I'm sure we have all attended dozens of theater productions over the years (in some cases, hundreds...but I'm not in that league yet), and I'm sure there were quite a few surprises for each of us - both good and bad.But I'm curious about the 'good surprises' - mainly the best surprises for you. What musicals / plays have you seen where you were really surprised of how great it was - and why?Here's my brief list:1. Tyne Daly in GYPSY - as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I had no intention of seeing this show and only saw it by 'default' in May, 1991. I honestly was not too familiar with GYPSY, and I couldn't picture myself sitting through a performance with Tyne "Maribeth Lacey" Daly singing. Best night of Broadway in my life.2. Cherly Ladd in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN - Like Daly in Gypsy, I had no intention of seeing this show. Didn't know the show, and couldn't picture Charlie's Angel on a Broadway stage. However, I was staying at a hotel across the street at the time, NY was in the midst of a January blizzard (I think it was 2001) and my friend and I wanted to see anything rather than sit in the lounge of the hotel. Off we trotted to the Marquis Theater, where tickets were 1/2 off and we sat fifth row center orchestra (yes, the weather really kept people away). The show was good, but Ladd was great. She had fun with the audience, and gave a wonderful performance (why she has never been in any other B'way production is beyond me). 3.TOMMY (tour) - When the B'way musical was touring, my friend and I had season tickets to our local theater and this was part of the subscription. Neither one of us liked The Who (sorry), neither one of us liked the movie (though we were about 10 when it came out), neither one of us wanted to see this musical on a raw winter's night. We did everything we could to give away these tickets - with no takers. We went to dinner and even asked some regular patrons at the restaurant if they wanted our seats - no takers. So we made a plan to go and leave after ACT 1 if we hated it. By the end of ACT 2, we were on our feet cheering and bought tickets to the next day's evening performance - which was just as great. Talk about a great surprise!
Grey Gardens - I did not know anything about this show going into it. I had exhausted all other rush/lotteries that day so I got a rush ticket to this show I thought would be boring. Instead, I was treated to the most amazing theatrical experience of my life. I will always remember sitting in my seat crying after "Another Winter in a Summer Town." I ended up seeing the show seven more times, including the show after the Tonys. It's my favorite show of all time, and I didn't even have any desire to see it.[title of show] - Maybe a weird one, but I was totally surprised by how much "A Way Back to Then" affected me. Heidi's performance was perfect.
Titanic the Musical. I was set to hate it. I didn't. Not even close.August: Osage County. I was just in awe, entirely. It was even better the 2ne time when I brought students and they came rushing over at each intermission so brimming over with excitement and NEEDING to talk about it.
Several years ago in Tulsa, the second touring Broadway production I saw was Chicago. I admit I didn't know much about Sandy Duncan but she was scheduled to play the Roxie Hart role. I honestly wasn't that excited because I was ignorant of her Broadway history. All I knew her as was Peter Pan and from some sitcoms. I also knew she had a glass eye. That was literally probably all I knew about her. She was amazing!!! Totally blew me away. After that, I couldn't get enough of the different touring productions. It would be many years before I was able to come to New York City and see productions on Broadway. As far as Broadway shows go, I went into If/Then having read most of the mixed reviews. But somehow I was attracted to this show, partially because of Idina. I loved the show. It was one of the favorites of my NYC trip in 2014. In fact, it's one of my favorite musical experiences of all time. I also was surprised how much I liked Aladdin last year. I will admit I had been doing a significant amount of day (and night) drinking that trip to deal with a nasty toothache. So that may have softened my resolve. Lol (When I got home I found I badly needed a root canal). Also, my first time in a box seat, which I thoroughly enjoyed as well.
WAR HORSE!On one trip to NYC, I saw Book of Mormon, Catch Me If You Can, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and War Horse. I thought War Horse was the show which left such an impact on me, which was totally unexpected. I didn't even see the film adaptation by Spielberg because I read that it did not compare favorably with the stage production and I didn't want to ruin my impressions of the live staging!
