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On a Personal Note: Estelle + the Stage

If I threw together some kind of performance resume, my experience pretty much peaked in elementary school. After participating in choir, dance classes, and school plays (I once played Mary and felt so nauseous the entire time, I held baby Jesus by his foot), I realized I just wasn’t that… good. I liked to read (and play softball!) for god’s sakes!

But it didn’t mean I didn’t appreciate other people who could sing and dance and entertain a crowd.

Fast forward a bunch of years and I am now a person who would rather spend money to see a play or a musical, than go to a concert or see a movie in the theaters. If you had asked me in high school if this would be true, I probably would have laughed in your face. I didn’t think I would be the girl who searches Spotify (not that that existed yet) for a Stephen Sondheim musical mentioned in a book just because I knew it would supplement my reading experience.

So while I will never be a Devan (an awesome singer, actress, and dancer), part of my enjoyment of The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding was seeing theater references in the text. Like Devan and her friends, I can be a bit of a theatre geek… even if I’m more of a bystander than a participator. For these characters, though, it seems like this part of them was apparent since birth. That wasn’t exactly the case for me, and I couldn’t help but remember how and why I started loving theatre so much.

I thought, who knows, maybe someone will feel the same way.

high school.

Even though I lived within 10 miles of New York City and Broadway’s big lights, I didn’t go to my first official Broadway show until a marching band trip was organized. Even so, it (Blast!) was less of a show with a story than a series of musical selections with awesome movement.

A few months later though, right after 9/11, my friends and I went to New York City to see Rent. (I know, I know. Of COURSE we saw Rent.) It was pretty much a life-changing moment, and an experience that will stay with me forever. You can’t sit next to someone’s mom and watch “Contact” on stage without remembering that forever.

This was about the time I started to obsess over Adam Pascal (who was mentioned in The Reece Malcolm List). He was an original cast remember in Rent (I didn’t get to see him in it) but before I went to college, I did have the opportunity to see him live and in person in Aida. (Later, I even dated someone who looks a whole lot like him… so strange.)

Despite the fact that my friends and I were still singing Rent songs until we threw our caps in the air… my theater bug really hit in…

college.

Part of it may be because I dated a guilty boyfriend who bought me VERY expensive seats to shows but more than likely it’s because I ditched math my first semester and took a Theatre 101 course. With the scariest yet most inspiring professor on the planet. I didn’t know anything. Anything. (I even got made fun of for taking notes.) This professor also introduced me to Stephen Sondheim for the first time and, funnily enough, my now-husband/then-rival assigned me to cover the fall musical Company for the campus newspaper.

Guys, Sondheim is tough and I legit had no idea what was happening.

In between semesters, though, my professor organized a 3-day trip in NYC where we would see five shows in 3 days and this… well, this pretty much changed my life. By this point, I was following Playbill.com like my life depended on it and my anticipation of seeing Wicked for the first time (with Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth) was built to such heights, I basically cried during the entire show.

A-mazing.

Estelle in her College Dorm

My sister visiting my dorm room my sophomore year. Check out the posters behind me.

When I had to switch schools after my sophomore year (my original college closed because it was in debt… sigh), I was like LET’S GO TO NEW YORK CITY and start learning about the foundations of theatre! But my school was too cool for that and only offered experimental theater classes… so I dropped those and tried to do my own thing. One of my favorite experiences was sitting all night with two of my friends from high school outside of the Rent theatre on its 10th anniversary. I interviewed people online and wrote an article about it for a journalism class.

(I also got zero sleep for class and took my sister to see another show for her birthday the following night. Insane.)

Also: major sadness. I did not like the Rent movie. It was really… a heartbreak.

post-college.

People think it’s dangerous to work in NYC. But probably for other reasons than I’m about to tell you. My poor little wallet. One of my best girlfriends and I would see shows probably twice a month. (She was crazier because she would drive up from South Jersey to accompany me.) But let me tell you: In the Heights (totally worth it) and paying a billion dollars to watch Adam Pascal sing “Maria” (from West Side Story).

