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My Top 5 Theater Experiences

An upsetting moment at a West End show, meeting two of her theater heroes, and getting a role she really wanted are some of Catherine Reid's favorite memories. logo

Me (on the left) before my terrifying Cats experience

1. Cats in the West End

I'm not sure if this is a favorite theater moment or just a hilariously memorable one. When I was in the second grade, my parents took my sister and I to London, and we saw Cats.

It was the most terrifying experience of my life. Imagine being seven, the lights going out, and yellow eyes glowing on the walls all around you. The show was done in the round, so I was legitimately surrounded by cats. But do you want to know the most terrifying part? They came crawling through the seats to get onstage. I sat paralyzed by fear, gripping the sides of my chair.

And then the Rum Tum Tugger sang his signature song. Guess who he chose to make a face at as he paused in the audience. The terrified seven-year-old. What was my reaction? I screamed. I, Catherine Reid, screamed in the middle of a West End show. To this day, I hate Cats.

2. Les Miserables at SHG High School

It was 2002, and I was in third grade. I knew I liked to sing, but musical theater wasn't really on my radar yet. Then I went to my future high school to see their production of Les Miserables. I showed up excited to see the performance and became spellbound as soon as the curtains opened.

It was one of the most star-packed shows that my school has ever put on, but I was most mesmerized by Eponine. She had one of the most beautiful voices I had ever heard, and she had me in tears during "A Little Fall of Rain." As soon as I left the show, I was determined to be Eponine. I had caught the theater bug.

3. Seth Rudetsky in person

I. love. Seth Rudetsky. I listen to his show on XM every chance I get, and I value his opinion more than anyone else's when it comes to theater. So when I found out that he was coming to Illinois Theatrefest in 2010, I was beyond excited. Theatrefest alone is one of the coolest theatrical things I've done. It's a weekend during which Illinois high school thespians meet to enjoy a magical three days of shows and workshops.

Enter Seth Rudetsky. His keynote presentation was AHMAZING! He showed us the good, the bad, and the ugly of musical theater. Some of my favorite moments were his comparison of Madonna's Evita with Patti LuPone's and a clip of Cher playing every part in West Side Story during her variety show. The latter can definitely be put in the ugly category.

4. Meeting Alice Ripley

Best moment of my life. Alice Ripley has always been an idol of mine. She is crazy talented, intelligent, and so passionate about her job. Her performance in Next to Normal is one of the most powerful things I have ever seen.

But her reception of my crying self after the show was the most amazing thing. I mean, I looked like a psycho. Not only did I cry, but also I recited parts of her Tony speech to her. And what was Alice's reaction? She hugged me. Ms. Ripley is an inspiration not only because of her talent but also because of her beautiful, genuine personality.

5. Playing Hope in Anything Goes

Through high school I had a really hard time with theater. I went to audition after audition, and I never got the part.

Senior year, I really wanted a lead in my last high school musical. When I found out we were doing Anything Goes, I was elated. I wanted nothing more than to play Hope Harcourt.

Then two days before the audition, I got sick. I had no voice for one of the most important auditions of my young life. While I did sing, it was far from pretty. The callback process went on for about a week, over the course of which my voice came back. I still never dreamed I would get the part.

The cast list was posted at the end of the school day. While some ran down to see the list, I waited and prepared myself to not see my name next to Hope's. And yet once I made it to the list, there it was!

Playing Hope was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I cherish every moment I spent on that stage, and I wait in anticipation to again be the girl who got the part.


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