Saturday, December 31, 2022



Manhattan, taken from the Staten Island Ferry

All my life I have wanted to visit New York. Since childhood I have been a fan of Broadway. The past few years I have been a blogger for the Facebook group All Things Broadway (2018-2020), and an admin for the group Broadway Remembered (2019-present). Broadway Remembered is a growing group (currently with about 53,000 members), and as of earlier in 2022, I was the only admin who had never actually been to New York. The closest I had been was Washington-Dulles Airport on the way to France in 1999. The other admins generously helped me to fix this problem, and I finally got to achieve a lifelong dream in September 2022.

I was scheduled to see The Phantom of the Opera the evening of September 22. With plane delays and transportation issues, it was a bit of a tight squeeze, but with my host Michael, we were able to make it on time. As this has been one of my favorite musicals since childhood, I thought it would be an appropriate first musical on Broadway.

We got off the subway and came up to Times Square. I was blown away. I had seen pictures, video, seen the ball drop at New Years Eve on TV, and so I knew what it looked like, but nothing could prepare me for the sense of awe I felt. It had always been on a TV or computer screen, in magazines, books and other sources. But this time it was all around me. Screens were everywhere advertising products, TV shows, restaurants, Broadway shows, and more. They have a Disney Store, Hershey's store, M&M's store... Of course, we didn't have a lot of time to take it all in due to the rush to get to The Phantom of the Opera, but it was still an amazing experience.

The Phantom of the Opera

It was indeed an excellent first show on Broadway. I saw the show in Seattle on tour a few years ago, and I have seen the movie and the 25th Anniversary filmed production. But to see it on Broadway was an amazing experience. The sets were similar to how they were in Seattle, but more lavish. I figured they were able to do more, as the show has been in the Majestic Theatre over 30 years now, as opposed to a touring show that is only there for a few weeks. Performances were amazing.

After the show, we were planning to meet the other admins, Jeremy and Melly, at Sardi's just across the street. However, they had just closed when we arrived. We met at another restaurant nearby, and I finally got to have my dinner that had been delayed due to transportation issues earlier in the day. It was great meeting them in person and talking with them.

Harry Potter Store

The following day, I visited the Harry Potter Store. It was like a small Disneyland for Harry Potter fans, and I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the store like I was a kid again (aside from the fact that I was an adult when the books came out). It is two floors and has a large phoenix statue in the middle of the round staircase.

One of my favorite Dumbledore quotes,
in the middle of the staircase

They have an area where you can find wands (replicas of the wands in the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child). One room is dedicated to merchandise from each of the four Hogwarts houses. They have candy and treats mentioned in the books, as well as items from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes (such as extendable ears). Downstairs they have more treats, an area where you can have items personalized, Hogwarts trunks, robes, and more. They also have virtual reality experiences, which I didn't get to do, but hope to do next time I go. As you are exiting, they have a butterbeer bar, where you can get butterbeer and snacks. (They do not have pumpkin juice. I asked.) You have to drink your butterbeer there, but you get to keep the cups. They have a cleansing station where you can clean your cup before leaving.

World Trade Center and Battery Park

After leaving the Harry Potter Store, I took the subway to the World Trade Center. Before coming to New York, I painted rocks with Broadway quotes. I left my first one at the WTC. It had a quote from Come from Away: "Make me a channel of Your peace." I hope it found a good home!

The World Trade Center was a moving experience. The names of the victims are inscribed around the imprints of the two towers. So many names. Due to time constraints, I did not go to the memorial museum, but hope to do so next time I go.

Following the World Trade Center, I walked to Battery Park a few blocks away, where I left my second rock ("I am not throwing away my shot" from Hamilton). I saw the Statue of Liberty from a distance, though it left me wanting to see it closer up, as it was a small silhouette with cranes behind it from that angle.


That evening, I went to see Beetlejuice. I have seen the movie that it's based on, and I have enjoyed listening to the music from the cast recording, and it was great to see it onstage. I was struck by how different the theatre was from the Majestic. This one was at the Marquis, which is in a hotel. I went in the hotel lobby, and up an escalator to the second level where the theatre is. I was impressed with the set. It starts out in a graveyard, and most of it is in the house. Parts of act 2 are in the land of the dead. They had a large portion of the house onstage, and some scenes on the roof. It was a very complex set, and impressive the way they did it. Performances were also excellent.

The following day, we waited in line at the TKTS booth in Times Square, where you can get discount tickets to shows. While waiting in line, I left my third rock ("Shepherd's pie peppered with actual shepherd on top" from Sweeney Todd). After we were done at the TKTS booth, I left my fourth rock ("You're one of a kind, no category" from Six).


While waiting outside the American Airlines Theatre, I left my fifth rock ("Paciencia y fe" from In the Heights).

I was struck once again how different this theatre was from the others. The auditorium was not nearly as long as other theatres. It was probably the most intimate of the ones I attended. I was in the back row in the balcony, but it wasn't all that far from the stage.

This set was much more simple than others. It mainly involved curtains, tables and chairs. 1776 was still in previews. It is an unusual take on the show, as the cast was all female and non-binary performers. They made no changes to the script, but I felt they nailed it.

Between shows, I left another rock ("This one could be one of the great ones" from A Bronx Tale).


I saw Aladdin in its pre-Broadway run, a few years before it reached Broadway. At that time I felt it had potential, but wasn't quite there. It had a song for Jasmine called "To Be a Princess", which was very much out of character for her, and I wasn't a fan. It also felt like a theatrical travel brochure for visiting Agrabah. The line "another Arabian night" got old. The "A Whole New World" scene was not fully developed yet, and the carpet just rose up and sat still while the stars rushed by on the backdrop. However, I loved that they put "Proud of Your Boy" back in. It was cut from the original movie, but it is one of my favorites in musical theatre. They even gave it reprises.

So I was excited to see how the show had changed since I saw it pre-Broadway. They addressed all my issues with the earlier version, and I felt while my previous experience had potential, this had met and exceeded that potential. The sets were better. "To Be a Princess" was gone, in favor of "These Palace Walls," which is much more in character for Jasmine. The carpet was much more impressive as it soared around the stage. The cave was much more impressive and sparkly. It felt more like the story I know and love than the travel brochure I felt previously. Michael Maliakel shone as the tallest and most expressive Aladdin I have seen. Sonya Balsara was a fantastic Jasmine and Michael James Scott killed it as the Genie. One of my favorite lines was when the Genie was talking about the lamp at the beginning of his show. He makes to pull the lamp out of his pocket, and instead pulls out a Statue of Liberty. He said something to the effect of "Sorry, I did a bit of pre-show shopping." He then put that back in his pocket and pulled out the lamp.

As the sign outside the theatre stated, my Broadway wish was indeed granted. Aladdin was one of the best parts of my trip. In fact, I even got to meet Sonya Balsara (Jasmine) the following day! More on that in my next post.

After the show, I left another rock ("A little reinvention" from Dear Evan Hansen, a show I would have loved to see on Broadway, but it closed shortly before I went.)

To be continued...

Friday, December 30, 2022

Quarantine Playlist

 March 2020

This was my last post for All Things Broadway's blog, which is no longer online. It sort of fizzled out due to the virus shortly after this. We have come a long way since I wrote it nearly 3 years ago, and I am grateful we now have vaccines and have learned a lot more about COVID. But it has still been a difficult time, and we are not out of the woods yet.

Masked up on Broadway, September 2022
(You may notice the picture is backwards,
as this is the back of the sign)


These are scary times. With the coronavirus going around, many of us are stuck at home. Many with jobs are working from home. Many are out of jobs. Many people have the virus. Life has changed drastically in the past few weeks in ways nobody could have predicted.

