Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where's Your Best Seat In The House?

Where's Your Best Seat In The House?

Not too long ago, I had a short conversation with one of my regular readers about where we prefer to sit during a performance.

He said he enjoyed sitting up in the mezzanine (dress circle for my readers across the pond) so he could get a birds-eye view of the production and take it all in. His comments were similar to those of someone else I know who said that for the sheer sake of seeing all the scenery, as well as how the choreography all comes together, she vies for a good seat from above.

Personally, I'm one of those who loves to be in the orchestra (English translation: stalls) as close to the stage as possible, even if it means a momentary partially-blocked view here and there. My reason? So I can see every little tic, facial expression and even the spit coming from the mouths of the actors as they enunciate each line, whether sung or spoken. It's particularly enjoyable if the actor, in character, is gazing off...and staring straight through me.

So I ask, if you had to pick your own personal best seat in the house, where would it be for you? Not only do I invite you to vote in my latest SOB Poll to the right, but comment below on why.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 26 September, 2007, Anonymous Esther said...

Wow, this is a great question! I guess, overall, I like being as close to the front as possible, just to catch every nuance, every facial expression!

When I saw Wicked on tour I sat in the second row of the mezzanine of a large theater (over 2,000 seats, I think) because that's what was left, and I thought it was fine. I really didn't have anything to compare it with. But now that I've sat closer, well it's awfully nice!

I remember when the usher showed me to my seat for "A Moon for the Misbegotten," and I was actually a little shocked and scared that I'd be so close! But it was awesome. I swear, at one point, Kevin Spacey looked right at me. Same thing for "Curtains" the next night. I was in the second row, and I was afraid I was too close, that I'd be looking up all night. But it was great. I could actually see the sweat on David Hyde Pierce's face!

In July, I was farther back in the orchestra for some shows, closer to the front for others. I have to admit, for some shows, especially "Spring Awakening," I wish I'd been closer. (Ok, maybe even up on stage!) For others, like "Mary Poppins" and "Mamma Mia," being in the back of the orchestra was fine.

I guess it depends on the theater, too. I was in the middle of the orchestra for "110 in the Shade" at Studio 54. I don't know, maybe it's the way the seats are arranged, but I felt like I was really close and had a great view of everything on stage. I don't feel I lost anything by being a little farther back.

At 27 September, 2007, Blogger SarahB said...

My favorite is first row mezzanine center - no giant heads in my way. I also like 2nd row orchestra, first seat on the aisle, left or right side. No heads there either. Usually. Of course, sitting on the front row of Sweeney Todd, specifically seat A113, a number of times was pretty damn good. There's nothing quite like being showered with Michael Cerveris' spit or being in the direct glare of La LuPone. At the Met, the best seats are first row of the balcony - damn good seats, perfect sound, no giant heads. For concerts, it's pretty thrilling to be in the first row and make eye contact with the singer - it's happened to me with LuPone, Buckley, Peters and Fleming. It's a little disconcerting too - it's as if Buckley dares you to look away.

For any performance, if I'm not in very the front of the orchestra then I'd rather be in the mezzanine in any house. Of course, I usually sit in the balcony - my theory is that the less I pay, the more I see (and there's that little thing of being forced to make this theory a practice.)

At 27 September, 2007, Blogger SarahB said...

Oh, in response to Ester's comment about 110 in the Shade, I forgot that both times I saw it, I sat in the front row - it was PERFECT! Being directly in front of Audra's power was beyond anything I had ever felt.

At 27 September, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to sit front row center for everything, but those are hard to come by. I don't understand why some shows use those as lotto seats. A lot of people would love to sit in the front row (regardless of whether it's a little below the stage or other problems). I would pay extra if I knew I was getting a front row seat. Front row lotto seats are a major pet peeve of mine. The whole "lotto" system itself is a much bigger pet peeve but that's a different story.

At 27 September, 2007, Anonymous Esther said...

I do wonder if at some point, are you so far back in the orchestra that it's better to sit in the mezzanine. For the Sweeney Todd tour, I had the option of row W in the orchestra or Row D in the mezzanine. I figured, I'd be so far away in the orchestra, I might as well try the mezzanine.

