I went to see Sondheim and Lapine's Sunday in the Park with George on Tuesday night (29 January 2008) and Saturday afternoon (5 April 2008).
The Tuesday night performance was a preview and I didn't even plan on going until the last minute. I realized that I couldn't get a great seat (defined as being in the first five rows) unless I went to a preview. So I bought the ticket online (for a third-row seat) and went to the show about five days later. It was pretty frantic because I learned the day before (Monday) that I had to substitute lecture for a freshman physics class I as TAing. The substitute lecture would be Wednesday so I had to read the notes for previous lectures on the train to the New York.
In contrast, the Saturday afternoon performance was an undertaking planned far in advance. I thought a hockey teammate would enjoy the show, so I convinced her to buy a ticket and join me. It was hard to find two seats together, so we sat in the fifth row of the mezzanine. These were actually very good seats, but not front row.
The Tuesday night performance was so much better. I'm not exactly sure why, but I can speculate. The Tuesday performance was only locals and probably a lot of Sondheim fanatics. The audience was much more enthusiastic. Patti LuPone says that weekend audiences are the worst because they're mostly made up of tourists and husbands whose wives dragged them to the show. Sitting in the third row was ten times better than in the mezzanine even though I paid 30% more for the third row ticket. Talk about a good return on your money. The actors were louder and not drowned out by the orchestra. Their performances were also much more intense from close up. I'm the type who likes things intense and not understated (think Battlestar Galactica.)
For the Tuesday night performance, I waited by the stage door and got the autographs of several actors including Jenna Russell and Daniel Evans. Jenna was such a sweetheart about signing. She was shocked when I told her "this is my first Sondheim show!" I guess she thought that it was a really challenging show for someone who hadn't seen much Sondheim and for someone my age. It's wonderful that in theater, even the top actors are willing to autograph Playbills (slang for Broadway play program) and chat a bit.
For the Saturday afternoon performance, a few of the actors stood by the theater exit collecting money for the charity "Broadway Cares." I was surprised to see Jenna Russell by the door in her Dot costume! I gave her a dollar and thought about talking to her, but she was pretty busy hawking for donations and my friend wanted to get home, so I changed my mind.
It seems tricky to take your friends to see things you like (plays, movies, musical albums, ball games, etc). There's the cost, both time and emotionally. Maybe I'll just give up. Eighty percent of the time I fail and my friends just don't like it.
In the future, I'm just going to stick to front row tickets and weekday night performances for my favorite shows. I'll probably go on my own.