Friday, January 28, 2011

Ask Jeff: A Really Good Question

Hi, everyone!  I got a really good question from a reader yesterday, which I am going to answer, but I'd also like to hear from you on this question.


You've mentioned several times in your blog that you are seeing Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark again, and also have talked about seeing next to normal several times.  Besides it costing a lot of money, why do you like seeing shows more than once, and sometimes much more than twice?

Curious and envious,
Teri C.
Columbus, OH

Well, Teri C. that is an interesting question.  One that I have given some thought to lately, in particular with regards to Spider-Man and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and the recently closed next to normal.  I think my multiple trips to shows can be categorized into three groups:

Hairspray: A personal favorite and a great "first show"

A. Taking friends and theatre newbies: This used to happen much more than it does now, but many times, I'll go to a show a second (or third or more) time because a friend will have an extra ticket to a show he/she knows I like.  Sometimes, I'm the "Bobby-baby-Bobby" who takes the wife of a friend to the show because the husband isn't interested.  (I'm gay and they realize I am no threat, plus they are relieved to not have to go!)  And many times, I'll go a specific show that I know would be a great starting point for friends who are just getting their feet wet with going to plays and musicals.  My sister and I, for example, saw both The Full Monty and Hairspray together because I felt pretty safe that she'd get the humor and sweetness of both, and you really can't beat male strippers and moms in drag!  It is funny that while she doesn't go with me often - we don't live close together and she has two small children - we have still managed to see 5 different productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!  (It is her absolute favorite.)

Passion: From Snooze to Thrilling

B.  Some shows are complicated and really need to be seen more than once to really absorb them:  I find all of Sondheim's musicals to be in this category - even shows I've seen before, because each director has a new take on it.  Passion is a show that DEFINITELY fits this category.  I saw a late preview of it.  I HATED IT.  I mean HATED it.  BUT I knew that it was a Sondheim show and that you can't even scratch the surface of understanding, let alone deeper meaning on one viewing.  So I dutifully purchased a second ticket and saw it right after it opened.  A world of difference!  I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it.  I knew what I was in for, and what to look for and what I could pay less attention to and more attention to, etc.  I ended up seeing Passion 7 or 8 times.  I often joke that I kept the show running a week longer.  (There are only two other composers that I, without even thinking about it, will give a second chance viewing to no matter what: Michael John Lachuisa and Adam Guettel.)  Both Spider-Man and Women on the Verge fall into this category.  The former because I have to see what they fixed, and I have a feeling there is much more to it, just that the special effects overwhelm the content; the latter because I wanted to see the end result, and because I think they were so close to something awesome.

John Doyle's direction of this Company
really needed more than one viewing to
take in the sheer brilliance of the concept.

Women on the Verge: Were they on the verge of making
it all make more sense?  More funny?  More meaningful?

C.  They strike a chord in me and I love them so much I have to see them again and again:  Now mind you, I will never be one of those fans that sees every single performance of a show, or one of those obsessed ones that honestly believes that the cast will miss them if they aren't in Row A, Seat 1 at every Saturday matinee.  I have been the kind of fan of a show that I go back to see replacements or specific understudies (both A Little Night Music and next to normal fit in this category).  Over the years I have had several of those: The Mystery of Edwin Drood, A Chorus Line, Sweeney Todd, West Side Story to name a few. 

A Chorus Line, Drood, West Side Story:
I just can't get enough!

It is this last category that even some of my friends think is odd.  But I always say, "Don't you have favorite movies that you watch over and over?"  "Yes," they always say and launch into a list.  Well a show is the same thing for me.  The difference is that most shows aren't on DVD so I can't just buy it and watch it over and over that way.  And don't get me started on movie versions of musicals.

An embarrassing sub-category - I won't publicly disclose how many times I've seen Cats and Les Miserables.  Both shows I'm not even sure I can say I like anymore...

J. Robert, Alice, Jason and Marin all brought so much to next to normal,
I wouldn't have missed any of them for the world

The most recent show that I have seen 5 or more times is next to normal.  That show fits all 3 categories.  And there are several shows I regret not getting to more than once: The Scottsboro Boys being the most recent. I will likely get to see many productions of both in the years to come.  In the mean time, I have the cast recordings to take me away and to ponder.

