Put On A Happy Face

Do you have a go-to feel-good show or cast recording? One that, even if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it or listened to it, is always guaranteed to bring you joy when you do? One that will always put a smile on your face? For me, that show is Godspell, particularly the revival, but really any version, including the movie.

I’m sure part of it is that Godspell was my 2nd Broadway show and I loved every moment of that experience, so right off the bat it will always hold a special place in my heart. And the fact that I saw pretty much the entire revival cast (except I saw Corey Mach as Jesus instead of Hunter Parrish) makes it all the more exciting listening to that particular cast recording. On top of that there is just so much joy and beauty in the music. Sure the “Finale” hits you and takes you out of the joy for a bit but then it brings you right back to it at the end). My favourite songs include Uzo Aduba’s “By My Side” and the slowed down, revival version of “Beautiful City,” which is just so, well, beautiful. Godspell is just one of the reasons I’m a big Stephen Schwartz fan.

I did grow up in a family that regularly went to church (United Church) so perhaps that impacted the way I took in the musical. Honestly, I don’t know for sure about that but I do know that you don’t have to be religious to like the show or appreciate its story or themes. I think it’s a similar case with a lot of the shows based on Bible stories (Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat), it’s about more than the religious aspect or source material. I think a big part of Godspell is about storytelling, and all of the stories presented in it (the parables) present a message, typically about being a good person, that you can enjoy and appreciate whether or not you consider yourself a religious person. There is hope in it too, especially at the end- it comes back to hope and joy.

I’ve watched a lot of Godspell videos on YouTube, and they too always bring a smile to my face. Show clips, TV show performances, recording studio videos, I love them all. There are also some great videos from when they put together a kid cast for the revival (the “Godspell Cast of 2032” they called it) who got to perform some of the songs at Circle in the Square, on the set, wearing costumes that matched their grown-up counterparts. Gaten Matarazzo, better known now as Dustin in Stranger Things, was Jesus in that 2032 cast. Seeing those kids performing those songs once again highlights the joy of the show. All of the videos I’ve watched do.

I would love to someday work on a production of Godspell. I don’t even really care in what capacity I work on it, I just want to be involved with it in some way.

There’s a reason this show is in my top 10 favourite musicals!

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Broadway Up Close

Broadway Up Close offers 5 different Broadway-related walking tours in New York City: Act I, Act II, Act III, The HamilTour, and The Ghostlight Tour.

I first heard about Broadway Up Close Walking Tours back in 2014 when looking for things to do in NYC and ended up taking both the Act I and Act II tours on that particular trip. We booked our Act I tour for a Sunday morning. We had so much fun on that first tour that, even though we thought it would be a complete long shot, we decided to see if it would be at all possible to book an Act II tour before we left on Monday (yes, the next day). To this day some of the best customer service I’ve ever experienced has come from booking these Broadway tours. When we were looking into booking the Act II tour we were sending emails between seeing the matinee of If/Then and the evening show of Rock of Ages to the owner of BUC, Tim Dolan, who was acting in a show at the time and responding during his intermission, and then finalising the details after all of the shows were done that night. In the end we were able to book a last minute Act II tour for the following morning.

Ever since I took those first two tours, every time they’ve announced a new tour (Act II, The HamilTour, The Ghostlight Tour), I knew I wanted to take them! I was really happy when I saw Broadway Up Close was going to have a booth at the BroadwayCon Marketplace this year. It was such a pleasure meeting Tim Dolan in person and that is where I was able to book my third tour with the company, the HamilTour. I was leaving the city the Monday night after BroadwayCon but had time to fill during the day and when I saw that the HamilTour was offered on Mondays, I knew I wanted to take it! At their booth I was also able to pick up a copy of the Act I Souvenir Program, which hadn’t been available when I took the tour. I’m looking forward to reading through it and re-experiencing the stories I heard on that first tour!

All three of the tour I’ve taken have been both extremely interesting and entertaining. I always love learning theatre history and these tours are such a great way to do so. The Act I and II tours take you around to certain theatres and locations in the Broadway area sharing relevant history, ghost stories, fun facts and other stories. The HamilTour takes you to parts of Hamilton’s New York (which was actually an area of New York I had not really explored before), tying in the real life history and locations to the Broadway musical (both with regards to major plot points and smaller details), while also making connections with the design elements of show and sharing other facts and stories about the musical. I’ve learned a lot of American history from Hamilton and from reading about the show (we don’t generally learn much American history here in Canada) and I learned even more on the HamilTour.