The theatre community and other kinds of artists have been hit hard. Broadway and the West End, as well as multiple other locations around the world where shows are produced, have temporarily shut down. Actors like Aaron Tveit and Chad Kimball are currently recovering from the virus. We’ve lost some of our older actors, such as Terrence McNally and Mark Blum to it. [Update, 2022: We have even lost younger actors, such as Nick Cordero, since I wrote this.] During this time it is easy to go stir crazy with our social distancing and avoiding large groups. Many of us have varying degrees of sickness. Depending on our mood at the time, there are any number of things we need to hear.

Sometimes we want to commiserate about the problem. Sometimes we need cheering words. We need to laugh. But we also need to be sensitive about words that may help one person, but will be harmful to another.

Since music and theatre are often healing balms, I thought it might be helpful to come up with songs that may be helpful during this time. Depending on your situation, please feel free to listen to ones that you find helpful and ignore ones that don’t speak to you. Everyone’s taste is different, and I tried to find a variety of different kinds of songs that speak to different needs during this crisis. They follow, in no particular order.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone”
From Carousel
This is a great reminder. So many of us are lonely during this time while we are physically distant from each other. No matter what goes on, we need to remember someone is always there rooting for us, in spirit if not in person. We need to remember to “walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown.” You will never walk alone.

“No One Is Alone”
From Into the Woods
This is a similar reminder. We may lose people we love and admire, but we are never alone. We need to come together and support each other. Let us lean on each other and support each other.

“Pile of Poo”
From Emojiland
The release of the cast recording of Emojiland could not have come at a better time. Sometimes we need reminders to “remember who you are is what you do when life hands you a pile of poo.”

“Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”
From Les Misérables
This time is incredibly difficult for everyone. Odds are you know someone who has the virus (you might even have it), and thousands around the world have died from it. Sometimes we need to lament those we have lost. We need to let our emotions out or we will go crazy. [Update, 2022: Having lost my dad to a stroke since writing this, this song is even more emotional and meaningful to me.]

From Come from Away
This is one of my favorite Broadway songs, and a constant source of comfort. We need to pray (whatever that means to you) for peace, and we need to work to spread it. Let’s be channels of peace, not divisiveness.

“Spread the Love Around”
From Sister Act
This is another song encouraging us to spread love and kindness to others. Everyone is having trouble right now, and we all need to give and receive love.

“My Favorite Things”
From The Sound of Music
These are scary times. Sometimes we need to distract our minds by thinking of things we like. “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,” among many other things, can be very comforting. Simple things can be powerful.

From Cinderella
With everything going on right now, sometimes we are tempted to conclude that the idea of things getting better is impossible. Will our governments agree on anything? Will we find a vaccine and cure for the virus? Impossible! “But the world is full of zanies and fools who don’t believe in sensible rules, who don’t believe what sensible people say! And because these daft and dewy-eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes, impossible things are happening every day!”

“You Will Be Found”
From Dear Evan Hansen
This is another source of comfort. Life is tough. Especially right now when we are distancing ourselves from each other, it’s easy to feel alone. But always remember, even if you feel lost and alone, “someone will come running.” There are people there who will find you and reach out to you. You can even be that person for someone else. Let’s find each other and support each other through this tough time.

“The World Has Gone Insane”
From Jekyll & Hyde
This is sung by a desperate man who is feeling the effects of a terrible disease that is slowly consuming him. He begins the song as a frantic doctor and ends it as an evil maniac. I hope nobody goes through the horrifying transformations he does, and thankfully that isn’t a symptom of coronavirus, but I think many of us can identify with Henry Jekyll more than normal.

“Singin’ in the Rain”
From Singin’ in the Rain
Rain is a funny thing. Sometimes it can be refreshing, and other times it can be annoying, and sometimes even dangerous. But there’s always a positive side. Rain can cause a person to slip, and it contributes to erosion, but it also washes away bad things and nourishes the ground, making things greener. Coronavirus is much more dangerous than rain, but there have been reports all over the world of pollution clearing up, canals in Venice becoming clear. That doesn’t diminish the horror of sickness and death, but there is always a silver lining, and always a reason to sing.

“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”
From Spamalot
I find it interesting that this song is so common at funerals. In the midst of unspeakable pain and sorrow, we can always find a bright side.

“The Next Right Thing”
From Frozen II
This isn’t technically a stage show (yet), but it’s important to remember. Since it is so new, I don’t want to spoil it, but Anna is going through a very difficult time, and all she can do is “the next right thing.”

“Put on a Happy Face”
From Bye Bye Birdie
I grew up listening to this song. It has never failed to bring a smile to my face. Whatever is going on, no matter how difficult, remember it will get better. “Gray skies are gonna clear up. Put on a happy face. Brush off the clouds and cheer up. Put on a happy face.” Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but we can always remember to look forward to this being over.

From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
With the advent of the term “COVIDIOTS”, this song has been going through my head lately. I would caution us, though, to go easy on the people in the news reports who have made less than advisable choices during this time. None of us is perfect, and we have all made ill-advisable choices in our lives. Just try not to let your choices spread disease…and definitely don’t be so dependent on technology that you suffer the fate of Mike Teavee. 

From Chess
This virus has attacked the world. All of us are at risk. The rich as well as the poor. Nobody is immune. At this time we’re all in this together. We need to come together and remember that “my land’s only borders lie around my heart.”

“Cell Block Tango”
From Chicago
Let’s all remember when the vaccine is here, that this virus had it coming. “It only had itself to blame.” I fully endorse scheming a horrible demise for this virus, and it can’t come soon enough. Let’s be sure to take out our revenge on the disease and not people, though.

“Seasons of Love”
Hopefully this crisis won’t be around anywhere near 525,600 minutes, but we need to measure our lives in love. Some lives have shorter measurements than we anticipated. Everyone needs to give and receive all the love they can through every season.

“Please Don’t Touch Me”
From Young Frankenstein
It’s important to practice social distancing during this time. Although considering the circumstances, let’s stay farther away from each other than Elizabeth and Frederick during this song. We can always come closer and waltz a foot from each other once this is over.

“Luck Be a Lady”
From Guys and Dolls
We can always trust to luck that it will be in our favor. Maybe we’ll get lucky and it will clear up quickly. But let’s not trust solely on luck. We need to do what we can to help luck along and slow the spread of the virus.

“I Whistle a Happy Tune”
From The King & I
As mentioned before, this is a scary time. One technique when you’re scared is to whistle or sing a happy song. Sometimes that can go a long way to cheering you up and conquering your fear.

“The Play”
From Be More Chill
There’s something therapeutic about listening to a virus being destroyed. If only this one could be defeated with something as simple as Mountain Dew Red!

From A Chorus Line
You are unique. You may also be one person in quarantine. There is nobody quite like you. You are definitely “one singular sensation,” and I am rooting for you!

“For Good”
From Wicked
Last, but certainly not least, let’s look for the good in each other. This is sung by two dear friends who are saying good bye to each other and realizing that, for all their rivalry and disagreements over the years, they have had a profound and good influence on each other. How have your friends and family influenced you? We need to support and lean on each other during this difficult time if we are going to get through it. Just don’t lean on people literally, as we need to keep our social distance. We also need to remember the loved ones we’ve lost and let them live on in the way we choose to live.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. There are so many other songs out there that are appropriate during this time. But I hope that gets you thinking of songs that might be helpful to get you through this. It will end, and most of us will come out on the other end.

Love to everyone!

Steven Sauke is a Broadway fan who has been through a lot and has been helped considerably through the years by music and art. Much of that has been from musicals.

