How I Got Into Live Theatre

The 2nd National Tour of Les Miserables is the reason that I am such a fan of live theatre. When I walked up to the box office at Boston’s Shubert Theatre to purchase two tickets for the following night’s show, I had no idea what a profound change that evening would have on my life.

My love affair with musical theatre should have started much earlier in my life, especially when you consider the amazing shows I was fortunate enough to see. But when you are a very young child, you never appreciate what is really important in life. To five-year-old Chris, having tickets to a Broadway show meant a ride on the train to New York City, a night at a hotel with cable TV, dinner at some great restaurants and maybe some souvenirs at the show. The performance itself was rarely the thing that excited me.

Looking back now some forty years later, I wish I had paid a bit more attention…or at least kept the Playbill from some of the shows I was lucky enough to attend. My mom and dad took me to see Yul Brynner in “The King and I,” Betty Buckley as Grizabella in “Cats” and Stephanie Mills in “The Wiz” just to name a few. We also went to the original Broadway productions of “The Magic Show,” “Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Starlight Express” and many more. Although I was too young for its very mature content, the iconic “A Chorus Line” was also just beginning what would be a record run. Any one of those great shows could have created a new Broadway fan, but my conversion would come much later.

While working at 94.5 WZOU radio in Boston, I was given a pair of tickets to see magician David Copperfield on a Saturday afternoon at the Wang Center. As I was leaving the show to walk to the T (the Boston subway) I noticed that Les Miserables was playing across the street. I had overheard several of my co-workers talking about the show and how much they enjoyed it and for whatever reason, I decided to walk across the street and see if any tickets were available. I first asked for tickets on the upcoming Friday night but they said they were sold out. I then asked for Saturday night. Sold out. Saturday matinee. Nothing. Sunday matinee. Nothing. Jokingly, I said, “Fine…two tickets for tonight.”

“How about fourth row orchestra on the aisle?”

I had my credit card out halfway through that sentence. A couple of minutes later, I was the proud owner of two premium seats to that evening’s show. There was just one problem – I didn’t have any idea who would be sitting in that second seat. At the time, I didn’t have a girlfriend so there wasn’t that “go-to” person to call right away. Plus, this was long before cell phones were widely available so any phone call would have to wait until I returned to my apartment.

I spent about an hour making phone calls that afternoon, desperately searching for someone to accompany me to the show. The first dozen or so calls were met with answering machines, no answer at all or some other form of rejection. It was getting late and I was getting more and more worried with each failed attempt. With few other choices remaining, I dialed Karen Blake’s number.

Fans of Boston radio will know the name Karen Blake right away. “The Madam” was a fixture on New England radio in the eighties and nineties with her sultry delivery and larger than life personality. The fact that Karen was so low on my list should not be misconstrued. We worked together and were friends both professionally and personally. My only reason for not calling her sooner was that I honestly didn’t expect her to say yes or even if she did, enjoy the show. Karen was a person in constant motion and a big fan of classic rock and roll. I couldn’t imagine her at a Broadway show or quite frankly sitting still for almost three hours.

To my surprise she did say “yes” and we decided to meet at the theatre a half an hour prior to curtain. As I anticipated, she was very apprehensive about the evening. Several times before the show started she voiced her concern about whether she would enjoy herself and if she would be able to go without standing up or having a cigarette. But then the lights dimmed and that first note of the overture rang out…and for the next three hours the two of us were completely still and silent. Even after the final bows, we both stood quietly at our seats, trying to find the right words to describe what we had just witnessed (and wiping away a few tears at the same time).

That night was the beginning of a love affair with live theatre that has continued to this day. Over the next couple of months, I returned frequently to the Shubert Theatre, seeing the show over a dozen times. Each viewing revealed new layers to the characters, the music, the lyrics and the show as a whole.

Over 25 years later, the list of shows I’ve seen is long and I am grateful for the opportunity and ability to see many more each season. Here is a partial list of the shows I’ve seen:

The Addams Family
All My Sons
All Shook Up
All the Way
An American In Paris
And Then There Were None
Annie Get Your Gun (1999 Revival)
Anything Goes
Assassins (Charity Concert)
As You Like It
Avenue Q.
A Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo
Beauty & the Beast
A Behanding in Spokane
The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas
Billy Elliot
Blood Brothers
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Boeing Boeing
Bonnie & Clyde
The Book of Mormon
Born Yesterday
Bring in da’ Noise, Bring in da’ Funk
Bring It On: The Musical
A Bronx Tale
Buddy – The Buddy Holly Musical
Bullets Over Broadway
Cabaret (1998 Revival)
Camelot (1981 Revival)
Catch Me If You Can
Chicago (1996 Revival)
A Chorus Line (Original)
The Christians
A Christmas Story
Cirque Dreams: Illumination
The Civil War
Clybourne Park
The Color Purple
Communicating Doors
Company (NY Philharmonic Concert)
Crazy for You
Damn Yankees
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Doctor Dolittle
Donny & Marie: A Broadway Christmas
Driving Miss Daisy (2011 Revival)
The Drowsy Chaperone
Elf the Musical
Fame: The Musical
The Farnsworth Invention
A Few Good Men
Fiddler on the Roof
First Date
Follies (2011 Revival)
The Foreigner
Freud’s Last Session
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
George Gershwin Alone
Ghost the Musical
The Glass Menagerie
God of Carnage
Golda’s Balcony
Good People
Grease (2008 Revival)
Guys & Dolls
Hands on a Hardbody
Hand to God
Hedwig & the Angry Inch
The Hollow
Hot Shoe Shuffle
How to Succeed in Business…
Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway
In the Heights
Jekyll & Hyde
Jersey Boys
Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
The King & I
The King & I (1977 Revival)
Kinky Boots
Kneehigh’s Tristan & Yseult
La Cage aux Folles (2010 Revival)
Legally Blonde
Les Miserables
Life in the Theatre, A
The Lion King
Little House on the Prairie
The Little Mermaid
A Little Night Music (2009 Revival)
Magic Show, The
Mamma Mia
Man of La Mancha
Mary Poppins
Me & My Girl
Meet Me In St. Louis
Midsummer Night’s Dream, A
Million Dollar Quartet
Miss Saigon
The Monster at the Door
Monty Python’s Spamalot
The Mountaintop
The Mousetrap
Movin’ Out
Murder Ballad
The Music Man
My Fair Lady
9 to 5
No Man’s Land
The Normal Heart (2011 Revival)
The Old Friends
One Man, Two Guvnors
On The Record
Other Desert Cities
The Other Place
Peter & the Starcatcher
Peter Pan (Musical – 1979 Revival)
Peter Pan (Play – Trevor Nunn revival)
The Phantom of the Opera
Porgy & Bess
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
The Producers
Promises, Promises
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Rain – The Beatles Tribute
The Rat Pack: Live At The Sands
Reefer Madness!
Rock of Ages
Saint Nicholas
The Santaland Diaries
Saturday Night Fever
The Scarlet Pimpernel
The Secret Garden
Show Boat
Singin’ in the Rain
Sister Act
Sondheim on Sondheim
The Sound of Music
South Pacific
South Pacific (2008 Revival)
Speed the Plow (2008 Revival)
Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark
Spider’s Web
Spring Awakening
Starlight Express
Striking 12
Sunset Boulevard
Sweeney Todd (2005 Revival)
The 39 Steps
Thoroughly Modern Millie
The Toxic Avenger
12 Angry Men
25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Vanya & Sonya & Masha & Spike
Venus in Fur
Waiting for Johnny Depp
War Horse
Warrior Class
The Wedding Singer
West Side Story
White Christmas
The Who’s Tommy
The Will Rogers Follies
The Wiz
The Wizard of Oz
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
You Can’t Take It With You
Young Frankenstein


One comment

  1. Sheila Yount · October 25, 2016

    This is an impressive list of shows you have seen! Thank you so much for sharing these memories with your readers.


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