Their Favorite Things: Grammy Winner and Song & Dance's Melissa Manchester Shares Her Theatregoing Experiences

Favorite Things   Their Favorite Things: Grammy Winner and Song & Dance's Melissa Manchester 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 Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Melissa Manchester, who starred in the national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Song & Dance and will make her 54 Below debut March 26-28 in celebration of her new studio album, "You Gotta Love the Life." Click here for ticket information.

Melissa Manchester
Melissa Manchester

 Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the Roof 

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I was so moved by Zero's wild artistic agility, one moment wrestling with God (“If I Were A Rich Man”) or that manic exuberance he so effortlessly displayed in “To Life L'Chaim.”  A magnificent Bock-Harnick score, of course.

George Hearn in Sweeney Todd 

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George dug so deeply into that bottomless pit of rage and anguish, fueled by that stunning Sondheim score.  I'd never heard a baritone voice used with such force.

Barbra Streisand in I Can Get It For You Wholesale 

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As Miss Marmelstein, the unknown Streisand stopped the show with her kvetching and her sublime voice.  We were all a witness to a great beginning of ...well, 'nuff said.

Al Pacino in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?

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This play starred the great Hal Holbrook. Pacino had a small supporting role. There was a scene between the two of them where a very young, and relatively unknown, Al was so murderously enraged, I felt like he might start climbing over us soon-to-be corpses in the audience. Phenomenal.

Dustin Hoffman in Death of a Salesman

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Hoffman's entrance onto the stage defined the word “schlep.” World-weary squared. At the end of the performance when the curtain came down, there was silence as if we'd all been to Willy Loman’s funeral  — the reaction playwright Arthur Miller had hoped for — then an explosion of applause.

Pat Carroll in Gertrude SteinGertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein

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With no fourth wall, and alone on the stage, the ebullient Ms. Carroll took me on the rollercoaster ride of a monologue that reflected the life and musings of the eccentric GS. I was rapt.

Angela Lansbury in Mame 

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Stunning, gorgeous, compelling, thrilling - and singing that giant Jerry Herman score. What's not to love?

Tyne Daly in Gypsy 

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I was lucky enough to see Ethel Merman in Gypsy when I was 9 years old. Of course, that was thrilling. Years later, Tyne Daly's monumental charge of Mama Rose, however, had something of such nuanced brilliance. You could feel her hissing with hope or spitting nails to push her vision onto Herbie and the kids. Spectacular!

Elaine Stritch in Company

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There it was, that alcoholic tirade of self-loathing and fear of a purposeless life directed outward to those broads choosing hats. Stritch found the spaces between the words to unlock her character’s truth, and it wasn't pretty, but it sure was brave.

Stephen Sondheim in Sondheim on Sondheim 

Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim

The clever playwright/director James Lapine had Steve show up on a screen from time to time, commenting on the process of writing, relating various catastrophes and triumphs in his personal life. This was in between lovely renditions of some of his songs by a wonderful cast. But it was at the very last moment, when he played and sang from Anyone Can Whistle that I felt I'd had a lovely and unexpected visit with him and, gratefully, I started to cry.

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