If only that time machine from "Back To The Future" was real.

How many moments have you wished that you could go back in time? More importantly, how many times have you wished you could go back in time solely for the purpose of seeing a show that came and went before your time?

.....Bueller? .....Bueller?

It just so happens that Hillary and I play this game quite a lot. I mean, in a perfect world where time could suspend itself, money grew on trees, and schoolwork completed itself, we'd spend every waking moment expanding our show-going repertoires. And although more than a few shows over the past few seasons have opened and closed before we could see them, we may or may not be more devastated in some cases that, for example, we never saw the original production of A Chorus Line....because it opened in 1975 and we weren't born yet. Bummer. Or the original cast of Spring Awakening - because while I did everything I possibly could to convince Mom to take 17-year-old me on a 400-mile trip across the country (literally, there were spreadsheets involved), it just wasn't in the cards.

On the occasion of a light homework night, I thought it'd be fun to give our readers a little break from reading about the shows we've seen by reading about...well, the shows we wish we'd have seen. You know, if we'd lived in closer proximity to New York during our formative infantile years. Or met each other earlier. Or...been alive.

1. The Last Five Years. This show, okay...this show. Since a two-month off-Broadway run in 2002, Jason Robert Brown's one-act creation has become a staple of regional theaters, underground-theater lovers, and cabarets. While JRB can certainly be viewed as the forerunner of composers like Kerrigan  and Lowdermilk and Adam Gwon, the style and approach he takes in crafting a complete show is unmistakable. (See also: ParadeSongs For A New World, and 13.) TL5Y features just two characters, Jamie and Cathy, two 20-somethings who fall in and out of love over a period of five years. The cool part? Jamie tells his side of the story from beginning to end, and Cathy tells her side of the story from end to beginning, with the couple's stories overlapping just once in the middle. The way the relationship's painful end is placed in direct juxtaposition with the carefree anticipation of its beginning is complex and delicate and honest and beautiful and just plain different from any other musical we've ever heard of. Not to mention that the show's themes will always be universally relevant (except for that Borders' reference in "A Summer in Ohio"...poor Borders); it's intriguing to think that the show, minus a few name changes and minor details, could work just as well with a same-sex couple.

JRB's lyrical and compositional style is unlike most modern-day Broadway scores, and rises above many of them - he seems to live by the "show, don't tell" mantra, and  every single word and note has a purpose. I mean, who else would think to rhyme "mahvelous" with "novelist," or "Klimovich" with "limb-o-vich"? And in the midst of a countless number of cast recordings, JRB's intricate string and piano arrangements in this show are some of the most gorgeous we've ever heard. The ebb and flow of the violins in "The Next Ten Minutes"? The staccato transition from "If I Didn't Believe In You" to "I Can Do Better Than That"? "Nobody Needs To Know" in its entirety, but especially when the chimes kick in at the middle section? Guh.

Also, we love Norbert Leo Butz, we love Sherie Rene Scott, and we love JRB. The only thing we'd love even more? A REVIVAL. As previously mentioned, any time these three want to put on a benefit concert of the show, we are so there. In the meantime, though, we love to dream-cast a multitude of our favorite actors in the roles of Jamie and Cathy. So many exciting possibilities that will most likely never happen. But hey, a girl can dream, right?

2. The original Broadway cast of Rent. Is there even a question why this holds a top spot on our list? The first conversation Hillary and I ever had may or may not have concerned our mutual love for Idina Menzel. We've waxed poetic about Jonathan Larson's work before. And as much as we adore each production that we have seen, Rent, we can only assume, must be one of the best examples of an original cast that exuded an irreplaceable and almost magical quality. When the revival currently playing at New World Stages opened last month, we respected Ben Brantley's review, but at the same time wondered how he could devote so much of his critique to comparing the production to the original. When it moved into the Nederlander Theatre in 1996, Rent became a cultural phenomenon almost instantly; given the circumstances surrounding its opening and the bond that both Mr. Larson's work and passing created amongst the cast, it's unlikely that any other incarnation would be able to attain that same level of emotion and catharsis. And while we questioned whether it was fair of Mr. Brantley to make a comparison that, to us, seemed impossible to live up to, that same logic is precisely why we'd give anything to experience the show with its original cast, and nearly all of whom have gone on to become stars in their own right.

3. [title of show]. Another fairly short-lived show, only one act long but by no means lacking in wit, hilarity, honesty, and heart. And inside theater jokes flying left and right. Read: the kind of thing that Hillary and I love the most. The long-awaited chance to see a production of [tos] at George Street Playhouse earlier this year turned us into official [tos]sers, and while the cast was SO wonderful and we had an absolute ball, there was one small thing we couldn't quite deny. See, [title of show] tells the story of four people, trying to write a musical about writing a musical, and chronicles the show's successes and failures on its way to Broadway. It's literally a microcosm of itself. [tos]'s creators and original cast members - Jeff, Hunter, Heidi, and Susan - are literally the characters in the show. Literally. These four goofballs (a term we only use in the most endearing, we-love-you-and-worship-everything-you-do way possible) are the real deal, and we wish dearly that we could have been part of it all. But, we thank our lucky stars every day that the four reunited this summer for 1) an episode of Side By Side with Susan Blackwell, 2) a theatri-concert of their newest collaboration, Now.Here.This. (which Hillary was privileged to see and informed me that it was quite close to life-changing), and that....*drum roll*... 3) said collaboration will be produced as a full production by off-Broadway's Vineyard Theatre in March 2012!!! Eek. Normally, it seems, our favorite theatrical co-conspirators will create something so amazingly awesome...and then never have the chance to work together again. So this is a pretty frickin' sweet cause for celebration. They're smart, they're hilarious, and they'd rather be nine people's favorite thing than a hundred peoples' ninth favorite thing. And for that, we love them.

Honorable mentions go out to:

- The Story of My Life. Who isn't intrigued by an intimate Broadway show that closed after only 18 previews and 5 regular performances, especially when it starred Will Chase and Malcolm Gets, playing two boyhood friends? Interestingly enough, the show is another one-act-er...we're seeing a pattern here. Thankfully, Neil Bartram's nostalgic score was preserved on a cast recording, and it's certainly worth a listen. The orchestrations are fantastic. I only wish that I'd been able to watch the dialog, and the show's one big catch, played out onstage before figuring it out from the OCR myself.

- Ragtime. While we can lamentably use our youth and distance from New York as an excuse for missing the original production, which featured Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, Audra McDonald, and a young Lea Michele (yes, all of them...in the same show...our point exactly), we have no excuse whatsoever for omitting the short-lived 2009 revival from our schedule.

- And finally, Gypsy. The Patti LuPone/Laura Benanti version. No explanation needed.


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