NY1 is proud to present “Intermission," a brand-new resource for theater fans deprived these very long months of the thrill that only the live stage can offer.
As NY1’s theater critic, it will be my pleasure to host this weekly column, which I hope will help to fill in the gaping hole that the pandemic has caused in our theater-going lives. I’ll be joined by Nina Godfrey who was bitten by the theater bug very early in her young life. She’ll help to provide lots of fun facts and memories as we wait out this unbearably long intermission. But first, let me introduce myself and hopefully make you smile…
I really miss the live theater. After seeing and reviewing more than 3,000 productions, most of them on Broadway, you’d think I’d have had my fill. But no, I’m a theater junkie, a drama queen in withdrawal. Musicals, comedies, tragedies...makes no difference, I crave it all.
I guess you could say it’s in my blood. “Finian’s Rainbow” brought my parents together in 1947. My father was a rookie producer who’d come up with a formula for a Broadway hit. My mom was the Amusements Editor at the NY World-Telegram looking for a story to fill her column. The show was indeed a success but their romance had a longer run. They were happily married a year later.
I was three or four when they took me to see my first show - “The Sound Of Music” - with the great Mary Martin. My memory is basically a blank but I seem to remember actors moving through the aisles. If that’s not part of the original staging then I might have confused it with a trip to Radio City Music Hall that year, though hard to imagine I couldn’t tell the difference between dancing Rockettes and singing nuns. But from that moment on, I was hooked.
I had a very healthy collection of show albums that died prematurely after I played the LPs so many times, it carved gashes in the vinyl. I loved “Purlie,” “Shenandoah," “The Wiz," “1776," and “Hair” - all the original productions. As an 11-year-old seeing “Hair," Berger jumped up on my seat, straddled the arms in his loincloth and howled like a mad man. My first crush!
Several years later as an apprentice at the Odd Chair Playhouse in Pittsburgh, we performed “Hair," though I was relegated to handing out towels backstage after the nude scene. Still a thrill…and my second crush…but it wasn’t Berger that time. It was Claude.
Sadly I lost all the Playbills from those early days, but once I started as a critic in 1987, I pretty much kept them all. They’re crowding me out of the house these days, but they’re like adopted children to me. I can’t bear to part with them.
This is just an introduction to my love affair with – and addiction to - the theatre. For those of you who share our sense of loss from the darkened stages, we hope to offer some light in these online pages. And until the curtains rise again, allow us to provide a space to keep you informed and amused. In the coming weeks I’ll share more experiences, report on developments, introduce you to some of my favorite people and suggest ways to get your virtual fix of the theatre while this nasty virus keeps the curtains down.
And now, introducing Nina Godfrey...
My first Broadway show was “The Lion King” at age 11 in 2006. My grandmother took my sister and I - aisle seats of course - and I was dazzled. Funny enough, the last show I saw before the shutdown was “Aladdin” - ticket bought on a whim when my sister was in town with a friend. Clearly Disney has come full circle in my theater story.
In 2007 I saw “Wicked” with my family, and it was that show that really got me hooked and cemented my love of theater. “Wicked” remains my very favorite musical, and has introduced me to some of my favorite Broadway actors. My sister had the same experience, and theater has continued to bring us close together despite a seven year age difference.
During my time at Marist College, I was able to see many Broadway shows through $25 trips that included a ticket and transportation back and forth. It was a dream come true for a theater nerd like me, and I have missed those trips desperately since graduation. I was also lucky to experience some of the West End while studying abroad in the U.K.
Theater is one of my very favorite things about living in New York, and the city doesn’t seem the same without it. But while the seats may be empty, the artists - and the art they create - aren’t going anywhere, and Roma and I will be here to examine what happens now, and how the Broadway spirit endures.
Flashback to One of My First Reviews
My career as a critic started 33 years ago while reporting at News 12 Long Island. In 1993, after moving to NY1, I continued to review shows both on Broadway and off. One of my earliest critiques was “Wrong Turn at Lungfish” at the Promenade Theater starring none other than George C. Scott, Tony Danza and Jami Gertz.
Today in Theater History
“A View From The Bridge” opens on November 12, 2015
Director Ivo Van Hove foreshadowed his radical restaging of this year’s “West Side Story” with his bare-footed deconstruction of Arthur Miller’s classic tragedy. Mark Strong starred as the star-crossed Brooklyn longshoreman.
The Lion King opens on November 13th, 1997
By far Disney’s most successful Broadway venture, “The Lion King” won five Tony Awards, and has gone on to become the third-longest running show in Broadway history, and the highest grossing production in history among both stage and film.
Fun fact: One of the ensemble members in the original cast was Christopher Jackson, who you may know better as George Washington in “Hamilton."
Broadway at Home: This week’s theater events, available right on your computer
Saturday, November 14th at 8:30pm EST: Opening of Jason Suran’s “Reconnected”
This hour long virtual show from mentalist Jason Suran is billed as “an intimate, interactive and irresistible experience where sophisticated acts of mind-reading and unique immersive elements meet.” The show is recommended for those age 13 and up due to language.
Tickets are available here for shows through December 19th.
Wednesday November 18th through Saturday, November 21st: The York Theater Company Presents “Broadway’s Great American Songbook” with Karen Mason
This cabaret series hosted by Michael Feinstein features a new Broadway performer each week, with a premiere each Wednesday and encore performances through Saturday. Karen Mason is most well known for her roles in “Sunset Boulevard” and “Mamma Mia!”
Buy tickets here.
“Shakespeare @ Home”
For Shakespeare fans in withdrawal...Huzzah! For your listening pleasure, “The Tempest” and “Richard II” in the style of the great radio plays, featuring the voices of Broadway and Hollywood veterans plus the stars of the West End’s “Harry Potter”. And it is all free!
For information: shakespeare-at.org
And finally, some fun for theater fans, each week we’ll share artwork from a Playbill cover minus the title and see if you can identify the show. We’ll have the answer the following week.
Here's the first one: