Nicci’s Top Ten Broadway Shows

February 5, 2010

More often than not, when Evan comes over to my house after work he’ll sit on the couch and tinker with his laptop for at least an hour, and eventually mutter “what will I blog about today… to which I respond “Me!” When he came over today, I asked what he was going to blog about, and he told me I was going to write the entry today. So either a) he’s too hungover to make his brain function properly, or b) he’s trying to shut me up — if I want to be written about so much, why shouldn’t I just do it myself? Well I’ll tell you why: I’m not a writer. It’s never been a strength of mine, and I’ve never particularly liked it. I can’t remember writing a single essay in high school; either they were boring and unmemorable, or I just didn’t write them. Although I’ve kept a journal consistently since third grade, it is only to remember specific things or to vent my feelings. I’d hardly call it art. I don’t know why Evan thinks I can do this.

Whoa, see that? I finished a whole paragraph! This is already going better than I planned. Since I’m sure he knew I wouldn’t be able to come up with a topic on my own, Evan suggested that I make a top ten list. A top ten list of my favorite Broadway shows…though I’ve only actually seen one show ON Broadway. I would like to apologize in advance that I’ll be writing the official Friday Top Ten list that I’m sure you all look forward to all week long. Don’t worry, Evan will be back with a real one next week. He does pride himself in those lists, if you haven’t noticed. I think he may even be under the impression that he started the trend. Anyhow, lets just get on with it…

Nicci’s Top Ten Seven Favorite Broadway Shows

7) Phantom of the Opera – I might have been in fourth grade when I saw this with my family in San Francisco. We were standing on a street corner trying to figure out which way to go to get to the theater when a woman who was in the cast approached us and offered to walk us there. When the show ended we met her at the stage door and she had the entire cast sign programs for us. What I remember most about this particular experience was the feeling in the pit of my stomach as the show ended. I couldn’t shake it for at least a week. I’ve since realized that the feeling was the need to be on stage. Blah blah blah, on to the next one…

6) Wicked – When I returned to LA from visiting family for the holidays two years ago, I found a hand made Christmas card on my bed, containing a pair of raffle ticket “vouchers” to see Wicked. This was one of Evan’s attempts to woo me, and it must have worked because here I am two years later doing his work for him while he listens to obscure music and plays “Settlers of Catan” online. This show describes itself as “the untold story of the witches of OZ”. It was good, and I think Evan enjoyed it even more than I did! Also, I’m pretty sure the choreographer for the production of RENT (it’s all caps, like how Evan writes LOST) that I’ll be doing soon played Elphaba — the main character — in that performance.

5) Chicago – The acting school I went to is just up the street from the Pantages theater in Hollywood, a big beautiful venue where nearly all of the touring Broadway shows go. As students, there were a certain number of free tickets reserved for each show to whoever signed up first. This was one of the shows I got to see for free, and it had Patti Labelle playing “Mama”. She was just ok, but everyone else in the cast wowed me.

4) Company – I really should go to New York more often. My sister does live there after all. The one and only time I’ve been so far was two years ago for Thanksgiving. My mom, sister, and I went to see Grey Gardens on Broadway. As you can see, that one didn’t make the list. It wasn’t bad, but the most overpowering recollection I have of that show was a number where they were singing about a woman keeping cats in her basement, with videos of cats projected all over the stage. Too weird. I recommended we see Company at an Off-Broadway theater. I didn’t know much about the show, but I’d heard some of the music and I thought my family would like it. It turned out to be better than I had expected. All of the actors also served as the band, with each of them playing at least one if not more instruments. The story is about learning how to love and let people in, for one man in particular. That character doesn’t actually play an instrument until the very end of the show, when he finally realizes how to open his heart. It was impressive, to say the least.

3) The Last Five Years – So, I’ve never actually seen this one, but I’m making the rules here so that’s not a requirement. Songs from this show could not be escaped at my college. I’m pretty sure every girl wanted to play Cathy and every guy wanted to play Jamie. I know almost every word of every song, and it’s written brilliantly. It’s a story of a couple’s five year relationship, with the woman’s story moving from the end to the beginning of the relationship, while the man’s moves from beginning to end. They only sing two songs together: in the middle of the show when he’s proposing to her, and at the end when she arrives home from their first date and he is leaving for the last time. It’s heartbreaking and funny and wonderful. Ugh, I love this show.