Xanadu. I was 12 at the time, and it was the only thing we could get at TKTS. This was before my theatre obsessive stage and I knew absolutely nothing about the show. I was literally crying in front of the TKTS booth. It's very embarrassing now, as the show was hilarious and fun and made a lifelong Kerry Butler out of me.Newsies. My school went and I was not super interested, especially since the other option was the OBC of Pippin. But the show really won me over in the end.ALSO: I asked my mom for tickets to see On the Twentieth Century (with Cheno) for my birthday. After we saw it, she admitted that she thought it was going to be boring, but instead had a great time!
amazingamandakate said: "Xanadu. I was 12 at the time, and it was the only thing we could get at TKTS. This was before my theatre obsessive stage and I knew absolutely nothing about the show. I was literally crying in front of the TKTS booth. It's very embarrassing now, as the show was hilarious and fun and made a lifelong Kerry Butler out of me.Newsies. My school went and I was not super interested, especially since the other option was the OBC of Pippin. But the show really won me over in the end.ALSO: I asked my mom for tickets to see On the Twentieth Century (with Cheno) for my birthday. After we saw it, she admitted that she thought it was going to be boring, but instead had a great time!" As a fellow Okie (KC hails from Oklahoma), I love that you called her Cheno. Lol
Hedwig and the Angry Inch on tour, with Darren Criss and Lena Hall. I was somewhat interested in seeing it, but I didn't know much of anything about the show. My daughter, only interested because she's a Glee fan, and me, very skeptical of rock musicals. It took me a little while to adjust, and then we both loved it. One of my big regrets is not dragging my wife to see it before the show moved on to LA, because she loves the music - a fact she finds remarkable given that she never saw the show, although we did see the film later.
I think some of the best surprises I've had with Broadway theatre, over the past few years, are1. Hedwig and the Angry Inch - I knew nothing of the show, but my friend and I tried the lotto for the first preview performance with Neil Patrick Harris and we won, and after seeing it the first time, I fell in love. I was lucky enough to see it 2 more times after that with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell. Also, the energy in that room for JCM's first performance on Broadway was so palpable and so surprising, it will be something I never forget. 2. The Light in the Piazza - I moved to New York only a few years ago so I never got to see the Broadway production and I wasn't into theatre back when the tour was still open, but when they announced the 10th Anniversary Concert I felt I had to go. I had no idea what to expect, but honestly it was amazing. It was such a beautiful show even in concert form. 3. Sunday in the Park With George - Another show I didn't know much about, but I was able to get a ticket to the New York City Center Concert and experience the Act 1 Finale for the first time was something I can't put into words. It was amazing and beautiful. I was able to see it on Broadway a few months later and I swear the Act 1 Finale left me speechless once again. I don't know what it is about that song, but it always leaves me speechless.Those are 3 of the best memories that stick out. Some honorable mentions are seeing the set for Great Comet and the recent She Loves Me revival, the helicopter in the current production of Miss Saigon, the boat in the recent revival of The King and I, the costume changes in Cinderella.
Two stick out the most for me:1. Big Fish - I had zero desire to see the show. I had my heart set on Pippin that afternoon but we couldn't get five tickets together, and ended up at the Neil Simon for Big Fish. I walked in somewhat unhappy but resigned to experience the show. By "Daffodils," I was won over. For most of Act 2, I was a weeping, sobbing mess. What a big, gorgeous production that was, full of heart and with such a lovely score from Andrew Lippa. And Norbert Leo Butz and Kate Baldwin gave performances that utterly defied the knowledge that they would be closing in a few short weeks afterward.2, On the Town - I was planning a long weekend of shows and originally intended to see Finding Neverland. On a whim and with a recommendation from some friends, I ditched that idea and got a fifth row center seat for On the Town. One of the best decisions I ever made and one of my absolute favorite nights on Broadway. I remember sitting there, thinking "This. This is why I love Broadway. This is why I love musical theater so much."