I did wean myself off shows while I was planning a wedding and moving into a house (it was tough) and then fell back into it. I somehow managed to stay silent during a Stephen Sondheim talk last winter. I saw Once the Musical with Magan when she visited last March and loved it so much that I took my sister to see it a few days later. (I cried my eyes out both times.) My husband and I played lotto (where they pick out a few names before a certain time, and you pay cheaply for tickets) in the spring and saw Newsies (Jeremy Jordan! who is now on Smash) and Peter and the Starcatcher.

Fun fact: I take partial credit for discovering Jeremy Jordan because I got to see him at the dress rehearsal for the pre-Broadway tryout of Newsies in New Jersey and I kept saying “WHO IS THAT GUY?”. Swoon. (Then I bought tickets to see him in Bonnie and Clyde when I had zero interest in the show. Um, I fell in love with that show. Such amazing music and so underrated.)

A major highlight from last year was the tour of the New Amsterdam Theatre in NYC:

Estelle and James on Broadway

The closest I will ever get to a real Broadway stage.

One of the things I miss the most from my walks to work (now that I take a subway from Queens) is seeing the new marquees getting set up and watching them set up equipment in the theaters. And while I don’t miss much from our old stomping grounds, I do miss reviewing local shows around our neighborhood because, gee, in the depths of Long Island, there is some crazy talent waiting to be discovered and it was such a joy to see it happen.

I’m also too old to be obsessed with High School Musical, but I still am. (Another Reece reference.)

But to return to grown up land, my husband and I did use lyrics from “Being Alive” from that pesky show from early in my college career: Company. (This popped up in Reece too.)

Somebody, hold me too close,
Somebody, hurt me too deep,
Somebody, sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware
Of being alive

And just like all of that, theatre has somehow become a huge part of my life. And not because I have any aspiration of standing up on a stage. I love to be reeled into a show by someone’s voice or their moves. I love the stories that come to life, night after night, an audience never seeing the same performance twice. It’s art, alive and flourishing, and it inspires me so much.

You have no idea how at peace I felt reading The Reece Malcolm List, sipping some coffee, and playing a Sondheim musical in the background. It was true perfection.

Now before you leave me today, I did make a Spotify playlist featuring songs mentioned in The Reece Malcolm List, in addition to a few other bonus tracks I thought you might want to hear. (Don’t be scared to try this out… I tried to pick mostly mainstream tracks so those not used to listening to musicals might like it too.)

And for you other theatre nerds out there, here are a some other YA picks that might fit the bill:

June 27, 2013 - 1:05 am

Book and a Beverage [7] – Estelle from Rather Be Reading | The Book Addict's Guide - [...] like crossing my personal life with my reading and it was fun to share that in this post about my love of theater. Got anything special coming up we should know about? Well, right now are participating in year 2 [...]

April 14, 2013 - 9:02 am

Be Ready for BEA: Under the Broadway Lights - [...] (A few weeks ago, I chatted about that obsession here.) [...]

February 26, 2013 - 2:49 pm

Alexa Y. - E, this may be my very post you’ve written for RBR EVER. Part of it is because I’m a fellow theater geek, albeit it’s gotten quieter since I’ve started saving up for my wedding. But seriously – I love the theater. I love the feeling I get seeing people perform, and I love the amazing stories and music that musicals have to offer fans.

I think it’s wonderful that you shared how you got into theater in this post! We’re actually a lot alike, since I got into theater (really got into it anyway) in college :)

Also, ADAM PASCAL. *swoons*

February 22, 2013 - 3:55 pm

Estelle - Allison, we will be sure to make plans to meet up when you come to BEA. I’m so glad you are hoping to see a show when you are in town. Hopefully the spring will bring something great to the stages! Memphis is great and JJ is like my dream come true, and my husband knows he is my pretend boyfriend. haha. Thank you so much for stopping by to comment. Truly made my morning! :)

February 22, 2013 - 3:54 pm

Estelle - Kristin,

I, too, saw Rent with Adam and Anthony (twice?) and it was ah-mazing. Even though they are kind of aged out of the roles now, I still love what their energy and talent bring to the role… not to mention their history with the show in the first place. Thank you so much for your amazing compliments. It really made my day to read them and M + I are so thrilled that you enjoy the blog. It’s a pleasure to hear from you! GO RENT!

February 22, 2013 - 3:51 pm

Estelle - Asheley, you must let me know if you need any suggestions / help with your Bway endeavors during BEA. If you are in the city, there are a ton of ways to do things on the cheap and still experience a good show! :) Thanks for stopping by to read!