You Are Here: A Come from Away Story

September 2019

Eighteen years have passed since the horrifying event that ended the lives of so many innocents and left the survivors’ lives forever changed. Fathom Events sponsored the first wide US release of HBO Canada’s documentary You Are Here: A Come from Away Story. It tells the story of the amazing response by several small communities in Newfoundland when thousands of people from around the world were suddenly stranded “somewhere in the middle of nowhere.”

Several of All Things Broadway’s bloggers attended showings of the documentary in different parts of the country. Their thoughts follow.

Taking a Gander at Gander

By Michael Kape

When I arrived home from seeing You Are Here at the local cinema, my house guest asked, “So, how was it?” To which I replied, “I laughed. I cried. I was exhilarated. I was depressed. What more can you ask of a documentary than that?”

What more indeed? For those of us who’ve been blown away (and who hasn’t?) by the perfect musical, Come From Away, the opportunity to see the real people behind the fabulous story was too, too tempting. Onstage, we are charmed and delighted by the generosity of human spirit as exemplified by the people of Gander, Newfoundland. But, it’s a musical. Liberties must be taken with the facts (surprisingly few, actually). Could the real people of Gander be so self-effacing (“All I did was make sandwiches,” one Gander woman says in the film) and so thoroughly delightful at the same time?

Yes, they could. And they are. They are Gander, and it might be one of the most wonderful places on the planet.

We all know the story. On September 11, 2001, 38 planes filled with almost 7,000 scared passengers landed at the Gander airport. And that’s when the 9,000 people of Gander went to work. In five days, as the mayor notes, the Come From Aways (as people not from Newfoundland are called) went from being strangers to being friends to being family. And after seeing the real people behind Come From Away, I truly believe the people of Gander are exactly as portrayed in the musical.

The people of Gander can be uproariously funny as they go about the business of providing (and by providing, I include just about everything humanly possible). They move us to tears at times. Their stories thrill us by just how seemingly ordinary they are (though I would never call the people of Gander ordinary).

Yet, for those of us who remember 9/11, it was one of the most depressing moments in history. For those of us who witnessed the Twin Towers collapse before our eyes (I was stranded in New Jersey looking east from the office patio, and saw the buildings fall), it was horrifying. In a constant battering by bad news, one small story did stand out—the reports of what was happening in Gander. These left us all wanting to know more, but so little information was available at that time, and the efforts got lost in a raging sea of alarm.

No, we must never forget what happened on 9/11, but we should always remember that one single spark of bravura humanity lighting the way from a rock in the Atlantic Ocean. Gander. That sums up so much.


Returning to Gander and Paying it Forward

By Steven Sauke

We sat there in the movie theater staring at those images. We couldn’t look away. Snow flurries blew over a peaceful waterfall at the 9/11 memorial in New York while the audio from the black box on one of the planes played. It went back to the news footage from that horrible morning 18 years ago. It was like I was standing in my living room once again, aghast and emotional after all these years, even though I knew this time what would happen. Watching that plane fly into the World Trade Center. The ball of fire, the sudden gasp of shock, and then New Yorkers running for their lives.

Over the next hour, we would meet the people of the small town of Gander, Newfoundland and surrounding communities, who welcomed nearly 7000 “come from aways” suddenly stranded in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Many didn’t even know where they were at first. At least one come from away found out where he was when he called home and his family told him they had been tracking his flight. So many Ganderites dropped everything and worked together to provide for the needs of strangers. Teachers helped prepare their schools for guests. Bus drivers broke off their strike to transport everyone, because “our beef is with our employer, not these people.” The local news media broadcast the needs as they became known, and the citizens of Gander and the surrounding towns rose to the occasion. Over the next few days, they would offer rides, provide meals, clothes and other essentials. A couple would meet and fall in love. A mother and father would desperately search for their son, a firefighter in New York, and be helped and comforted by the mother of a firefighter in Gander. One plane was delayed leaving Gander because a passenger’s host had taken him moose hunting and they had to track him down. One line that really struck me was when Mayor Claude Elliott said that they welcomed nearly 7000 strangers on September 11 and 12. Soon they had 7000 guests. After five days, they said good bye to 7000 family members. Ten years later, many of the come from aways returned to Newfoundland. Throughout the reunion, visitors and Newfoundlanders alike spoke with a young couple who some took for college students, and were perplexed when they found out this husband and wife were planning to write a musical based on…making sandwiches?

They would be blown away by the result. As one person observed, Come from Away nailed it. The documentary continued through the workshop and Broadway premiere stages of producing the musical. You Are Here: A Come from Away Story was a beautiful retelling and intimate conversation with the people who made it possible. I felt like they were my friends. Since I met some of them a year ago, some of them are.

Rewind a bit.

A year ago, I interviewed several of the come from aways and Ganderites for an article on what happened those five days and following. When the national tour of Come from Away opened in Seattle, many of the people involved visited, and I was hoping to be able to meet some of them. After being showing unconditional love and kindness, Kevin Tuerff founded an initiative called “Pay It Forward 9/11.” Every year, he gives his employees $100 to go into the community and do random acts of kindness for strangers. Last year, I was one of his recipients. He told me he was giving me two tickets to a special screening of You Are Here in Ballard, a neighborhood in Seattle. My brother and I arrived at the theater and were welcomed by the owner, who said, “You are here, so you belong.” When he asked who we were connected with, I explained Kevin Tuerff had invited us. (That owner is well connected, as he appears briefly in the documentary at the Broadway debut.) Come to find out, almost everyone at the showing was somehow directly connected with Come from Away. Many of the come from aways and Newfoundlanders were there. I introduced myself to Nick and Diane Marson and thanked them for the interview. They then introduced me to Bonnie Harris and her sister. After the show, we were standing in the lobby next to Beulah Cooper, and she gave us hugs. Complete strangers. Oz Fudge was wearing his “STFD” t-shirt. Kevin Jung sat down the row from me, as did Brian Mosher and Janice Goudie. We sat behind Bonnie Harris, Beulah Cooper and Hannah O’Rourke. David Hein and Irene Sankoff were there, though I unfortunately did not get to meet them. Kevin Tuerff recognized me, and we got to talk and get a picture. Just now looking through my pictures from that day, I noticed Appleton Mayor Derm Flynn was also there. (Claude Elliott, Beverley Bass and Diane Davis were unable to make it to the screening, but I would get to meet Diane Davis a couple weeks later when she came to the show.) It was an unforgettable day, and I wanted to share this experience with others.

Oz and Lisa Fudge,
Director Moze Mossanen,
Producer Peter Gentile,
Kevin Tuerff

Hannah O’Rourke,
Beulah Cooper,
Bonnie Harris

Photos by Steven Sauke

Fast forward a year, and Fathom Events was finally hosting the first wide release showing in the US of the documentary. Kevin’s lesson is one I have endeavored to put into practice throughout the year, and this time, the opportunity presented itself again. I arranged for my family and two friends to watch the show. It was only after I ordered the tickets that I found out that one of my friends I ordered tickets for would be out of town and unable to make it. Kevin specifically advises showing kindness to strangers, so I posted in the Come from Away Fans Facebook group that I had a free ticket for anyone in the Seattle area who wanted it. I had exactly one taker, so it worked out perfectly. She brought her husband, who got a ticket at the box office, and when she offered to pay me back for her ticket, I politely declined and changed the subject. 

Steven Sauke and Michael Kape are recurring bloggers for All Things Broadway.


