Read about NYC's best theatre and dance productions and watch video interviews with innovative artists
I saw all 39 shows that opened on the Main Stem in 2022-2023 and I have wisdom to share!
When I set out to see every Broadway production that bowed this season, I didn't have a compelling reason beyond loving theatre. It was just another zany mission, like the time my friend Tyler and I saw five shows in one day. But, 39 Broadway shows later, I realize I've gained more than bragging rights and credit card debt. Here are ten takeaways from my first-ever perfect Broadway season.
1.The play's the thing - I'm the quintessential musical theatre kid, so it was a no-brainer that I'd attend the tales of Sweeney Todd, Camelot, Some Like It Hot and their ilk. I usually see most Broadway musicals, both new shows and revivals. But with plays, I typically only attend the ones that are up for Tony Awards or star someone I love. By committing to see every play this season, my world expanded. Without this endeavor, I would have missed the ones that turned out to be my favorites: Between Riverside and Crazy, Cost of Living and Summer, 1976. I would have missed Sean Hayes' explosive rendition of "Rhapsody in Blue" on the piano at the climax of Good Night, Oscar, the riveting puppetry in Life of Pi and the conjuring of Kabul in The Kite Runner. It was a gift to soak in such a rich variety of voices and experiences, from the heartbreak of Leopoldstadt to the hilarity of Peter Pan Goes Wrong.
2. Transfers are worth revisiting - If not for this project, I might not have gone to shows I'd already seen Off Broadway. And it would have been a big fat shame to skip Fat Ham and the other Broadway transfers. Not only did I enjoy seeing them again, I got to show off my theatre nerd cred with my friends and colleagues, saying stuff like, "The Fat Ham transfer really works, but I missed the intimacy I enjoyed at the Public;" "I'm so glad the entire cast of Kimberly Akimbo transferred—I loved them at the Atlantic and it's wonderful to see some of those kids make their Broadway debuts;" and "I saw Into the Woods at Encores! and we need to do a line-by-line comparison of Heather's witch vs. Patina's."
3. Don't be afraid of long running times - As a tired working mom, whenever I learned a show would be under two hours with no intermission, I cheered. But the running times rarely had any bearing on my enjoyment. This season, I saw 90-minute shows that felt like five hours and three-hour shows that flew by. The lesson for me was not to let a long running time deter me from seeing a show. But bless 7 p.m. curtains—always and forever.
4. Audiences matter - Sometimes, watching the audience watch the show is as exhilarating as the performance on stage. Standout crowds included the screaming KPOP fans, the "Amens!" at Ain't No Mo' and the Neil Diamond diehards at A Beautiful Noise who were bursting to sing along (I felt their relief when they were given the chance). But my favorite audience experiences were at TDF's student matinees—I had the pleasure of witnessing hundreds of high schoolers watch Top Dog/Underdog and Kimberly Akimbo. The energy was electric.
5. Going solo has its benefits - Seeing so many shows, at times I had trouble finding a companion—especially when the tickets were pricey. I attended several shows on my own and it made for some great "me" time. The best part? No one was talking to me while I was reading the Playbill.
6. Reviews schmeviews - I never read reviews before I see a show. But, of course, I still hear opinions that impact me. In the past, I skipped plenty of shows because people I trust didn't like them. Perhaps the biggest benefit of my perfect season was the mandate to draw my own conclusions. There's always something to appreciate, even in a snoozer.
7. Gotta see more dance - Although I'm a Fosse fan, I would have likely skipped Bob Fosse's Dancin' if not for this undertaking. That would have been unfortunate as I ended up having a joyful experience—I liked it a lot more than the critics (again, reviews schmeviews).
8. Solo shows are worth a shot - Before this project, I thought one-person shows were too hit-or-miss for me to invest in. I certainly wouldn't have attended a whopping four of them on Broadway: Gabriel Byrne's theatrical memoir Walking with Ghosts, Prima Facie with Jodie Comer, Jefferson Mays in A Christmas Carol and Mike Birbiglia's The Old Man and the Pool. I admit, it's still not my favorite form, but in the absence of a larger cast, I found myself paying extra attention to production design. Comer held court with help from Natasha Chivers' intense lighting. Birbiglia owned the stage with nothing but Beowulf Boritt's simple, whimsical backdrop. And Mays reinvented A Christmas Carol through brilliant stagecraft. These vastly different visual experiences taught me a lot about storytelling.
9. It's all about the deals - It's expensive to see a full season on Broadway! While I was privileged to attend some shows for free through my job at TDF, I purchased plenty of tickets using my TDF membership and the TKTS booths (for shorter lines, hit the one at Lincoln Center). Also, I weirdly enjoyed waiting in line for rush tickets.
10. Help! I'm swimming in Playbills! - I accumulated so many Playbills in just one season that they've taken over my apartment. Leave a comment and tell me how you're storing your programs. I need advice!
Top image: The author surrounded by 2022-2023 Playbills. Photo by Elyse Orecchio.