Wicked Wednesday–the Best Performance

Wickeds, what was your all-time favorite performance–play, musical, opera, ballet? Tell us all about it and especially tell us why. I think this one will be impossible for Julie–or maybe incredibly easy. Top three, Julie?

Edith: I, along with my two older sisters, studied ballet from first grade through ninth. FOnteynNureyevSomewhere in the mid-sixties, my mother splurged for four tickets for us to see Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev dance a ballet. My vague memory says the performance was of Romeo and Juliet, and I can’t find a historic record of the performance. Despite the vagaries of an older mind, I have a clear memory of these two master dancers’ beautiful and graceful bodies. Their physical art put to music. Their emotional interpretations of the story. I still love to see any artistic dance performed.

220px-Christmas_Carol_(Patrick_Stewart)_Broadway_PosterJulie: You’re right, this is impossible. Three that come to mind: Patrick Stewart in A Christmas Carol. I actually saw him do it twice. Amazing. (He was also fabulous in Macbeth at BAM, but I digress.) Another one is the Lyric Stage Company production of Nicholas Nickleby. (Here’s the cast warming up.) Two shows, which I saw on the same day. About seven hours between them. A really delightful show, with a stellar cast. My last choice is another long one. Gatz, by the Elevator Repair Service. I saw it at the ART in Cambridge. Another two shows, this time eight hours of theater all told. Gatz is a staged version of The Great Gatsby. When it first started, and the main actor (the narrator) picked up a copy of the book and started reading it aloud, I started to squirm. The setting was a 80’s era office, and I thought to myself “what have I gotten myself into?” Then other people started to say lines, and all of a sudden there was magic. I was transported. Now, I didn’t list Hamilton, or Les Miz, or . . . Nor did I list dance or opera. I am very blessed that working in the performing arts has been part of my life for over  30 years, so there is a lot to choose from.

Jessie: I love, love, love Cirque du Soleil. I have attended performances three times and all of them have been magical. I saw them in Las Vegas, Orlando and in Boston. There is something so engrossing about the experience. There was so much to see that I couldn’t decide where to look! My very favorite part of each show was the aerial silks performance. Breathtaking!

Sherry: In the mid-eighties my sister and I saw Mikhail Baryshnikov dance in Denver, Colorado. It was supposed to be an outdoor performance but the weather was bad so they moved it inside. His leaps were breathtaking. The emotion he put into his performance unforgettable. A couple of weeks after we saw him, he was injured and from what I remember he never did the high leaps again. Another favorite performance was seeing Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard when we lived in the LA area. She was fabulous.

Liz: I really loved seeing Wicked (and I’m not just saying that because of the name!) in New York years ago when it first came out. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz and I loved learning the backstory of the Wicked Witch of the West. And the music was fab!

Michael Maloney as Prince Hal, Robert Stephens as Falstaff, Rob Edwards as Ned Poins

Barb: I struggled mightily with this one, too. Finally I decided to go with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Henry V, Part 1, which Bill and I saw in London in 1991. We both love the historicals most of all and have seen many together. I always feel when you see Shakespeare well-performed, you learn something about the contemporary world and people you know. This performance was so accessible, I felt like the actors were speaking directly to me and I was almost a part of it. Like Sherry and Edith, my second choice would be a ballet–seeing Violette Verdy with the New York City Ballet when I was a kid. She had so much charisma, you could not tear your eyes off her.

Readers: Tell us about your very favorite performance, who, what, when, where, why?

30 Thoughts

  1. I would have to say my favorite performance was seeing Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Mendel and Joel Grey in Wicked. That was amazing and an experience I will never forget. I hesitate to see it the show again because I’m afraid it won’t live up to my memories and I would absolutely not see it if the show were made into a movie.

  2. My children took me to “Cats” in Boston in 1984? for my birthday. The were indeed magical cats.

  3. Can I have three, too? Sammy Davis Jr. in Golden Boy, Gwen Verdon in Sweet Charity, and Ginger Rogers in Hello, Dolly. We lived easy driving distance to NYC when I was growing up.

    1. When I was a little girl my grandmother took me to see Betty Grable in Hello, Dolly! here in Baltimore. I’d nearly forgotten that one. I’m sorry I missed seeing Ginger Rogers in it. I loved her!