February 22, 2013 - 3:50 pm

Estelle - M, YES. James is into theater but more plays than musicals. Every once in awhile, I can get him to see something if it’s not entirely TOO girlie. But yes, the song we used in our vows is important to us and really fits so I’m glad we were able to incorporate that!

February 22, 2013 - 3:50 pm

Estelle - “Bet on it” – Zac Efron.

February 22, 2013 - 3:49 pm

Estelle - Cynthia, so glad to hear your daughter is into musical things! She will LOVE LOVE LOVE Drama, I am sure. I hope she has watched High School Musical because those are pretty much the best! :)

February 22, 2013 - 3:45 pm

Estelle - Bookworm, Light my Candle is such a romantic/sexy song. haha. I’m so glad you ended you falling in love with Rent too. I do think you’ll enjoy RML for sure!

February 22, 2013 - 3:43 pm

Estelle - Anneqah, thanks so much for your kind words! I do hope you get to see Wicked when it comes to town. I definitely think it’s a show that everyone should see. :)

February 22, 2013 - 3:39 pm

Estelle - Rachel, La Vie Boheme is so so so hard to do. Every now and then, though, I’ll remember one of the lines and have it stuck in my head forever. So glad you are an Aida fan as well… that show has such an interesting story. I was always so intrigued by it, and of course, the music is ah-amazing! Go Elton John!

February 22, 2013 - 3:37 pm

Estelle - Brittany, Wicked is the best birthday gift ever! I’m so glad you got to experience it with your sister. I always thought it would be a great show to see with your best friend or your sis. Thanks for stopping by and commenting… it really means a lot to me!

February 22, 2013 - 3:36 pm

Estelle - Ginger, I think we talked about this but I went to London when I was in high school and saw a show… didn’t even feel like a huge deal and I’m mad at myself for not paying more of attention. But maybe now that you say that… it might have been the casual environment and the other spectactors. I definitely think your music and my theater interests are very similar! They are such a nice release.

February 22, 2013 - 3:34 pm

Estelle - Anna, I love your jazz hands + so glad we share this interest! :) Come in NYC soon!

February 22, 2013 - 12:49 am

Allison L - Estelle!

I can’t tell you how happy I am to see this post. It really does make me so happy to see someone who loves Broadway like me. I was involved in the musical program when I was in high school as a stage crew member and eventual stage manager. I have so many good memories from that time in my life!

I’m so glad you mentioned Rent. It is one of my favorite shows, and I was lucky enough to see it on tour in 2009 with Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp. So amazing! I also saw Wicked when it was on tour as well, and cried just like you. I can only imagine what it was like to see it with the original cast. The first show I saw on Broadway was Les Miserables (back in middle school as part of a field trip). I’ve also seen Memphis (LOVED) and Newsies (Mmm. Jeremy Jordan.) on Broadway both of which I loved. I’m hoping to be able to catch another show when I come back to the city for BEA! ;)

February 21, 2013 - 10:04 pm

Estelle's Shelve It >> 2/21/2013 - [...] On a Personal Note: Estelle + the Stage (my Broadway obsession!) The Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg: a review Our Joint Shelve It / Some DC pictures! Blaze by Laurie Compton: a review The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding: a review Here Comes Trouble by Erin Kern: a review [...]

February 21, 2013 - 2:46 pm

Kristin - Estelle,

Ok..I cannot tell you how excited I am that I have found another who gets the whole RENT and Adam Pascal obsession! I just about screamed when I read your post..because I couldn’t believe how much you sounded like me. Woot! I also saw Adam Pascal in ‘Aida’..and I had the luck of seeing him (and meeting him) and Anthony Rapp when they did the last RENT tour. He is an amazing man (as you know), and I am so happy that someone else just gets me!

I also wanted to say..I love yours and Magan’s blog so much. It gives me so much joy, and sometimes it really makes me want to meet the two of you. Hopefully someday, at an extraordinary book conference!

Thanks!

@MissBibliophile

February 19, 2013 - 11:05 am

Asheley Tart (@BookwormAsheley) - Oh my goodness, Estelle! I absolutely love this blog post! I have to admit that I don’t know a single person you mention and I’ve not seen Broadway, although I’m hoping to catch one maybe when I’m up for BEA. (That’ll be my first time in NYC too so, um, yeah I’m a little wide-eyed at all of the stuff I’m excited/hoping to be seeing and doing.)

