Leadership / 06.09.20
INTIX Members’ Broadway Memories Are Proof of Theatre Magic
“The show must go on” has always been a rule of live entertainment. But when the pandemic hit in mid-March, stages on Broadway went dark, and then the 74th annual Tony Awards, originally set to air on June 7, were canceled.
As we long for the glamor of live theatre and patiently wait for venue doors to safely reopen, INTIX Access is taking a page from “Cats” and the showstopper song, “Memory.”
Indeed, we “can smile at the old days” and “let the memory live again” just as Grizabella so famously sang — and that’s exactly what we are doing here as INTIX members reflect on their most beloved memories of Broadway and live theatre.
“The first date my wife, Amanda, and I went on was to see ‘South Pacific’ presented by Dallas Summer Musicals featuring John Cullum and Jodi Benson, the voice of ‘The Little Mermaid.’ It was also the first time either of us had attended a touring Broadway production, and we sat in C-BALC/E/1-2,” shares Shayne Ballard, Director of Ticket Operations for the Dallas Mavericks. “That night was the beginning of two love affairs; next month my wife and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and we have dozens, if not hundreds, of Playbills from all the different touring and NYC Broadway shows we have seen over those 20 years. The ironic part of our first date being at Dallas Summer Musicals is that, unknown to me at the time, several year later, I would begin my first ticketing job there.”
Ballard continues, “Our first trip to New York City to see a show was six years ago for my wife’s 40th birthday, and it was amazing. The first show we saw was ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,’ which went on to win the Tony that year. We also were there for the opening night of ‘If/Then’ starring Idina Menzel. She was amazing; the show was not.”
It’s clear that the Ballards love theatre, and their daughter has been raised around it, too, which is not surprising considering that Shayne worked for a touring Broadway presenter.
“Breanna’s first show was ‘The Phantom of the Opera,’ and she has been in love since,” he says. “It has been such a pleasure to have that as part of her life. Two years ago, she got to see ‘Frozen’ as her first show in New York City, and she got to experience for herself that even though the touring shows are amazing, there is nothing like seeing them in NYC. Disney magic was definitely in the air that night, including getting autographs at the stage door and taking her picture with Jelani Alladin.”
Jelani Alladin, who made his Broadway debut as Kristoff in Frozen, with Breanna.
As we expected, Ballard is just one INTIX member and theatre fan who had a difficult time picking a single favorite memory.
“We have seen so many great shows and tremendous performances over the years,” Ballard says. “Some of our all-time favorites that I haven’t mentioned yet include Bette Midler in ‘Holly Dolly,’ Glenn Close in ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (and Robert Redford was in the audience), ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,’ ‘Hamilton,’ of course, and so many more. Theatre magic brings joy, which is something we could definitely use right now.”
Barrett Newman, a long-time INTIX member and part of TROIKA Entertainment’s general management team, has some magical memories of his own from his high school years.
“Two buddies and I would regularly take the commuter train to New York City, sometimes overnighting at the Milford Plaza, now transformed into the Row Hotel, and use ‘two-fers’ or hit up the TKTS booth,” he fondly recalls. Those early-’80s sellers, says Neman, “weren’t the friendly sort of today.”
He continues, “We also saw a fair number of only act twos. We’d slip in free after intermission by walking in backwards, holding a folded Playbill from any show, and then going directly up to the balcony to find easy open seats. I’ll assume the statute of limitations has gone by for that type of trespassing.”
Recently, with his unexpected extra time at home, Newman has started some “mild sorting of past Playbills, enjoying the memory of the old fonts, discontinued editorial columns and even the full-page cigarette ads.”
Cherished theatre memories for Andrea Flowers, National Account Manager at Microcom Corp., go back even further.
“Honestly, one of my most favorite memories of all time is going to see ‘A Chorus Line’ with my father at the Palace Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. I think I was around 8 or 9 years old,” she says. “I remember watching all these amazing singers and dancers and being completely overwhelmed with awe. I turned to my father and said, “That is going to be me one day; you will see me up on that stage.”
Andrea and her Father in the ’90s, when their tradition was to go to lunch and see a show.
“Years later,” Flowers says, “I did get to perform on that very same stage with my father in the audience, and it was one of my proudest moments.”
