Why I Obsessively See Certain Shows
By JOSE SOLÍS
Monday, August 05, 2019  •  
Mon Aug 5, 2019  •  
Broadway  •   11 comments Share This

For certain productions, once is not nearly enough -- but I have rules for returning 

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Back in 2015 I remember thinking to myself: I can do without the gym membership this month. Or perhaps walk more and give less of my money to the MTA. I don't really need three meals a day. No, I wasn't trying to lose weight. I was pondering how I could rustle up $189 plus taxes and fees to attend the final performance of The Visit starring Chita Rivera.

As I did mental gymnastics trying to figure out how I'd be able to afford the ticket, another thought kept nagging at me: I'd already seen the show four times. But I wouldn't let that deter me. I promised myself this would truly be the very last time -- which of course it would since the show was closing. And that's precisely why I needed to go again! Despite throwing off my budget for a few weeks, that visit to The Visit was the ultimate in every way.

I actually have rules for seeing a show more than once. My repeat viewings must fall into one of four categories. There's Early Preview/Last Performance -- if I became enamored at the outset, I must return at the end for closure. Not only do I want to say goodbye, I want to see how far the production has come.

That category sometimes overlaps with Cast Changes, as was the case when I went back a third time to The King and I to catch Kelli O'Hara's last performance as Anna at Lincoln Center. I cheered from the second row as she took her final final bow, and when she smiled at me (yes, I'm sure it was at me) I knew I'd made the right decision.

Cast Changes explain why I've seen Chicago so many times I've lost count. Whenever a pop diva, football player, movie star or a childhood idol of mine takes over one of the leading roles, I don't dismiss it as stunt casting. I want to see what fresh spin they'll bring to Roxie, Velma, Billy or Mama Morton.

Sometimes confusion -- not adoration -- entices me to return. I call this category What Am I Missing? If people I respect are raving but I'm less impressed, I want to give the show another chance. That's why I attended The Ferryman three times (that's almost 12 hours of seeing the same show!), crossing my fingers and praying to the theatre gods that I would finally feel that heart-stopping magic everyone was talking about. Watching the replacement cast, especially Brian d'Arcy James doing an Irish accent, gave me a new appreciation for a play I enjoyed more than I initially realized.

My last category is Comfort Culture which, like comfort food, makes me feel good. It's why I was so eager to sit through What the Constitution Means to Me for a second time on the gloomy day Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, or why I was desperate to see the revival of Oklahoma! after a breakup. Theatre can provide solace and healing, just like my grandma's cooking. We all need Comfort Culture -- just ask my friend who takes all of her out-of-town friends to see Rock of Ages (she's been 23 times so far) or my other pal who attended Head Over Heels twice in one weekend.

Comfort Culture was another reason I kept going to The Visit. For me, the production became the equivalent of a hot bowl of mac and cheese on a rainy day, and I was happy to savor every bite. I was thrilled when, a few years after it closed, I met Chita Rivera and was able to tell her about all the times I saw her in that final John Kander and Fred Ebb musical. As a theatre lover herself, she understood my obsession. Her expressive eyes widened as she placed her hands on my cheeks and said, "Oh how I love you."

Which shows have you seen multiple times and why? Tell us in the comments.

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Jose Solís is a NY-based writer and editor who's been covering theatre and film professionally since 2003. He is a member of the Drama Desk. Follow him at @josesolismayen. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.

Top image: The author in front of the poster for The King and I at Lincoln Center Theater. Photo courtesy of the author.

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11 Comments:
Nicole Ackman said:
I love this! I return to shows for similar reasons, mostly cast changes or because I need the comfort they provide (I saw The Grinning Man in London 6 times in a six month period for the comfort factor.) But I've also seen Les Mis 12 times because I'm fascinated by seeing how the experience of a show changes for me as I have more life experiences.
Posted on 8/7/2019 at 12:03 PM
elliot pollack said:
Follies 14 times...Hello Dolly 14 times...Gypsy 12 times
Posted on 8/10/2019 at 9:14 AM
James Wigdel said:
My all-time repeat show record goes to Les Miserables, probably about 14 times. I just love the story and seeing how each new cast tells it. It's the most comprehensive, deep and moving show of the 100+ shows I have seen, plus I'm a sucker for a love story. My other favorite repeat shows, are: Miss Saigon, Rent, Book of Mormon, Phantom of the Opera and Hello Dolly. Yay Broadway!
Posted on 8/10/2019 at 9:53 AM
Mary Scafidi said:
I have seen Cher three (3) times with 3 different groups of people. The show brought back memories of my love for this couple growing up. The show was magnificent and the seats amazing each time thanks to TDF. Everyone is now joining TDF because of this wonderful experience. Thank you!
Posted on 8/10/2019 at 9:58 AM
Martin Kosarik said:
There have been a few shows I’ve become fanatical with. I saw Rent 12 times, Next To Normal 10 times, but nothing comes close to American Idiot. I saw American Idiot 55 times! It was like watching my life being played out on stage. A cathartic experience every time. Cheaper than therapy actually.
Posted on 8/10/2019 at 11:06 AM
Sherry ross said:
I loved Les Miserables & saw it at least 3 times. Also loved Cats & saw several times. I’m waiting to see Lion King again. Other plays I’ve seem multiple times because we belong to several theater groups but not particularly by choice.
Posted on 8/10/2019 at 1:09 PM
Ira Wodin said:
Recent production of My Fair Lady 4 times. Saw the original years ago 8th row, orchestra and my music teachers brother played 1st trumpet in the orchestra. I went up to say hello during the intermission. I must’ve been 10 or 11 at the time and it gave me a lifelong love of theater.
Posted on 8/10/2019 at 2:49 PM
Norman Mathews said:
I've seen both West Side Story and Gypsy dozens of times because I believe they are two of the greatest musicals ever written. Because of my love of Steven Sondheim, I asked him how it is he that he worked with composers such as Bernstein and Styne, when he was writing only lyrics. He wrote back to me. Read it here: https://normanmathewsauthor.com/sondheims-lyrics-for-other-composers/
Posted on 8/10/2019 at 3:08 PM
joe said:
I saw ANASTASIA 4 times. I saw it on opening night in Hartford, and two subsequent performances. It was really interesting to see the cast settle into their roles. I took my three daughters to see it in NYC and the changes (big and small) truly made it an even better show. I'm looking forward to seeing it a couple more times when it tours this season.
Posted on 8/20/2019 at 4:27 PM
Daniel Guss said:
PART I: For a single production, nine times for Sweeney Todd: three times during previews, to observe changes in writing and staging (I was an aspiring theatre writer then); three times to bring various friends; the last performance by Lansbury and Cariou; one of the early ones by Loudon and Hearn; and then closing day (in lieu of the pride parade). I always see Sondheim shows multiple times.
Posted on 8/24/2019 at 9:23 AM
Daniel Guss said:
PART II: I rarely rack up numbers like the other commenters, but Sondheim always brings me back. Original Company - 4 times; original Follies - 3; Night Music - 4; Pacific Overtures - 3; Sweeney Todd - 9; Merrily - 4 (3 previews); Sunday - 4; Into the Woods - 6; Assassins - 1 (as a subscriber); Passion - 3; Frogs - 1 (not at Yale); Road Show - 3 (including Chicago and D.C.). Plus various revivals.
Posted on 8/24/2019 at 9:26 AM
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