BroadwayGirlNYC: Unpredictable Live Theatre
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 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.