This is such a fun way to get to know you better! Love it.

February 18, 2013 - 8:03 pm

VeganYANerds - This is such a great post, E! We used to go to shows when we were little (the ones I remember are Annie, Oliver, Phantom of the Opera) but I haven’t been to one in years. It’s lovely that you were able to incorporate your love of theatre into your wedding and that it brought you and your man together!

February 18, 2013 - 2:43 pm

Tara - I’ve loved sharing your passion for theater via our gchats the last few months :) While I’m not as into theater as you are, it’s awesome to discover new things I might not have seen before solely because I have you as a great friend. (PS: we still need to have our chat about High School Musical)

February 18, 2013 - 1:24 pm

Cynthia - Love these posts Estelle.. always love to get to know the real person behind the blog. I’m not a huge Broadway fan, mainly because I never had the experience but I do like watching musicals, I know they’re not always the same or even come close to it. My daughter though has become a fanatic of all things musical, so I think I’m going to get her DRAMA, I’m sure she’ll enjoy it and relate to it since she’s in middle school and is in theatre arts and choir. Love this post! =D

February 16, 2013 - 12:20 pm

Bookworm1858 - I remember in high school when my friend waltzed into homeroom and made me listen to “Light My Candle” to my bewilderment-imagine hearing that song with zero context! Then I started getting into Broadway and falling in love with Rent (and other shows) on its own. I really really really need to pick up The Reece Malcolm List!

February 15, 2013 - 8:45 pm

Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life - So last year, I had an extra elective space in my schedule, so I just randomly took Theater Tech, where we learned about different musicals and the production aspect behind musicals and theater in general. And after reading this post, it makes me realize how much I want to go see a musical! Your journey with musicals and such was so fascinating to read, Estelle. Living where I do, I have some access to theaters where I can see a musical, and I plan to go to my first sometime soon, hopefully (and apparently Wicked is going to be put on, and I just may have to go see that one…)

Fabulous post! <3 <3

February 15, 2013 - 3:43 pm

Rachel - I LOVED musical theatre in highschool! I never performed in any shows because I was too shy, but I say all of my school’s shows and listened to soundtracks like it was my job. My favorites were Aida, Wicked, and Rent. My bestfriend and I totally had a thing for Rent in middle school as well. We memorized La Vie Boheme and sang it in class every day. I’m sure our teachers loved us for that one lol.

This makes me even more excited to read The Reece Malcom List. I love when books have a theatre/musical influence in them. I don’t know if you’ve read Dramarama by E. Lockhart or not, but I loved it! It takes place at a summer arts camp and definitely has a musical influence in it.

February 15, 2013 - 10:45 am

Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide - Oh, YAY! I love to see other choir/musical/theater nerds! <3 I was a HUGE choir nerd in high school and sadly it slowly faded in college because I had to focus on my major (which didn't do me any good in real life anyway haha) but my love still burns for music & musicals!
I pretty much cried through Wicked too – I saw it when it came to Chicago a few years ago and my sister took me for my birthday. One of the best gifts I've gotten!
I just started The Reece Malcolm list and I'm excited to get further into all the choir references! And thanks for sharing other books that share a similar theme! I had no idea :)

February 15, 2013 - 10:32 am

Ginger @ GReads! - Oh Estelle, I really enjoyed reading your love affair with theater. I now think of you whenever I see something related to Broadway, or musicals. When my parents lived in London I had the opportunity to see quite a few shows on stage. They were so different there. People went to the theater to see live shows as we do here about seeing movies in the movie theater. It’s casual and spare of the moment. We’d hit up the half price booth early in the day and decide which shows to see. I am so grateful for having that opportunity and those wonderful memories.

I think theater for you is a lot like music is for me. I will never sing a note, or play a guitar, but I have such a huge appreciation for those that can. Witnessing a live performance is something that transforms me. When it’s amazing, it’s an experience I’ll never forget. I love that we both have that in common.

February 15, 2013 - 10:22 am

Anna - As someone who — as you know — spends most of her days working on all things BROAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADWAY (I say it in my Oprah voice with jazz hands) I can certainly relate to this! <3

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