As someone who wished I'd had the nerve to take choir instead of band, I have always held musical theater in a sense of awe. I wanted to do it *so badly.* Plus, I grew up on a lot of the classic shows. I knew the soundtracks to "The Sound of Music," "Carousel," "Fiddler on the Roof," "The Music Man," and so many others before I ever got into junior high. Even today, my first choices for road trip music are musicals that I can belt along to.
There are a lot that are dear to me for very different reasons. But to pick one? That's surprisingly simple. "Les Miserables." It was the very first professional musical I saw live. It was spring break of 1988. I was a freshman in college, and I spent ten days in New York City. In that time period, I saw John Malkovich and Joan Allen in "Burn This," Kiri Te Kenawa in "Cosi Fan Tutte" at the Met, and "Les Miserables" on Broadway. All three were once in a lifetime experiences, but it was Les Miz that tore me apart. We had cheap student seats. For less than $20, we had a seat in the last two rows in the very top and back of the theater, but from that vantage, I got to see the full effect of the choreography. The voices carried all the way to us without fail, and as someone who didn't know the story (I read the book afterward), it was heart wrenching. What young girl hasn't felt like Eponine at some point in her lives? I was ready to join in the revolution myself. It was just the first time for me. I've seen it in four major American cities, in London, and it is the one show I own in the most incarnations. I have the original London cast, the original Broadway cast, the complete symphonic, and the 10th anniversary all on CD. I also own the 25th anniversary on DVD. So...yeah. That one's my favorite.
But Les Miz isn't the only one I have multiple recordings of.
Assassins - the original off-Broadway cast, the 2004 cast
Into the Woods - original Broadway, 2002 revival cast
Chess - original Broadway, in concert
Evita - original Broadway, original London
Oklahoma - the Royal National w/Hugh Jackman, the film soundtrack
And there is no way I can list all the individual shows I own. I probably own most of Stephen Sondheim's work. As much as I love Les Miz (and you can see I love Into the Woods), the original Broadway cast performing the first act of "Sunday in the Park of George" might be as close to perfect theater as I have ever seen/heard. I mean, come on. Mandy Patinkin in one of his greatest roles. A heartbreaking Bernadette Peters. An incredible supporting cast that includes Charles Kimbrough, Dana Ivey, Brent Spiner, and Robert Westenberg. Its commentary on the creative process as well as how brilliantly it mirrored pointillism in the score is masterful to say the least.
Oh, and I have "Chicago" signed by Bebe Neuwirth. That show was absolutely spellbinding.
I have a ton of compilations as well, because I have favorite songs from so many different shows. While I still adore Rodgers & Hammerstein, I've really enjoyed newer shows, too. "Wicked" and "The Book of Mormon" are on repeat in our house (we've taken the kids to see Wicked twice, and though Craig has seen Mormon once already, we're going again as a family for his birthday next spring). There are a few I haven't heard all the way through that I have on my wish list for Christmas. What I don't get, I'll buy for myself after the holiday, lol. Like "Violet," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," and "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill."
Unlike a lot of people, I'm not really a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber. I find his style too bombastic for the most part, and his productions shallow. The exceptions to that are "Evita" (which I love) and "Jesus Christ Superstar," but honestly, everything after "Evita" has left me cold.
Talking about this makes me wish I could see even more, lol. There are shows I end up missing for one reason or another, though I'm fortunate to live so close to San Francisco since it gets a lot of international tours. "Kinky Boots" is playing this month which I'm trying to talk Craig into seeing, and "Newsies" (a guilty pleasure of mine) is playing in February/March.
One of these days, I should really take Craig up on the suggestion we take a long weekend to go to NYC and drown in live theater.