Every interaction I’ve had with anyone from BUC has been extremely positive, both when booking the tours and on the tours themselves, and you can tell there is excellent communication between everyone at BUC. At the end of out Act I tour we had spent some time talking to our Green Team Guide, Mikey, and it came up how I am interested in the backstage side of theatre. Then for our Act II tour they organized it so that one of the Guides who is also a stage manager would lead our tour. It was such a nice touch. You can tell they really care about the people who take the tours and the extra touches, like setting up a tour with a specific tour guide or things as simple as just remembering where you’re from and if you’ve taken their tours before, make the experience all the more personal. I was even given hand warmers for the HamilTour. And on top of that they obviously care about the tours themselves. Not only are all of the tour guides extremely knowledgeable, you can tell they care about what they’re talking about.

Both my Act II tour and HamilTour ended up being private tours (Act II was me, my mom and our Guide, Theresa, and the HamilTour was just me and the Guide, Cary) and it made them both really fun experiences and even more personal! It was fun getting all of the information and seeing all of the sights while also being able to go off on tangents and discuss different things as they came up.

If you’re ever looking for something to do in New York and you love theatre and the history that goes with it I can’t recommend these tours enough! I personally can’t wait to go back to New York and cross the other two tours (Act III and The Ghostlight Tour) off my list! (And I would happily take any of the tours again!)

img_3224.jpgThe Act I Souvenir Program & My Lanyard From the HamilTour

 

Theatre Memories: Stage Door Stories

It should come as no surprise that I am someone who goes to the stage door after a show. I didn’t actually start stage dooring (yes, I will be using stage dooring as a verb throughout this post) show until I went to New York for the first time in 2012. Since then I’ve gone to the stage door of every Broadway show I’ve been to, and a few shows in Toronto. I have noticed that while stage dooring is done in Toronto, it is not as big a thing as it is in New York. The following are some of my own personal stage door experiences!

1st Stage Door Experience (also Busiest Stage Door Experience):

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. My first Broadway show was also my first stage door experience! And what an experience! To this day, it is still the busiest stage door I’ve been to. It was Darren Criss’s second day in the show, so it’s not surprising that it was a zoo. I didn’t get anywhere near the front of the group. I didn’t get any autographs. I got a few pictures from a distance where I’m pretty sure you can see parts of heads and sleeves. At one point I was standing on a ledge or barrier or something and did see and hear Darren, so all things considered it was the best I could have gotten from where I was and it was still great. (And, actually my dad, who ended up standing in a different spot from my mom and I, did get one of the actor’s autographs on his Playbill.)

Best Stage Door Experience:

I have had some really great stage door experiences, but I suppose the “best” would probably be after seeing the Godspell revival, also on my first trip to NYC. This time the stage door was nowhere near as busy. There were other people there but it was nothing like How to Succeed. I was right at the barrier right near the doors where the actors came out. I met and got pictures with almost every cast member (except Morgan James and Celisse Henderson). I also had longer conversations with Telly Leung and George Salazar which was really exciting for me! (I had actually seen George in a tour of Spring Awakening that had a one show stop in Kingston.)  My Godspell experience is certainly one I won’t forget!

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Photo collage I made of stage door pictures after seeing Godspell in 2012 (This is still the background on my laptop). Moving clockwise starting at the top left corner the pictures include Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, Wallace Smith, George Salazar, Telly Leung, Uzo Aduba, Corey Mach, Nick Blaemire, Lindsay Mendez.

Worst Stage Door Experience:

This one goes to If/Then. I want to state right off the bat, this being the worst experience has nothing to do with any of the cast members. My issues came from the other people waiting at the stage door. And it wasn’t all bad. I got to meet and get pictures with quite a few of the cast members. At one point though, as we were waiting for Idina to come out, a really tall person came up right behind me and with people in front and beside me, I felt closed in on all and couldn’t really move or see . It was overwhelming and pretty uncomfortable. Yes, when it’s a busy stage door there is only so much room and it gets crowded, but this time it was just a bit too much. When Idina came out I did get some pictures of her but I didn’t end up getting her autograph. I just wasn’t close enough/pushy enough I guess (it was nothing to do with Idina herself, who I know can only do so much when there are so many people and in a short amount of time). Like I said, in terms of the actors though, everyone was great! It was just the crowd with which I had an issue.

