With all the recent hoopla over Dreamgirls, the latest Broadway musical to be turned into a movie, I thought it would be a fun list - fun for me, anyway - to cite the few stage musicals I have actually seen in person. This is an essentially useless list, and in fact is nearly a private joke between me and my wife, as she insists that because of my knack for memorizing a catchy tune even decades after I only heard it once or twice, I must have seen every Broadway show ever made. But in fact, I had to struggle to even recall nine such shows.
- No, No, Nanette. You'd be hard-pressed to find anybody who remembers this creaky old musical from 1925 - though it did give us the song "Tea for Two." I think I was five or six years old when I saw it. It was the touring production and my mom and stepdad took me to see it in San Jose. Ken Berry from "Mama's Family" starred in it.
- How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Around the time I saw No, No, Nanette I was taken to see this musical too. And if I only barely remember seeing the first show, I am not certain that I even saw this one. But I think I did.
- Damn Yankees. Another mostly forgotten childhood experience. Keep reading, folks, the list gets more interesting.
- Annie. The only musical I saw live between 1977 and my college years. I caught Annie at the peak of its nationwide popularity. My father took me to see it in San Francisco. Mostly I remember the cute little orphan girl - not Annie - whose hair went down to her feet. She was ten times more popular with the audience than the little loudmouth who played Annie, and I don't think she even sang.
- Company. I have to fast-forward fifteen years into the future for my next official musical. In the interim I went to CalArts, and the CalArts' theatre school's idea of a "musical" is generally avant garde, i.e. things nobody has ever heard of (Vinegar Tom, anyone?). Still, a lot of the students had strong singing voices, and after graduation, many wound up in local productions of well-known shows, including this Sondheim classic, and that's why I went - to see an old friend perform.
- Into the Woods. Sondheim again - and this time it was the recent revival of his '80s hit, which my mom and (subsequent) stepdad took me to during their visit to Los Angeles. We frequently see plays during their visits, but I think this was the only musical.
- Mamma Mia! I'm embarrassed to be admitting this, but a girl I was dating in 2002 wanted to see it, so I saw it with her. Me at the ABBA musical. Hoo boy.
- The Phantom of the Opera. I'm even more embarrassed to admit that I've seen this one, but hear me out: It was in London, a friend of mine was good buddies with the guy who was playing The Phantom at the time (somewhere around 2000), and said friend got me a free ticket. Or paid for my ticket. I'll never know. Anyway, I saw Phantom and even went backstage afterwards to meet The Phantom in his underpants, an image forever burned into my brain. Then the three of us went to a pub together. It was a strange evening.
- The Fantasticks. Off-Broadway's longest running show, which gave the world "Try to Remember" along with many other old chestnuts, was playing in West Los Angeles - in a church, no less - and I attended, because none other than the guy who played the killer in Claustrophobia, Will Heermance (now Collyer), was one of the lead characters. Who knew Will could sing? I've seen him in two musicals since - gotta support my cast.