Flowers, in a blue ruffled shirt, performs as her father watches from the audience.
Maureen Andersen, President and CEO of INTIX, shared a similar tradition with her father.
“I had seen many Broadway shows on the road in Denver because my dad and I had season tickets together for Saturday matinees for decades. He took me to my first — yes, I begged — which was ‘South Pacific’ with Jane Powell and Howard Keel. I knew then that I’d gone to theatre heaven,” she says.
Fast forward to August 1983 and Andersen’s first trip to New York City. She drove in from Princeton Junction with her friend Clay, who worked in the ticket office at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre. It was Wednesday matinee day and ‘CATS’ had recently opened at the Winter Garden, but they couldn’t get tickets.
“We strolled over to the Palace Theatre where ‘La Cage aux Folles’ was in preview,” Andersen says. “With all the naiveté and confidence of a box office kid from the sticks, I sauntered up to the window and said, ‘two tickets for the matinee please.’ The ticket guy looked at me, looked up at the rack, looked at me again, and reached up and brought down two tickets. I started writing travelers cheques until he said, ‘Stop, that’s enough.’ I rushed out of the theatre to Clay and waving them excitedly. I hadn’t even looked at the tickets until then. That wonderful ticket guy at the Palace had sold me his held house seats, and I skipped down to my fabulous fifth row on the aisle orchestra seats for one of the most wonderful Jerry Herman musicals ever written. I laughed, and boy did I cry. I learned that day that ticket people have great power to make magic happen, and that wonderful IATSE local ticketing pro changed my life!”
Andersen continues, “There are others on Broadway and on the road — Hugh Jackman in ‘The Boy from Oz’; Alan Cummings and Natasha Richardson in ‘Cabaret’; Elaine Stritch at the ‘Café Carlyle’; Patti LuPone in ‘Gypsy’; Tyne Daly in anything and everything; the original cast of ‘Ragtime’ in Toronto; Glenn Close in ‘Sunset Boulevard’; and, Kristen Chenoweth in ‘On the Twentieth Century’ — but that first joy will always stick with me.”
Family also plays a big role in the Broadway memories of Danny Frank, Citi’s Senior Vice President and Global Manager of Client Entertainment and Ticket Services (CEATS).
“How does a sports fanatic have special Broadway memories? Come on, can’t a guy have diverse tastes in entertainment? I never envisioned that I would ever be living in New York, forget being here 21 years. But in that time, I have come to realize how special and how important of a fabric Broadway is to the culture and makeup of New York,” says Danny, who has many memories of incredible shows but shares three of his favorites.
“Back in 1996, I had been dating the person who would become my wife; we were going to visit her parents in New York and wanted to take them to see a show. The hottest show at the time was ‘RENT,’ which had opened earlier in the year. But how to get tickets? Hmmm, just open up the BOMI (now INTIX) membership directory — and yes, they used to have them back in the day — see who the treasurer for the theatre is, and cold call to see if they can help,” Danny says. “Of course, with the Ticket Tribe being what we are, I made a connection, was able to purchase four house seats and we saw an amazing show. Nicole Simpson’s parents were even in the audience that night, so we had a celebrity sighting. The show turned out to be one that we ended up seeing over 10 times and “I’ll Cover You” was the song of our first dance at our wedding.”
Danny continues, “Fast forward to when our daughter was 8. What to do for a special birthday for a kid who had never been to Broadway show? With the help of my friends at Disney on Broadway, we bought four tickets to see ‘Lion King.’ I got home from work early that day and took her to get her hair done. When we were ready to go, we didn’t get in our car, but we had arranged for a full stretch limo to take us. We picked up her grandmother, met my wife in the city at a restaurant and had a first-class experience seeing the show. She was hooked.”
Since that time, Danny and his wife Susan have taken Rachel to at least one or two shows a year.
“A few years ago, at the end of the summer, we surprised Rachel with tickets to see ‘Hamilton.’ Susan and I had been fortunate to see the original cast about a month before they all left — yes, with Lin-Manuel Miranda — and Rachel knew every word of the show. She was not happy that we didn’t take her. We kept telling her we couldn’t get tickets. The week before school started, somehow tickets magically appeared. I’ll never forget the look of excitement on Rachel’s face when she opened the envelope. She went, she cried and she sang every word along with every actor and actress.”
