God On High Heard My Prayer: How I Slipped Into Musical Heaven This Week

Patrick Connolly

{Caution: This post is a Musical Theater geek’s paradise.}

A couple of Sundays ago, I went to see Les Miserables on Broadway starring Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean.

Oh boy, I’m going to lose so much professionalism for this, but….


Actually, no. Incredible is an understatement. There are at least five other adjectives that demand justification: indescribable, unforgettable, mesmerizing, spectacular, marvelous, etc. 

But it wasn’t just Ramin Karimloo’s performance that made the experience those five-to-six adjectives above. This was my very first theatergoing experience seeing Les Miserables live on stage. Even when sitting in the very last row of the Rear Mezzanine (still amazing seats, by the way), the fact that this was MY VERY FIRST experience seeing this musical live on stage—a musical that has been known as many things by many people, including the dreaded….oh lord, help me…”overrated”—makes this a memory that’s going to be remembered for a very long time. It actually might be at the very top of my favorite theatergoing experiences, with only Hairspray, The Lion King, Memphis, Next to Normal and Sweeney Todd rivaling it. 

I share this experience because I know what it feels like to be a gleefully outlandish geek when it comes to witnessing phenomenal theater. You could try with all your might, but it’s challenging to put into writing what is basically a life-changing experience that would influence how you perceive the world to be. You can’t instantly write a Facebook status immediately after seeing something like that. It’s an impossible task. 

At times, I try to imagine what it must be like for a performer such as Ramin Karimloo. To hear all of his fans sing the praises of his work as Jean Valjean, and feeling completely humble about what he does for his career. That’s not only the sign of a fantastic performer; that’s also the sign of a terrific human being. 

Within the last few days, I nearly felt like Ramin Karimloo, albeit in rather different ways.

This past weekend, I was responsible for portraying The Cat in the Hat in the East Hartford Summer Youth Festival production of Seussical. This role was an enormously personal investment from me for a few reasons: 1.) Dr. Seuss. Of course. 2.) EHSYF. Of course. 3.) I was responsible for portraying one of the most iconic characters in all of children’s literature—one that I’ve been a fan of for many years and counting. I can’t stress how much of an honor it was to play this role; it was some of the most fun that I’ve ever had as a performer, and I don’t know how such an experience can ever be topped. 

Well, possibly with hot fudge and a cherry, but that’s for another day.  

The one thing that truly surprised me throughout this experience was the reception after the curtain call, where everyone involved in the show would come out and greet their family and friends. Now granted, I was prepared to take pictures with children who were enormous fans of The Cat in the Hat to begin with, and of course, they were very enjoyable experiences.  

But nothing prepared me for what came in store after Saturday Night’s performance. 

On that night, one of my best friends came to see the show with his girlfriend. While he’s an enormous fan of Dr. Seuss, he isn’t necessarily the biggest fan of Seussical (he’s not a big fan of most of Seuss’ work being crammed into one musical—a criticism that certainly isn’t invalid). I believed strongly, however, that he would have at least somewhat appreciated this production for what we had to offer. I come out into the audience after the show ends, and he was sobbing, telling me how completely amazed he was by the production overall. It was probably the best reaction I received that weekend, and one of the most important reactions that I’ll ever receive as a performer.

Because it reminded me how much of an emotional impact theater can be for both the fan and the performer. For the fan, it could potentially change their outlook on how they perceive life in general, similar to how I saw Les Miserables. For the performer, it could give a fan an experience that cannot be duplicated anywhere else, very similar to what I achieved with Seussical. 

At this point in my life, do I ever feel lucky to be both. The power of theater is unlike anything else in the world, and I wouldn’t trade such a feeling with anything else.