This was a collaborative post that we wrote for the All Things Broadway blog, which is no longer online. I am sharing as much of the post as the respective authors have authorized me to reshare. :-)

Prayer, Come from Away

I wrote the following as part of a collaboration in the All Things Broadway blog in December 2018. As it is no longer online, I don't have the other contributions on that post, but it was about Broadway songs that were particularly meaningful to us at Christmas. I selected "Prayer" from Come from Away.

Picture (and rock painting) by Steven Sauke, September 2022
I painted this rock and left it at the World Trade Center for someone to find.
I trust it found a good home.


Since the first time I listened to the cast recording of Come from Away, it resonated deeply with me. It brought back memories for me of learning of the tragedy and the aftermath. The music alone left me in tears. I grew up internationally, and this was truly an international tragedy. I found the song “Prayer” especially moving and relatable. Having lived in three countries, and having visited several others, the sense of unity in this song is particularly powerful for me. It beautifully weaves the prayer of St. Francis with Jewish, Sanskrit and Arabic prayers, all expressing a desire for peace and praise to God. This is the spirit of Christmas. In the Bible, the angels proclaimed “peace on earth” to the shepherds. St. Francis (and Kevin T. in the musical) prayed that God would “make me a channel of Your peace.” The rabbi and Eddie pray that God, who makes peace on high, make peace on us and all of Israel. Amen. The Sanskrit section of the song prays that they be led from falsehood to truth, from darkness to light, from death to immortality, and above all, peace, peace, peace. In Arabic, the character Ali praises Allah for his greatness and glory.

In his book Channel of Peace, and when I was interviewing him for my blog post in August, Kevin Tuerff mentioned that St. Francis’ prayer was in his head while stranded in Gander, but he did not recall mentioning that when Sankoff and Hein interviewed him in preparation for writing the musical. It seemed providential that they included it, and coming from Kevin T., no less. This song and Kevin Tuerff’s book have got me thinking more about how I can be used as a channel of peace. As a Christian, and as a human, I want to be someone who spreads peace. For too long, both Christianity and Islam have given good reasons for their violent stereotypes, exacerbated by the Crusades, terrorism, countless wars, and so much more. But both religions have peace at their hearts. The extremists on both sides have given their respective religions a bad name. We need to end the conflicts and work together to become a channel of “PEACE ON EARTH, GOODWILL TO MEN!”

PS. Did I mention I saw Come from Away three times when it came through Seattle in October? It is that good! In fact, it’s so good that even Grumpy Olde Guy [my friend Michael Kape, a retired Broadway critic] liked it when he saw it a few weeks later in LA! A ticket would make a great Christmas present for anyone in your life if you get the chance.

Kevin Tuerff and me, October 2018

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Theatre Etiquette, Part 2: A Night on the Town

 “It’s poo-LONK!”

I was attending a singalong featuring works of French composers Gabriel Fauré and Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc. Between movements, the host recounted the lives and inspirations of the two composers. I don’t remember what he said about them. They passed out sheet music when we arrived. We sight read Fauré’s Requiem, and I can’t remember which of Poulenc’s works we learned. Remembering the occasion, I had to think hard to remember that much, because the main thing I remember about the occasion was a person behind me. Every time the host mispronounced Poulenc’s name (he pronounced it “poo-lenk”), the person behind me corrected him under their breath. They likely assumed nobody could hear them, but it overshadowed the memory of the evening for me. I could hear the mutters loud and clear, and it drove me bonkers. Partly because I have the same habit, and that was when I realized the effect it has to people around me. That day I determined I would stop doing that. (I have had varying degrees of success acting on that resolution, but I’m working on it!)

I have had other incidents where people around me have distracted from the performance, but that is one of the more memorable ones. Perhaps you have stories of people’s cell phones lighting up the theatre, or maybe your amazing brother belting out “Evermore” during the credits of the recent movie remake of Beauty and the Beast so loudly that it sounded like Josh Groban was his backup singer. Perhaps you were in the theatre when Patti LuPone confiscated an audience member’s cell phone.

A couple weeks ago, I went over etiquette for people putting on a show. Now it’s time for etiquette for the audience.

Before the Show

  • Arrive early. Entering late can be disruptive, and you’ll miss part of the show. If seats aren’t assigned, this can also help you to get a good seat.
  • If something comes up and you can’t make it to the show, let the theatre know so they can reassign your seat. The person who gets your ticket will thank you. (I got a ticket to Come from Away at the last minute once because someone did this. I have no idea if that person is reading this, but if it’s you, thank you!)
  • Do your research. If a show is of an adult nature, do not bring children. This can also save you from seeing shows that you may find surprisingly offensive. It can also save you from seeing a show with strobe lights if you’re sensitive to them.

Phones and Cameras

  • Turn your cell phone completely off, or at least silence it and put it in airplane mode. Phones ringing during the show can be disruptive both for the audience and the actors. The same holds true for bright lights in the audience. If your phone is on during the performance (silenced and in airplane mode, I hope!), don’t check it during the show.
  • Don’t take pictures during the performance.
  • Don’t video the show or any part of it (unless you are invited to do so by someone onstage).
  • If you look at your phone before or after the show, it’s best to dim your screen so it doesn’t blind people, especially if the theatre lights are somewhat dim. On most smartphones, this can be accomplished by swiping down from the top and adjusting the slider to the left.
  • If you absolutely must have your phone on during the show (for example, if you are in the medical field and need to be on call), you may want to speak to an usher for guidance, as different theatres have varying policies on that. If you must take a call, at least exit the theatre and take it in the lobby. (If that is the case, you may want to request an aisle seat so you don’t have to squeeze past people.)
  • While it is difficult to read your program in the dark, don’t use your phone or a flashlight to read it during the show.

Other Noises

  • Avoid correcting pronunciation or other mistakes under your breath. You might be surprised how far your voice carries. (See above.)
  • If you know how the show ends, avoid mentioning spoilers.
  • Don’t talk during the show. This includes excited comments when someone you know walks onstage, wondering what just happened, less-than-complimentary comments on a performer you dislike, loudly deciding you dislike the hairstyle of the person in front of you, etc. Save the RiffTrax for Mystery Science Theater 3000.
  • Get plenty of rest before the show, as your fellow audience members don’t need to be treated to snores.
  • Do not recite or sing along, unless you are at a rock concert or you are invited to sing along. People came to hear the people onstage sing and act, not you.
  • Laugh and clap at appropriate times. If you feel the need to laugh during a scene that would make most people cry, at least try to keep it quiet so it doesn’t ruin others’ experience.

Consideration of Others

  • Don’t wear tall hats or beehive hairstyles, as it can obstruct the view of people behind you.
  • If you must use perfume or cologne, please use it in moderation, as strong smells can dampen others’ experience.
  • Keep your feet off the backs of the seats ahead of you, and avoid hitting them with your knees or anything else.
  • Once the show starts, do not stand up unless there’s an emergency, or a standing ovation is warranted during the bows.
  • Try to keep bathroom trips to before the show, during intermission, or after the show.
  • Don’t use laser pointers. In fact, don’t bring them to the show.
  • If you see an outlet on the stage, do not go up and try to charge your phone. (Unlikely this will happen, but I did read an article once about it happening!)


  • Dress appropriately. Different theatres have different policies on this, so you may want to call ahead if in doubt. This also varies depending on what you are going to see. A high school production would be a much more casual occasion than, say, an opera.


  • Check your theatre’s policy before bringing outside food in. Most theatres don’t allow it.
  • Avoid opening candy wrappers during the show, or eating said candy while holding the wrapper.
  • Avoid crunchy food, such as chips. People around you don’t need to hear *crunch crunch crunch* when they’re trying to listen to the show. (They can also be crumbly and make a mess.)
  • Avoid greasy or messy food, including soda (pop, Coke, soft drinks, whatever you call it where you live) that can spill and make for a sticky floor. If your hands are messy from eating greasy food before the show, wash them before entering the theatre.

