STAGE DOOR TALES
Occasional accounts of post-show adventures
Stop me if you’ve heard the one about the theater guy who read a 600 page biography of Alexander Hamilton on vacation and turned it into a hip hop, rap musical that’s knocked the colonial socks off of Broadway audiences. Lin-Manuel Miranda (Tony Award winner for In the Heights) is that guy, and trust me, you definitely want to experience this show. Forget your preconceptions about, well, pretty much everything. To paraphrase a classic musical, which just opened its revival on Broadway, “wonder of wonder; miracle of miracles,” Hamilton is a show for the ages. And, while there might be several historical debates during Hamilton, as Alexander takes on his rivals, there's no debate that this remarkable show turns theater on its head.
I had the really good fortune to see Hamilton twice during its Off Broadway run at The Public Theater (being a member at The Public Theater ensures that you get introduced to certain new shows, such as Fun Home and Hamilton, early on; I highly recommend it!), and then again a few times on Broadway. Considering I spent much of my first viewing picking my jaw off the ground, the second time allowed me to really appreciate the show. This cast, which has stayed relatively intact over the transfer to the Richard Rodgers theater on Broadway, is brimming with talent and personality, and I had not one, but two stage door meet and greets to enjoy. More on that below.
But first, on a related note, one of the unique entertainment events this show has brought to Broadway is a sidewalk, stage door mini-performance during the pre-show lottery for same day tickets. The lottery is known as Ham4Ham because, if you're lucky enough to win, the ticket(s) are only $10. You won't be surprised to learn that over 1000 people have been known to show up for the lottery, so, as A. Ham would say, "don't give away your shot," but don't get your hopes up either!
There isn't a Ham4Ham show every day, generally just a couple of times a week; but Lin-Manuel Miranda will usually tweet about plans early in the week. When there is a lottery show, what will happen for those few minutes is always a surprise: it could be cast members from other Broadway shows joining Lin, Hamilton cast members showing off other talents, or one of the creative team performing. You can read more about the Ham4Ham shows here, enjoy some of the past shows on YouTube (thanks to Howard Sherman, in particular), and watch the video I took during my personal favorite:
Background: Renee Elise Goldsberry (Anjelica Schuyler) and the three actors who have played King George in the show, Brian d'Arcy James, Jonathan Groff and Andrew Rannells
Back to some Hamilton stage door fun, my take aways from the Broadway version: steel yourself for the crowd; and be aware that the cast comes out the door with most starting from their right and working down the barricade, which means that if you can't get close up near the stage door, try moving down towards the end where some may use that space to exit when they're done. If you aren't successful on your first try, and it's really important to you, you might try coming back another day with your Playbill and waiting at the barricade before the show actually lets out. This is a really enthusiastic, very patient cast, and they do their best to get to everyone.
Here's what happens when A. Ham. gets hold of your cell phone:
And then there were the slightly more dignified meet ups with other cast members:
The lovely Phillipa Soo, Eliza Hamilton, originally won my fan loyalty after I saw her star in the Off Broadway production of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (currently running at the American Repertory Theater in Boston, and coming to Broadway with Josh Groban in Fall '16)
Daveed Diggs is the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson as you never knew you wanted them to be.
The second King George, Jonathan Groff, having traded crown for bike helmet.
Though not technically a "stage door" happening for me, the reception after Opening Night of Arena Stage's world premiere of The Blood Quilt by Katori Hall (left), was a wonderful chance to say "thank you so much," to some of the folks who had given me such a great night of theater!
It was a special thrill to get to chat with Katori Hall herself, and tell her how much I loved the story and the relationships she'd built amongst the characters. (By the way, that's Molly Smith, Artistic Director of Arena Stage just behind me!)
I also got a chance to meet up with the two members of the cast (Nikiya Mathis, below left; Afi Bijou, below right) I'd interviewed a couple weeks earlier, and we all squealed with delight over the fact that I now understood so much of what they'd been talking about during our interview! I love these ladies; they're beautiful, talented actors, and I can't wait to see them in whatever they do next!
You know you're in for a wild ride with Neil Patrick Harris, even before the house lights go down in the Belasco Theatre on Broadway. The eerie blue lighting, and richly junky (in all the best ways) set, visible when you enter the theater, immediately evokes an otherworldliness that hints at the fantastical chaos to come.
