I was recently watching a video that featured a clip from the new musical Hadestown. I had tickets to see this show in New York City this month, before the world changed. I was excited to return to Broadway and enjoy some new shows. But that’s not happening now or any time soon.
I don’t listen to a musical’s soundtrack until after I see the show. It may mean I’m a bit lost, but I prefer watching the story unfold for the first time without any lyrics spoiling something. Then I tend to listen to it on repeat (obsessively) once I’ve seen the show. It is a way I can relive the theatre experience at any moment, playing it out in my head while the songs play.
I’m a theatre geek and I love to sing, although others feel differently. I miss the world of my undergrad theatre and working to create a show. I helped every semester with building sets—it was a requirement for my minor—and I was part of the crew a few times. I helped dress actors in 12th Night—I was the only one after the other student quit suddenly. I was in charge of laundry, costumes, and helping the actors dress if they needed it. I operated a spotlight for Sweeny Todd and had to rush from the perch to the bathroom every show during intermission. I hid onstage to operate a pneumatic door for Medea; it required paying close attention and timing cues perfectly with the actors’ movement. These are all college experiences; I was active in theatre at my high school while I was a student and a few years after to help.
Theatre is a collaborative form of magic. When I watched Hamilton on Disney+, I realized how the screen flattened the experience of live theatre. A well-made musical movie can usually overcome this barrier. I didn’t dislike Hamilton, but it didn’t bring me the same thrill I felt seeing live shows. Being in the same space as the actors as they perform with passion and heart is my favorite drug. It can be fun and light, as with a show like Book of Mormon. Or it can be intense and heartbreaking like my favorite musicals Spring Awakening and Next to Normal. It is truly an experience when you feel raw and fulfilled after an amazing show. It is cathartic. Being in the same space, experiencing a show creates a charged environment that cannot be captured on film. Sitting in my living room, watching an edited version of Hamilton will never live up to seeing the same show live.
I don’t know when Broadway will return. It will never be the same as before; the world has changed so many parts of life. I can belt out soundtracks in my house (alone), but it will never thrill and move me in the same way. I hope I will see Hadestown one day; I’ve heard great things and I dig the slips I’ve seen online. It is the Orpheus story by way of New Orleans in terms of music and style. I’ll likely listen to the soundtrack one days, even if I never see the show. I’m excited for shows that aren’t based on previous intellectual property. New ideas are good, you guys. I love classis Broadway shows, mostly from watching musical movies growing up. But I love seeing new blood injected into such a classic artform.
Theatre will endure. It will outlast us all. But it will never be the same.