Unpopular opinion: “Cheers” is a Bostonian’s best pop culture claim to fame. No, it’s not the Sox, or the Pats, or the Bruins. And it’s not Matt and Ben and “How about them apples.” And it’s not even the venerable Spotlight team that brought down the Catholic Church. It’s that bar where everyone knows your name — that insider-outsider sentiment that makes Boston so distinctly, wonderfully, frustratingly Boston.
“Cheers” put Boston on the mainstage, with class-spanning characters — both bar regulars and those behind the counter — that were so wacky, funny and memorable that it made even the most curmudgeonly of residents seem endearing. The series will now come to life once again, 23 years after its last episode, and Sam Malone and Diane Chambers will flirt and bicker before your very eyes in the touring open of “Cheers Live on Stage” at the Citi Shubert Theatre.
Grayson Powell, who plays Malone, and Andrew Sellon, who will play Eric Fitch, a mysterious bar patron, fill us in on what to expect from the show.
Do yourself a favor — and don’t watch the spoilers
The stage show is based on the first season of the series, tracing Sam and Diane’s arc from when they first meet through their tumultuous budding romance. Sellon and Powell say dedicated fans who remember those episodes well won’t be disappointed — they remain true to the show — but hope that audience members will still be surprised.
“They’ve artfully selected sequences and favorite moments from season one — you’re not going to see Fraiser, but you’ll see Coach,” explains Sellon, whose character, should you not be an avid fan of the show, you may not remember. Fitch, ambiguously described as a bar patron, made an appearance in a single episode of season one, but Sellon urges ticketholders: no spoilers, please. “What I’m telling people is to not go back watch the episode. Let the surprises unfold; it’s really a lot more fun.”
Need a drink? The cast has been schooled in the way of “Cheers”
While they’re divided between patrons and staff, Powell says that the cast had to learn to work in a bar, before they even stepped on the stage.“On the show, they’re always mixing drinks and taking orders and doing inventory. We had to learn all of that before we did staging, and blocking, and learning lines,” he says. “We learned to mix and match all of those factors — and then we started acting.”
Powell even worked as a Cheers greeter in Faneuil Hall before a summer stint with Shakespeare on the Common in 2010, and says a few months at the original Bull & Finch has him well versed in show knowledge.
“We were required to watch as much ‘Cheers’ as possible,” he remembers. “And with this show, people are always coming up to ask us what our favorite episode was or our favorite moments. So my ‘Cheers’ acumen is definitely there.”
And don't worry, even on stage, everyone will still know your name
For both Powell and Sellon — a Belmont native and Harvard grad — opening “Cheers” in Boston feels like a bit of a homecoming and they hope it will for fans, as well.
“The level of detail is so awesome that fans will get the vibe of belonging as soon as they walk in,” says Sellon. “We want them to see that bar and hear the cast and feel like they’re walking into a home away from home.”
If you go:
"Cheers Live on Stage"
Through Sept. 18
Citi Shubert Theatre
265 Tremont St., Boston
Tickets start at $30,citicenter.org