Then, for 100 minutes, and much to the audience's delight, Neil Patrick Harris holds court as Hedwig, a tragicomic transgender singer/performer, with a penchant for outrageous wigs and elaborate costumes. But underneath the garish glam is a tortured soul; and Harris moves so seamlessly between "anything for a shock" rocker and heartbreaking child-adult, that it took my breath (and heart) away.
And as his "husband," Yitzhak, Lena Hall, is brilliantly, but silently (except when she sings), expressive and supremely convincing in full male drag. I became a huge fan of Lena's when I first saw her in Boston's American Repertory Theater production of Prometheus Bound, in 2011, and again as Nicola in the original cast of the Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots. I make a point of trying not to know too much about the details of a show before I've seen it for the first time, so despite knowing she was in the cast of Hedwig, I stared at her (as him) for a good part of the show not realizing it was her. She and NPH make a fabulous team! The photo immediately below is mine, from the final bows, but below that is an official show photo of Yitzhak during the show from the show's website.
The score includes emotional-release anthems like The Angry Inch, Midnight Radio and Wig in a Box, and quiet, melancholy ballads like Hedwig's Lament, and by the end of the show, the audience seems ready to burst with the emotion of it all. So it was no surprise that the stage door was a tightly wound bunch of fans, pushing against the barricades and wielding battling umbrellas trying to avoid the steady rain that was falling. It seems everyone wanted the chance to let the cast know just how much they loved their performances. And that extended to all the actors that emerged: Hedwig's band is called Tits of Clay, and the band members who came out the stage door were a bit hard to distinguish except by their neon hair. They got hearty applause and cheers, but didn't really stop to sign, knowing the crowd was waiting for Lena and Neil:)).
I was extremely fortunate to be the beneficiary of the kindness of a lovely woman and her mom who were standing in front of me at the front of the barricade, both experienced theater-goers (and stage door attendees :)). I owe them for helping me not get crushed, and for making sure I could get my Playbill signed over their shoulders. But most importantly, they shared their umbrella, and I have an undamaged, signed Playbill thanks to them!
I was so happy to see how enthusiastic the crowd was when Lena Hall emerged, nearly unrecognizable out of costume. Her performance is critical to the success of the show, and the fans clearly got that.
Lena looks quite the "girl next door," in street attire, and it made the transformation in male drag on stage even more impressive!
For his part, Neil is remarkably patient, kind, accommodating and good-natured at the stage door. And after a "scorched earth" performance such as required for Hedwig, his pleasantness was amazing! Someone remarked on how cute his young children are, and he mentioned that it was "home to them" that he was heading, and that he was looking forward to seeing them.
While he didn't do individual photos with fans, Neil was more than happy to have folks take photos while he signed. Given the time of night, the weather and the exhaustion he must have been experiencing, I really think he deserves a great deal of credit for making sure he got to everyone who wanted a Playbill signed (he only signed Playbills from Hedwig, by the way), and there were layers of fans in the crowd on both sides of the door.
Raindrops were now falling directly on my head, but I had a huge smile on my face as I left...thanks to Neil Patrick Harris and all involved in the show, for a great evening, all the way around!
Here's a peek at the show from the Hedwig and the Angry Inch Broadway website:
p.s. You may have heard by now that there's another Playbill you might find near your seat at the show...you'll have to look hard and/or ask an usher to point one out, as they're just scattered on the floor of the theater :).
There are stage doors that I swear I will avoid at all costs. You can probably guess them. Scarlett Johansson. Tom Hanks. Daniel Craig. But despite my oaths, somehow there I end up, shoehorned into the masses at the barricades, shifting from foot to foot, trying to stay amused by eavesdropping on the bits of conversation that are going on around me. And now that I'm trapped, mulling over all the other things I could be doing with these (could be many) minutes (wine hour at the hotel maybe? not having to rush up Broadway to my next show? eating dinner?). To date though, I've yet to regret my last minute instincts that I should wait the wait. And really, how could I not wait, after a show about waiting???
But I had seen the situation with the Two Plays in Rep stage door after I saw the first of the two plays, No Man's Land three days before. I was heading somewhere else that evening, and couldn't have waited anyway, but took note of the already sizable crowd being held in a "pen" away from the stage door, with no indication of how any "meeting and greeting" would happen! "Not for me," I thought, as I hurried away, now even less interested in trying after Godot.
So Sunday, it was back to the theater for Waiting for Godot. I started for my seat, but then noticed a security-badge-wearing gentleman just inside. A question unasked is often one unanswered, so I took a chance and asked if he could explain how the stage door would work, noting what I'd seen after No Man's Land.
