BroadwayGirlNYC: Unpredictable Live Theatre

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I woke up this morning from an anxiety dream. It was one of those dreams where I realize I've been cast a play and it's opening night but I've forgotten to learn my lines. Have you ever had one of those?

As I got myself together, wiped the sweat from my brow and calmed my breathing, I started to think about the nature of nervousness as it relates to live performance. I've even been known feel nervous in the audience of a show, on behalf of the performers! But while the idea of being on-stage makes me panic, the nerves in my stomach when I'm watching someone else perform are different; they manifest as excitement: the idea that I never know what's going to happen during the show.

This, my friends, is my favorite thing about the theatre: how alive it is, for both the performers and the audience; how it changes and is distinct every single time; how there's no way to predict the intricacies of a particular performance, any time the actors take the stage.

Broadway shows are known for being flawless. But since there are no "second takes" in live theatre, variations are inevitable - and, in my opinion, it is they that make a show worth watching.

The best theatrical moments I have ever witnessed are those that contain some variation on perfection:

When I saw Lily Tomlin in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, she stopped mid-show and asked an audience member for a Kleenex. She then made banter while blowing her nose several times, to the delight of the entire crowd.

As a kid I saw Nathan Lane in Guys & Dolls. An ensemble member blew a line and called Josie de Guzman "Sister Detroit" (instead of "Sister Sarah") in the final scene, to which Nathan seamlessly improvised the line "I have a sister?!" to huge ovation.

While sitting on-stage at Spring Awakening, Stephen Spinella hurled his mortar-board hat during "Totally Fucked," and it hit me in the chest. He gleefully danced over, smiled into my eyes, and took it back.

And these are just the moments I myself have witnessed! There are countless other stories of unique theatrical moments, and whenever I hear about one, I always wish I'd been there to witness it myself.

Remember the day last year when a set-piece malfunctioned at Bye Bye Birdie, and John Stamos came out for an impromptu roast of audience members Bob Saget and Don Rickles?

Remember when the babydoll's leg fell off during a performance of Ragtime, and Christianne Noll just kept on singing?

And who can forget Patti LuPone's outburst at a fan she spotted recording Gypsy, or Bret Michaels' unfortunate encounter with the set at last year's Tony Awards? (I certainly don't root for anyone getting angry or hurt; these are just more examples of how you never know what is going to happen in live performance.)

Unpredictability is exactly why I love the theatre so much. It's why I'll often pass on a $12.50 movie ticket, but then jump for joy when I score a Broadway orchestra seat for $65 at TKTS. At the theatre, I'm guaranteed a night of entertainment that can never be duplicated, that is owned solely by the people who share the space with me that night. If I don't score a ticket for that particular performance... who knows what brilliant moments I might miss?

What are the most unpredictable moments YOU have ever witnessed onstage?

PSSSST (Rumors! Gossip! Scoop!): My sources confirm that Newsies: The Musical WILL come to Broadway -- and that some casting is already in place. 



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From This Author BroadwayGirl NYC

A passionate observer of all things theatrical, @ BroadwayGirlNYC via her blog and on Twitter has helped to lead the way of interaction between fans, (read more...)

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