Hello, readers! I hope you are all enjoying our first week back of the new year! While most people celebrate the new year on January 1st, I tend to celebrate on the 8th since it’s my birthday. This year I turned 26, and the way my brain works, I thought, “I am as many years old as there are letters in the English alphabet!” Thus, this list came to be. So whether this is the first piece of mine you’re reading, you’ve been following the Theatrical Board from the jump, or you’re a family member I’m forcing to read this, I hope you enjoy getting to know me a little bit better!
Act 2 Scene 8: Dewey’s Bedroom
This is the title of the 15th track on the School of Rock Original Broadway Cast Recording. There is a song in the show called “Where Did The Rock Go?” that has such a meaningful reprise in this song on the album, but is cut from the live show for reasons I’ll never understand. I think the short verse is the most poignant part of the whole show because Dewey Finn is the embodiment of passion for rock ‘n’ roll, so hearing him sing about losing that is heartbreaking. You really hear him hit his lowest point there, which makes it all the more satisfying when his students come to bring him out of his funk.
Book of Mormon
This show is by far one of the most outrageous things I have ever seen on a stage in my life. I’m so fond of the first time I saw this show. It was the first time I had ever done standing room or rush. My good friend at the time (best friend now, shoutout to Val) and I woke up early in the morning to get to the Eugene O'Neill Theatre at like 7 am. We were new to the whole rush line experience and arrived far too early, but it was cool because we had time to bond and get to know each other that morning. I think that day really helped solidify our friendship. Experiencing Book of Mormon in general was a thrill, but seeing it with someone who was just as excited as I was and only paying $27...you can’t get much better than that!
I know most people don’t read reviews anymore, but I still do. I still make my own mind up, but I’m always curious to see what critics say compared to my own thoughts. When I was younger, I was a huge fan of Ben Brantley because I thought I had to be. He was the New York Times head theater critic so as an aspiring theatre critic myself, I thought I had to like him. However, as time went on and I started to find my own voice, I found myself trying less to be in tune with Brantley and finding myself more curious to know what Charles Isherwood thought on all things theatre. His way of critiquing a show felt like a conversation with a friend over coffee and I adapted that way of thinking to my writing. I credit Isherwood for keeping my love of theatrical criticism alive in an environment where it seems like the desire and demand for it is dying.
Pasek and Paul fans can blast The Greatest Showman on their way to work or have a good cry in their bedrooms listening to Dear Evan Hansen. Both scores are great, don’t get me wrong. But if you need me, I’ll be the one in the corner listening to Dogfight for the fifty millionth time. This cast recording is one of my all-time favorites. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I resonate so much with the character of Rose. For most of this show, her relationship (if you can call it that) with Eddie is one that takes me back to the dumb boys I liked in middle school. She’s a little afraid of life, but won’t let that stop her, just like me. But by far, the thing about Dogfight that resonates with me the most is the song “Pretty Funny.” The first time I heard that song, I needed legitimate time to process what I had listened to. The way those two men were able to so eloquently describe Rose’s thoughts and feelings and to have them be echoed in me is something I have never experienced from a song before. Just thinking about it gives me chills and wells tears into my eyes. I’m praying that Dogfight gets another life in New York because I would love to see this show live.
If the overture is the music that swells before the beginning of the first act of a show, the entr’acte serves as the overture of the second act. Although overtures are expected and always lovely, I really enjoy when a show also has an entr’acte (no, not just because it gives you extra time to get to your seat after intermission). For me, the overture serves as a sneak peek for what’s to come, and the entr’acte serves as a recap of what already happened, which gets me pumped up for the rest of the show. Most musicals have some type of musical interlude at the top of act two, but it’s always a treat when I actually find the entr’acte of a show on the album since it very rarely gets recorded.
Okay, so long story short: Raven-Symoné is my idol. I bought tickets to see her in Sister Act, and she wasn’t in the day I bought tickets for. However, as I was sobbing in front of the Broadway Theater, one of the house managers graciously offered to take me backstage as a consolation. While taking my tour, I stood on a Broadway stage for the first time ever. While no one was looking, I quietly sang this song on that stage to an audience of zero. That moment of just being on a stage of that magnitude should have been my “This is what I am meant to be doing” moment, but instead, it made me realize that although I love theatre...I didn’t want to perform (which was a shock to me because until that point I was thoroughly convinced I was going to be the next Cheetah Girl). After that, I channeled my love of theatre into my passion for writing. It was a real defining moment in my life.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is actually Gabrielle, though you’d never know it. My father gave me the nickname Gigi the day I was born and it stuck. He gave it to me because he thought Gabby was too common a nickname for Gabrielle and didn’t want people to call me that (though I did have a brief “Gabbi” stage in middle school—dark times). He took the name from the 1958 movie-musical Gigi. He loved the movie when he was younger and hoped I’d grow up to be as strong-willed and charming as the titular character. I’d like to think I’m doing an okay job. That name and movie have been with me for as long as I can remember and I cherish them both so dearly.