Given that I had high expectations (that were met) by great productions of everything from HEDWIG to A CHORUS LINE (original cast) to SWEENEY TODD (every cast), there have indeed been other times when my expectations were beyond exceeded. A few of my best surprises:-- Michael C Hall as the Emcee in CABARET. I was disappointed that we had missed Alan Cumming (saw him a few years later in the revival of the revival), but the replacement was Hall and he was extraordinary. It was a completely different take on the character and he was mesmerizing.-- GROUNDHOG DAY. I wasn't a big MATILDA fan, and I didn't particularly love the original film, so it was lower on my priority list (basically, I went because there were good half-price seats available and I was determined that this year-- for the first time-- I would see every Tony-nominated Musical). GROUNDHOG DAY blew me away-- moved me profoundly and made a huge impression. Went back and saw it again and was equally impressed. I loved this production and everything about it.-- PACIFIC OVERTURES-- actually, the pre-Broadway run in Boston. I was 15 and visiting my grandparents and was given an afternoon to do whatever I wanted. Since I was getting interested in live theatre, loved history and was already aware that a new Sondheim musical was a very, very big deal, I went and got a seat-- rear mezz, all by myself. Probably the most galvanizing moment of my theatre-going life: I realized musical theater could be transporting, provocative, funny, spectacular and very moving. And "Someone in a Tree" still floors me.
jtishere said: "Two stick out the most for me:1. Big Fish - I had zero desire to see the show. I had my heart set on Pippin that afternoon but we couldn't get five tickets together, and ended up at the Neil Simon for Big Fish. I walked in somewhat unhappy but resigned to experience the show. By "Daffodils," I was won over. For most of Act 2, I was a weeping, sobbing mess. What a big, gorgeous production that was, full of heart and with such a lovely score from Andrew Lippa. And Norbert Leo Butz and Kate Baldwin gave performances that utterly defied the knowledge that they would be closing in a few short weeks afterward.2, On the Town - I was planning a long weekend of shows and originally intended to see Finding Neverland. On a whim and with a recommendation from some friends, I ditched that idea and got a fifth row center seat for On the Town. One of the best decisions I ever made and one of my absolute favorite nights on Broadway. I remember sitting there, thinking "This. This is why I love Broadway. This is why I love musical theater so much." On the Town is also one of my favorite musical theater experiences! Never saw the musical production of Big Fish, but when I saw the movie in the theater, I had a big, ugly cry at the end of the movie.
Matilda. Easy. I had little to no desire to see it and I was just blown away. The music, the lyrics, the story, the whole thing was just phenomenal. I know its cheesy, but there really is nothing like confetti and the end of a show. That alone might prompt me to see Charlie.
The Drowsy Chaperone - Went in not knowing anything and fell in love. One of my happiest theater memories. Immediately bought tickets to see it again.Groundhog Day - (Surprise, surprise) Didn't expect much and my first viewing was ruined by some terrible audience members.(I wish I could block out distractions, but I can't.) Went back again after watching some videos and interviews and fell in love. It was the right show and the right time in my life and I'm very sad/disappointed/frustrated that it didn't do better.
Easy for me, too. Groundhog Day and (surprise, surprise) Honeymoon in Vegas. Two flops that are very, very dear to my heart.
I forgot about the unexpected delight in watching BILLY ELLIOT-- although that happened when I first saw the musical adaptation in London. But it left such an impression with me that I made sure I would be able to catch it again when it transferred to Broadway and I had a chance to travel to NYC. Were there any more surprises from the reprise? Yes! I was lucky to have gotten second row seats -- and since the Imperial had a low stage, it was very enjoyable to watch Billy Elliot's dancing feet at such close range.
PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (tour production)A friend wanted to see it and offered to buy my ticket. I never decline a free ticket so I accepted, expecting to be lightly entertained at the most. I loved it! I appreciated it didn't take itself seriously, and just solely wanted the audience to laugh and have fun. Well, I did. And my friend whose idea it was to see it? He hated it. LOL
I agree with On the Town. The most recent revival was a delectable delight in every way. The huge orchestra, slick sets and staging, and the perfect cast made this one of my very favorite evenings spent on Broadway.
