I said it. I said "I'm never going to try the stage door after "Lucky Guy." It'll be complete chaos, and there's no way I'll get close enough to see anything!" But it seems as if every time I swear I'm going to avoid the craziest of the stage doors, there I am. Al Pacino? Scarlett Johansson? Alan Rickman? Liev Schreiber? Patti LuPone? Kristin Chenoweth? Yep, there I was. And despite the numerous times I've thought (and been right!) "why exactly am I standing here? I must be crazy!," I've honestly never regretted any of it.
The surprising thing about stage doors on Broadway is that the crowds I have encountered after wonderful shows with not one "big" name actor in the cast have often been just as frenetic as those with the "superstar" lead. To me, that's part of the magic of live theatre. The connection an audience can feel to the actors when the chemistry is right (story, music, performances, etc.), can be immediately shared (and returned) with the cast after the show. I especially love hearing the actors thank the crowd for being a particularly good audience that day. This was true for shows like "Godspell," "Hair," "Chaplin" and "The Normal Heart," for example. Those were such passionate crowds at the stage doors, and it felt like an extension of the show itself. Some people don't go to the stage door because they don't want to take themselves out of the magic of the show itself. I always thought it would be that way for me, but what I've found is that I love sharing the excitement of the other fans and the actors after the show because it cements my love for the unique nature of this art.
Being of short stature is always a liability at a crowded stage door though. I'm ever so grateful to fellow "waiters" who make room for me or switch places so I can see! I had an aisle seat at "Lucky Guy" and was able to make it out of the theatre pretty quickly. Shockingly (to me anyway), there were spots on both sides of the door at the front of the barricades. I went to the emptier one on one side without realizing in my rush that I'd made exactly the wrong choice. Not only was the weather miserable (icy rain) and I'd chosen the side not under the awning, but the stage door opened the other direction, meaning that some of the actors went down the side directly to their left when they exited, and didn't come back to do the other side. Lesson learned. This is generally only really a problem with big crowds like this, I've found. When a show features a huge star, I've seen the lesser-known actors just head out without stopping, thinking that the crowd is only interested in that star. I talked about this at the "Glengarry Glen Ross" stage door, where Jeremy Shamos wasn't stopped in time. In this case, that meant I missed getting to thank Richard Masur, who I love and was thrilled to see on stage. Had I been on the other side, it would have been a better possibility. But there was so much noise, that it was difficult for the actors to hear people calling out their names.
The photo below gives you an idea of the atmosphere at the stage door when Tom Hanks made his exit/entrance :). And that's only one side of the door! The other side was just as crazy. I had an umbrella that I was sharing with the person beside me, but I felt badly that the umbrellas in front did block the view of some in the back. I would have eschewed the umbrella but it was just too wet and uncomfortable, unfortunately.
One of the earlier actors out though, was Deirdre Lovejoy, who played the only female newsroom characters in the show, and she was delightful. She chatted with everyone, and thanked us for waiting in the bad weather. She did do both sides of the door and stayed a while. But to give you an idea of the difficulty of balancing umbrella, Playbill, phone/camera...this was the best photo I could get of Deirdre while she signed for us. This would be why I generally concentrate on having the moment with the actor, rather than worrying about photos :). It's always nice when one turns out though! Sorry Deirdre!
Probably next to Tom Hanks, the actor who elicted the most enthusiastic response was Christopher MacDonald. He clearly enjoyed the crowd and the feeling was definitely mutual. He went up and down both sides of the door, signing and taking photos with everyone who asked.
For me though, my favorite of the non-Tom Hanks variety :), was his beloved former "Bosom Buddy," Peter Scolari. He is such a gentle, kind soul, and spent time with each person along the row. I loved getting to chat with him briefly. He has a wonderful smile!