  4. I have to go with the production of “Amadeus” that The Hubby and I saw on our honeymoon trip to Stratford. We were in the second row, right in the “spit zone” for the actors. The draw of Stratford is supposed to be their Shakespeare (and it is good), but this production of “Amadeus” was simply amazing.

  5. This is a tough one! I have to go with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Absolutely unforgettable. My “trifecta” was “Hair” in Boston, New York and London! (London was best.)

  6. When I was living in Washington, D.C., I was fortunate enough to see two wonderful performances: 1) The King & I with Yul Brenner — why? Well, Yul Brynner!!! I had 2nd-row tickets and he was amazing and gorgeous. 2) Private Lives with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton — just to see those two legends on the stage together was phenomenal.

  7. I grew up in NYC with a mother who, no matter how tough times were – and my dad was a Mad Man, so life was a roller coaster – made sure we had tickets to the NYC Opera and Ballet. I saw all the greats – Beverly Sills, Barishnykov (sp), Allegra Kent. But in terms of theatre, I’d have to say the three times I saw the RSC’s NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. (Again, SP!) I fell in love with it in London, then saw it twice in NYC. I did the all-day version rather than two nights. I wanted to immerse myself. In NY, I became “Nick Nick” groupie. I’d go hang out at Charlie’s or Barrymore’s across the street, where the actors would hang between shows, drinking. They’d literally wander over for the second half of the show about ten minutes before curtain! I got to know Jeffrey Dench pretty well. He told me about his sister, who was also an actress. This was the late 70s. Cut to…

  8. A hard question for sure. Maybe because I love Beauty and the Beast so much, I’m going to go with the first time I saw the stage production of that. It had just started touring, and I believe it was most of the original cast. Loved it. Then again, The Lion King is pretty amazing in person, too.

    And I can’t leave out Glendale Centre Theatre. I talk about them quite a bit, but they truly do have so many great productions.

    1. I’ve seen The Lion King (loved it), but not Beauty and the Beast. Now that I have a granddaughter, I may get a chance to fix that.

  9. My all time favorite is Fiddler on the Roof. I saw in on Broadway with Herschel Bernardi (just missed Zero Mostel) in 1967. I’ve since seen in many times in various venues. Always love it. I also was lucky enough to see the revival of Annie Get Your Gun with Ethel Merman who was much to old for the part, but neat since the show was originally written with her in mind.

      1. She truly was amazing. And remember, I was only 17 at the time, so she really made an impression.

    1. My kids did Annie Get Your Gun in daycare. Even with the book shredded down to the minimum number of line to bridge from song to song for elementary school-aged delivery, it was so politically incorrect–in every direction–it was almost horrifying funny.

      1. I might have a hazy memory, but Annie besting the guy in “I can do it better” struck me as a child as a really woman-strong song. “Can you bake a pie?” “No” “Neither can I!”

  10. Oh goodness, too many. Mary Martin flying in Peter Pan on Broadway in 1954. Nureyev and Fonteyn in Giselle sometime in the 1960s (I swear Nureyev hovered in the air during a grand jetee for half a minute). And, oddly enough, my high school’s 1968 production of Camelot, which left me in tears even though I knew all the stars from my classes.

  11. One of the most memorable for me was seeing the opera Aida outdoors at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. There were 3 kids under the age of eight with us and we got to visit the live animals used in the performance and wander around the set backstage before the performance.

  12. I did see A Chorus Line on Broadway and Ann Miller in Anything Goes. I think the most memorable was Oliver in high school. Mike Hillegas was a better Fagin than the guy in the movie. He and his wife had a local theater company for years.

  13. My favorite live theater performance was seeing James Earl Jones on the Guthrie Theater stage, Minneapolis in mid-1980s. I took my mother when she was visiting. I can’t remember the play right now, but that voice!
    Seeing Topol in Fiddler was great but the best musical had to be at the Flat Rock Playhouse in NC—summer stock, “Singing in the Rain”.

  14. The most amazing theatre experience I ever had was Lee Blessing’s A Walk in the Woods, with David Mamet and Sir John Gielgud. And what amazed me most, was the timing of the two. They sat on a park bench, said absolutely nothing for seconds, didn’t move, and the audience, frozen in place, was also absolutely still. Afraid to move, or even to breath. I have never experienced tension like this, and have been trying for years to recapture it in my writing and in my conducting.

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