Thanks for writing, Teri, and for letting me share with everyone!

Now it is your turn!  What shows have you seen many times?  Why?  What shows to you wish you had seen more than once?  Write in and tell me.  (If you don't want your response blogged, tell me that, too and I won't share.)  Am I the only odd ball out there who sees shows over and over, and every different production I can get to?

Answer here, email me at, or Tweet me!


  1. I have not had the opportunity to see any show twice, due to my schedule and where shows tour; however there are shows that I would love to see again. When I studied in London I saw Hairspray, Avenue Q, and Wicked! Of all the shows I have seen I would never give up the chance to see Wicked or Hairspray again. (Wicked will be in D.C. this Summer so...making plans!)

    The reason why? It's not only that the shows are great, but everytime you see them you notice something you didn't before or as the cast changes the intensity or feeling of a song may change. For example, I have the soundtrack of Hairspray with the original cast and the movie cast (w/John Travolta), I've heard the original movie version (w/Ricki Lake), and first saw the musical with the London cast. My favorite song is "I Know Where I've Been." Each time I hear Motormouth Maybelle sing that song!...Whether it's Mary Bond Davis, Queen Latifah, Ruth Brown, or Johnnie Fiori it send chills down my spine and gives me goose bumps. It moves me every time! It never gets old and it will never get old. Plus, as a Maryland native it's always fun to see a show based on a city you know so much about and can relate to.

    Wicked was an experience I never want to forget. It was an extraordinary take on a classic story that you grow up with and all I can say is that it was AMAZING! As with this show, as the cast changes or as it tours you may take something different away each time cause of the change in costumes, set design, or the actors.

    So, seeing a show more that once is not only fun, but a new experience or like the first time each time. You may leave having found a new meaning to a song for you. Yes, it may pull at your budget, but just being in the audience is enough. You don't have to be front row in center just to enjoy!

    (*I have a feeling Lombardi will be added to my list of favorites that I will want to see again.)

  2. Good question, Jeff. And good answer. The show I've seen the most number of times is In the Heights- closing night was my 21st visit. Why? It brought me so much sheer joy. I loved every bit of it. Some of those trips were to share it with family and good friends. Some were to see specific cast changes or understudies go on. Many were just because I wanted to. Because I could. Because I love having the chance to notice the little details I didn't pick up at first or appreciate little variations in the casts' performances. I'm fortunate in that I didn't have to choose between seeing ITH a million times and seeing other things too. I see a lot of different things, on Broadway, off Broadway, locally. ITH is the most fun I have ever had in a theater, and I already miss the show tremendously.
    I recently saw Les Mis for the 10th time (though that's over the course of 18 years, unlike ITH, which wasn't quite a year and a half). That's an all-time favorite (ironically though I've never seen it on Broadway). I always discover something new in it.
    Like you, I saw Next to Normal several times. It's not a show I could handle seeing with the frequency I visited Heights, but it's been a show I've felt compelled to see more than once. In fact, after the first time i saw it, at Arena Stage, the only thing I knew for sure in the jumble of emotions and thoughts coursing through me was that I needed to see it again. I wasn't done with it. It wasn't done with me. Two years later, and it's still not done with me, nor I it. I still don't have all the right words to describe what N2N is for me, what it's given me, but I have some of them. And I'm grateful for that. Grateful for it.
    Wicked is another I've seen a bunch of times, and that's mostly been about sharing it with others. After first seeing it with my sister, a year later I took my mother, I took my father, I took my best friend. My most recent trips were because I wanted to see Mandy Gonzalez as Elphaba (it took two tries because the first time she was out- at Lin Manuel Miranda's wedding). And now I'm good with Wicked for quite a while.
    There are a bunch more shows/plays I've seen 2 or 3 times. But for me, ITH and N2N were unique in the force with which they hit me and blew me away. There will probably not be another show I feel compelled to see so many times any time soon. But I guess anything is possible.


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