No matter how many cast albums fill your Spotify playlists, how many times you’ve basked in the glowing lights of Broadway or how many stage doors you’ve stood in front of waving a copy of Playbill, you’ll never forget your first Broadway musical.
The first musical I ever saw on Broadway was “Wicked,” which my mom bought tickets for me to see after months and months of me belting out “Defy Gravity” in the car, shower, living room, front yard, kitchen, grocery store…well, you get the gist.
“Wicked” was my gateway musical, the one that took me from someone who liked catching a community theater production of “Guys and Dolls” with my grandma to a full-blown theater aficionado determined to memorize every line, lyric, and piece of trivia I could.
However, like so many others, the experience of actually seeing a Broadway show for the first time is one I’ll never forget — here’s why:
New York City is a wonder to behold for any theater-obsessed Broadway newbie. There’s something so thrilling about wandering around the gritty, noisy streets of Time Square and gazing up at the dazzling marquees boasting the names of the shows and actors you’ve only been able to enjoy through your headphones and computer screen. Of course, all this exploring will fill you with an insatiable desire to dish out cash to see every single one of them, but knowing there’s a ticket tucked in your pocket that will let you experience at least one is enough — for now.
Whether you’re in the front row of the orchestra or tucked all the way in the nosebleed seats, those seemingly miserable minutes spent mentally begging the lights to dim are actually some of the most memorable. These minutes are best spent thumbing through your Playbill program to see the names you recognize, running your finger down the list of songs, and devouring all the credits and notes from the director. The waiting is tough but absolutely worth it.
From the moment the first note of your first Broadway musical is played, it’s very clear that this is not your high school pit orchestra. Even if you know every note by heart, it somehow feels like you’re really hearing it for the first time. The slight nuances and subtle changes from the album you know and love — an unexpected riff, an ambitious option-up, a reprise not featured on the album — is enough to take you aback and make you fall in love all over again.
Beyond the overwhelming music, sets, and lights, there’s something amazing about putting all those little puzzle pieces of a show together and finally seeing it as a cohesive production. Small asides finally make sense, musical shifts are accompanied by complementary lights, and a piece of information is revealed that changes the entire way you see the show. I didn’t know I could still be shocked until I saw “Wicked Witch of the East” performed for the first time and my entire perception shifted.
It wouldn’t be a Broadway show without a triple-threat onstage completely knocking your socks off. No matter if you’re watching a superstar you’ve followed for years or someone just getting their big break, Broadway shows have some of the most talented people strutting their stuff — and your first one sets the stage for all others to follow.
It’s nearly impossible to leave your first Broadway show without making one (or two) pit stops at the souvenir stands in the lobby. After all, when’s the next time you can drop all your savings on musical-themed sweatshirts, jewelry, sheet music, mugs or posters? This first show is the start of your bedroom inevitably turning into a show tune shrine.
Even though most shows run less than three hours, they leave memories that last. I might not exactly remember every note or line, but I certainly remember the feeling in my chest when the orchestra first launched into “No One Mourns the Wicked” or the fact that I spent all of intermission embarrassingly sobbing to myself after “Defy Gravity.” In the end, that’s what theater is all about — how it makes you feel, how it becomes a part of you.
For any Broadway nerd, your first show can be mind-boggling, emotional and worth every penny. And, if you’re lucky, that first one will set the stage for a lifelong love of theater and encourage you to attend your second, your third — and so on and so forth.