Sean, I discovered, is a prince among men, and patiently described how he would handle the crowd exiting the theater and those waiting for the meet & greet. But then, he cemented his place in my heart by telling me to find him at the stage door after the show, and he'd show me where to wait.
And show me he did. He made sure that I was in just the right spot to be in front when the barricades were put in place. I thanked him effusively, and proceeded to marvel as I watched one of the calmest, most organized stage door crowds I've ever experienced. Despite the crowds spilling into the street on both sides, Sean never lost his cool. He never berated the fans, and barely even raised his voice. He made sure each actor went to both sides of the door. Consequently, no one was complaining; everyone seemed to remain patient and excited. I took some photos of the crowd to commemorate how impressed I was by Sean's accomplishment...there were a LOT of people everywhere you looked.
The gift Sean didn't realize he gave me though, was a spot next to a delightful theater lover from Mexico! Maru, who will remain one of my very favorite stage door friends ever, and I began chatting when she asked if I could explain how preview periods for shows work; i.e., whether all shows had them, was anything different about them, etc. I was happy to share what I knew, and it turned out that we were kindred theater spirits, with similar taste in shows, and an appreciation for going solo at shows. Maru makes theater journeys to NYC on her own from her home in Merida, since her husband is not as much of a theater buff. She was visiting friends that night after the show, but would be there several more days, so we discussed shows seen and yet to be seen (I recommended A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder :)). And then Maru told me the story of how she came to have a cookie bakery business in Merida: her American husband loved chocolate chip cookies, and was disappointed at the lack of his favorite treats in Merida. So Maru started baking, and Kukis was born.
Meanwhile, all was well back in the land of Waiting!
Each actor came out separately, and somehow managed to get to the several layers of Playbills on both sides of the door. Because there was only one actor at a time, it reduced the chaos. Colin Critchley, the young actor who played Godot's messenger, was the first out the door, and incredibly poised, enthusiastic and just all around adorable. We chatted a bit about how excited he is to be working with this cast (he was previously an understudy in Kinky Boots). Colin, and the other young actor alternating the role with him, Adian Gemme, were still outside when Billy Crudup (below left) emerged, and it was fun to watch them interact; the shared affection clearly in evidence. Both Billy and Shuler Hensley (below right) were so pleasant, and extra-appreciative if we mentioned that we'd seen both plays (both Maru and I had).
It probably goes without saying that the Sirs, Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart, were so worth waiting for! A huge roar went up from the crowd for each of them, and they too, were happy to chat; not rushing, as they got to the vast majority of those in the crowd. Ian McKellan did pause for a few individual photos with fans, but Patrick Stewart specifically declined. I suspect this was as much a time issue as anything else. From my perspective, that's a generous decision, because so many more of those waiting will get to have their moment, than if the actors have to stop every few inches and pose for photos.
So, in the end, I enjoyed traveling to No Man's Land, and found Waiting for Godot even more entertaining; but Waiting for the Actors, especially thanks to Sean and Maru, was a true treat as well!!
I realize it may be heretical to admit that, in fact, I did not watch Breaking Bad. Never. Not even one episode. To make the situation even more dire, I didn't watch Malcolm in the Middle either. Bottom line? The chance to see Bryan Cranston on stage was not the reason I decided to make the trip to one of my very favorite theaters, American Repertory Theater in Boston, for the new play All the Way, by Robert Schenkkan.
This show is a rare open window through which we see Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, as he prepares for the 1964 presidential campaign against Barry Goldwater. Schenkkan was commissioned to create the work by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and, having a somewhat personal connection to LBJ from growing up in Austin, TX, and with strong memories of the Civil Rights era and Johnson's Great Society, was intrigued to explore this complex man. The campaign of 1964 was critical to LBJ, because he hoped a victory would make him more than the "accidental" president who had been chosen by tragedy rather than the popular vote.
Bryan Cranston, as LBJ, had the Herculean task of making the man, who was often crass and unlikable, but also frequently remarkably insightful and effective, a character you would want to watch for over three hours. Spoiler alert: he succeeds in spades.
LBJ is not the only character in this play, and he is not even the most famous. His sparring partners include Martin Luther King, as they try to maneuver meaningful Civil Rights reforms into place in an uneasy alliance, and J. Edgar Hoover, whose animosity for King, and rising dislike and distrust of LBJ act like a fuse to an already tense situation.