After the Show

  • Avoid booing a person’s performance, unless they played a villain and their character’s personality warrants it. In that case, boo the character, not the performance.
  • If you aren’t planning on keeping your program or Playbill, give it to an usher. This cuts down on clutter, and if it’s in good enough condition, they can reuse it. (This can also cut down on costs for the theatre.)
  • Take your trash with you. The people who have to clean up after the show will thank you.
  • After leaving the theatre, avoid discussing spoilers, as passersby may be planning to see the next show and don’t need to know yet how the show ends. You can always discuss that in the car or at home when you know everyone around has seen it.

Stage Door

  • If you do stage door, be patient as the actors often have to remove makeup and costumes before meeting people.
  • Respect the actors and fellow people in line at the stage door.
  • If the actor you were hoping to meet doesn’t come out, don’t take it personally. Perhaps they had a particularly exhausting performance and need to rest up for the next one.
  • Don’t crowd the actors.
  • Don’t spend too much time with an actor, as others are also waiting to talk to them. Pay attention to any restrictions on signatures and pictures.
  • You may want to check with the theatre ahead of time whether they have a policy on gifts for the actors. While it is thoughtful and may mean a lot to the actor, they sometimes get mountains of gifts and then don’t know what to do with them.
  • Basically, as much as you may admire them, remember the actors are human and need to be treated as such. (That’s sometimes easy to forget when someone is particularly talented.)

To sum up, all of this can be consolidated into two words: Be respectful!

Enjoy the show, and do what you can to help others enjoy it!


I wrote this in October 2019 for the All Things Broadway blog, which is no longer online.

Theatre Etiquette, Part 1: Putting on the Ritz!

This is what happens when the person doing the sound effects is so enthralled with the stellar acting in John Olive’s The Voice of the Prairie that he forgets he is supposed to trigger the sound cue for the telephone, causing the actors to have to ad lib until they finally answer the silent phone because the show must go on. It is only then that the sound guy jumps and presses the button to make the phone ring. After the character has answered the phone. Embarrassing? Absolutely! If you haven’t guessed, that sound guy was me. For actors, crew members and everyone else putting on a show, it pays to remember your cues!

When putting on a show, it is important to follow some guidelines that will help to create a memorable experience for the people who will be paying to see your show. I thought it might be useful to include some of those here to help future productions. Some of these may seem obvious to some, but not to others.

Directors and Producers
  • Congratulations! You have chosen a show to put on! Have you secured the rights? Be sure to review the contract carefully and abide by the terms. Shows have been cancelled by the rights holders in the past because people didn’t read the terms and didn’t know the laws well enough.
  • Don’t make changes to the script without permission from the playwright or rights holders. This includes cutting songs, removing swear words, rearranging scenes, and any other changes you might want to make. Depending on your situation (for example, a school putting on a play that includes swear words in the script), there may be good reason to make minor tweaks, but it is essential to get permission before doing so. The artist wrote it the way they did for a reason, and they need a say in any tweaks in the script. If you don’t want to seek permission, or if the permission is denied and it is important enough to you, you may do better to choose a different show. Arranging videos of the performances also falls under this area. If you want to the show recorded, be sure you have permission from the copyright owners first (and pay any additional royalties if they require that for recording it). This also sometimes includes when you are allowed to announce the show you are doing.
  • Respect your cast and crew. They are here to bring your vision (and the playwright’s vision) to the stage. As you know, blocking involves telling actors where to step, how to move, etc. Sound and light cues need to come in a precise part of the show and spot on the stage. You need to be able to give more precise instructions than you would in other situations, but it is important that the cast and crew not feel micromanaged. There is a balance between encouraging actors’ creative juices and overregulating and over-criticizing. When you give stage notes, be sure you aren’t coming across as upset that they did something wrong, or that they are in trouble. The more respectful you are to the actors and crew members, the more they will respect you and be willing to take direction.
  • Though rehearsals can run late for various reasons, be conscious of the time and needs of your cast and crew. If rehearsal runs too late, it can affect other parts of their lives, and they (and you) may have trouble staying awake the following day! Tiredness can also lead to tempers flaring. 
  • Take into account dietary needs of everyone in the show. Since it is common to have food at rehearsals and cast parties, it would be a shame for someone to have to leave the show because they accidentally ate something they were allergic to. (For that matter, avoid having messy food backstage during the run of the show. For example, banana peels on a dark floor backstage could be a recipe for disaster.)

Cast and Crew

  • Remember that theatrical communities are often tight-knit, and theatre groups communicate with each other. Don’t get blacklisted with one company, as other companies may find out and blacklist you as well. You may never be told, but you may suddenly find yourself having a lot of difficulty being cast in a show. (Of course, there are plenty of other reasons you might have trouble being cast, but that is an important one.) 
  • Let your creative juices flow, but don’t take it personally when your director tells you to change something in the way you portray your character.
  • Listen to and do what your director and stage manager tell you. Even if you don’t like a stage direction, be willing to make changes in the way you portray a character if told to do so. Inability to take directions is a surefire way of being blacklisted, and even dismissed from a show on occasion.
  • Be careful how you talk to and about others in the production. Badmouthing others is another way to be blacklisted.
  • Remember your cues. This may mean marking up your script with reminders. (If the script doesn’t belong to you, be sure to use pencil!) After my mistake I mentioned earlier, I made notes in my script every page for several pages back, “Phone coming in ten pages”… “Phone coming in nine pages”… etc. I also highlighted and circled the sound cue. (My script belonged to me.) Whatever works for you so that you remember, be sure you do that.
  • Memorize your lines. There are various techniques for doing this, and it might behoove you to talk to more experienced actors, or your director, if that is an issue. It can be embarrassing when you are standing onstage and you forget your lines. At that point, you don’t have the option of saying, “Line?” I speak from experience.
  • Do not give stage notes or suggestions to fellow actors. That is the job of the director and stage manager. If you have ideas to improve someone’s performance (or correct an error you notice), by all means talk to the stage manager about it. But do not talk to the actor in question. That said, you will want to keep the suggestions to the stage manager in moderation, because you also don’t want to be a pest. You want others to see you as helpful, not arrogant.
  • Maintain a certain amount of humility. It is good to be proud of your talent, but you don’t want to come across like Carlotta in The Phantom of the Opera, looking down on others in the production and treating them as less than you.
  • If you see another person’s prop backstage, do not touch it. Props are where they are so they will be handy when the actor who needs it can take it onstage. If a person’s prop isn’t on the prop table at the moment they need it, that could cause serious issues onstage.
  • Don’t take your props, costumes or makeup home during the run of the show. If you forget to bring it to a performance, you may be out of luck. They need to stay at the theatre so they are there when you need them.
  • Turn off your phones, or at least put them in airplane mode and make sure they are silenced. Let’s just say your show is set in ancient Greece. Unless archaeologists discover something heretofore unknown, the ancient Greeks did not have cell phones, and it would ruin the ambiance for a phone to start ringing backstage. (Well, I wouldn’t put some shenanigans past Apollo, but that’s another matter.) Even in shows set in modern times, a phone at the wrong time can disrupt a show.
  • Keep talk backstage to a minimum and as quiet as possible. The audience should not be able to hear it, and depending on the theatre where you are performing, you might be surprised how much the audience can hear. In fact, as a general rule of thumb, if it is typically mentioned in the pre-show instructions to the audience (turn off your phones, don’t talk during the show, don’t open candy wrappers during the show, no filming or photography, etc.), follow those directions backstage as well. This is also important because actors need to be able to hear what is going on onstage, so they don’t miss their cues.
  • If you make a mistake onstage, just go with it. Making it look like you intended to do that is an important skill to master. Wincing or breaking character is worse than making the mistake in the first place, and if you recover right, the audience may never know you did anything wrong. (When you get offstage, you may want to make a note in your script or take other measures to avoid that mistake in future performances.) If a fellow actor makes a mistake that affects someone else, cover for them. But stay in character!
  • Remember the fourth wall. You can’t see it, but there is an imaginary wall that separates you from the audience. Unless the script calls for it (such as for certain parts of Into the Woods, Jersey Boys and others), it looks far less convincing when you try to make eye contact with the audience. For the duration of the show, your world is onstage. That said, avoid having your back to the audience, unless the script and/or your director calls for it.
  • If you have a matinee and evening show in the same day, avoid leaving the theatre or taking unnecessary risks between performances. If the unexpected were to happen (such as a car accident or the like), that could negatively affect the rest of the run, and it wouldn’t be pleasant for you.
  • If you do stage door or are otherwise able to greet audience members after the show, follow your director’s instructions. Some directors allow the actors to leave the stage and greet their friends, family and fans right away. Others require actors to change and remove makeup before doing so. Since this varies between theatre groups, you will want to clarify that with your director if they don’t mention it before the show.
  • While pranks can be fun during the final performance, make sure they aren’t noticeable to the audience. They paid to see the same show you’ve done throughout the run, with the same quality. If your director tells you not to do pranks the final performance, don’t do them!
  • To quote J.K. Rowling, #KeeptheSecrets. Promoting your production is great, but don’t give spoilers to people who aren’t involved, as that can affect how people seeing it for the first time appreciate the show.
  • Under no circumstances should you say the name of the Scottish Play (unless you are performing said play) or tell anyone “Good luck” in the theatre! It would be a shame to have to delay a show because you had to go outside, spin around 3 times, spit, curse, and then have to knock on the theatre door to be allowed back in! Best to avoid the “M” word and tell everyone to break a leg instead. Theatre superstitions are very important!
Most important: Enjoy yourself! Pulling off a show successfully is an exhilarating feeling and something to be intensely proud of. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it.

