Give Our Regards to Broadway

In honor of the upcoming Tony Awards, the Chicks reveal their fave Broadway shows–and nominate their own outstanding performances under the Lights Fantastic in previously-unknown categories.

 Ellen Byron


Asking me to pick a favorite show is liking asking a parent to pick a favorite kid. I grew up in New York with arts-loving parents who were constantly taking me to the theatre, opera, and ballet. My mom would get cheap seats, take me during the week, and then write an excuse to explain why I was late to school the next day. I had so many “stomachaches” it’s a wonder the school didn’t ask me to see a specialist.

I saw the original casts of most Broadway shows in the early nineteen-seventies and beyond. (Usually preceded by a dinner at the original Mama Leone’s.) I even went to the closing performance of Hair with a friend. If you put a prop pistol to my head, I’d have to go with A Little Night Music as my favorite musical. I’m a total Steven Sondheim fangirl and actually knew him, but that’s for a whole other blog post.

And I bet I’m the only Chick who ever actually auditioned for a Broadway show. I can’t remember which one it was, but I sang “I Can Cook” from On The Town, and got a callback for a dance audition. I showed up in my fave Laura Ashley dress and high-heeled boots to find myself surrounded by what looked like the cast from A Chorus Line. I attempted half a combination among the jazz-shoed, leotarded pros, and fled. So the award for Chick Who Totally Whiffed a Chance to be on Broadway goes to… ME!!

Lisa Q. Mathews

CotC Word balloons

My favorite? The first NYC show I ever attended: Fiddler on the Roof. It was the first Broadway revival starring Zero Mostel as Tevye, which opened in 1976 at the Winter Garden Theater. (I didn’t know exactly when, but I looked it up on Wiki!). That makes me a little older than I’d remembered…I still have the Hummel-esque Tevye that rotates to the tune of “If I Were a Rich Man.” This was about 7 years after I did NOT win the part of Cinderella in my elementary school play. At the time I was thinking how mortified I’d be if I were cast as one of the ugly stepsisters. But oh, no, it got worse. Much worse. I appeared in this acclaimed production as the back end of a “horse,” completely covered (fortunately) with a blanket, my head down and hands on some girl’s waist. So…I nominate myself for “Best Performance by a Chick in the Half-Human-Half-Beast” category. Thanks a bunch, Mrs. Bennett. You can keep the roses.

 Marla Cooper

CotC Marla Cooper

I’ve spent hours in the TKTS line in NYC with an open mind and a fistful of cash, waiting to snatch up two half-price tickets to whatever sounds best. I normally refuse the pamphlets people try to hand me, but back in 2006 I ended up accepting a brochure for a brand-new Broadway musical called The Drowsy Chaperone, and something about the cleverly crafted headline (I’m a sucker for good copywriting) struck a chord so deep I ditched the TKTS line and headed straight to the theater’s box office. Even at full price, I have never loved a show as much I loved that one. The musical numbers were fresh and surprising, and Sutton Foster was amazing doing “I Don’t Want to Show Off,” in which she gets to majorly show off. In fact, it’s a big fat valentine to the whole genre of musical theater.

Vickie Fee

vickieHaving resided in off, off, very off Broadway places like Memphis and the U.P., I’ve only seen a couple of productions of traveling Broadway shows. Since one of my all-time favorite movies is Monty Python and The Holy Grail, my favorite show was Spamalot, which played at The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis some years ago. Our seats were so good, I could hear Patsy banging the coconuts together—not the recorded sound effects, mind you, but the actual coconuts clanking. Currently, my lovely, talented 12-year-old niece, Molly, is into the soundtrack for Hamilton (last year’s Tony award winner for Best Musical). When I visited my sister’s family last month, Molly wowed me with her performance of the very cute You’ll Be Back, King George’s “love” song to the colonies. Take a bow, Molly!

