Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Getting With the Program

My previous rant against Manhattan started me wondering just how many New York shows I have seen over the years. There is one way to tell, by digging out my programs.

When I first started attending professional shows, I saved every program, but that collection soon grew way out of hand. If I had continued that habit, I would now need a separate building to house so many tons of paper. So, I do not have concrete evidence of all the shows I have seen. It's too bad, because those first shows I attended, as an early teen, all live on in my memory. Growing up in Atlanta, I saw several seasons of Theatre of the Stars, the summer stock company which brought in mid-level celebrities to star in various older shows.

It was there that I saw one of my favorite clowns, Paul Lynde, in Neil Simon's Plaza Suite, starring opposite Elizabeth Allen, who went on to costar as his wife in his sitcom. During those summers, I also saw Joel Grey in 1776, only a year before he won his Oscar, Ann Blythe in The Sound of Music (she was waaaaaay too old), and Betty Grable in Hello, Dolly! Guess who swung through town as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof? Leonard Nimoy.

Vincent Price came through Atlanta as Fagin in Oliver, and as I was only about 12, you would think I would have imagined myself as Oliver, or more likely, the Artful Dodger. But no, I came away from the show wanting to play Fagin. It remains on my list of roles to play.

Well, I'm glad I still have those memories, because I long ago threw out the programs.
But I made a point of keeping all the programs from Broadway shows I have seen over the years. Yesterday, I rummaged around downstairs and found them. Some of them have not been examined in over 30 years.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that a group of us from college made the trip from LA to NY several times, and my programs verify that memory. I took trips to Manhattan in late 1975, in late 1977, again in 1978, then again in 1991. Over that period, I saw well over 30 productions, including some masterpieces and some mistakes.

I've made a cursory examination of these programs from the past, and have found some really surprising stuff. I'll sort it all out, and report back my findings.

You can't wait, can you?