After seeing that some of the actors only signed for one side of the crowd, we asked the very, very nice stage door manager about Tom Hanks' routine, and he told us that Tom generally did go down one side and come over to the other, so we were hopeful. Damp and cold, but hopeful. And he did just that. He's funny and warm and somehow got to many more people than I would have thought possible. It was neat to make eye contact and exchange a few words with him, and somehow, in the midst of being overwhelmed that I was that close to TOM HANKS!! :), I got these (perhaps a bit too close up :) photos as mementos!
The crowd waited a while after Tom left to see if Courtney B. Vance and Maura Tierney would come out to sign, but it was announced they'd already left through another exit. And I should say that the walk back to the hotel was one of the most miserable ever. It was just nasty, cold sleet and the streets were massive puddles. But believe me, this "lucky girl" was smiling still!
For my brief thoughts on the show look here: Stage Right...Now March '13
New musicals are always cause for excitement. Revivals are wonderful treats as well, but without the new, there won't be treasures to revive later! I was certainly intrigued by the transformation of the successful documentary "Hands on a Hard Body" into a stage musical; how would they take a story of ten people trying to win a truck by keeping at least one hand on the truck at all times and outlasting all the others ? The choreography with the massive, bright red truck is so inventive, and I loved hearing each of the poignant stories told by these talented actors. One of the best things though, was getting to see the excitement of the cast at the stage door after the show. I think for any show, but a new musical especially, there's always apprehension about how it will be received, and having enthusiastic audience members waiting to congratulate you must be gratifying!
Every one of the actors who came out was warm, friendly and appreciative. There was no barricade set up, so it was just a lot of milling about trying to catch a moment with each of the actors. There's always a challenge at the stage door, especially when there's no organized "signing line," to keep your eye out for any of the actors you wanted to meet in particular, without being rude to the actor who is signing for you at the moment. I would never want a less well known actor to think I wasn't just as grateful for his/her time and performance as I was for the better known actor emerging just after! The milling crowd also makes it much more difficult to get decent photos, but the fun remains :)! And although I didn't get a photo of Keala Settle ("Norma," the evangelical Christian relying on a Higher Power for stamina), she gladly signed Playbills and chatted with everyone. I loved her in "Priscilla Queen of the Desert," and she is a scene-stealer here, receiving one of those seemingly endless laughs from the audience at one point in the show.
Another actor I loved in the show and enjoyed meeting at the stage door was Jacob Ming-Trent, the endlessly hungry and supportive to all "Ronald." This was another photo that was just too hard to get, but he might have one of the best smiles in the business! :)
One of the charming things that happened at this stage door was that Dale Soules ("Janis"), was having everyone who asked her to sign their Playbill, sign a little keepsake book of her own. This is the second show I've seen her in ("Hair" was the other), and, along with Allison Case (also from "Hair") and Jay A. Johnson ("Working"), it was great to experience these wonderful performers in such different roles!
Here's a taste of the show courtesy of the show website:
Hunter Foster is the brother of another wildly talented actor, Sutton Foster (recently of "Anything Goes," and the ABC Family show "Bunheads"), and recently guest-starred on her TV show as her fictional brother :). In this show, he plays "Benny," the combative, repeat contestant, and previous winner, eliciting resentment from most of his fellow contestants. The character's story is central to the theme of "holding on" to what's important in life, and he is, arguably, the hardest to root for, but I thought he did a great job in keeping his story intriguing and meaningful despite the hard edges.
Keith Carradine, as "JD," partners with Benny to make it through the grueling contest. The love story with his long-suffering wife, played by Mary Gordon Murray, is a big part of the heart of the show.
Dale Soulis is "Janis," who with her loving husband (William Youmans) cheering her on, fights hard to better their life but knows what's really important. You can see her "autograph book" being signed by a fan on the right while she signs their Playbill.
I just love Connie Ray, and her hilarious turn as "Cindy," the dealership rep trying to rein in the craziness into which the contest is spiraling. I welcomed the chance to tell her how much I also enjoyed her in the 2010 play "Next Fall," and we bonded over being left-handed!
Stage Door Tales
Every stage door has a story.