Break a leg!


I wrote this in September 2019 for the All Things Broadway blog, which is no longer online.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

A Look Back, 2016-2018 (give or take)

December 2018

As 2018 comes to a close (already?!), I thought it would be nice to look back on the musicals I have seen in the past couple years. Looking at the list, nearly all of them are based on, or at least inspired by, real events. Some were live onstage, while several of them were on Fathom Events in movie theaters.

In no particular order, these are the shows that stand out in my memory.

Here Lies Love

This musical by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim tells the story of Imelda Marcos, former first lady of the Philippines. Having grown up in the Philippines in the 80s and early 90s, there were parts of this show that I remember experiencing.

A friend got me a ticket, and I wasn’t sure what to think about the “standing room” tickets that we got. I was particularly surprised to notice in the lobby that the “standing room” tickets were the most expensive at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Having not seen a show at that venue in the past (also where Come from Away performed its pre-Broadway shows, which I missed), I was not quite sure what to expect. I was told we would be onstage, and that people would be directing us where to go as the actors performed. This confused me, as I wasn’t sure if we might be blocking the audience from seeing the show. As we entered the theatre, they handed out glow-in-the-dark earplugs, warning us that it would be very loud and we would need them. We were ushered into a fairly small rectangular room with a large disco ball in the middle hanging over a long table spanning nearly the width of the room. Spotlights were everywhere, and there was a family portrait of the Marcoses projected on one wall. At first I thought we would go from there into the theatre. Then I realized this room was the stage. The seats are on balconies above the stage, looking down on it.

As the show started, the disco ball rose up to the ceiling, and the DJ introduced the show from his raised box in one corner of the stage. On the opposite end of the stage, a woman said, “Excuse me” and brushed past me as she climbed the steps to that part of the stage to join the young Imelda, already onstage. A tropical downpour was projected on the wall behind the actresses as we got to know Imelda and her childhood friend Estrella on the eastern Philippine island of Leyte. As the story progressed, we saw her growing relationship with Ninoy Aquino, who was more interested in politics while she was interested in fashion. She joined a beauty pageant and became the “Rose of Tacloban.” Tacloban is the capital of the island province of Leyte. I was fascinated with the quick costume changes during that song that they didn’t even try to hide, as she went from one beautiful Philippine dress to another, with stagehands donning new costumes on her. Eventually, her relationship with Ninoy was interrupted when she met a certain Ferdinand Marcos, and dated and married him in short order. On their honeymoon, they danced on the beach, or in our case, what I initially thought was a long table when entering the theatre. This was also the first time I have seen someone dancing in tsinelas (flipflops). I was fascinated by the interesting footwear, and was then fascinated that I had to stop and think of the English word for it.

As the story continued, we learned about their turbulent marriage and the political rivalry that grew between Marcos and Aquino. Marcos would eventually declare martial law [side note: the period of martial law was when we moved to the Philippines], and Aquino’s outspoken opposition to it got him arrested and imprisoned. (A wheeled stairway was turned backwards and became his cell.) Imelda visited him in prison and encouraged him to move to America to escape all of this. He and his family moved, but he couldn’t stay away. In an emotional farewell on the tarmac in the US, he sang good bye to his wife Corazon and son Ninoy III, and climbed the stairs. The staircase that had been his prison cell was now the stairway to the plane, and then the stairs off the plane in Manila at what would eventually become known as Ninoy Aquino International Airport. As he started to descend the stairs, there was a loud bang, flash, and he slumped over as the lights went dark. His mother Aurora Aquino sang a mournful song, dressed in black and carrying a black umbrella, as the mourners crossed the stage. His assassination in 1983 played a major part in the people rising up in the bloodless 1986 People Power Revolution to elect a new president, Corazon Aquino, and force the Marcos family into exile in Hawaii. Imelda mournfully wondered why the Philippine people no longer loved her, and her estranged friend Estrella wondered the same thing about Imelda.

With the Marcos family gone, the DJ came down to the stage and sang the final song, accompanied on his guitar. The company then returned to close the show.

Throughout the show, the stagehands, wearing glow-in-the-dark pink and holding glowsticks, directed those of us in the onstage audience around the stage as stages, tables, and other set pieces rotated and were otherwise moved. By the end of the show, most of the stage and “long table” had moved to one end of the stage. For Aurora Aquino’s song, she and fellow mourners were on a part of stage that was slowly transported from one end to the other as the song continued. After that, the performance was on the bare floor on the end of the stage that no longer had raised stage pieces. Throughout, the action was all around us and we had to turn around and move to take it all in. The news media was represented by reporters and cameramen, and as the cameramen filmed, their cameras projected the footage on the wall. Throughout, people were identified by their name on the walls, similar to how they would be identified in a news report. The years and locations were similarly projected on the walls.

It was a powerful show, and the staging was unlike anything I have experienced elsewhere. Thus far, it has played in New York, London and Seattle, and last I heard they were hoping it will make it to Broadway. I hope it does. In some ways it reminded me of Miss Saigon and Evita, and was more powerful for me because I remember some of the events in the last few minutes of the show. In 1986, we got a vacation from school during the People Power Revolution because it was too dangerous for us to be out.

