As somewhat of a stereotypical “theater kid” (though one with very little actual talent), I knew I wanted to see as many Broadway shows as I possibly could while in New York City. In fact, Broadway was one of the main reasons why I chose NYC as my “abroad” destination. Throughout the Fall semester, I got to experience 19 Broadway shows (everything from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Hamilton). The travel enrichment grant I received specifically helped me see four of these shows−The Book of Mormon, Once on this Island, The Play that Goes Wrong, and SpongeBob SquarePants the Musical. The Book of Mormon ended up being my favorite show I saw the entire Fall (yes, even over Hamilton).
Seeing such a wide variety of shows not only opened my eyes to the diversity of genres present in both musicals and plays, but it very clearly demonstrated what a critical part Broadway plays in New York City’s culture, both for local and tourism purposes. Each performance was a micro community of New Yorkers, visitors, students, and of course, me. The makeup of these audiences was a tell-tale sign of what role that particular show played in NYC’s economy and culture. For example, Once on this Island was mostly locals and college students, the goal to create and show off a new artistic interpretation of a cult musical classic to those who could appreciate it (e.g. NYU theater majors). On the other end of the spectrum, SpongeBob SquarePants the Musical was a family crowd, the goal clearly to bring in money from the tourists.
I loved each and every show I saw, and I kept a blog (slubroadway.tumblr.com) to document all of my thoughts on each one. Though, to be honest, every one of the posts is mostly me gushing about how much I enjoyed everything, from the actors to the lighting design. That’s another thing, having the opportunity to see so many shows just furthered my appreciation for every aspect of production.
Back at St. Lawrence, I hope to use my experiences from New York City not only as writing material for my English major, but as a starting point for research about the role Broadway plays as an institution in New York and also its influence outside of the city, both in popular culture and around the world.
At The Book of Mormon, a fellow audience member asked how a college student like me was able to purchase such a great seat to such a popular musical. I smiled and eagerly shared the generosity of St. Lawrence and the donors that made the experience possible. Seeing so many Broadway shows re-ignited my theater-kid roots and surprisingly, my love of research. I am so thankful that I had this opportunity and my off-campus semester wouldn’t have been so life changing without it.