Broadway theatres are absolutely stupendous. Each house is unique, beautiful and full of character all her own. Every house has a different shape, facade, lobby, marquee, smell, feel, decor, seat, vibe, energy and story. Stories that morph and change with each new show.
On my first trip to New York I was so excited to realize that Broadway theatres are, for the most part, small. Sure you can look at a seating chart and sort of envision the arrangement, but it's not until you enter those doors and find your way to your seat that you realize how small the theatre really is, and how easy it will be to see the action no matter where you sit. It is an amazing, exciting revelation.
Recently the smallness of one particular theatre worked against me. I featured Next to Normal a couple of month's ago after we saw it in May of this year, but I didn't go into huge detail regarding my actual theatre experience so here goes:
The Booth Theatre is very intimate and just wonderful for an impactful show like Next to Normal. A couple of numbers before intermission, I found myself very overcome with emotion which I had been keeping at bay, but suddenly I needed to be able to catch my breath. I slipped out of my aisle seat and made my way to the lobby very quietly...if I could just make it to the lobby, I thought, I can let out my breath and sob just a little, regain my composure and go back inside. I made it to the lobby door, threw my hands over my face and bawled only to look up and see a lobby full of ushers patiently waiting for intermission to begin, but now staring at me. I felt like a pinball as I turned from wall to door to wall, and back to the door looking for a place to cry all the while trying to deal with the flood of emotion taking over my body. Let me explain further: the lobby is most likely about 30' x 30' with a bar and stairs. Not a big place. Well, here look for yourselves. Here is the door I came out of, the statue I bawled beside, and the bar where an usher kindly fetched me a tissue. Yep, made memories that night for me AND a group of ushers!This time the intimate theatre experience was not on my side. Even after intermission and regaining my composure, I felt like I was the only one in this tiny theatre watching this show. I couldn't get away from the message and meaning the show delivered. Of course most of that event occurred due to an extremely powerful show, but it would never have happened without the theatre. Broadway theatres are an amazing piece of New York architecture that both change yet stay the same as the years go by. Each new show to a theatre brings new life to the building and changes it a little or a lot depending on the show's set of legs. A great example is the beautiful Gershwin Theatre, home to the Tony Award winning musical Wicked, which has completely taken on the feel of the show. Once you hand the usher your ticket, you begin the journey to the Land of Oz.
In contrast, there are theatres that quietly hold the secrets of their show behind a common generic curtain never hinting at what is in store for the warm bodies inhabiting it's velvet seats. Sometimes you never know what's in store for you.
Eight times a week the doors of the theatres close at the same time and silence befalls the little side streets near Times Square. It is such a cool thing to imagine that happening every night at 8pm. I know I'm a dork, but many nights I look at the clock and envision where in the story my favorite shows are at different intervals. There have been times while in NYC when I wasn't seeing a show (it's true) and walking along 44th Street at 8:30 at night thinking to myself "Right now there are shows all over this city in progress. There are people laughing, crying, singing, listening and learning all at the same time." I just love that idea. I just love knowing that all over the city there are people having a great, culturally exhilarating experience. Each experience in a unique beautiful setting, cradling voices telling stories for those who will listen.