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Stagestruck!

Jim Caruso asks a bevy of stars to share their most indelible theatrical memories.

By New York City
When did you fall in love with the theater? Who and what were you watching when you had that magical "ah ha" moment? And, over the years, what shows and performances have you found unforgettable? At the 2002 Tony Awards, I had the enviable opportunity to ask some talented types about their all-time favorite theatrical memories.

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Anne Heche
Anne Heche
Anne Heche (Catherine in Proof):
"Godspell was the first show I saw in New York, and I adored it. I still annoy everyone I know to this very day by singing all the songs: 'Day by day, day by day / Oh, dear Lord, three things I pray...' How about that?"

Shuler Hensley (Jud Fry in Oklahoma!):
"I'd say my favorite show of all time is Sweeney Todd and boy, would I love to play that role some day! I just love the moment when he sees his razors for the first time. The fact that those razors represent his life before he was sent away and the vindication he's going to get with his 'old friends'...well, it's chilling to me."

Sutton Foster (Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie):
"I grew up in Michigan and Georgia, so the only way I saw actual Broadway performances was by watching the Tonys. That's how I'd decide which cast album to buy. I did get to see a tour of Into the Woods when I was a kid in Detroit and it became my absolute favorite. I listened to the CD endlessly, and I'm sure I drove everyone crazy. I always visualized myself in the role of Cinderella, but after hearing Laura Benanti sing it...forget it! She freaks me out, she's so good. Speaking of brilliant performers, I'm a huge fan of Idina Menzel and Brian d'Arcy James, too. They can do no wrong."

Gregory Hines (co-host of the 2002 Tony Awards):
"When I was about 14, my whole class went to see a Broadway musical called Jamaica with Lena Horne, Ricardo Montalban, and Ossie Davis. Now, you have to understand that my grandma had taught me all about Lena Horne and I knew all her records by heart. Just walking into the theater and knowing she was in the building made me crazy. So there I was in the audience, and there she was--live! The fantastic score and that brilliant cast had a profound effect on me...and it's probably why I'm here today."

Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg (co-producer of Thoroughly Modern Millie):
"I have two answers...is that OK? They both carry equal weight for me. West Side Story is the greatest musical experience you can ever introduce someone to. Between Sondheim and Bernstein, it's a masterpiece that's just hotter than fire. The straight play that I loved so much was St. Joan, which starred Diana Sands. She was a fabulous actress who happened to be black; I'm talking insanely brilliant work here! For my young mind to experience a performance like that was absolutely life changing. I had the same feeling about The Great White Hope with James Earl Jones. Now, see, I couldn't just pick one like you asked; I tried, but there's no way. There's always been a lot of great theater to be seen. I wish Broadway were a little less expensive so more people could experience it. I wish it offered kids what it offered me, which was theater at an affordable price. I'm hoping that, one day, the producers and the unions can all get together and say, 'You know what? We're making money. Let's re-introduce the public to the theater. Let's give up a little bit and make it easier to go.' It's a far-fetched dream, but I'm still hoping!"

Bernadette Peters (co-host of the 2002 Tony Awards):
"I will never forget Sada Thompson's performance in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. Oh, and I finally saw Carol Channing do Hello, Dolly! when she did it on Broadway a few years ago. I can't figure out why it took me so long to see it, but when I finally did, I couldn't believe how fabulous she was. That timing! And what a score! It's the most perfect combination of star and material I've ever seen."

Billy Crudup
Billy Crudup
Billy Crudup (late of The Elephant Man):
"When I was growing up on Long Island, my mom used to take us to the theater, and we saw everything. I remember being blown away by Doug Henning's Magic Show. I know...not what you'd expect! I loved Brighton Beach Memoirs, Annie, and Starlight Express, too. I guess I'm just a showtune kinda guy!"

Kristin Davis (Sex and the City):
"I'm such a complete, crazy fan. When I was growing up, my father would take us to the theater and it would be the absolute highlight of my year. I remember seeing Camelot and I loved it. I didn't get to see Richard Burton as King Arthur, but I didn't care. When you're a kid, those things don't matter as much; the experience was either good or bad, and that particular one was very good. This year, I was really rooting for Urinetown. I loved it! I love the CD! I wear the hat! What more can I say?"

Jeffrey Wright (Lincoln in Topdog/Underdog):
"Honestly, Angels in America was a monumental experience for me. It was born out of the times...an incredible experience and an incredible play which was so relevant and something Broadway was thirsting for. So that was my favorite theatrical experience, even though I was in the show."

Bill Pullman
Bill Pullman
Bill Pullman (Martin in Edward Albee's The Goat):
"I will never forget seeing George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst in A Moon For the Misbegotten. It was an amazing performance that has stayed with me for years."

John Leguizamo (star of one-man shows on and Off-Broadway):
"Seeing A Chorus Line as a kid really made me want to be an actor. Then, of course, Whoopi Goldberg's one-woman show and Lily Tomlin's Signs Of Intelligent Life in the Universe were phenomenal and gave me great inspiration to do what I'm doing now. A piece of theater, when it rocks, can be the most beautiful experience of your life. When it sucks, it's like being a prisoner of war!"


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