It’s a question I’ve asked numerous times, sometimes as I’m leaving a theatre after a show or sometimes the first thing I say as the lights rise for the interval. There’s something about theatre that makes me want to hit replay and watch the same show over and over again. Time travel would certainly come in handy but without such an invention, theatregoers must splash the cash once more in order to enjoy the same production another day.
I know I’m not alone with this expensive desire to revisit shows. Many Twitter users I have followed over the years can rack up twenty or more visits to the same production in a matter of months, often travelling miles to the West End or following tours around Britain in order to catch a glimpse of their favourite performer or show.
The reasons behind each individual’s determination to watch the same show again and again can vary. For some it is the power of a plot line or the emotional impact of a musical score. For others it is a cast member that makes the additional journeys worthwhile. Seeing a performer in the same role on multiple occasions is an interesting experience. Some will give identical performances from the way they deliver a line to the moment they lick their lips or clear their throat. Others seem to thrive in spontaneity, feeding from the audience or fellow cast members to make a scene fresh each and every time they perform. Many fans will also return to see an understudy in action or to see an entire new cast take on their new roles.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of theatregoers who are satisfied to see a show once in their lifetime, a complete mystery to those who return to productions more than once a month. Take for example my grandfather who saw Dave Willetts as the Phantom in the late nineteen eighties and also enjoyed a performance of one of the earliest West End casts of Les Misérables. Although he still speaks highly of the performances he witnessed over twenty years ago, he seems satisfied to refrain from returning to the shows again. Even when The Phantom of the Opera tour touched Scottish soil in 2012, he hardly batted an eyelid as plenty of others flocked to see the show in Edinburgh.
I sit somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Certain shows, such as Ghost the Musical or Singin’ in the Rain, I am satisfied to see only once. Others, such as Evita or42nd Street, I have returned to see again and again, travelling to different venues and seeing new casts. I’m a very mild example of a theatre returner although, surrounded by non-theatregoers, I am often greeted with exclamations of “you’re seeing that show again?!”
Earlier this month I found myself sat in a theatre asking if it was necessary to see the same pantomime three times in the space of a month. The resounding answer was yes; with a somewhat more modern and adult take on the panto world, a strong cast, a fast-paced script and original songs that are still swirling around my brain, some shows seem designed for rewatching. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to see a show multiple times and use these viewings wisely in order to focus on certain aspects of a show. It is possible to pick up many character traits and perhaps a line or two that you missed in previous shows as well as developing a better understanding of the production as a whole.
So what shows are in store for me this year? With one show of 2014 under my belt, I’m satisfied to miss the Wicked, West Side Story and Singin’ in the Rain tours along with the second leg of the Evita tour although I eagerly await the Top Hat UK tour which reaches Edinburgh in October, a show I was very lucky to catch only weeks before Summer Strallen departed the original cast. I also wait with anticipation for the announcement of A Chorus Line‘s touring dates. If Scottish venues are included then I will certainly be there to see this show for the first time. With the exception of these two musicals, I plan on spending my time this year expanding my knowledge of theatre and delving even further into the world of Scottish arts. Perhaps this year will bring my first trip to the Edinburgh fringe.
My next show will be This Wide Night, a play starring Elaine C. Smith and Jayd Johnson. This will be closely followed by a trip to Edinburgh to see Noel Coward’s Private Lives. Check back soon for reviews of these plays and more!