Their Favorite Things: Broadway and "Orange Is the New Black" Star Lea DeLaria Shares Her Theatregoing Experiences

Favorite Things   Their Favorite Things: Broadway and "Orange Is the New Black" Star Lea DeLaria Shares Her Theatregoing Experiences Playbill.com's feature series Their Favorite Things asks members of the theatre community to share the Broadway performances that most affected them as part of the audience.

This week we spotlight the choices of Lea DeLaria, the Broadway artist who can currently be seen on the hit Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black" and whose latest solo recording, "House of David: delaria + bowie = jazz," is available on the Ghostlight Records label.

Lea DeLaria
Lea DeLaria

The always outspoken artist told Playbill.com, "Truthfully, I have been somewhat disappointed with the state of NY Theater. As a young theater freak growing up in the midwest, Broadway, Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway were the epicenter for visceral innovative new art. In my mind The New York Theater scene was the pinnacle of avante-garde in 20th century theater. However, since the onslaught of the corporafication of Broadway at the beginning of the 21st century, I've found The Great White way to be somewhat watered down. I'm certain some of you will agree with me and some will vehemently disagree, mostly producers, but isn't that the beauty of good theater? It is a sure way of starting an interesting conversation."

Fun Home

Sydney Lucas, Beth Malone and Emily Skeggs
Sydney Lucas, Beth Malone and Emily Skeggs Photo by Joan Marcus

OMG! This is a show that restored my faith in NY theater. I started to cry when Judy Kuhn sang "Days And Days” and did not stop until the end of this dynamic and provocative musical. My only complaint being, how is it that there is a musical on Broadway concerning growing up as a lesbian AND THERE ISN'T A PART FOR ME!

25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Reunion Concert

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I would have simply named the musical itself if I had not been present for the 10-year reunion concert. Sarah Saltzberg full on pregnant. Jesse Tyler Ferguson falling off the bench at almost 40. Celia Keenan-Bolger's surprise entrance at the end. This event to benefit the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative was one of those kind of nights that years and years from now I will be able to say, "Yep, I was there."

Eartha Kitt opening night Michael John LaChiusa's Wild Party

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I consider MJL to be one of the greatest composers of our time, so no way was I going to miss it. When Eartha Kitt made her entrance, the audience began to applaud. Eartha stopped and acknowledged their presence, which made us scream and yell and rise to our feet. This went on forever. The woman stopped the show, and hadn't even uttered a line or a note!

Liza's At The Palace...!

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Someday the world will be divided into two camps, those of us who saw Liza's At The Palace, and those who did not. She started her opening and we rose to our feet, which kept happening for each subsequent number. I thought to myself, "How long can this continue?" Apparently it can continue the entire first act if you're Liza Minnelli and everything you ever sang was a huge hit.

Spring Awakening

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The first of the shows to restore my faith in Broadway. To think that a 19th century play could resonate so perfectly with the politics of 21st century "murica" is amazing. It blew me away.

Wit

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I could not believe how Kathleen Chalfant immersed herself in this difficult yet moving character. She won the Drama League Award that year, and well deserved. I must have seen it 10 times. I was new to acting for the stage and used her performance as a sort of teaching/training. She was flawless.

The Producers

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It came. It saw. It conquered. 12 Tony Awards and 10 fucks in the first 15 minutes, an absolute tour de force for both Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. I have never laughed that much since. On a side note Mel Brooks thanking Hitler at the Tonys will live with me till the day I die.

Elaine Stritch in Nothing Like A Dame

Elaine Stritch
Elaine Stritch

Elaine and Glenn [Close] were doing a duet of “The Grass is Always Greener,” which they had not memorized. I mean who would for one concert, there are a lot of lyrics in that Kander and Ebb song. They had scotch-taped their scores together and as they sang, they dropped each page accordion like down to the stage. It was truly funny. When they finished, Glenn quickly swooped up her stuff and exited. Elaine, however, stood center stage and picked up her music one. sheet. at. a. time. She remained on stage doing so as we the audience ate it up screaming with laughter and stomping our feet. It was shameless. I loved it. I also learned from it. God bless you Elaine, I miss you.

Rent

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Rent was the first time I really saw myself in a Broadway musical. It stayed with me for a long, long time.

South Pacific 

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What can I say, I'm a sucker for this show, and the 2008 revival at Lincoln Center was a jewel. It was the age of stripped-down arrangements, and actors playing instruments, so it was nothing short of brilliant hearing that lush score performed by a full orchestra. Seriously, when was the last time you looked into the pit and saw a harp?

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