Least Busy Stage Door Experience:

There have been a few times when I’ve gone to the stage door for shows in Toronto and I’ve been the only one there. This was the case the last time the Phantom of the Opera tour was in Toronto. I may have been the only person there but I got a lot of autographs! When Buyer and Cellar was playing in Toronto I went to the stage door where there were two of us (the other person being my mother who had been at the show with me!). I got to meet Christopher J Hanke though, which had an added bonus because I had also seen him as Bud Frump in How to Succeed in Business, but, like I said before, I wasn’t anywhere near enough to get any autographs at that show!

Best Stage Door Experience Not at the Stage Door:

I saw the In the Heights tour twice. Once in Kingston and once in Toronto. After the Toronto performance I ended up meeting the cast when we were on the way back to our hotel. I had seen the show with my parents and best friend and as we were on the subway I looked over and saw people I thought I recognized from the cast. We debated for a while whether or not it was them and whether or not to go over to them but finally we did, asking if they were in fact from the cast. When they confirmed it, I asked them to sign my souvenir program. It was as they began passing it around that I realized how many of them were actually there! I had recognized two of them!) I talked to them for a little while, telling them how I had also seen the show in Kingston. They were all really nice and it was great of them to take the time to talk to us! It was a really cool experience!

Biggest Celebrity I’ve Met at the Stage Door:

In terms of celebrities (beyond the theatre world), I would say there is a tie for this one between Josh Groban, Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney, although I had the most interaction with Laura. I got Josh’s autograph after seeing Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. In that instance it was a case of him going along the group quickly signing autographs and not posing for pictures. It was still really cool though! I met Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney after seeing The Little Foxes on the same trip. The stage door for The Little Foxes was not very busy and as well as getting both of their autographs I also got a picture with Laura Linney!

People and Moments that Stand Out From Other Stage Door Experiences:

  • Alex Brightman after seeing School of Rock. He was really nice and such a great Dewey! I talked to him about loving the movie growing up.
  • Laura Osnes after seeing Bandstand. I’ve been a fan of Laura’s for a long time and it was a dream come true to get to see her in a show and then meet her at the stage door afterwards! (I wish now that I had gotten pictures with the rest of the cast too.)
  • Ramin Karimloo, Christy Altomare, & Derek Klena after seeing Anastasia. We talked to Ramin for a bit as fellow Canadians and I’ve seen him perform a few times before. (He’s amazing). We talked to Christy for a while. She was really taking the time to talk to everyone and she was extremely nice. She made sure we met Derek too because he had gone to the next people while we were talking to her. He was also great!
  • Norm Lewis after seeing Phantom of the Opera. He was the last person to come out, quite a while after everyone else, but I remember him being really nice and talking to everyone and posing for pictures. (This was also a bit of a weird experience because we were all waiting in one spot, then, after we’d already been there for a while, were told we couldn’t stand there and had to move to a different spot. It all worked out in the end, but I found it strange that we hadn’t been informed of the “right” place to wait earlier. But I still got to meet Norm Lewis, so it was great!)
  • Andy Karl and the rest of the Rocky cast. I was so excited after seeing that show and meeting the cast was the icing on the cake. I was right near the end of the group that was waiting at the stage door, which worked out really well for getting photos and spending a little time talking to the actors, including Andy.
  • I’ve also had a lot of good experiences with the security at various Broadway stage doors. A lot of the time they have been great about letting everyone know if people are still coming out or if that’s it for the night. The people at the Godspell and Bandstand stage doors were particularly good about keeping us updated. I can only imagine what they have to deal with night after night!
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One of my my more recent stage door highlights: meeting Laura Osnes after Bandstand in 2017.

It’s a common thing in this post that the actors I’ve met at the stage door have been really nice. But it’s true, they have been. I really appreciate everyone I’ve met (talked to, posed for a picture with, had sign my Playbill/souvenir program), knowing that it’s not a part of their job to greet fans at the stage door! And I totally understand and accept when people don’t come out the stage door. I’m so grateful for the excellent experiences I’ve had and look forward to any future stage door experiences!