Cynthia Kuhn


Technically, I’ve only been to one show on the actual Broadway: The Phantom of the Opera. Verdict:But happily, I have seen many on tour and my favorite is, without question, the brilliant and witty Chicago. I love everything about it and listen to the soundtrack often. For the nomination, I guess I have to go with our off-off-off-(times infinity)-Broadway elementary school production of The Music Man, in which I played Marian the Librarian: the category of Chick Most Oblivious To All The Innuendo In The Songs Whilst Gleefully Warbling Them As A Fifth Grader.

Readers, do you have a favorite show or a nomination you’d like to make, for yourself or someone else? Let us know in the comments below!

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45 thoughts on “Give Our Regards to Broadway

  1. For many years my family used to put on our own musicals each year on the day after Christmas: The Sound of Music, Cinderella (my mom and dad as Cinderella and the prince were adorable!), The Wizard of Oz, West Side Story, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We’d write out treatments for each scene and then just wing it when it came time to film the scenes (yes, they are all saved for posterity, but you might have to threaten my dog with torture to get me to show you). My fav, though, was the one we entitled “Deuce,” based on “All About Eve,” but set in the women’s tennis circuit, using songs from a whole bunch of different shows with new lyrics we wrote to fit the tennis story.

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  2. I’m just going with some favorite musicals: Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof (I was actually in it when my college did it many moons ago. I had the extremely pivotal part of…First Man. You know, the first speaking part that doesn’t get a name. I did do the bottle dance, however. Anyway….) Annie, Into the Woods, and the Music Man are some that spring immediately to mind.

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      1. It wasn’t, actually. And I always breathed a sigh of relief when I made it through without breaking the bottle. Especially since I broke several in rehearsal and the front row was right next to the stage.

        And I realized I left one out – Beauty and the Beast. And I call myself a DisNerd.

        Liked by 3 people

      1. Mark, I’m über impressed by your bottle dancing skills! Maybe you could perform for us at Malice! And your “first man” role trumps any of my stage credits 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Marla, “The Drowsy Chaperone” started improvisationally, really almost as a goof. When I worked on “Still Standing,” Jenn Irwin, one of the actresses on the show had been involved with it in the beginning and got a credit. And remuneration. Lucky gal!

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    1. I remember hearing that! Wasn’t it originally written as a wedding present for Bob Martin’s friends? I remember that it had some really interesting origin story. Anyway, very cool for Jenn. That would have been so much fun to develop!

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      1. Ha ha! I’m happy to share my nomination with you both. So…Marian is viewed by the town ladies as a fallen woman because she wasn’t married to the man who bequeathed her all of the library books (this is underscored too by the initial disdain for Chaucer, Rabelais, and Balzac, which the ladies consider to be dirty books); they think she must have done something to “earn” them. And Harold is called a womanizer outright (he is said to have “taken it” from girls all over the place)–plus listen to the lyrics of “A Sadder but Wiser Girl” again (“Shipoopi” also talks about girls who are “hard to get” but it’s more gentle than the other song).

        So many of the shows do have such currents. I just didn’t recognize them until later. Oklahoma! is another one where I listened to the soundtrack again as an adult and went WHOA. 🙂

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  4. My absolute fave remains Fiddler on the Roof. I was raised on the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Lowe. But Fiddle was the first professional play I saw, back in 1968, in London with Alfie Bass as Tevye. We had the cast album (we had tons of cast albums), but we pulled that out time and time again to sing and dance to, with my dad putting my youngest sister on his shoulders to do Fruma Sarah.

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  5. Living far from NYC I’ve only seen a couple of shows actually on Broadway, but I’ve bern fortunate enough to see many travelling tours. My parents took me to see The Sound of Music when I was 4 years old. My dad says I sat on the edge of my seat transfixed the entire time. I blame this event on my downfall, leading to a vocal performance degree but no professional career. I still love the magic of the theater. Ahh, first loves.

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    1. Oh, a vocal performance degree = wonderful, Daniele! Congratulations.

      And agree, The Sound of Music is absolutely magical. As a result, I couldn’t wait to be sixteen going on seventeen.