Miss Saigon

This show is more familiar to the Broadway community, so I will not go into the plot as much as I did with Here Lies Love. It was inspired by several sources: primarily, a heartbreaking photo of a Vietnamese woman at the airport saying good bye to her child to give them a better life. It is also inspired by Pierre Loti’s novel Madame Crysanthème and the opera that book inspired, Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. I saw the London cast as filmed for Fathom Events to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the musical. It tells the story of Christopher Scott, an American marine stationed in Vietnam at the end of the war, and his relationship with Kim, a Vietnamese teenager who fled an attack on her village and found a less than desirable job in the big city. Chris and Kim spend an eventful night together, and just like that, Saigon falls and he is forced to leave without her. Three years later, Kim finds herself in Bangkok trying to provide for her young son Tam and absolutely certain that Chris will come back for her and their son. Chris, meanwhile, convinced he would never see Kim again, has remarried and is building a life with his new wife Ellen. Ellen is bewildered by Chris’s nightmares, and they are further shocked when they learn that Kim is still alive, and that Chris has a son. Chris and Ellen go to Bangkok, and though a series of unfortunate circumstances, it falls to Ellen to tell Kim that Chris has now remarried. Kim wants to send her son to America with his father, but Ellen feels it would be better for the child to be with his mother. Kim takes decisive measures to ensure that, by her sacrifice, Tam will have a better life in America.

There was an intermission between acts (the first time I have experienced this at a movie theater), and then a second intermission after the second act. After that, they showed the 25th Anniversary celebration. The original cast (as many as could come) were there, and Lea Salonga (the original Kim) sang a duet with the current “Gigi” of “The Movie in My Mind.” Lea also did a duet with Simon Bowman (original Chris). The composers were there as well.

While for the most part I loved the show, I find it sad that the song “Her or Me”, which then morphed into “Now that I’ve Seen Her”, was cut in favor of a completely different song called “Maybe.” The tune was nothing like its predecessors, and it felt out of place, tacked on to a masterpiece. I would have preferred that they keep the powerful “Now that I’ve Seen Her.”

This is an emotional and powerful show, and having grown up in Asia, it also resonated with me with the Asian elements. I have not been to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, but I have been to Bangkok (though not the parts of Bangkok portrayed in the musical). Before moving on to the West End and Broadway, Lea Salonga was popular in the Philippines, so I grew up hearing her. Though I do not recommend this show for children, it is very powerful and moving. My eyes were watering at times watching it.


This has played on Fathom Events in movie theaters several times. I highly recommend it, as it is very educational, and it is about a part of our history that was not taught at length in school. While almost all the characters are fictional, it is inspired by George Takei’s memories of being in a Japanese internment camp during World War 2. The way they were treated was shameful, and I believe everyone needs to watch this to make sure we do not repeat this dark part of our history. It is an inspirational story of never giving up on family and treating all humans with dignity. It teaches the Japanese concept of gaman (我慢), or holding up in tough times in a patient and dignified manner. George Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung and the rest of the cast shone.

The show was followed by a documentary about the internment camps. There’s so much we weren’t taught, so much we need to know. The next time this airs, please do yourself a favor and go see it.


This is a parody of the Harry Potter story, following the saga through the events of all seven books from the perspective of the Puffs. (The houses are renamed, probably to avoid copyright issues. They are the Snakes, the Braves, the Smarts and the Puffs.) Wayne lives in the US and is surprised to get an owl telling him that he has been accepted at Hogwarts in the UK. He had no idea his parents, who he never knew, were British. It skims over the highlights of the seven books, as the Puffs are constantly outshone and outdone, but they do their best to make their contributions despite being underappreciated. While this is not Harry Potter canon, I think I will leave the plot description at that, as it is important to #keepthesecrets with all things Harry Potter.

This play was filmed off-Broadway, and I saw it on Fathom Events in a movie theater. It is a fun show, particularly enjoyable for fans of the books that inspired it. I’m not sure how well people who do not know the story would understand what is going on, but I’m sure they would still enjoy it. The cast is small, with most actors playing multiple roles. It’s similar to Come from Away in that respect (though that’s probably the only similarity). The stage is also surprisingly small, considering the sweeping scope of the story. In a way, that kind of highlights how the Puffs are small and underappreciated (underrated?), but their value is much greater than it appears.


Disney came out with their movie about the 1899 New York newsboy strike while I was in high school. My freshman year in high school we did a Disney revue and performed “King of New York.” So I was excited years later when they did a Broadway version, and was further excited when I found out they were filming a stage production with the combined touring cast and members of the original Broadway cast. This was an opportunity I could not pass up.

As with all Disney’s Broadway shows based on movies, they added songs and plot elements. For example, the characters of Denton and Sarah (Davey and Les’ sister) were combined into Katherine, daughter of Pulitzer. Medda Larkin, the “Swedish Nightingale” in the movie, was decidedly not Swedish in the Broadway version, but just as amazing. One of my favorite moments in the movie is where they sing near the beginning, “When you’ve got a hundred voices ringing, who can hear a lousy whistle blow?”, and then that changes later on to “When you’ve got a million voices ringing, who can hear a lousy whistle blow?” A stage production can’t replicate the large crowds they can have in a movie, so that didn’t have the same effect on me; however, what did give me similar chills was the new song “Brooklyn’s Here.” Up to that point, the newsies’ attempts to gather support from other groups depended on the response from Spot Conlon and his group of Brooklyn newsies. Once they respond in support, the other boroughs join in. This is a powerful story of what can be accomplished by a unified effort. I also liked the way the Broadway version incorporated Teddy Roosevelt better than the movie.


Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre did a revival of Ahrens & Flaherty's musical Ragtime, based on a novel and movie of the same title. I have always found it moving, and it was amazing to see live. The plot is very powerful, dealing with racism, immigration, and other social issues around the turn of the 19th-20th Centuries. The performances were excellent, and I was very impressed with the simple yet elegant and functional sets and the way they reused props. For example, the piano doubled as the car. The "Two Ships Passing" were rolling staircases rolling in opposite directions across the stage. They left a lot to the imagination, but were very clear about what the objects were meant to represent.

Something Rotten

This is the show that taught me that it might not be wise to listen to a cast recording of a musical comedy for the first time in the car while driving down the freeway. I tend to shut my eyes when I laugh hard. Yeah, not a good idea while driving. I managed to keep my eyes open, but it was a challenge. “A Musical” was the song that did me in.

So of course, the theatre being a much safer place to be doubled over laughing, I jumped at the opportunity to see the show when it came to Seattle! It was absolutely worth it. The rivalry between Shakespeare and the Bottom Brothers was like no other. Throw in Nostradamus and an attempt at stealing an idea Shakespeare will have in the future, and you get an omelet! The nods to other musicals and constant parodies and puns made for an evening of hilarity. Adam Pascal was brilliant as Shakespeare. I highly recommend this show if you get the opportunity.


I was initially skeptical of this show. I am not a fan of hip hop and rap, and I also have an aversion to an excess of swearing. I learned early on that this show has both. When I first tried listening to the cast recording a couple years ago, I turned it off during the first track because it just wasn’t my kind of music.

More recently, I decided to give it another chance due to its popularity, and I made myself listen to the entire (rather long) cast recording. I found out that, once you get past the style and the swearing, it is actually a powerful, moving show. So when I learned it was coming to Seattle, I was much more excited about it than I had been in the past. But I didn’t have much hope of seeing it due to the very expensive price tag. My brother’s employer came to the rescue, as they paid for a group of their employees to go see it, with the possibility of bringing a guest. Since I have an awesome brother, I got to go see it! (My coworkers were jealous.)

