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
If it was possible to order up stage door experiences from a menu, then my meals on Sept 21-22 would be deemed delicious :)!
Jake Gyllenhaal after his performance in "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet," an off Broadway play. He is an incredibly sweet guy; so patient with all the fans (of which there were manymanymany). I commented on how intense the play is and how difficult it must be to perform it 8 times a week, and he said that he was thankful it was only 90 minutes :). He also seemed genuinely appreciative of all the thanks being offered. I think you can tell when reactions become perfunctory, but his was definitely not.
One of Jake's costars is Annie Funke; who gives an achingly poignant and totally fearless performance as the bullied and neglected teenager in this dysfunctional family. I loved her, and loved getting to say thanks in person. My hotel was right across the street from the theatre and she and her party came over to the hotel for drinks after the show. Clearly I have good taste in hotels!
Paul Rudd and Kate Arrington are two of the four actors in "Grace" at the Cort Theatre. It's a dark, twisty roller coaster of a play that left me breathless. I again mentioned to both actors how impossible it seems that they can give these kinds of emotionally draining performances every day (and twice on Wed & Sat!). Paul responded that he was, in fact, exhausted, but loved the play. Kate said she was glad there was no intermission and had just gotten through a run of a show that was over 3 hours long, so this seemed easy in comparison :).
Ed Asner and Michael Shannon were the other two actors, and I got a chance to meet them the next day at the Broadway Flea Market, but on Saturday, in the words of the stage door manager "Michael is getting his hair cut, and Ed's taking a nap" :). Ah, the glamorous backstage life on a two-show day! As I say in my Stage Door Tips, avoid Saturday matinees if you really are anxious to meet a particular actor, as they don't always do the stage door between shows.
In honor of the story, it seems only fitting to post these photos in black and white :).
The "Chaplin" stage door was so much fun! A really nice and jovial stage door manager saw to it that everyone waiting had a great experience and that is always a bonus! More importantly, the cast was just a blast...really happy to interact with all; posing with anyone who asked, chatting as much as you wanted, and hanging around to make sure they'd gotten to each person.
Rob McClure, in particular, is a sweetheart. He took so much time with everyone, and that's impressive considering he is in pretty much every scene of a 2 1/2 hour, physically demanding musical. Count me as a fan for sure.
Rob on the left; Jen Colella (Hedda Hopper) and Wayne Alan Wilcox (Charlie's brother; in the hat) center, and Jen again on the right (it was her birthday that day!).
The young boy who plays Charlie as a child and Jackie Coogan, Zachary Unger, is in the foreground; and the other young boy signing is Ethan Khusidman, who plays a young movie theater usher. Zachary has remarkable poise and personality!
box. Yes, a box...theatre box that is. One of the most unbelievable close-encounter theatre experiences I've ever had did not take place at the stage door, but it made going to the stage door afterwards a moot point.
I was going to NYC to see some shows that were high priority for me and found I had a slot open for an extra show: enter "Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway." I assumed that it would be too late to get a ticket, but there was one available in a right side box, first row. I'd always wanted to sit in a box and figured it wouldn't be a problem for this cabaret-style show to be so far over to the side, where part of the stage would be cut off from my sight line. So I bought it, just happy to be seeing Hugh Jackman in person.
I will say that it's quite atmospheric to enter your seat by stepping through a heavy velvet curtain...I felt a bit special. And I was thrilled that my chair was the one closest to the stage-side of the box with a great bird's eye view over the audience. And the first act was great; Hugh Jackman has a seemingly endless supply of charisma and interacted quite a bit with audience members in the orchestra. While I had a great view, I was a tad disappointed to be up above the action and not down in the thick of it. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Cue intermission and cue my usual 15 minutes of people-watching and daydreaming.
As I peered over the audience, I noticed a family directly below me with fairly young children. It crossed my mind that they seemed the wrong age for the show; not that there was anything inappropriate in the material, just not of great interest to pre-schoolers. The other thing that crossed my mind was that in my fantasy, Hugh Jackman would open the second act by bursting into the box in which I was sitting and serenading the audience from up high...you know, an unexpected, flashy entrance in which I would have an unmatched view :). That's what fantasies are for, right????
Intermission ticked on and I caught sight of official looking theatre personnel with earphones clearing the aisle below me, and realized that Hugh must be entering for Act II down that aisle. Not bad, I thought, I'd have an unobstructed view! And just as I was watching that aisle intently~in an instant~the house lights went down, a spotlight hit me and I heard that big, heavy velvet curtain being swept aside. As my mind tried to process all of this I looked to my left to see Hugh Jackman in head-to-toe gold lamé gesturing to me in a come-hither manner from about 2 feet away and singing some song that I will never ever remember as long as I live. If there was ever a time I could have honestly said "I must be dreaming," and meant it, this was it. Meanwhile, he's singing, coming closer, winking and I'm sinking into my chair as the audience roared. And sure enough, he was serenading the audience from just where I'd dreamt he would...clearly, I should have bought a lottery ticket that day as well...
But it gets better. As he sang and moved around the tiny space that was the box seating, he suddenly sat himself down...in my lap. In.My.Lap. And periodically turning around, directing some patter to me and sticking the microphone in my gobsmacked face...while I sputtered, turned every shade of embarrassment in the spectrum and just gaped. He stood up to sing some more...and then...sat back down in my lap. This time, he shifted around to get comfortable and asked (into the microphone) if he was "too heavy" for me....and stuck the microphone back in my face...at that moment I was just trying to figure out where to put my hands...I mean, seriously, where DO you put your hands when Hugh Jackman is sitting in your lap and 800 people are watching??? On his shoulders? On his waist? I settled for the shoulders. Anyway, the only thing that came out of my mouth in answer to his question was "um, no, you're good!" Audience got a kick out of that; I suspect because I sounded completely shell-shocked by the whole thing....because I was indeed shell-shocked , or Hugh-shocked I should say.
Eventually, after what seemed like hours (but was, in reality, probably about 10 minutes), he disappeared from the box as quickly as he'd arrived, leaving me completely unable to concentrate on anything else that happened in the show. Oh, except this: remember the family with the young children that I'd noticed during intermission? Yeah, it was Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain and his group.
As I've always said (ok, not "always," just now), if you're going to have the experience of a lifetime, and publicly embarrass yourself at the same time...definitely do it while a world leader is watching. It just adds to the fun!
Stage Door Tales
Every stage door has a story.