My Best Stage Door Experiences
By RONNI KRASNOW
Friday, December 29, 2017  •  
Fri Dec 29, 2017  •  
Broadway  •   0 comments Share This
"Some of my best theatre memories come from after the show."

A theatre lover shares her favorite post-show interactions with stars

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This past summer, there was much ado surrounding stage dooring after Dear Evan Hansen Tony winner Ben Platt and rock star turned Kinky Boots lead Brendon Urie took to social media to explain why they couldn't always greet fans. While I certainly understand and respect any actor's decision not to interact with the public post-performance, these episodes made me sad because, as a frequent stage-door Jane, some of my best theatre memories come from after the show.

The first famous person I ever met was the late, great Dorothy Loudon after watching her performance as Miss Hannigan in Annie, the first Broadway show I ever saw. I was 10 and had a cast on my leg due to a recent cerebral palsy-related surgery, so my father was carrying me. While other cast members rushed past us to escape the January chill, Ms. Loudon stopped, asked about my leg, and said she hoped I felt better soon. Her kindness left a lasting impression on me. Years later, while volunteering at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, I saw her in the canteen during the troubled out-of-town tryout for Annie 2. I thought about approaching her and thanking her for that memory, but I did not want to disturb her dinner. Now that she's gone, I wish I had said something.

I've been bolder at other times. When Ragtime stars Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald performed "Wheels of a Dream" at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1997 just prior to the musical's Broadway premiere, I wanted to tell them how much I was enjoying the show's concept album. On the morning of their rehearsal, I waited for them outside the entrance and, when they approached, I rather timidly handed over my CD jacket. As Stokes was signing I said, "I just have to tell you that you have been making me cry for over a year." "Aww," he replied, "Can I have a hug?" I happily complied, and for the rest of my life, I can say that Brian Stokes Mitchell asked me for a hug.

Brittany Murphy and the author outside
Brittany Murphy and the author outside 'A View From the Bridge'

On Tony weekend of 1998, I saw the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge starring Anthony LaPaglia, Allison Janney, and a then relatively unknown Brittany Murphy as the niece. I thought her performance was extraordinary and waited at the stage door to tell her so. She was surprised that I wanted to talk to her as opposed to her more famous costars. She spent quite a bit of time with me and could not have been nicer. Tragically, A View From the Bridge turned out to be her sole Broadway credit as she died suddenly in 2009 at age 32. Although most people know her for her film work, Hollywood took its toll on her. So I'm glad the image in the photo above is how I will always remember her.

Last year, I even had an unexpected pre-show interaction when a friend and I drove down to Washington, DC to see the revised Secret Garden. We were running late so she dropped me across the street from the theatre and went to park the car. I had thrown my back out a few days earlier and was really struggling to cross. "Can I help you?" a woman behind me asked. Normally I would have refused, but I was so worried about getting there safely before curtain that I took her arm. When I looked at her face, I realized I was hanging on to Secret Garden composer Lucy Simon! After my shock wore off, I told her that I had come from New York specifically to see the show and that I have loved the score for 25 years. She helped me to my seat and after the show we met up again, and I thanked her profusely for both her music and her assistance.

But of all the stage door interactions I have experienced, none has impressed me more than Christy Altomare, who currently stars as Anya in Anastasia. In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Altomare said "the fan base for Anastasia is the most rewarding thing," and it's clear that she takes her responsibility to us "Fanastasias" very seriously. Because of my disability, a stage door as crowded as Anastasia's is difficult for me. So when I took my niece (who also happens to be named Anya) to the show, Altomare agreed via mutual friends to meet us inside the theatre so I could get a photo with both Anyas.

So while it's certainly not required that any actor give audiences anything beyond the onstage performance, a few minutes of a star's time can create lifelong memories for us fans.

Do you have any great stage door stories? Share them in the comments!

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Ronni Krasnow works as a librarian. In her far more interesting life as theatre nerd, she runs the Ahrens & Flaherty Facebook page, serves on the reading committee for the New York Musical Festival, and creates theatre-related collage art.

Top image: Christy Altomare with the author and her niece. Photos courtesy of the author.

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