Of all the columns I've written in the last 15-plus years -- I estimate the number to be around 1,500 -- I don't think any engendered as much response as the one I did a few weeks ago on 50 Things I Love About Theater. It was inspired by a TV Guide story, "50 Things I Love About TV" by Matt Roush (who, the ever-alert Seth Christenfeld tells me, is a theater fan and subscribes to the York Theatre Company).
Roush said to his readers, "And you?...Now it's your turn...What do you love?...Tell us your favorite things." I made the same request of you to remind me of what I forgot, and oh -- did you respond! Some people matched my output of 50, some even surpassed it. (The champeen was Nancy Bugden with 57. I should give her an array of Heinz products for her efforts.)
All in all, many more than 50 readers came up with myriad opinions, and it warmed my soul to read them. (Allow me to especially thank those of you who included me as one of the things you love about the theater. May you each live to be 100!) Alas, I cannot possibly print the more than 1,000 opinions sent me (though, of course, plenty were repeats), so I decided to give one opinion each from the first 50 readers who responded to the call.
I have to say that a great many e-mails weren't about love of the theater as much as love of cast albums -- e.g., "Playing a cast album on the approximate anniversary of having heard it (or seen the actual show) for the first time." There were so many comments on recordings that I just may publish, at a later date, "50 Things You Love About Cast Albums." But for now, in alphabetical order, here are 50 different opinions from 50 different people on the subject I like most: Getting to know the theater.
1. Noah Addison: "Thinking that, while all the parts of a musical didn't work, somehow, as a whole, it did."
2. Aman 1016: "Reading the full-color souvenir program before, during, and after the show."
3. Bobster: "Going to a show I've only heard so-so things about and not especially looking forward to it -- and then getting blown away by it (as I was with A Man of No Importance)."
4. Carole Bontree: "Sitting in a loge box, watching the scenery whisk on and off, and really getting to see what happens backstage."
5. Nancy Bugden: "The sound of an enormous orchestra that even includes a harp."
6. Bunnetboy: "Seeing an actor adeptly cover for another performer when he goes up on a line."
7. David Burrows: "Reading a performer's bio in the program and finding out what other shows he has done -- and if this is his first big show, good for him, and may he have many more!"
8. Sylvia Bussick: "Getting to TKTS, seeing the show you want is up, worrying that it won't be up when you finally reach the window, but finding it is still up when you finally get there -- and it turns out to be a wonderful show for which you would have even happily paid full price."
9. Donald Butchko: "Listening to a song or lyric I've known for years and finally 'getting it.'"
10. Ken Carren: "That non-musical play you've always loved is turned into a musical that you wind up loving just as much."
11. Scott Cain: "Seeing the original cast of a show with no understudies."
12. Susan Cassidy: "A design on the scrim."
13. Seth Christenfeld: "Going to a show specifically to see an understudy or replacement, in hopes of seeing a different take on a role."
14. Kevin Daly: "Witnessing a star return to a role he or she originated."
15. Joan Dorfman: "Seeing the entire audience simultaneously rise to their feet at the fall of the curtain of a great show."
16. Elaine Dunson: "Watching a two-character play where each of the actors is completely on the same wavelength as the other."
17. Josh Ellis: "Having friends who understand one's single-name references to Carol, Chita, Gwen, Ethel, Mary, Angela, Roz, Zoe, Lena, Liza, Lisa, Tammy, Bea, Yul, Zero, Bea, Betty (never 'Lauren'), Barbra, Barbara (both of them), even Molly and Menasha."
18. Jason Flum: "Going to see the show and finding that the actual staging is even cooler than I had imagined."
19. Jena Tesse Fox: "Studying the ensemble to figure out which gypsy will become the next Chita Rivera."
20. Meish Goldish: "Walking down to the pit at the end of a musical to watch the orchestra play the exit music."
21. John Harrison: "Going to my first Hasty Pudding Show at Harvard in 1968, and aside from my two years in the Navy, seeing every one since -- and spreading the word about how much fun they were that I now bring about 40 people with me each year."
22. Don Henke: "Going up on an important line and having somebody cover for me."
23. Chelsea Jones: "Seeing one of the bigger theaters in my native Miami take a risk and do Steel Pier instead of another production of The Sound of Music."