The cast in this show was a dream, and most of the actors played multiple characters. Michael McKean as Hoover and Robert Byrd, and Reed Birney as Hubert Humphrey and Strom Thurmond were particular standouts. Birney's Humphrey and Christpher Liam Moore's Walter Jenkins (LBJ's chief aide) broke my heart several times. I would have loved to thank each of the actors in person, and a few walked by the crowd clearly waiting for Bryan Cranston, but were with friends or family, and after a 3 hour show, seemed understandably anxious to get gone :). And I fully expected that Bryan Cranston would not greet fans after the show. After all, he's in the majority of scenes in that 3 hour span; and this was the fourth show he'd done in two days (there were matinees both Wednesday and Thursday).
My learning from this stage door experience is that sometimes being a lemming, even if you're not sure why the lemmings are doing what they're doing, can pay off. Because I was hesitant about whether I wanted to wait or head straight to the T station, I milled about a bit near where the actors generally emerge at A.R.T. ( to the left of the front entrance near the service/concession/hearing assist device station). I saw a growing number of people seemingly queuing against the wall where the box office windows are located. At first I thought they were all just waiting for friends...or the coat check perhaps? But no one seemed to be going anywhere, and it crossed my mind that maybe they knew something about Bryan Cranston's post-performance habits that I did not. So I drifted into the line and struck up a friendly conversation with a delightful fellow theater junkie, as we agreed to take photos for each other if the opportunity arose.
Sure enough, a gentleman was soon organizing the line, and admonishing us to have our cameras ready to go, with someone on tap to take a photo for us if needed, as Bryan did not have a great deal of time, and wanted to get to everyone. He explained that Bryan would happily sign show programs and tickets only. This is always a safe assumption to make if you're debating whether to bring other memorabilia to the stage door. I have seen many an actor decline (generally very politely) to sign anything other than something from the show itself (Playbill, ticket, poster, souvenir program, etc.).
But rather than just saying "no" to signing any other items, it turns out that Bryan's policy was that he would sign non-show related items only if accompanied by a $100 donation to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington, DC. He knew, we were told, that many of those items would end up for sale down the road, and wanted some of that profit to go to a worthwhile organization. Apparently, the policy was not without its takers, as it had already resulted in $400 for the Center!
When Byan appeared and started greeting the first folks in line, he seemed to have way more energy after his fourth epic performance in 48 hours, than I have on any regular day on which I've done nothing more than go to the grocery store. Very impressive. He was so engaged, laughing and joking as he posed for photos and chatted with fans. When I flubbed the first photo I took for my new friend, he teased me humorously, and patiently posed again (that one turned out well :)). Most of the conversations seemed to be about the show, which I think he appreciated, but he definitely didn't mind hearing that people were fans of his other work too.
I'm still not going to watch Breaking Bad most likely, but I am now an official Bryan Cranston fan, and with All The Way heading for Broadway, I'd urge you to take this opportunity to see a wonderful theatrical look at history.
I often think about what motivates me to go to the stage door after a show; or to wait in the lobby for the actors. It's true that my main motivation is to say a personal thank you to cast members that work so hard to entertain, move, inspire and educate me; and I've talked about that on this site before.
But sometimes, especially with Off Broadway shows, where the "stage door" is much more personal and you're often not separated from the actors by barricades, it can be intimidating to approach and greet an actor when you're a stranger to them. This is especially the case when I'm so impacted by the show, or an individual actor's work, that I'm left without words for a while after.
So, when "Choir Boy" ended, with tears from the cast during the bows, and from the audience members as they filed out, the emotion was high. I felt self-conscious about waiting in the small lobby area, unsure about what I could say to these wonderful actors that would do justice to their performances or my feelings. I spent a few minutes fiddling with my phone, trying to play out a conversation in my mind, and watched people still wiping tears away as they headed up the stairs to the exit. No cast members had emerged yet, so I too headed up the stairs, deciding that maybe this wasn't the time to wait. As I reached the door to the street, it hit me that, while this felt a bit hard for me to do, the feelings I had about the show were exactly the reason I go to the stage door...to not miss the opportunity to let the actors know how much they gave me. I may be one of thousands who tell them that; and it might be routine for some of them. But on the chance that I might be the first stranger to say thank you, and "you moved me," I felt I owed them that. And I really wanted to tell them that I could have listened to their singing for hours! So back down the stairs I went, determined to overcome the shyness I felt.
