Time Travel Possible in Theater

Jennifer Butler

OnStage Massachusetts Columnist


Whoever said time travel was not possible, was clearly not a theater person.  The possibilities of where you can go are endless, thanks to the world of theater. 

Yes, I know there are these things called movies and movies can take you places. I know that some plays and musicals were based on movies or they inspired movies. However I feel that even though movies can take you back to those times, they don’t immerse you like the theater can. I also know renting a movie is cheaper than a ticket to a show.  Even I can’t always afford a show ticket.  When a show builds a set that is so well done and you are no longer in the present, to me that is time travel at its finest.  For example, I was lucky enough to be able to see the musical “Newsies” twice this fall.  I tried to watch the 1992 Disney movie, which inspired the musical, and I just couldn’t sit through it. However once I saw the musical I became obsessed with the world that I was taken to.  Musicals and plays do that for me. They take me to places I have never imagined.

Donna Lynne Champlin and Laura Osnes in "Pride & Predjudice: The Musical" Photos by Gary Geer

Donna Lynne Champlin and Laura Osnes in "Pride & Predjudice: The Musical" Photos by Gary Geer

In the past year and a half I have worked on shows that have allowed me to go to the British Countryside in the 1970’s, and to Connecticut in the 1930’s and 1970’s.  I have also been lucky enough to visit France in the 1800’s, London in the early 1900’s and New York in the 1950’s, due to theater being a part of my life. 

This list does not even begin to tell of all the places that you can travel to by heading to Broadway.  Right now, by going to New York, you can be transported to Paris during the end of World War II, in 1945, Budapest in the 1930’s and Bangkok in the 1860’s. You can visit the time of Shakespeare or go back to the time when J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan. You can head back to 1632 to the Salem Witch Trials while seeing “The Crucible” or not go back that far in history and visit Russia in 1905.

You can truly travel through a few centuries and see the transformation of New York.  You can begin with hanging out with Alexander Hamilton during the Revolution, deliver papers with some “Newsies” in 1899, visit the Upper West Side in the late 1950’s and end with trying to figure out how you are going to pay your “Rent”, in the early 1990’s. 

The places I can escape to never cease to amaze me.  Theater is always changing and so are the shows on Broadway.  Who knows where we will head to next.  For me, I am off to The Lapin Agile in Paris, 1904.