This past weekend Lena Hall ended her incredible run as Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I've often said that if you want me as a fan of yours for life, give everything you've got, with every performance. It doesn't matter if it's show one of eight that week, if you perform like it's the last time, there is no higher respect I can give to you. Lena Hall is someone who fits this description. If you were lucky enough to see her in Hedwig and the Angry Inch or as Nicola in Kinky Boots or in her band The Deafening, you know exactly what I'm talking about. While Neil Patrick Harris, Michael C. Hall and Andrew Rannells did fantastic jobs in the lead, I always thought Yitzhak was a more interesting role and to say that Ms. Hall knocked it out of the ball park might be an understatement. But beyond the portrayal itself, she embodies a term that I reserve for only the best performers.
She and plenty of others, are what I call, "Show Killers."
Now that term might be used for someone who ruins a production. But for me, it means someone who elevates the material through sheer effort and gives their audience more than their money's worth. Who kill it on stage.
Why is this so important? Because you never know who is in the audience, how they got there or what your show means to them. I once wrote about a young girl I met in the lobby of a local production and she told me how she had saved up money for her tickets by collecting loose change. Needless to say I knew how she felt.
When I was in college, a trip was organized for a group of us to go see a new musical on Broadway called Wicked. The cost was partially being covered by the student association but it still would cost $40 for the bus and show tickets. I didn't have it. I luckily had about half of that in my desk drawer in loose change. I begged my friend to loan me the remaining $20, promising I would pay him back (I never did, I'm sorry Lee!). I remember dumping a combination of single dollar bills and loose change on the SA Presidents desk.
Earlier in the year I had bought the cast recording and spent the entire trip down from Elmira, NY to NYC listening to it on my "disc-man"(It was 2004 people).
That day in February, I was able to see the original cast of Wicked: Idina, Kristin, Joel, Norbert, Carolle, Michelle, Sean, William & Christopher. It was a murderers row of talent and each one of them gave us everything they had. There were people giving stand ovations after each number. It was awe-inspiring to watch as a young actor.
This is what "show killers" do, they inspire an entire generation of future performers. Even more so, they show them how to do it the right way. There are "show killers" everywhere from Broadway to high school theatre. If you're leaving it all on stage, you've won me over.
Broadway tickets are expensive nowadays. For me and a lot of others, going to see a Broadway show is a luxury. There is no worse feeling than walking out of a theatre feeling you wasted your hard-earned money because someone mailed it in(I'm looking at you Matthew Broderick).
But when you give the audience everything you've got, it will become a performance worth far more than the face value of the ticket. So thank you Lena Hall for absolutely bringing it every single night. And to the rest of the "show killers" out there, please keep doing what you do, we adore you for it and will remember you for the rest of our lives.