Theater: Wishful thinking on second chances to see favorite shows

"Pippin" astutely questions whether the play really ends once the curtain goes down and the players walk away. Sadly, when it comes to seeing an amazing show on Broadway, the answer is usually "yes." Credit: Joan Marcus
“Pippin” astutely questions whether the play really ends once the curtain goes down and the players walk away. Sadly, when it comes to seeing an amazing show on Broadway, the answer is usually “yes.”
Credit: Joan Marcus

Theater critics get to see a lot of shows, so we count ourselves as lucky. But due to the relative poverty of being a professional writer, we don’t often get the opportunity to see everything that we want to see — or, more to the point of this article, to see everything that we want to see again.

When a show is truly spectacular, like with a song or movie or book you love, you just want to return to it again and again for another dose of those uplifting feels that you get from a well-done, thoughtful, stirring show. Plays that we’ve seen once for work, and then, GASP, paid out-of-pocket to see again include “The Normal Heart,” “Venus In Fur” and “Sleep No More.” One show that we’re excited to revisit this winter is Roundabout Theatre Company’s “Bad Jews,” being staged for the second time after last year’s successful off-Broadway run. How will its encore performance hold up to the original experience, when we went in knowing nothing about the play’s moral twists and turns?

“Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812″ is closing this week, and we only wish that we had the funds or opportunity to see it one more time. Without so much as a soundtrack to tide us over, it’s like this show made us fall in love and then yanked our hearts out of our chests. Lamenting our misfortune (or, actually, lack of fortune altogether), we reflect below on other shows that we had very much wanted to see twice, but didn’t get to revisit before the shows closed:

1. “Sleep No More” — Yes, yes, we just said that we paid to see “Sleep No More” a second time. Both visits took place in 2011, the year that the show opened at the McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea. Still going strong and with many new additions, cast members and revisions, we wonder if the current show is just as magical as it was in its first year, or if anything feels more static nowadays. Thankfully this one doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, so there’s still a strong chance that we will be able to find out.

2. “The Nance” — This role highlighted what is probably the absolute zenith of Nathan Lane’s theatrical ability. Combining music, comedy and deep pathos, the play about a semi-closeted, self-loathing gay nance performer in the 1930s was both entertaining and, sadly, topically relevant when it ran this past summer. From the writing to casting to rotating sets, this was one of the tightest plays we’ve had the privilege of seeing on Broadway. Even if we could see it again in a likely revival down the road, it just wouldn’t be the same without Lane.

3. “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” — Thoughtful, controversial and emotional, this gone-too-soon straight play, starring Robin Williams as the titular tiger, kept us riveted with meaty concepts and slick dialogue. It was only on the Great White Way for a few months in 2011 — not enough time to digest the show and then go back again for a fresh outlook. Thankfully, since the play is about ideas rather than spectacle, reading the script is still an option for finding a way back into the material.

4. “Wicked”/ “The Lion King” — When Metro did a summer series two years ago on how NYC’s longest-running musicals were holding up over the years, we reviewed performances such as “Phantom of the Opera,” “Chicago” and “Mamma Mia!” However, Disney press wanted nothing to do with our coverage, sadly, and these two were left out of the otherwise popular and successful series. We’re still wondering how these time-honored family favorites look onstage a decade or so after opening, but will we ever find out?

5. “Pippin” — This was a favorite of ours from back in the day (think early ’80s), so it was hotly awaited in NYC. Metro was especially keen on it coming here, since our reviewers up in Boston (where the show kicked off before moving to Broadway) gave it such great praise. Getting to see it, finally, was worth every moment of eager anticipation. Seeing a number again live at the Tony Awards was icing on the cake. But still, just one more chance to see the whole show pulling out all the stops from start to finish would hit our nostalgia triggers in all the right ways.

This is only scraping the surface of a deep well of wishful thinking, but let’s turn the mic over to the audience. What do you wish that you could see performed live just one more time?


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