Also, when I saw The 39 Steps in Boston last weekend, I was in Row N. I didn't look at the seating chart closely enough, so I didn't realize I was four rows from the back! I definitely wish I'd been closer. I don't know whether it was the British accents or the actors weren't projecting well enough, or I'm getting older and my hearing is going, but I did have to strain a bit to get everything. Plus, there were some great facial expressions that would have been better to see up close. But from any seat, it's still a great show!

At 27 September, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

When I've sat in the Mezzanine, I tend to feel very removed from the action on the stage. It doesn't seem as intimate to me. However, I guess if I have to choose between the back of the orchestra and the front of the mezzanine, I'd take the latter any day.

There are some performances I recall where sitting up close made me feel at one with the actors. Feeling Vanessa Redgrave peering right through me at The Year Of Magical Thinking or Lili Cooper practically singing directly to me in my front row seat in Spring Awakening are memories I'll have forever.

But the one that tops them all was when I saw Assassins. My front row center seat at Studio 54 literally placed me face to face with Neil Patrick Harris, who looked straight into my eyes as he sang part of one of the show's tunes. Talk about riveting.

As for those lotteries.... well, it's one way that those popular Broadway shows can dispel the notion that the front row seats are only for fat cats.

At 28 September, 2007, Blogger Interval Drinks said...

Hmm, an interesting one, depends on the venue. In the West End, generally I prefer a seat in the circle to being tucked further back in the stalls, less chance of heads and pillars getting in the way, though as a student I often went for balcony seats purely because they were cheap - really not recommended if you don't like heights!

At 28 September, 2007, Blogger SarahB said...

I've been in the front row, either via rush or lotto, for Color Purple, Legally Blonde, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Sweet Charity and Drowsy Chaperone. All I have to say is that for 4 out of 5 of these, thank goodness I didn't pay more than $26.50 (which one did I spend much more on many, many times? Take a guess! And it's not still running but I think it's on tour. Wink.) Most shows it's not comfortable to sit so close - at Legally Blonde and Color Purple, you can't see their feet! That's just a strange feeling. At Sweeney Todd, it was perfect because the stage wasn't too high.

I sat in the front row of the stalls in London for The Producers. That was perfect. It was so much fun getting a wink from Nathan Lane.

But definitely, if I had a choice between back of the orchestra or anywhere in the mezz or even the balcony, I'd choose mezz or balcony. There's nothing worse that back of the orchestra - the sound is muffled and there are heads in the way. Also, usually it's older patrons or tourists sitting there who are not there for the intense experience that I'm there for and they tend to not pay attention. There's nothing worse that sitting next to a noisemaker.

At 28 September, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

ID, I can appreciate why you select your vantage point. I have to confess, in recent years, I'm experiencing greater difficulty hearing the actors if I'm anywhere but close up.

As for those pesky pillars, I remember having one of those partially obstructed seats way up in the rafters the very first time I saw The Phantom Of The Opera in London. I felt like I missed half the show.

At 28 September, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Sarah, You've got me thinking about the shows I've had front row seats.

Among the Broadway shows: Assassins, Spring Awakening, Our Town (Paul Newman as the narrator stood directly over me for a significant portion of the show), The Boy From Oz, Rent, Xanadu and Long Day's Journey Into Night. I'm sure there's more, but those are the ones that come to mind.

My positioning certainly made a difference in how I viewed each show literally and figuratively.

At 28 September, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Sarah, Meant to "guess" one of the five shows you actually enjoyed. Actually, from being an avid fan of your terrific site, I know that you're talking about Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a show that I loved so much I saw it twice. Too bad others didn't have the good sense that you and I did to keep this wonderful show alive on Broadway.

At 28 September, 2007, Blogger SarahB said...

Ding ding ding - SOB, you are correct. I went in to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with an extra ticket of a friend who canceled - I couldn't give that ticket away...the weather was lousy, my mood was even worse. Holy moly, from the very first note of the overture my evening turned around. It was smart and creative entertainment. I'm not sure how many times I ended up seeing it, but it wasn't enough.

At 29 September, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Sarah, While I have no doubt that you did, I'm certainly hoping you had an opportunity to see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with both John Lithgow and Jonathan Pryce. I enjoyed them both, and Norbert Leo Butz was great opposite both of them.


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