While Danny knows the song “Memory” is from ‘CATS,’ he says being able to share these special times are moments that he, Susan and Rachel will never forget. “All three of us look forward to when the bright lights are back shining and the theatres are open again. You can bet, we will be there again, supporting the arts and creating new memories!”
Like Andersen, David Cushing, VP of Ticketing for BroadwaySF, has a transformative theatre memory. “Seeing Tony Kushner’s premiere engagement of ‘Angels in America’ at San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre in 1991 changed my life. This was theatre. So, years later when I heard Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori were working on a new musical, my curiosity was piqued. Tony Kushner? Musical? Really? C’mon.”
Cushing continues, “My opportunity to see ‘Caroline, or Change,’ directed by George C. Wolfe, arose when I attended the 2004 Spring Road Conference. Once the curtain rose, I was captivated for the next two-and-a-half hours. Actors portraying a washing machine, a dryer, a radio, a bus, the moon was just fine by me. The performances were sheer brilliance — Tonya Pinkins, Anika Noni Rose, Veanne Cox, Chuck Cooper, Capathia Jenkins, Aisha de Haas, David Costabile and the Supremes-inspired radio trio of Tracy Nicole Chapman, Marva Hicks and Ramona Keller. This through-composed musical with wildly different styles of music and the story of a black maid working for a Jewish family in 1963 Lake Charles, Louisiana, is ripe for history and resonated with this mid-century Tennessee boy.”
In 2005, BroadwaySF (then SHN) presented ‘Caroline, or Change’ at the Curran Theatre with the Broadway cast largely intact. Cushing saw it eight more times.
“The Roundabout is scheduled to present the 2019 London revival, originally scheduled for April and now this fall, fingers crossed), with Sharon D. Clarke and Samantha Williams recreating their roles. My suggestion,” says Cushing, “don’t miss it.”
(L-R) Capathia Jenkins, Ramona Keller, Tracy Nicole Chapman, Marva Hicks and (foreground) Tonya Pinkins in ‘Caroline, or Change.’ Photo by Craig Schwartz.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” says Harmony McGivney, Box Office Manager for Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, of the 2020 Tonys being replaced by a Grease Sing-A-Long. “My entire career is based around 600+ people coming together and watching magic happen on stage. Currently, that is not safe or possible.”
Like Flowers, McGivney was a theatre kid. The first musical she saw on Broadway was ‘Kiss Me Kate’ with a theatre camp she was attending.
“I was immediately hooked and knew Broadway had to be at the epicenter of my life,” McGivney says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to create a life in New York City in which theatre is a constant. I even made my Broadway debut while working a benefit for The Actors Fund. Through countless opportunities, there is one that really left an impact.”
McGivney continues, “I first heard of ‘Come From Away’ from my father who attended a staged reading of the show at The Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut. He raved about the impactful story and told me to keep a lookout for when it came to Broadway. About a year later, I was thrilled to attend The Actor’s Fund Special Performance of ‘Come From Away.’ The energy in The Schoenfeld Theatre was palpable. We were all excited, yet slightly on edge. You cannot present a piece of theatrical material centered around 9/11 on Broadway without evoking intense emotion. I attended the performance solo, so I was intently aware of the theatregoers around me. I smiled at the woman I was sitting next to as I settled in my seat. I noticed she was gently wiping away tears throughout the one act musical. ‘Come From Away’ is a 90 minute tour de force that takes you on a journey of strength, fear and the importance of community.”
For McGivney, the core values of ‘Come From Away’ ring true today more than ever. “We must band together through uncertainty and practice compassion whenever we can,” she says. “By nature, theatre professionals are used to dealing with uncertainty; this situation is just taking a little longer than hearing from a casting director about your callback.”
McGivney shares some of her favorite photos and Playbills.
And while it may not be a traditional Broadway show, Francine Accardi-Peri, who for 32 years led a team of Grateful ‘Deadheads’ who fulfilled the band’s many mail-order ticket requests, shares a cherished memory: “My favorite play was hanging with the New Yorkers at BOMI!”
This, says Andersen, is just as good as the theatre — for INTIX (formerly BOMI) members “we are a show unto ourselves any old day!”
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Tags: Theater , Broadway , Leadership , COVID-19 , Coronavirus