I've often written about my experience seeing my first Broadway show, the 1983 revival of Mame at the Gershwin. But I also have a vivid memory of that day before we even sat down for the show. Early for the matinee, we walked down the block toward Broadway. There it was. The Winter Garden Theatre, with its flickering light name plate and its signature giant billboard, at the time advertising Cats. It was still new, and tickets were very tough to get; an international phenomenon can be like that, especially after winning a Best Musical Tony Award. I remember thinking that I'd never get in there to see it. Ah, the extremity of teenage emotion. Actually, I got my first opportunity to see a show at the Winter Garden less than a year later. Over the years, I've been inside there many times, though I've only seen five different shows there - mainly because two of those shows were there for many years each.
Like many theater-goers of my generation, the Winter Garden was synonymous with Cats, a dark junkyard, that upon entering closed you off from the chaos of Times Square. Since it was primarily an immersive production, especially in the orchestra section, it was difficult to imagine what it looked like as a traditional theater space. Imagine my jaw dropping to the floor the first time I went to see Mamma Mia!