Again and again - the art of seeing a show multiple times.

From the very beginning of my time at college, I've made it a habit to call my parents every Sunday. And lately, the conversation always ends up leading in the same direction, which goes something like this:

Mom: So, what do you have coming up this week?
Me: Well...we're going to New York again on Friday/Saturday/Sunday/DEFINITELY NOT Wednesday.
Mom: What are you seeing this time?

My answer to this question almost always consists of the same answers. It seems that Hillary and I can never make a trip to the city that doesn't include Next to Normal. Hair is another favorite. Once Catch Me If You Can opens, I'm pretty sure that it will become another staple. (And by "pretty sure," I mean "187.63% positive.")

Don't get me wrong - there are many, many shows currently running on Broadway that I'd love to see. I've never seen Wicked in New York, and now that Mandy Gonzalez is defying gravity as the production's newest Elphaba, I'd love to catch her in the show. I've heard great things about Memphis. The Addams Family has an incredible cast, and while reviews thus far haven't been outstanding, Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth, Wesley Taylor, and Krysta Rodriguez are enough to override the quality of the show. And it almost seems that Avenue Q's move off-Broadway was a sign that I should finally see one of 2003's biggest hits.

And then there are plays. One of my New Year's resolutions for 2010 was to expand my repertoire into the arena of straight plays. I would love to see Next Fall, which seems to have gotten fantastic reviews across the board. And down the road, I think I'll be kicking myself for skipping Hamlet (and not just for Jude Law...although he would have been a nice bonus).

But the thing is, when you fall head over heels in love with something, or someone, you want to spend as much time as possible with that thing, or person, right?

When I fall for a show, I want to go back - to see what I missed the first (or second, or third) time around, to pay attention to the smaller details (a spreadsheet outlining the use of colors in Next to Normal...I mean, what?), to see how interpretations of certain characters change over time. And the appeal of catching that understudy you've wanted to see since forever is, well, enough to cause spontaneous decisions, and something we've already covered in previous posts.

But even if all of those things are ignored, theater is always changing, every night. And that's why we love it. According to Hillary, "It's like that song from Pocohantas: "the thing I love most about rivers is, you can't step in the same river twice; the water's always changing always flowing" except for theater. I don't know if that makes sense, but it's a metaphor, and metaphors are important. So there." (I can't say I am familiar with the song, but I do agree with the metaphor.)

The top three shows on my "most seen" list are, in order, Spring Awakening, Next to Normal, and Hair. Added together, I have seen these three shows 28 times. (No, you don't get the individual breakdown of numbers...that would be embarrassing.) Some might call that ridiculous. But the thing is, I could tell you details from nearly every single performance. I could tell you about the very first time I saw Spring Awakening, on Broadway, and the feeling I had as I put my coat into the locker and walked to my seat on-stage in BB5, next to Jenna Ushkowitz, who was a swing that day because Eryn Murman was on for Martha. I could tell you about my sixth trip to Next to Normal, when I made a solo visit to the Booth to see Aaron Tveit as Gabe one last time, and ended up sitting in the front row of the mezzanine for the second act. I could tell you about my second time at Hair, when Hillary and I were lucky enough to get in, thanks to a friend's lotto luck, see Jackie Burns as Sheila, and laugh when Will Swenson accidentally called Gavin Creel by his first name instead of Claude.

Seeing the same show over and over again is definitely not for everyone. When I took my mother to see Spring Awakening on tour last May, she told me afterwards that she understood my love for the show, but not my uncontrollable impulse to see it time after time after time.

But for me, creating a love affair with a show requires going beyond love at first sight, the initial giddiness I get after seeing a show that I know is going to change my life, and returning to forge a deeper and stronger bond with the characters, lyrics, score, and overall experience of being inside the theater.

So the next time I set foot in the Booth, the Hirschfeld, or any theater where Spring Awakening is playing, it won't be because I want to top some mythical record, or because I don't want to put a whole lot of thought into what I'm about to see. Instead, I will fondly remember all the times before, and prepare myself to add another incredible experience to the list.

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