What great memories everyone is sharing - thank you so much for participating in this thread.I have to add one more to my response - one that happened just a few weeks ago:THE GREAT COMET - I had no idea what the story was going to be about, or the music; just that my friend had a friend who was one of the stars and the tickets were good and affordable. (Mind you, right after the tix were bought the whole casting drama erupted). Again, it was one of those experiences where I was totally 'blown away' from beginning to end, and could have sat through the next performance had they offered a Sunday night show! Definitely racks up with one of the 'great surprises' in my theater attending history.
The original production of Ragtime. I had the cast recording from the Canadian production. A friend of mine purchased our tickets shortly after they went on sale. Our seats were very close to the front of the orchestra, but nothing could have prepared me for what was in store from the opening number onward. I can still remember getting choked up when Audra descended the stairs in New Music to greet Coalhouse. I had never experienced anything like that in the theatre before, and Ragtime had become (and still is) my favorite musical. I'm so glad I didn't experience it alone. My friend and I still talk about that day.
Ivo van Hove's recent Broadway revival of A View from the Bridge remains as one of the best experiences I've had on Broadway (after about 10+ years of seeing shows), truly took my breath away
1. Not really a surprise within the show, but the fact that Chazz Palminteri was giving a talkback after the Bronx Tale performance I attended...was really cool. My friend and I had no clue.2. Same as above...getting to see Elaine Stritch up close after Night Music was a wonderful stagedoor surprise. We didn't think she would come out. I treasure it even more now that she's no longer with us.3. The Visit was a remarkable surprise- not Chita Rivera, because I knew she'd be legendary- but the show as a whole. I really didn't know what to expect, and I was blown away by how unique the piece was.
My best surprises are usually when I have low expectations. Shows I've gone too and had low expectation but ended up loving include:-A Chorus Line-Gypsy-In The Heights-Hello DollyActually, all the above shows I perceived to be fluff, and was taken aback at how meaningful they were. 1984 surprised me in that I was not expecting the final scene to affect me that much.
Bad first:1. SISTER ACT- Love the movie and Alan Menken, but thought everything about the musical was cheap and generic.2. BIG FISH- Since it was an Andrew Lippa score, I was expecting more than it was. 3. SIDE SHOW- I love the OBC recording, but I was bored to tears during that revival.Good:3. CHAPLIN- Not at all ground-breaking, but Rob McClure's performance was magical and remains one of the greatest I've ever seen.2. THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY- Hated the book, mostly disliked the movie, but I wasn't about to miss a new JRB score. I genuinely thought this would be his one show I did not like. Yes, the story is still ridiculous, but those songs performed by that cast was stunning.1. FALSETTOS- I studied the show in college, and very much enjoyed the off-Broadway cast recordings. But I was shocked by how much I fell in love after seeing the revival last year. It was equally hilarious and heart-breaking. I had never cried during a show before, (the occasional lump in the throat, yes) but at the end of FALSETTOS, I had to hold my breath to prevent the dreaded convulsive gasp-sob.
Off the top of my head without much thought:Noise/Funk - humbling because I'm the exact same age as Savion, but I was a little intern at the same time he created his own show. Beyond that, it was just so completely different than anything I had seen before. The show may not have been perfect, but it blew my mind.Boeing Boeing - I knew nothing other than it was on TDF and had a couple of actresses who I liked a ton. I was delightfully surprised and laughed for two hours straight.The Who's Tommy - I have a tech background and it just opened my eyes to so many things. I especially loved that when they turned the entire theatre into a pinball machine, it was done is such a low tech, but effective way.
Definitely If/Then for me. Beforehand, all I heard were the mixed-to-negative reviews and I didn't feel like seeing what sounded like Sliding Doors the Musical. I was dragged to it by a friend, but me and a group of us seriously enjoyed it and related to it quite a bit.
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