The show follows the life of Alexander Hamilton, from his early political life, to his death in a duel with Aaron Burr, sometime after his son’s similar death. It follows his romance and marriage to Eliza Schuyler, with twists and turns along the way, as well as his contributions to American politics and history. It is a powerful musical, and I highly recommend it. (“Immigrants: We get the job done!”) I would love to see it again. (King George was probably right. I’ll be back. Da da da da da da da da da da-ya da!) I would also say it is worth it just to see Lafayette rapping in a strong French accent.


Taproot Theatre, one of Seattle’s premiere community theatre groups, put on the lesser-known musical Crowns, which is about the African American experience in the South. Yolanda, a city girl from Brooklyn, visits, and six women (and one man) tell her their stories with the hats (or crowns) they wear to church and elsewhere. It is a joyful and moving celebration of the human spirit, and Yolanda is slowly changed over the course of the show. I recommend it.

Come from Away

I have gone into detail on the plot and songs of this show in previous blogs, so here I will focus more on my experience, most of which happened after my post in August. Interviewing the people who inspired the show gave me a new perspective on the tragedy that I remember, and the way others responded to it around the world. I now count several of them among my friends.

Our Bible study group from my church decided to go to the show during its run, as there are many lessons in the show that express a biblical view of how to welcome strangers with open arms (that far too many of my fellow Christians seem to have forgotten, but that’s another matter). Our group leader is a subscriber at the 5th Avenue Theatre, and bought tickets for us, that we were going to need to pay back. However, she asked that we wait to pay her back because an anonymous donor had offered to cover part of the cost. She was blown away when said donor ended up paying the ENTIRE cost for our group to see it! I still don’t know who paid for us to see it, but if you’re reading this, thank you!!

Top: With Diane Davis;
Middle: with Kevin Tuerff;
Bottom: Hannah, Beulah and Bonnie. 

Having interviewed several of the people involved over the internet, I wanted to meet them in person. Kevin Tuerff invited me to a special screening of the HBO Canada documentary You Are Here: A Come From Away Story. He said I could invite a guest, so my brother came with me. It was a deeply moving documentary, and I am looking forward to it being available for US and international audiences. The experience was even more powerful sitting down the row from Kevin Jung, right behind Janice Goudie, Brian Mosher, Beulah Cooper and Hannah O’Rourke. Kevin Tuerff was a couple rows ahead of me. Before the show, I walked up to Nick and Diane Marson and introduced myself and thanked them for the interview. They then introduced me to Bonnie Harris, who was there with her sister. Afterwards, Beulah Cooper gave me a hug. I was amused that Oz Fudge was wearing an “STFD” t-shirt, as that’s his line in the show. I got to speak with Kevin Tuerff, who recognized me, and I took a picture of Bonnie, Beulah and Hannah. The only people not able to make it were Diane Davis and Claude Elliott, who had a conflict in Newfoundland, and Beverley Bass had to leave Seattle that morning, so couldn’t make it to the showing. The director and producer of the documentary were there. Sankoff and Hein were also there, but I didn’t get to meet them.

The Seattle Public Library hosted an event in which a representative from the 5th Avenue spoke about his research and knowledge of the show and its background. He explained how Come from Away is only the third of a very small subset of musicals, one based on interviews. It is not based on any book, movie or anything else. All research by the composers was done by means of interviews at the 10th anniversary celebration in 2011. They compiled many hours of recordings that they used to build a 100-minute musical. (The other musicals based on interviews are A Chorus Line and Working.) Chelsea LeValley, who workshopped the part of Beverley Bass before the show went to Broadway, sang “Me and the Sky.” Two Seattleites who were stranded in Newfoundland after 9/11 then shared about their experiences. One landed in Gander, and the other in St. John’s. Both were welcomed warmly. One difference was that while they allowed passengers to take their carry-ons off the planes in Gander, they did not allow that in St. John’s. So the passengers there had to make do with even less. One of them remembered that before they were allowed to land, planes were circling, waiting for direction where to land. As far up and as far down as she could see out her window, she could see planes circling, like a tornado of planes. But everyone made it down safely.

Our group from church went to see the show a few days later. Before the show, I attended a pre-show talk telling more of the background. We learned about how Sankoff and Hein met and got married. Their first argument was about whether or not music could change the world. They were Canadians living in New York when 9/11 hit, and that night they gathered around their piano with international friends and sang. It was very traumatic, but music and friendship brought them through it.

The show was everything and more I had dreamed it was. It was deeply moving, and I just had to go again. It just so happened that my previous birthday, my family told me we would go as a family to a show, and I was supposed to name the show. Knowing it was coming and that I would want to see it more than once, I requested Come from Away. So the week following the first showing, I saw it again with my family. I was surprised when Caleb at the merchandise booth recognized me and asked if it was my second or third time. My family was equally moved by the show.

Between showings, I had to go downtown to renew my car tabs. The man at the counter at the Department of Licensing saw my Come from Away shirt and asked me about it. He really wanted to see it, but he said his partner had been in New York at the time, and it was still too raw for him. He told me that his partner recalled being inside while everything outside turned black with the ashes from the fires and the rubble, and every once in a while, pieces of paper would hit the windows and blow away. 

Partway through the run in Seattle, I found out that Diane Davis was coming, having missed the opening. While the first two times I saw it were planned, this one was not. She told me ahead of time which shows she would attend, and I decided to try to see one of those shows. It was Canada Night. I arrived at the box office and asked if they had rush tickets, but the show was sold out. They told me to wait and see if any seats opened up. So I waited outside the theatre while someone dressed in RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) regalia welcomed guests into the theatre. Just before the show was due to start, I returned to the box office, and a seat had opened up! It was even relatively close to the stage. The first time I was in the balcony, and the second time I was in the back of the orchestra level below the balcony overhang. This time I was in row K. It was close enough see the actors’ expressions. After the show, they had a talk-back with Canadian dignitaries, the person who commissioned the show, and others, including Diane Davis. I moved closer to the stage, and when Diane saw me, she mouthed, “Steven?” After the talk-back, Diane gave me a big hug and told me it was nice to see a familiar face. 

It was the experience of a lifetime. As my brother so eloquently put it, “So when are we going to Newfoundland?”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a cod to kiss. I don’t know when, but that must happen.


These are the shows I have seen in the past couple years. What is next? Thanks to my brother's employer, he is attending Dear Evan Hansen next month, and he invited me to come too! I can’t wait! I’m currently listening to the audiobook in preparation. (Well, not as I type, but I listen to it when I get the chance.

2018 has been an amazing year. It’s hard to believe it is almost over! I look forward to future adventures in theatre in 2019 and beyond, and I hope everyone has an amazing New Year!

Steven Sauke is a Broadway enthusiast who took all the pictures above, attended all the shows featured in the past couple years, and can get long winded at times.


This is a reblog of a post I wrote for the All Things Broadway blog at the end of 2018 looking back on the past couple years of shows. When I submitted it, I titled it "A Look Back." The editor changed the title to "My Personal Year in Review", which wasn't quite accurate as it covered at least two years, possibly more. I present it here with its original title, with a little added for clarification. After it was published on that blog, I remembered I had also attended Ragtime. I have added that here.


Dear Evan Hansen

January presents some interesting weather challenges. The evening we were scheduled to see Dear Evan Hansen was opening night. We had dinner downtown and proceeded to the theatre, where we found a sign on the door explaining that due to weather in the mountain passes east of Seattle, the truck carrying the set was delayed and they would not be able to move forward to that evening's performance. So it was another week or so before we got a chance to see it. It was intense and powerful. I was very impressed with the sets, the performances, and the fact that I didn't realize until the near the end there were only 8 people in the cast. It got me thinking about how I treat those around me. My full review is here.