I remember the first moment that I thought all was lost. I was maybe seventeen and had been a fan of the musical RENT since the film was released–a friend had introduced it to me as “a little weird, but I’ll think you’ll like it.” She was definitely correct in that assumption.
So a few years later, the RENT soundtrack (not cast album because it’s not from the Broadway version) was in regular use on my iPod. I listened to some songs periodically and others more regularly. And then, one week I listened to “Another Day” about a hundred times. I looked up RENT. I read about the actors. I rewatched the Jonathan Larson documentary on the DVD release.
And then I realized something: the national tour (what, tours of Broadway shows are a thing???) had come near my city and I had NEVER EVEN KNOWN.
It was not a good day for me.
So, this was my first experience with national tours. What they were. How they worked. And, perhaps most importantly, the extreme disappointment one can feel when, say, one forgets about a musical just long enough to miss ADAM PASCAL and ANTHONY RAPP (aka original cast members) in a national tour of RENT.
Keep in mind, though, that this was happening during that time before my musical obsession, when the only two musicals I cared about in all the world were RENT and The Phantom of the Opera. And then, as I’ve discussed, I went to London my freshman year of college and my world turned upside down.
Now, for some context.
I live in Springfield, MO. It is not exactly a capital for the arts. Sure, we’ve got some local theatre, an art museum, and we try to embrace the arts as much as we can. I’ve seen way too many wonderful shows in my city not to give it the acknowledgement it deserves.
But, that being said, we are not an artistic hub and our performing arts theatre has been a bit of a joke in recent years. Built on Missouri State University’s campus, so therefore also a part of the university and their performances, Juanita K. Hammons Hall has an impressive history of hits, including Cats, Miss Saigon, and Les Miserables. I know this because I worked there for two summers and saw the banners.
Over the last decade, however, we’ve gotten stuff like The Music Man in Concert and A Christmas Story and Camelot. I’m not saying these are bad shows, but they aren’t the Phantoms and the Wickeds of the world.
My dilemma was difficult–how do I watch musicals when nothing good ever comes to Springfield? My local theatre puts on fantastic shows, but they can only put on so many shows and not all of them peak my interest. Sure, I saw Les Miserables there and Spamalot and Shrek the Musical and a lot of ones I really, truly enjoyed.
BUT Broadway tours live in a world all their own. And I was tired of waiting for them. And then I started to think about these things:
1. I don’t want to give you the impression that shows must be huge and show-stopping to be worth seeing. However, I think that I could speak for a lot of theatre goers when I say that often the first shows people see, or want to see, are those that get a lot of attention and are generally long-running and beloved.
My first show–real, live show–was Phantom. I had to see it. But then I watched it and loved it and got it out of the way and moved onto Wicked and the rest just…followed. I think a lot of people can relate.
2. Just because you don’t know anything about a show doesn’t mean you can’t like it. I’ve made this mistake a lot. I’ve judged shows, especially shows at my local theatre, because I wanted to see something else and the shows they were putting on weren’t that ONE show. However, I’ve realized going to new shows is important.
There is something wonderful about watching a show and having no idea what awaits you. Or even better, having a super vague idea and watch as your ideas are replaced with reality as you experience the show for the first time.
3. Don’t be afraid to see your favorite shows locally first. I’m not going to elaborate much on this one, but I promise the experience is not a wanna-be Broadway performance and you’ll be surprised at how powerful these productions can be and how truly talented the people in your city are. I’ve seen A LOT, I know.
4. Broaden your horizons. Don’t be afraid to travel a few hours to see the shows that your city isn’t hosting. St. Louis, Kansas City, and Tulsa always boast more shows than Springfield, which means that I’ve seen many tours in my tri-state area, but maybe not in my town. So I explored a little. Even better.
5. Lastly, patience is a virtue. This one is tough and it’s the reason for this post. I know there are shows out there that you (are you out there?) want to see. But if I’ve learned anything over these past six or seven years, it’s that patience is a necessary component of being a theatre fan.
Case in point: the 20th Anniversary RENT tour is currently making its way across the country. It’s early 2017 right now and probably close to 8 years since I had a meltdown and cursed myself for not even knowing about national tours. But 8 years went a lot faster than I thought it would and now I have tickets to see the tour in St. Louis in May.
When I see it, it will be for the third time, as I’ve also seen it done locally in Springfield and in Tulsa, OK. Both productions were brilliant and unique and so very beautiful and I’m so glad I saw them. BUT I’m still super pumped about seeing this new tour.
So I guess I want us all to understand is that touring productions come around…eventually. It’s been a few years since I lamented not being able to see a touring production of Les Miserables and, guess what, it’s happening in 2018.
Or when I freaked out after discovering Miss Saigon and hunted it down and saw it locally in Tulsa while staying with my grandma. I loved that show. It may be the best thing I’ve ever seen in a theatre. But also, it’s coming to Broadway this spring for a limited engagement, before it sets out on tour in 2018.
I don’t know, but that doesn’t seem like such a long wait. I’ve seen Wicked twice–it FINALLY came to my hometown and had a historical, sold out, two week run at a theatre that normally only hosts shows for three days or a weekend. It was a big deal. A HUGE deal. And because of it, we get Phantom next year. Pretty pumped about that as well.
When it comes down to it, it’s all about being open-minded and patient. Be willing to put yourself out there and travel and support your local theatres and one day, when you’ve forgotten you were even waiting, it’ll come along.
I mean, if Hamilton can be the biggest thing on Broadway since RENT opened in 1996 and STILL (I’ve got to stop with the capital letters…) make it’s way to St. Louis in 2018, just three years after its Broadway debut, then there is literally nothing we can complain about.
So there’s that. It’s not a great post. But it’s here.
Until next time…