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50 Things I Love About the Theater

Filichia lists more than a few of his favorite things about the theater. logo

Alan Cumming reinvents the Emcee
Did you see Matt Roush's cover story in TV Guide last week? It was titled "50 Things I Love About TV." As Roush wrote, "I dwell on the positive -- the sights, sounds, shows, people, and events that shaped this incredible medium and made a profound impact on those of us who couldn't get enough." He started his list with Cliffhangers, Chandlerisms, and Vulcans, and concluded it with Everybody Loves Raymond, Oscar Parties, and Spike.

The 11-page feature got me thinking, "What are the 50 things I love most about the theater?" And here's the conclusions to which I came:

     1. Seeing the first newspaper ad with a logo for a new show.
     2. Seeing that the marquee's up for that new show coming in.
     3. Getting a last-second ticket to a sold-out smash-hit.
     4. Getting a last-second ticket to a sold-out smash hit at a great discount -- or free!
     5. Seeing a show in a theater you've never been in before.
     6. Opening night, when the house lights dim, and the audience begins to spontaneously applaud in happy anticipation.
     7. The overture is about to start.
     8. Applauding your favorite star's entrance.
     9. The audience applauds the end of Act I, Scene One -- not because the scene was so great but to show respect for the actors.
     10. Seeing an old-timer make a big, unexpected comeback.
     11. Seeing someone like Alan Cumming in Cabaret demonstrate that a role that had been given a supposedly definitive, can't-be-beat performance can have another equally impressive interpretation.
     12. Discovering a performer that nobody's ever heard of before.
     13. Seeing someone you discovered before in a small part now get a chance to do a bigger role in a new show and make the most of the opportunity.
     14. The sound of children at their first Broadway show laughing at a joke.
     15. After an audience has finished laughing at a joke, there's a silence before you hear the sudden laughter of a young child who just got the joke -- and his laughter then causes the rest of the audience to laugh again.
     16. You feel that the people around you are enjoying the show just as much as you are.
     17. Going into the lobby at intermission and hearing what everyone has to say about the show.
     18. The "Ooooh!" of a crowd when snow falls on stage.
     19. The "Ahhh!" of a crowd when an animal saunters on stage.
     20. Realizing that a performer has made a mistake, the audience applauds to acknowledge that they've noticed and they don't care, for they know he's doing his best and that everybody's human.
     21. Optimism in lyrics. Lines like "It's not where you start, it's where you finish" and "Follow every rainbow till you find your dream," as well as "You've got to have a dream; if you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?"
     22. A big star from a completely different medium decides to play Broadway and surprises the skeptics and critics by doing a superb job.
     23. An understudy -- who was backstage and heard the groan of the crowd when the announcement was made that the star wouldn't appear -- goes on and completely wins over the audience, receiving a standing ovation. Then the crowd goes out saying that the star couldn't have possibly been any better.

Sarah Uriarte Berry, Rebecca Luker,
and Debbie Gravitte in the Encores! production
of The Boys From Syracuse
     24. Encores without an exclamation point -- meaning, when an audience so loves a certain musical number that it inspires the cast to do it one more time.
     25. Encores! with an exclamation point -- the City Center series that allows a new generation of theatergoers to discover the charms of the scores of Allegro, The Boys from Syracuse, Tenderloin, and, needless to say, Chicago.
     26. Applauding your favorite star's exit line.
     27. And a happy ending, of course.
     28. Attending the imperfect show you saw in previews and seeing that it has come together beautifully.
     29. Standing for a show and realizing that the person standing back there with you is one of the show's creators, who's having a wonderful time watching his baby.
     30. After a performance, waiting around for the girls upstairs at the stage door, where they're happy to see you and the rest of the crowd.
     31. "Waiting Around for the Girls Upstairs" from Follies -- not to mention the rest of that score.
     32. An out-of-town tryout, just before the very first performance, when everyone in the audience wonders if, for the rest of their lives, they'll be bragging that they were here.
     33. Finding a song on an original cast album that you love enough to put the CD player on "Repeat" so you can listen to it over and over and over again.
     34. Being at the Tony Awards, surrounded by people who care as much about Broadway as you do.
     35. Seeing someone finally win a Tony a year or more after he lost for a performance for which he should have won.
     36. Seeing a Tony won by someone who supposedly had no chance whatsoever of winning.
     37. Tony Award presenters who still look and sound great.
     38. Theater coverage on television, be it a review, commercial, or commentary, knowing this wonderful medium is reaching an audience that usually doesn't give theater a thought.
     39. Hearing a song from a musical -- especially an obscure one -- being played in an elevator or some other public place.
     40. Reading unanimous raves for the show that opened last night.
     41. Seeing audiences completely ignore critics' pans, and make a show a hit all by themselves.
     42. Seeing a show in a barn or a tent in the summertime.
     43. Seeing a community theater production where men, women, children, young adults, and senior citizens all work together and come to know and care about each other.
     44. Seeing a great high school production of a classic show.
     45. Getting a studio cast album of a long-forgotten, previously unrecorded score you loved way back when.
     46. Mary Martin as Peter Pan. Well, this is where Roush put her on his list: #46. ("We won't grow up as long as this enchanting performance still exists.") Alas, it's the only Broadway reference on his entire list, but at least it's a good one. And speaking of Peter Pan...
Mary Martin as Peter Pan
     47. Applauding for Tinkerbell when Peter Pan asks you to.
     48. Applauding a line that contains a sentiment you truly believe in.
     49. Applauding a musical number, and just when you and the audience are starting to wind down, you all decide that you just can't stop and you increase the level to make the response even stronger than it was originally.
     50. The closing, when the customers do come -- the ones who cared more about this show than anyone else, now reacting with even more cheers than they bestowed the first or 14th time.

On Roush's list, between items 8 (Roots) and 9 (The 60 Minutes Stopwatch) was a notation, "And you?...Now it's your turn...What do you love?...Tell us your favorite things." I make the same request of you, dear readers. Please write and tell me the 50 Things You Love About Theater that I haven't mentioned. To do so, use the link below.


[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at [email protected]]

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