THEIR FAVORITE THINGS: Beautiful Tony Nominee Anika Larsen 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 singing actress Anika Larsen, a 2014 Tony nominee for her performance as Cynthia Weil in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

Anika Larsen
Anika Larsen

(Clicking on a name bolded in blue will take readers to that actor or show's entry in the Playbill Vault.)

Sandy Duncan in Peter Pan

"In 1979, my parents brought me and my (then) 6 brothers and sisters (now 9) down from Boston to see our first Broadway show, Peter Pan. I was 5. Watching Sandy Duncan fly over the audience and sprinkle fairy dust is one of my earliest memories, and it was breathtaking. Apparently that moment hooked me on the junk, and I haven’t been able to shake my musical theater addiction since."

 

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The Wiz

 

"My dad loves theater, and he used to take me to Broadway shows that toured through Boston. Looking back I’m so grateful, partly because it was building a foundation of knowledge for my career, and partly because it was one-on-one time with my dad, which was hard to come by with so many siblings. One show I particularly loved was The Wiz. When the Cowardly Lion tried to run away and the Scarecrow held on to his tail to stop him, his tail ripped off and the Scarecrow had to hold it to his bum for the rest of the scene. They couldn’t stop giggling and neither could I. I didn’t realize that mistakes could happen on professional stages. I’m pretty well aware of it now."

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Tyne Daly in Gypsy

 

"One show that toured through Boston that my dad had no interest in going to was the revival of Gypsy starring Tyne Daly. I was 15 and had a friend whose mom took her down to NYC sometimes, so I hitched along and saw 5 shows in a weekend. The show I loved best was Gypsy, which had arrived on Broadway by then. Not only was every element masterful, book, score, lyrics, but Tyne Daly was a tour-de-force. I had never seen such impressively honest acting in musical theater. I learned that you could be simple and true while being large enough to fill a Broadway house, and I have strived to achieve that my whole career. After he read the reviews, my dad wished he had seen the show when he had the chance."

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Les Miserables

 

"My high school French class went on a field trip to see Les Misérables when it came to Boston. I didn’t know a musical could make my heart hurt in such a delicious way. This time it was the music and not flying and fairy dust that was breathtaking. I ached to experience it again so much that I went back three more times and thought I was an obsessed fan. Not until I came to NYC and saw how many times people see Broadway shows did I realize that four times seeing a show got me nowhere near obsessed."

 

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Aspects of Love

 

"On another weekend trip to NYC during high school I couldn’t wait to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love. I had fallen in love with Michael Ball listening to him on the Les Miz soundtrack, and couldn’t wait to see him live. Just before the lights went down in the theater, they announced that his understudy would be on that day. I don’t remember the show because I cried through all of Act One. And that is why I really, really, really hate to miss shows. You never know who will care if you’re not there."

 

 

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  Rent

"After college I moved to NYC, and one of the first shows I saw was Rent. I remember watching this exhilarating thing from standing room in the back and feeling incredibly dismayed because rock musicals were what I wanted to do, but I thought, 'I could never be this good!' Everyone was wildly talented and attractive and full of unique personality. The show was so engaging and the characters so well-drawn, I wanted to play every part. And in a stroke of great fortune and joy for me, I ended up eventually getting cast in the tour and then making my Broadway debut in Rent. I didn’t get to play every part, but I was a swing, so I did get to play four of them.”

 

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The Light in the Piazza

 

"After a decade struggling to make a living in musical theater, I became hyper-critical of it, and seeing shows often felt like work. But The Light in the Piazza just swept me away. I had forgotten how magical musicals could be, and I was utterly transported. The music was transcendent, and Victoria Clark, Kelli O'Hara and Aaron Lazar (who replaced Matt Morrison) all made me fall in love with them. The show also made me determined to go to Italy and learn Italian, neither of which I have done."

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  In the Heights

 

"Since Les Miz in high school I have not seen a musical more than once. But I went to see In the Heights seven times. As a grown-up. I couldn’t help myself. It filled every cockle of my soul with joy by providing hot modern music in old-fashioned musical theater form. And the choreography! I’m not a dancer so I’m not generally tuned into choreography that much, but holy moly, this was thrilling! I remember the big dance number '96,000' stopping the show, and tears filling my eyes at such stunning, connected, unique movement."

 

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The Scottsboro Boys

 

"I’ve never cried in a theater so much as at The Scottsboro Boys. How you could tell such a heartbreaking and downright uncomfortable story with such beauty was amazing to me. I was angry when Scottsboro Boys closed so quickly, because I don’t think we see shows of such extraordinary caliber on Broadway very often, and I found it distressing that such a thing couldn’t find an audience."

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Jessie Mueller in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

 

"A couple years ago, I went to see On a Clear Day You Can See Forever with Harry Connick Jr. And in the flashback scenes there was this magical person who knocked my socks off with her voice. I thought, 'Who in tarnation is this sassy little bundle of talent?' Little did I know I would soon be performing with her every night! And Jessie Mueller sings 'Ev’ry Night at Seven' to me every day at places. Well, ok, she just says, 'Sock it to ‘em!' but I hear the echoes of the song in her words..."