Take away the location, the millions of dollars, the media attention and elitist status that comes with it.....and Broadway is just a word. What I mean by this is, incredible Broadway calliber artistry is everywhere. And Broadway is not the only place you can see incredible artists, designers, and award worthy creativity. Sorry to burst your bubble. It just isn't.
Broadway is simply a location in New York City. Its also an incredible community full of lovely talented artists that is considered the pinnacle of the theatre community around the globe. But, know this, great theatre exists everywhere. And what brought me to write this is I am sick of incredibly talented and hard working theatrical artists feeling less than because they haven't climbed and conquered the mountain called Broadway. I'm also quite tired of those who have been on Broadway acting like they are better than those who haven't, but that's another entry all together.
Listen, I love Broadway. I am one of the lucky ones who, at a very young age, had the privilege of performing and starring on Broadway many times. But, I also love artists, performers and designers. I love creative souls. And this expression, without having the stamp of approval that is a Broadway credit, doesn't diminish an artists brilliance. I feel the need to talk about this because it is such a wound in so many theatre artists....not having been on Broadway. Or having been on Broadway, but only for a moment, and feeling the rest of their lives like they will never measure up to that Broadway show ever again. And this is simply not true.
Listen, Broadway is incredible. But having been on Broadway, does it make me better than another performer who hasn't? Absolutely not. But this business seems to think so. The notion that someone who has a Broadway credit surpasses someone who doesn't, is ludicrous. Because I have seen some incredibly talented performers who blow me out of the water, but they have never booked a Broadway show. Why? Who knows? Maybe they never went to New York City or wanted to? Its a rough city to live in. Maybe they tried and after a few years wanted a better quality of life? We all know that getting to Broadway is a mixture of many things. The right show, the right role, knowing the right people, getting an audition, being the right age, voice type, dance type, etc. The list goes on and on. But I tell you, there is SO much talent all over this world that will never see a Broadway stage and will never win a Tony Award. And they are still very viable, brilliant, talented, and incredible artists.
And that is truly the way the entertainment industry works.
But Broadway is still a goal that may not ever be attained by some, and this is the most frustrating part of being a theatre performer. Not attaining it and feeling less than because you don't have the B word on your resume is heartbreaking. And lord knows, the business is hard enough as it is. The struggle to find a great theatre job is real, but also there is a struggle to be taken seriously if you don't have that Broadway credit. You are always climbing the mountain. Especially when the years begin to creep on by. People look at you and think. What's wrong with you? Why haven't you been on Broadway yet? Or why aren't you back on Broadway?
Nothing is wrong with you. Nothing, my friends.
I am not more talented than the next performer. I am not knocking my talent, the countless hours and dedication to my craft that I have done, I am just saying, there are SO many out there who have done the same as me. And they haven't made it to Broadway. They don't have a Tony Award (neither do I).
But we are all worthy. We are all SO worthy.
I booked my first Broadway show in the ensemble of the musical On The Town (Revival). But before we went into rehearsals the choreographer was replaced. I was told that they needed more ethnicity in the show and so I (and a few others) were also replaced before we even began rehearsal. This wasn't about my ability or talent, or work. I simply wasn't the right ethnicity. Do you see where I'm getting with this?
My second and third Broadway shows I booked were a new musical called Footloose and a new musical called The Jazz Singer. Neither were actually on Broadway yet but they had plans to be. I had done the workshop of The Jazz Singer and decided, based on my taste in shows and tap dance ability, to choose to be the understudy to Ruby Keeler in The Jazz Singer instead of the understudy to Ariel in the musical Footloose. Did I choose wrong? Some would say yes because as you may guess, The Jazz Singer never made it to Broadway and Footloose did. Could I have predicted that? Nope. I was 22 years old and I didn't know which potential Broadway show to choose. So, I went with my gut and my love of jazz and tap dancing and picked the show that felt good to my soul. Side note: I still believe I picked right....because a few years later that choreographer of The Jazz Singer, Mr. Randy Skinner, ended up casting me as Peggy Sawyer in 42nd ST which lead a long 20 year work relationship which included my Broadway musical debut, many regional productions and onto originating a starring role on Broadway in the musical White Christmas.
The fourth Broadway show I booked was a Comedia Del Arte play, and this was the show I actually made my Broadway debut in. For this musical girl, I never thought in my wildest dreams, my Broadway debut would've been a play, but it was. It was directed by the incredible Julie Taymor, with music by Elliot Goldenthal, and included a cast of tremendous actors (some of whom are still my friends today). It was called The Green Bird. It debuted at The Cort Theatre in the year 2000 and I cried as I stepped onto that stage for the first time. It was magical. But the show wasn't loved by critics, and we closed in just 7 weeks.
I detailed all of this journey to show you the craziness that can happen in order to not only get a Broadway show, but be in one. Imagine if my Broadway journey ended with The Green Bird and I was only on Broadway for 7 weeks? And i didn't even mention the countless Broadway auditions I have done and didn't book. It is am exhausting mountain to climb.
All in all, I have been a part of the most amazing productions that never made it anywhere near Broadway, nor planned to. I have been a part of transformative shows with exquisitely stellar performers who, within a phrase of song, could bring you to tears. And they have never been on Broadway, nor planned to be. These artists are Broadway caliber, they are humans who should grace the stage with their talent, their designs should be seen, there transformative artistry should be on Broadway....but it just isn't.
Listen, I hold Broadway in the highest regard. I always have. But when I moved into the Broadway community, many of my beliefs burst. There are a lot of factors that go into a show getting birthed, a performer getting a shot at auditioning and maybe a celebrity wanting to take the role you wish you could audition for, politics and money. It's a crazy and awesome puzzlement how Broadway show's even get made.
But whether or not you make it to Broadway doesn't define you as an artist.
I will leave you with this, I am in the Appalachian Mountains, working in a small yet awesome theatre, performing a role in a show with some of the most wonderful artists I have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with. And we are all doing transformative work, loving our craft and perfecting it every performance as we take the audience away on a journey. Add millions of dollars, the geographical location, and media attention...and its Broadway because let me tell ya....these artists are giving Broadway caliber performances. And that's the truth that I'm trying to convey. That stellar artistry, no matter where you happen to be, is truly the pinnacle of what live theatre is all about.
Keep on keeping on my friends.
Copyright 2017 M Patterson