2) RENT – Up until recently, RENT has been my favorite show. I first learned about it when I was in a talent show, probably 11 years old. I can’t remember why, but my friend and I decided to do a scene from Tom and Huck. How can you expect to win a talent show by doing a scene? Obviously, we didn’t. Another act that didn’t win was a group of four girls who sang “Seasons of Love,” which I learned was from RENT. In the years following that, I downloaded all the songs from Napster, and tried to figure out what the hell the show was about. For some time I wasn’t sure if the person who played Mimi was a man or a woman. If you’ve heard Daphne Rubin-Vega sing, you know what I’m talking about. The summer before ninth grade I finally saw the show with my family. It was a little uncomfortable at times — sitting next to my parents through all the talk of homosexuality and AIDS, plus an orgy in the middle of the second act — but as a whole this show blew me away. You can watch Team America and make fun of it all you want, but really what it comes down to is story about unconditional love.

1) Spring Awakening – Another show I fell in love with before seeing it. My sister had the pleasure of seeing the original cast on Broadway and had nothing but good things to say about it. I think the first thing I saw was a song performed on The View (this performance is a little pitchy) and even that was spectacular. I found clips of the show in it’s entirety on Myspace and watched them consecutively (which was so much easier than my younger RENT researching days) and parts actually brought me to tears. The play touches on some mature themes: suicide, abortion, bondage, masturbation, homosexuality, child abuse, and rape. Yeah, totally uplifting. It was originally written for the stage in 1891 by Frank Wedekind, and was banned in Germany because of its subject matter. I finally saw a touring company perform the show live a little over a year ago, and that was the point where I realized I needed to act again. It really was inspiring. And if you read this website often enough you know that I played Mimi in RENT (in Alabama!) a few months ago, and will be reprising the role in California soon.

So, there you have it. Seven was all I could muster. I don’t know how Evan comes up with ten every time. These shows are all very much worth seeing — in any incarnation — if you get the opportunity. Also, this is probably the last time you’ll hear from me, unless it’s in the comments.

If you really want to get a good feel for these shows, you have to listen to these songs all the way through. Some of them start to really get going about halfway through, so give it a shot.

Spring Awakening – The Bitch of Living

Wicked – No Good Deed (real words start at about 0:50)

The Last Five Years – Still Hurting

RENT – I’ll Cover You (Reprise)

Chicago – Cell Block Tango

6 comments

  1. Stephen
    |

    Thanks for the quick intro to show tunes. “Cell Block Tango” and “The Bitch of Living” are pretty funny, and “Still Hurting” has a nice wistful vibe.
    But please do come back and blog again!

  2. |

    I’ve fallen embarrassingly behind on my Swan Fungus reading. I should have commented on this post a month ago! Anyway… no Cabaret? If I were to make a list of my top ten, that would probably be number one. Sally Bowles is that character I’ve always wanted to play (but it’ll never happen). I’d like to get to know Spring Awakening better; all I know is that the chick from Glee was in it. And, sadly, I’ve never seen Rent, but I do know the music pretty well.

  3. Anonymous
    |

    If you want to see RENT it was turned into a movie in 2005. It’s not as good as the play, but it’s good.

  4. |

    Just randomly ended up here… and this is a post from last year… and I’m being a total troll… but wanted to say — that production of Company was not Off-Broadway. It was most definitely Broadway. Sorry, not trying to be a total lame-o, but the terminology does mean something very specific.

  5. |

    This blog post is everything I hate about current “musical theatre” fans. Phantom? Wicked? RENT? These are the shows that, what I like to call “surface fans” like: the popular, Tony Award winners that are halfway decent shows. People like these popular musicals because they like to believe that they know something about musical theatre. Each year there’s a new show for the masses to like. Next to Normal is the current, before that Spring Awakening, before that Wicked and before that RENT. I have a terrible feeling that Sister Act is next. I hate America.

  6. |

    The school you went to wouldn’t happen to be AMDA would it? I’m an alum too

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