A theatre lover's tragic story of missed opportunity
This is the story of the best show I didn't see. Specifically, an iconic musical I came thisclose
to catching in its original incarnation almost 30 years ago, and I'm still pretty annoyed about it. I will set the scene for you, and hopefully this will help me work through my unresolved feelings -- and some of yours, if you've had a similar experience. I mean haven't we all? Theatre's not like a movie; if you miss it, it's gone forever.
It was 1986. I was a teenager in San Diego, and my family had season tickets to the Old Globe
, which was (and is) a great regional theatre that produces quality Shakespeare as well as many Broadway-bound premieres and revivals. The Old Globe had recently recovered from an arson fire in 1978
that burned down the original theatre -- just like what happened to the original original Old Globe
in England back in the day.
My family had season tickets, so we had seats to all the shows, but not enough to accommodate everyone for every production. Normally that wasn't a problem, because usually everybody didn't all want to see every offering. But then along came this new musical that had a pretty good chance of going to New York City. While I don't remember exactly why, I was not among the people in my family that went to see it. It's possible that I just wasn't interested since I knew nothing about it, but to this day, I believe that I was unjustly left home while everyone else went to see this musical, the name of which I am saving as a surprise (though perhaps you've guessed already).
When everybody got home, they assured me that I hadn't missed much. It was a confusing show with a lot of complicated, hard-to-follow songs in service of a complicated, hard-to-follow plot. They admitted that the lyrics were clever and the cast seemed talented, but I was left with the impression that it needed a lot of work before it would be worth seeing.
It turned out to be the original version of Into the Woods
There were a lot of changes between the version I didn't get to see and the one that opened on Broadway in 1987. This was early in its San Diego run, so there were still extraneous storylines about the Three Little Pigs and, apparently, up to two bonus wolves. There were different songs. The witch wasn't Bernadette Peters, but Ellen Foley seems like she'd have been great. She probably was! But I don't know, because I didn't get to see the original incarnation of what would eventually become one of my very favorite musicals. And frankly, I'm still holding a grudge about it.
Are there any shows you almost saw that you now regret missing? Tell us in the comments!
Monty Ashley lives in Seattle and goes to the theatre a lot. He also writes about television at Previously TV and is a regular panelist on The Incomparable.