The Allure of the Repeat Visit

Erin Conley

  • OnStage Los Angeles Critic
  • @Erinsk8

As a theater fan, I’m used to people not always understanding my obsession. The thing I always have the most trouble explaining, however, is how and why I go to see the same show multiple times.

In the decade since attending my first Broadway show, I have seen at least two dozen shows more than once. About fifteen of those I have seen twice; the other nine range from three to 29 times. Here are some of the reasons why certain shows keep me coming back for more.

To see a different cast.

A cast change can often make a show you know like the back of your hand feel brand new. Specifically, I remember choosing to revisit Next to Normal when Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley replaced Alice Ripley and J. Robert Spencer, and the 2009 Hair revival when the new tribe was brought in the following year. Especially in shows that have been running for a while, a cast change can often breathe new life into a production and make you see the story in a different way.

To see an understudy.

The show I have seen the most times is American Idiot. Being such a high velocity, intense, physical show, its poor cast was frequently plagued by injuries and illnesses, causing them to have stretches that were sometimes months long without a single performance with the entire cast intact. The frequent understudies, however, were a large part of what kept me coming back to the show so often. It is very special to see a performer you recognize and enjoy in the ensemble or in another role step into different shoes, and every performer brings something different to every character. There were performances of Idiot where eight understudies and swings were on, most in tracks I had never seen them in before. How could you ever be bored?

To bring a friend who hasn’t seen the show.

Since moving to LA, I have revisited a lot of shows on tour that I previously saw on Broadway, often because I want my west coast friends to experience them for the first time. I was particularly thrilled to drag several of my friends to see the tour of Once, which had emotionally wrecked me in New York a couple of years prior. There were also more than a few trips to Idiot and Spring Awakening, which holds the title of my second most-seen show, for the purpose of introducing a friend or family member to something that meant so much to me (and hoping they didn’t hate it).

To attend a special performance.

Although it was the fourth time I’d seen the show, Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele’s last performance in Spring Awakening on Broadway remains one of my most cherished theater memories. Closing nights are also incredibly special, and whenever I’ve been able I have made it a point to attend the closing performance of some of my favorite shows, including Spring Awakening, American Idiot (we even got a bonus Green Day concert), and [title of show]. These performances are usually extra emotional and often geared towards the die hard fans who have kept coming back, and there is always a special atmosphere in the theater.

If it’s free.

I’ll be blunt—I’ve revisited shows I merely tolerated the first time around because I was offered free tickets. Case in point: the Rock of Ages tour. I mean, why not? And sometimes you might even surprise yourself by enjoying something more the second time around. Yay for lowered expectations!

Just because you love it.

Here’s the most important thing to remember: if a show makes you happy and you are fortunate enough to be able to, see it as many damn times as you want! You don’t need any more of a reason than that. Each theater performance is like a snowflake—there will never be another one quite like it. More often than not, you will notice something you’ve never noticed before, whether it’s a particularly beautiful harmony or a subtle moment exchanged between two actors. People who call you crazy probably have their own things they keep coming back to, whether it’s an episode of television they re-watch, a book they reread, or a song they listen to on repeat. Don’t apologize for what you love.

What shows have you revisited time and time again? Let us know in the comments!

Photo: Jason Danieley and Marin Mazzie in “Next To Normal” at the Booth Theater. Credit Sara Krulwich/The New York Times