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  6. Ellen, I would have loved to see your audition! I bet you were amazing. Are there any photos?

    Lisa, that’s incredible that you got to see Zero Mostel in person. What a legend. And please do you have any pictures of your horse costume? 🙂

    Marla, thanks for the rec…adding that to my list. Very much like genre send-ups. Sutton was great in the series about the ballet teacher that I can’t think of the name of (made by Gilmore Girl people)…it ended too soon. And also in Younger.

    Vickie, you’re lucky! Have been longing to see Spamalot and Hamilton. Congratulations to Molly.

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    1. Cynthia, I would love to see a live production of Chicago — loved the movie! You’ve inspired me. I may get a little naughty and watch The Music Man this weekend! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I was also raised by parents who collected Broadway musical albums. My first play in elementary school was the “opera” Hansel and Gretel. I had long, dark hair and longed to be Gretel, but the girl with short blonde curls was the perfect Gretel and I became a vicious character part of the witch. My classmates loved my cackle! The next year I was in a community theatre performance of Annie Get Your Gun. What a fun show to be a child from the back woods. Now my fav is Wicked but I recommend Finding Neverland! What a great post, ladies. Of course you’ve read D E Ireland’s Eliza Doolittle novels!!

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    1. Beth, the witch is a much more interesting part than Gretel. I hope you’ll perform your wicked cackle for the Chicks at Malice next year! 🙂

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  8. Whenever I am asked what my favorite musical is, I always find that question hard to answer. That decision is like finding a needle in a haystack. The first show and only show I saw on Broadway was Wicked and when I saw it, that musical became my favorite musical. I believed no musical could possibly top it or even tie with it. I was only 12 at the time.

    Turns out that what I believed was not true. Well now Les Mis is equally as good as Wicked. Picking between those two is crazy. Two severely different musicals with one of them repressing my vision of musical better, which would be Wicked.

    One of those two is the spectacle/dance natured, more relatable due to relating so much to Elphaba, musical fantasy. The other is the epic, powerful, passionate inspirational musical tragedy. Wicked actually sparked my love of musicals and Les Mis turned that love into a passion. True, I am obsessed with Les Mis, but that automatically does not mean it is better than Wicked. It is only tied and that is all I can really say

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    1. Oh, yes! Les Miz was my first true Broadway musical and I was obsessed for the longest time. Sometimes when I was home alone I would sing along to the soundtrack, both of us at full volume. “On My Own” was a particular favorite. (I loved Wicked, too! I saw the touring production in SF with a great cast!)

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      1. Wicked has been part of my life much longer than Les Mis has. Wicked carries my vision of musicals better in so many ways. The musicals I grew up with were quite essential to my musical journey and they laid out a foundation for musical. My vision was created from those musicals I grew up with

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      1. Les Mis is the most powerful musical I have ever come across. This musical challenged everything i once knew about musicals.

        For starters, I once believed all musicals were happy only because that was all I knew. It even made me look at musical emotions a bit differently. I already knew about excitement, joy, love, and sad. I never noticed heartbreak in the mix, but Les Mis introduced me to that emotion.

        Due to Les Mis being in my life, I realized musicals have more potential and capability than I once believed. Having Les Mis also made it easier to spot negative emotions in other musicals

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  9. Sort of like Ellen, I grew up with musicals. I played in the pit for a summer playhouse for 6 years, 3 shows a season, I think. But I did get to see Phantom in London, so that gets my vote as my favorite.

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  10. Ellen, you brought back so many good memories. Laura Ashley dresses! Mama Leone’s!
    I grew up in CT and NYC was a train ride away and for some reason my parents were fine with me and my high school friends going in for shows (this was in the 70s, before Times Square was cleaned up). I saw so many shows, it’s too hard to pick a favorite, but my favorite night was Dreamgirls with Jennifer Holliday. When she sang And I Am Telling You she brought down the house – almost literally. I’ve been in an earthquake, and that theater shook just like that!


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