This song from the grossly underappreciated Groundhog Day is one of the best modern-day musical theatre songs. Tim Minchin wrote a heartbreaking rock ballad that haunts me to this day. The way Andy Karl portrays weatherman-stuck-in-an-endless-loop Phil Connors in this number is nothing short of genius. To the naked ear, “Hope” seems like an uplifting song about getting through your struggles, but the very last line of the song is quite telling of the much darker purpose of the song:
Hold on to your faith
You'll find another way
After acid and gas and guns
And razors and rope
You may wanna live, but
Baby don't give up
It Shoulda Been You
I’ve already spoken about this show and its impact on my life (you can read the two-part piece I did here and here), but the TL;DR version is that this musical helped me through a lot of struggles I’ve had internally.
James Monroe Iglehart
The Genie-turned-founding-father is one of my favorite people on and off stage. His energy on stage makes me so much more excited for whatever show I’m watching. And he’s also the biggest nerd and sweetest person. The first time I met him was at the Aladdin stage door. I legitimately just cried into his shoulder (he was so cool about it) and then we talked about Batman for like 15 minutes. Since then, I’ve chilled out and we’ve become stage door buddies. But I’ll never forget that first encounter.
A few years ago, Val and I did standing room for Kinky Boots. It was our first time seeing the show. I don’t normally get too emotional while at a show. Usually, I process it afterwards. But this musical, man. Having to witness Charlie’s “Soul of a Man” and Lola’s “Hold Me in Your Heart” back to back like that was more than I could take, and I literally fell to the floor of the theatre, sobbing. I’d never had a musical unravel me like that.
I fondly remember the only time I met Lin-Manuel. My friend was at a show and I had seen It Shoulda Been You. Her show ended after mine, so I decided to wait at the Hamilton stage door for just a glimpse of what the entire world was clamoring after. The cast came out and everyone was lovely. However, when Lin came out, I was expecting things to be rushed and lacking the intimacy of a small stage door. I was wrong. He went around and talked to, took photos with, and looked every person he came in contact with right in the eye. I was genuinely shocked. When he had gotten to me, I froze for a second, but then said something along the lines of, “You and Alan Menken are my favorites,” and I kid you not, his face lit up when I mentioned Menken. He and I then gushed over the living legend for like 2 minutes. It was one of my favorite stage door memories.
Motown: The Musical
The year this show came out was the year I took each of my parents to see a Broadway show with me for the first time. I took my mother to see this show because she and I always have fun listening to Motown’s great hits. I’m so glad we saw this show together. Having her there just made it all the more fun. And watching her first stage door interactions was adorable. She was so excited by everything that day.
Bonus Motown: The Musical fun fact: It was the first, and likely only (save for the inevitable Hercules adaptation), Broadway musical I auditioned for!
Okay, so if you are going to know me, you need to know that I was, am, and forever will be one of the biggest Jonas Brothers fans ever. So naturally, when Nick Jonas announced he was making a return to Broadway in How to Succeed, I jumped at the chance to see him in the role. Not only did I see him shine as J. Pierrepont Finch (all biases aside, I really do think he was a great Finch), but before the show, I was lucky enough to meet him *insert fangirl faint here*.
Once on This Island
I am so floored by the recent revival of this show. I’m so upset that it’s closing. It was such a beautiful and emotion-inducing story. I’ll never forget how intense I felt leaving the theater. I was enraged when Daniel left the coin in front of Ti Moune. I was heartbroken when Ti Moune’s deal with the gods came to fruition. I was filled with so much hope when Ti Moune returned as the tree. This production was glorious and I’ll keep it with me forever.
“Proud of Your Boy”
This is my favorite hidden Disney gem. The song is about Aladdin wanting to turn his life around to make his mother proud. The song was written for the original animated film but was eventually cut (although you can hear Alan Menken sing the demo on the extended Aladdin soundtrack, which is how I found it). I thought the song was lost forever, but it had a revival when Aladdin flew his magic carpet to Broadway back in 2014. Getting to hear that song live was a dream I never thought I’d see come to fruition, and it was everything I wanted it to be.
I find myself gravitating to this song from the Matilda original cast recording when I need a minute to calm down. Tim Minchin perfectly captures, for me, at least, what it’s like when life gets too much to handle and you finally find some solace in being alone. Matilda’s finding comfort in finally having time to herself away from everything else is something I really relate to.
