As Broadway approaches awards season once more and every Broadway fan performs the obligatory sharpening of the pitchforks for when their favorite show, actor, composer, or designer inevitably, in their opinion, gets snubbed in the nominations or perhaps, later, the wins, I find that all too often we, as thespians, do tend to forget some things. Namely, we forget what makes Broadway theatre so incredible and unlike most anything on this planet.
Some of us are fortunate enough to have frequent exposure to live theatre. Perhaps you live in a big city which often gets equally-big tours and other major professional productions, or perhaps you’re among the lucky few who live in New York or London and have access to Broadway or the West End, respectively, the world’s great hotspots of live theatre.
Or perhaps you’re something like me - hailing from a tiny city in the middle of nowhere with little, if any, exposure to any live theatre, let alone the big tours and Broadway/West End productions ‘everyone else’ seems to get. If you come from somewhere in the middle of nowhere too, you’ll know what I mean.
Suffice it to say that while I’m a Broadway aficionado, I haven’t exactly had the chance to see lots of shows. In fact, I’m probably one of what’s probably a tiny group of people who can say that they’ve been in more shows, whether behind the curtain as stage crew or onstage as a performer, than they’ve seen in the audience.
Last February, my family surprised me with a gift that I’ll treasure my whole life. A week-long trip to New York, with tickets to any Broadway show I wanted.
Now, I’d heard stories of just how incredible Broadway productions and the actors, designers, stage crew, and everything else involved in them were, how they were all ‘a cut above the rest’ and whatnot, but I had no point of reference to guess what that might entail. I’d seen a few professional productions of musicals before; I couldn’t imagine how anything could be better, and honestly, I did have a few doubts about whether Broadway was really as good as everyone made it out to be or whether it was all just mindless hype.
When I stepped into a Broadway theatre for the first time, still riding a caffeine high from the coffees I’d had earlier to make sure my jetlagged self would be able to stay awake for the whole thing, I could just feel that the show would be something special. You could just feel the effort that so many people, seen and unseen, had put into the show. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before and I loved every second of it.
I thought I’d seen great performances before, but actually seeing a show on Broadway completely redefined what I thought it meant to act, to sing, and to dance. I thought I’d seen incredible set and costume design, but seeing a Broadway show convinced me otherwise. I thought I’d heard great pit orchestras, but hearing the first notes of the overture convinced me that I must have been deaf before I stepped into that theatre.
You’ll notice that I didn’t mention any musical in particular. That’s because there was no single musical I saw that convinced me of the above - it was every show I saw that led me to those conclusions.
Originally, my plan was only to see Dear Evan Hansen (since the show hadn’t yet won all its Tonys in February, I actually managed to snag tickets that didn’t break the bank); in the end, though, I managed to snag cheap tickets to Wicked and Cats too while I was in New York. All three shows were quite different and each incredible in their own ways, but the one thing they convinced me of after seeing them is just how incredibly talented and hardworking Broadway professionals really are. I’d heard it before, but now I believe it - they truly are a cut above the rest.
So, as we head into awards season, please, everyone, remember just how talented each and every person working on Broadway is. Don’t get used to them and their performances, whether on the cast recordings, the clips you might find on YouTube or Broadway.com, or perhaps live if you’re one of the lucky few who get the opportunity to do that, because you may just get used to them and forget how incredible they really are. Every actor and actress, every member of the crew, every set designer and choreographer and composer and director - they all pour their hearts and souls into their work in ways that most of us would find unimaginable. These people are some of the most talented on this planet and they each work their butts off to create some of the finest art eight times a week.
So please - don’t fight or squabble too much over whether or not an actor is worthy of an award or perhaps if a designer or composer was snubbed or not. Because these people - each and every person on Broadway - are all truly a cut above the rest, and that’s something that we should all remember.