Broadway Bootleg Videos

Liz Vestal

"Legano... Illegano... Is grey area."

That’s a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Cutting Edge. I feel like now that Frozen the Musical is in the works, there’s hope for a movie all about ice skating. But I digress.

That grey area for me is viewing bootleg Broadway. Whether its clips, scenes, whole shows which have been illegally recorded I just can’t help myself sometimes. And I feel horrible… and yet fabulous at the same time. I think we all do.

You know you’d say something at the theater if you glimpse a guy surreptitiously holding his phone or a camera at the stage as the lights go down. Yet you don’t want to because that’s how you relive the magic of the show you’re about to see, or watch a show you couldn’t otherwise.

I know it’s not fair to the actors to watch the show without paying my fair share of a ticket price. But often times I am that person who buys the soundtrack on iTunes without seeing the show ever… so that counts for something, right? (I know it doesn’t.)

I know nothing can compare with the thrill of seeing the show live knowing anything can happen. I know the camera work is usually crap at best, the lighting is horrible, the sound is off and it’s a huge injustice to theater to view it this way. But sometimes you just can’t help yourself and you watch anyway.

There are so many tremendously talented individuals who deserve to be remembered for the ages and simply aren’t or not to their full potential. I’d love to have seen Ethel Merman’s Gypsy, or Julie’s Eliza Doolittle. I would love for every show to not only be preserved vocally through cast recordings but visually.

I’m not saying that every show needs the same treatment that the National Theater in London did for Oklahoma in 1999, or even Memphis in 2010. But something should be done, the American Theater Wing should make this a priority to record every show for posterity. It’s not just Hamilton that can be used to teach our kids, its shows like Next to Normal, like Kinky Boots, like Doubt. There’s lessons to be learned in theater and lessons only theater can teach 

Until then I will express my disdain for those who dare sully the hallowed ground of theater… and silently thank them as I scroll through YouTube looking for clips.