I’ve mentioned her a couple of times in this piece, but it’s time for another quick story about my best friend Val. She and I met several years ago in college through a mutual friend. Now, before I tell the story, you should know that while I was all “OMG the Jonas Brothers are totally awesome!” she was on the polar opposite of that spectrum. We had known of each other in high school, but if we had tried being friends back then, it would not have worked out. But randomly one day, she, our friend, and I were hanging out on campus. She had mentioned RENT for some reason and a lightbulb went off in my head. “RENT?! I LOVE RENT!” That’s what I had said to her. Since then she has been my partner in crime, a mom, a shoulder to cry on, a confidant...and none of that would have been possible without this musical. We finally had a chance to see the show together live last year and it is one of the happiest moments I’m ever likely to have.
As a lover of all things Shakespeare and musicals, this show was one of my favorites. This show is a love letter to musical theatre and it changed my life. While this musical made its home at the St. James Theatre, I fell in love with it. And through that love, I’ve made some of the greatest friends a girl could ask for, including fellow Board member Hayley! We made the St. James our home while that show ran. That show was one of the funniest heart-warming productions I’d ever seen. It really lived up to my favorite line in the show: “there’s nothing as amazing as a musical.” I’m so very grateful for this one.
The Color Purple
Have you ever seen a show with characters you see yourself in? I very rarely do. I see characters that I have things in common with, sure, and characters I can relate to, but until I saw The Color Purple, I hadn’t seen myself in someone on stage. At the end of act one, when Shug Avery and Celie are rediscovering who they are to each other in “What About Love?”, I found myself taken aback. It was the first time I had an out of body experience at a show like that. I felt so connected to Celie in a way I hadn’t really felt before. During intermission, it took me a moment to return to my surroundings and process what I had just seen.
Little Shop of Horrors is one of my all-time favorite musicals. Crystal, Ronette, and Chiffon (dubbed “the Urchins”—the three women who narrate the story) are a major reason why. I think they are so strong because the narrators are just as compelling and entertaining as the characters in the story. I also love that they are involved in the lives of the people they’re telling the audience about. I also think they have the best musical moments in the show. The title song? Never gets old. Their background vocals on “Doo Doo?” make the whole song. The three of them add a layer of unexpected entertainment to the quirky musical and I love them for it.
(This is where it became difficult.)
Van Dyke, Dick
Bert from Mary Poppins is one of my favorite characters in any musical. Dick Van Dyke’s portrayal of the chimney sweeping renaissance man is one I will never grow tired of. He is a living legend and has done so much in his lifetime. He is responsible for so many smiles that have appeared on my face. Whenever I am feeling low or need a pick me up, I know I can pop in my Mary Poppins DVD and be in a better mood by the end of his opening number.
“Watch What Happens (Reprise)”
Newsies is a show that is very near and dear to my heart. This reprise is my favorite part of the show. Not because it is the time in act two when the gang of newsboys are knocked down and decide to get back up and fight back harder (although, great message, don’t get me wrong). Not because I am a sucker for a reprise (except, to be fair, I am a sucker for a good reprise). No, the reason this song is my favorite on the album is because of Ben Fankhauser’s iconic “Go and look it up the poor guy’s head is spinning” line. Never fails to make me smile.
Fun fact about this musical? I had no idea it existed until trying to write this list! I was stuck on this letter forever and I had seen this musical pop up so many times, but I didn't want to use it since I had no idea what it was. But alas, I caved. But it worked out in the end because I learned about a new musical! See? You guys are learning about me, I’m learning something about musical theatre...no, is this a cop-out? Yeah, I know. But they can’t all be winners!
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
This one was a no-brainer. One day, when I was eleven or twelve, my mother came home and handed me a CD. It was the 1999 revival cast recording of this show. It was my very first cast album and really my first introduction into musical theatre. After I listened to it for the first time, I was hooked. I played that album every chance I could. I listened to it so often that mean kids at my after school program took it out of my CD player. (See, told you I was 26.) They broke it, and my heart in the process. When I received an iPod a few Christmases later, it was the very first album I bought. This show brings me so much happiness and I am so grateful to my mom’s friend for giving it to her so she could, in turn, give it to me.
Bonus You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown fact: If any of you are headed to BroadwayCon this weekend, they’re doing a 20-year anniversary reunion panel this Saturday night!
The Prom has been doing really well on Broadway and I am super proud of that. I’ve been following this show since it first popped up in Atlanta. This show has a lot of big Broadway numbers and “Zazz” is no exception, except it kind of is. In this number (without spoiling anything), Emma is trying to pick herself up and keep fighting, but she needs a little push. Enter Angie. She teaches Emma the ways of being flashy and confident by using her inner, well, zazz. This number is great because it’s over the top without being over the top (it makes sense, trust me), but also gives Angie Schworer the musical number she deserves. If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time Angie has originated a role on Broadway after her long and luminous career. I am so glad she gets to command the stage with this song 8 times a week.
Well, readers, there you have it. I hope this helped you get to know me a little better! This was a lot of fun to do. Now I’m off to listen to the entirety of Xanadu! Happiest of New Years, all!
(Image from iStock)