Sure enough, trusting my instincts didn't fail me (they almost never do :)). I didn't get to talk to all of them, and I wanted to be respectful of their time with the friends and family that were also waiting for greetings (and hugs!). But I was fortunate to meet several of the actors, including my favorite, Jeremy Pope (Pharus, the gay student around whom the action revolves); and the director, Trip Cullman, clearly close to his actors, who told me that I had just seen Chuck Cooper's last performance as the headmaster. So I made sure to mention to Mr. Cooper how lucky I felt to have seen him in the role. Another treat was chatting with Austin Pendleton, the actor who played a teacher who manages to reach the boys' hearts in lasting ways. He was incredibly kind and personal as we talked.
I left immensely happy that I'd chosen to wait, instead of leaving with my thoughts unexpressed. It completed this experience for me in a profound way; and it's why live theatre offers something extra to my heart.
Chuck Cooper (the headmaster; left) and Austin Pendleton (Mr. Pendleton, or Mr. P, as the boys call him)
Jeremy Pope (Pharus), Trip Cullman (director) and Nicholas Ashe (Junior)...Jeremy was very excited to tell me that Trip was around and that I should meet him :). It was fun to see the real friendship and respect among them.
Wallace Shawn (Bobby, the antagonist to Pharus, and the headmaster's nephew); I first met Wallace during the 2011-12 run of the revival of Godspell, in which he played Judas. I thought it must have been a bit tough to play the character that is, arguably, the least sympathetic, but he did a great job!
The lobby posters displaying the headshots of the entire cast:
To say that April 24, 2013 at the Booth Theatre, Opening Night of Bette Midler's solo show, "I'll Eat You Last," (an imagined evening with legendary Hollywood agent, Sue Mengers; Barbra Streisand was one of her first clients), was an explosion of famous faces is an understatement :). When I found an available single ticket in the very last row of the mezzanine for the show's official opening, I grabbed it. I already had a ticket for the following Sunday's matinee, and was in NYC for other shows, so I scrambled to rearrange, and happily went people-watching for the evening :).
My fun was somewhat hindered by the [very!] dogged security personnel of course, but I tried to stay out of their way while gawking. It worked until a few minutes before the show when they aggressively herded everyone other than the Susan Sarandons of the world inside. And while I didn't get any photos in the theater, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor (while trying to appear completely blasé about it all) as I squeezed by Diane Von Furstenberg, Barry Diller, Mario Cantone, Barbara Walters, Harvey Weinstein, Marc Shaiman & Scott Whittman, Ron Meyer & his daughter, Carolina Herrera and most of the folks I saw arriving below.
Actor Martin Short greets Marlo Thomas, who arrived just behind him, and they posed together for the photographers
Ali McGraw, escorted by the show's playwright, John Logan (Tony-winner for "Red," and screenwriter for "Skyfall"). At the time, I didn't know that there's a fairly long, very intimate story about Ali and Steve McQueen in the show. It was a "breaking the fourth wall" moment listening to the story knowing she was sitting in the audience with us. (in the center photo, you can can glimpse Ron Meyer in the brown jacket and his daughter Jennifer with green bag)
Victor Garber greeting a friend at the first of two openings I saw him at that week ("Pippin" was the other; I wrote about that in my previous post).
Author Fran Lebowitz (left) and American composer Adam Guettel (right) facing the phalanx of paparazzi!
There was a reunion of sorts for several of those involved in the 2011 Broadway production of "The Normal Heart" (which starred Joe Mantello, the director of "I'll Eat You Last"):
Ellen Barkin and playwright/director George C. Wolfe
Actress Kelly Lynch and Mitch Glazer
Kinky Boots' writer Harvey Fierstein (also attended "Pippin" opening night the following evening)
I would have had a great photo of Susan Sarandon if she hadn't missed the entrance for the step and repeat, and headed directly into the theater just in front of me as I was also walking in. When they caught her, she turned right around into my face. Slightly too close to pull out the camera :). I will say that she is absolutely beautiful up close!
Bette Midler is such a huge personality on stage, that it was truly shocking to see how physically tiny she is in person! She took her time with everyone at the stage door and, when I mentioned that I could have listened to Sue's stories all night, she said that there were many more that didn't make it into the show...I can only imagine!
And no SUVs or limousines for the Divine Miss M :), her little hybrid awaited her outside the stage door.
By the way, the audience is greeted by this scrim before it rises to reveal an amazing recreation of Sue Mengers' Beverly Hills living room, and it was all deliciously true!
