recent Broadway obsessions is with “Dear Evan Hansen,” the darling of the 2017 Tonys which has been universally praised for its richly emotive performances and the gorgeous music, penned by Pasek and Paul of “La La Land” acclaim. Ben Platt, starring as the anxiety-crippled, socially awkward title character, is ending his run at the end of November, and I couldn’t not see his Best Actor Tony-winning performance – especially after my parents and sister Em had already seen it and unequivocally raved about it.

Despite the fact that the ticket cost me nearly a third of my monthly rent, Friday night saw me absolutely losing my mind in the third row of the mezzanine as this stunning show truly left me speechless.  I rendezvoused with my family during intermission (we weren’t all sitting together, thank GOD) and was near-incoherent in my awe. While Ben Platt’s performance is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the rest of the cast wowed in their own right, and the innovative staging and show design created a completely immersive experience.

I remembered with paralyzing detail how painful and awkward and stressful it was, at times, to be a teenager feeling like I didn’t totally fit in, to think in agonizing detail about how others perceived me and to worry incessantly about who I was. That teenage angst, coupled with the struggles of parents to understand their children and fulfill their own needs and desires, seemed to overwhelm everyone in the audience; the women sitting next to me had never heard the music and didn’t know the show’s premise, and collectively went through an entire packet of Kleenex in the first act alone.

After the show, we parked ourselves outside the stage door in hopes of seeing the cast up close and personal, but the closest we got was seeing Rachel Bay Jones (Tony Award winner for best featured actress!) drive by waving from her SUV after sneaking out the back door. I had a total fangirl moment, though, when we realized we could see into the reception room backstage, and watched Ben Platt greeting VIPs. To quote the musical, heavy-handedly, we were literally waving through a window...and it made my night!

While “Dear Evan Hansen” plumbed the deepest depths of my (admittedly soft-hearted, emotional, quick-to-cry) spirit, our Saturday night show, “A Bronx Tale,” left me grinning from ear to ear. We had originally purchased phenomenal seats to “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812,” but the show closed early in September after a fair amount of casting drama. We searched around for other options aimlessly as a few more shows we were interested in closed, and ultimately landed on “A Bronx Tale” as a nice change of pace from the wringer that is “Dear Evan Hansen.” Based on a true story, and the ensuing Robert De Niro movie, the show focuses on the early life of a young Italian boy growing up in – you guessed it – the Bronx, being pulled between the rival good-and-evil forces of his upright, moral father and a local mobster.

While the show won no Tonys and earned much less critical acclaim than my beloved “Hamilton” or “Dear Evan Hansen,” the music (by Alan Menken) and the dance-heavy, big bold cast created an enchanting experience for the largely Italian, New Yorker audience. I’ve had “One of the Great Ones,” a rollicking love song, stuck in my head since Saturday night- and let’s be real, if every show was an emotional rollercoaster, I’d never make it through an evening at the theater without crying my mascara clean off.

So incredibly thankful to my parents for letting us celebrate in the greatest city in the world with them, and for planning not one but TWO Broadway experiences for us! I’m so hooked on the theater world, and have a feeling there will be many more cross-country flights in my future…after all, “Frozen” and “Mean Girls” both open next spring, wheee!