24. Adam Kiley: "Running into people you haven't seen in years at intermission and discussing the show like you were still best friends."
25. Valerie La Count: "When a song strikes such a perfect balance of sound and delivery that the hair on the back of my neck stands up and a chill runs down my spine."
26. Susan Lallor: "Watching the Tony Awards to discover what shows you'd like to get tickets for -- and finding out that the answer is all of them."
27. Jeffrey Landman: "Seeing something wonderful in a tiny little theatre in the Village or the Lower East Side."
28. Mildred Lapin: "Buying tickets at TKTS to a show you didn't know much about, only to find that it becomes one of your all-time favorites."
29. Peter Lassiter: "Seeing an actor who made his reputation solely in drama now showing that he or she can do a musical, too."
30. Howard Lev: "Seeing a show in previews, turning to my wife and saying, 'This will win the Tony,' and being right."
31. Steve Lubin/Kevin Dawson: "A very simple change or effect that creates magic, such as the transition to the coffee bar scene in Grand Hotel."
32. Elizabeth Miller: "The magic that lighting can achieve. For instance, in Big River at the end of 'River in the Rain,' just as the music strikes a lovely final chord and Jim touches a match to his cigar, the stars in the backdrop all light up together. I can still hear the audience's 'Ahhhh.'"
33. Peter Ohsiek: "Seeing a performer do well when the production first opens but coming back a few months later and finding that he now owns the role."
34. Pat Overton: "When a performer deals creatively with a ringing cell phone in the audience."
35. Joey Pallasano: "Catching the final performance that the original cast gives."
36. Christopher Pazdernik: "When you feel so much sympathy or empathy for the characters that you cry."
37. Nancy Rosati: "Successfully passing on love of theater to your kid."
38. Allen Runnels: "Totally disagreeing with the person who saw the show with me about the acting, staging, even the lighting, discussing the life out of it, and loving the discussion we're having."
39. David Sanderson: "Seeing a show completely re-imagined without a word changed."
40. Tom Stretton: "When you know that you can be a better person from the play you've experienced."
41. Perry Tannenbaum: "The ghosts of all the performers -- and all the great comedies, dramas, and musicals -- that played in this very theater!"
42. Harry Turpin: "The sound of a belter going to town on a song, and the thrill of hearing him or her hit the high D's, E's and yes, sometimes F's and G's."
43. Chris Van Ness: "Seeing an old friend get and perform his/her first major role in a Broadway show."
44. Charles Vellisso: "Developing a taste for a composer's music which you'd previously found awfully difficult."
45. Whitney: "When people come together and have so much in common through just one show."
46. Chuck Yates: "Sitting in one of those old Broadway houses, with all of that gorgeous architecture and glorious history, and thanking God that it, too, wasn't torn down during the dry days."
47. Winnie Young: "Touring companies that give us who don't live in New York the chance to see at least a close approximation of what's going on on Broadway."
48. Al Zale: "Seeing a favorite show again with somebody who's never seen it before -- who soon joins you in loving it as much as you do."
49: Laurie Zuccarelli-Melia: "When you arrive at the theater with enough time to read the entire program from front to back."
50. Leo Zuller: "When everyone leaving the theater has a big smile on his face."
Now, if all of the above are too sentimental for you, here are a few written by Danneau, the pen name for a man with whom I used to work. We spent five years enjoying each other's company, even though he hates musicals. Hates them. Danneau likes dramas, classics, even a comedy or two -- but let anyone open his mouth to sing or use his legs to dance and Danneau's ready to run out screaming.
So, what does Danneau love about theater? He mentioned both "Men" and "Love Eyes" from Whoop-Up, because they make musicals look ridiculous. (I have to blame myself for that, for I'm the one who introduced him to those numbers.) Then he listed "That glorious, long stretch of 1776 where there are no songs." And he noted that "Tommy Tune can only be in one theater at a time, so the odds are with you that you won't have to see him."
Of course we all know that anyone who doesn't like musicals is a pathetic parvenu, but we do have to admire Danneau's wit -- frighteningly misguided though he may be.
[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org]