The sign says it all: "Join us".... when you see Pippin, you'll join this quirky, silly, charming, talented cast of performers on the journey to their corner of the sky known as Broadway. They'll make you gasp with delight, both on and off stage.
I loved meeting this cast. When I saw the show initially in Cambridge at A.R.T., my schedule didn't allow me to wait after to say thanks; so for many reasons, I'm happy that the entire cast transferred with the show to NYC...it was like seeing old friends, and I had the chance to let them know how much pleasure their performances brought me!
Diane Paulus, the visionary director of this revival. Although she didn't come down the line to sign, I was thrilled to see her. This is the fourth production of hers that I've seen, and I've been blown away each time by her creative, mind-bending approach to theater!
Patina Miller (Leading Player) was fun to interact with as she was signing. She was patient and personal with as many as possible, taking photos, signing and chatting. I had seen Patina at the Kennedy Center in "First You Dream," a Kander & Ebb revue and mentioned to her how much I enjoyed her performance then, and now. My experience is that it's satisfying for the actors when they hear that folks have seen other, more off-the-beaten track stage performances they've done.
Matthew James Thomas (Pippin) received a rousing cheer of welcome when he emerged from the stage door, and was especially kind and playful with the children waiting. All of the Pippin actors, including Matthew, were willing to take photos with fans, and as you can imagine, he was in high demand :).
Matthew was followed out by Terrence Mann (Pippin's father, the king), who was equally popular with those waiting. He was such fun; talking and joking with everyone. (Look below for photos of his real-life wife and costar, Charlotte d'Amboise.)
Erik Altemus (Lewis; understudy for Pippin) plays the part of Pippin's half-brother with just the right amount of goofy arrogance. I loved his chemistry with everyone on stage, and he was equally charming off stage!
Just a few of the amazing "Players," who do the tricks and stunts as part of the ensemble. Pippin's magic is due in very large part to the talent and charisma of every member of this ensemble.
Extra: Some photos of the Opening Night arrivals on April 25, 2013:
What an exciting evening to see the show!! The thrill of the entire audience was palpable, and that transferred to the actors and back again. It was a bonus to watch some of the opening night arrivals (although not always easy to see over the paparazzi and handlers :)), and see some legends. But the real star of the night was the show! :)
The original "Leading Player," Ben Vereen.
The trio above is Gypsy Snider, responsible for the circus elements; Chet Walker, the choreographer and original collaborator with Bob Fosse; and Diane Paulus, the director (Chet & Diane also pictured above and left)
Producer Fran Heissler (with a very elaborate necklace :)). I saw her several times outside and inside the theater and she was clearly having a wonderful night!!
I really just love stage doors after shows like this, where the audience just kept falling more in love with the show every minute it lasted, and leapt to a standing ovation instantly out of sheer delight at the end! The cast clearly feeds off that enthusiasm, and it continues to the stage door experience as well. Both cast and fans are excited to see each other, and it's fun to watch and be a part of.
The video below gives you a good idea of the infectious glee that comes with this show and this cast.
It was a cold evening and everyone was bundled up, fans and actors alike, but none so fetchingly as Billy Porter, whose hat rivaled the shoes from the show in height :). He was the last one out the stage door (from what I could tell, this was most likely due to an abundance of guests visiting him backstage after the show). The bulky wraps made it difficult to get good photos, but here are Billy Porter and Stark Sands. Stark was so gracious and warm to everyone, taking a long time with each person who wanted a photo or a chat.
Annaleigh Ashford absolutely stole the show the evening I was there! And she could not have been more charming while greeting fans afterwards. I loved her in "Hair" and "Dogfight," and was excited to be able to tell her in person how great she is in this role too!!
Ellyn Marsh (right), a wonderful member of the ensemble (and Broadway vet) having a laugh with a fan.
Celina Carvajal plays Nicola, Charlie's girlfriend, with just the right humourous touch...you can't help but like her, despite the bad "fit" between her and Charlie :). She was lovely at the stage door, and I couldn't figure out why she seemed so familiar to me, until I had a chance to read the Playbill and discovered I'd seen her in the wildly entertaining Diane Paulus production of "Prometheus Bound" at A.R.T. in Boston in 2011.
Such a fun night, and I can't wait to get back to this show and experience the Kinky joy all over again!! Everybody say "YEAH"!
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
Stage Door Tales
Every stage door has a story.