John Bolton Shares His Theatregoing Experiences

Favorite Things   Drama Desk Nominee John Bolton Shares His Theatregoing Experiences
At which Tony-winning musical did Bolton scream like it was a rock concert?
John Bolton
John Bolton Monica Simoes

Recent Dames at Sea star John Bolton, who will join Fred Barton & His Orchestra, Beth Leavel, Karen Murphy and more for An Evening with Cole Porter March 4 at Pace University’s Schimmel Center and March 5 at On Stage at Kingsborough, shares the performances that most affected him as part of the audience.

Annie — The original production from way back

Andrea McArdle and Reid Shelton in  <i>Annie</i>
Andrea McArdle and Reid Shelton in Annie Martha Swope

My first Broadway show. I had watched them on The Tonys and begged my parents to take me to see it on my first trip to NYC (we also saw The Wiz, which ranks a close second for this slot). Annie is an extremely well-crafted show. Dorothy Loudon’s performance was everything you’ve heard it was: huge and hilarious, yet so completely truthful I still marvel at how she pulled it off. I was inspired seeing kids my age on stage and wrote them a fan letter. I wore out the record trying to sing like Andrea McArdle. These days I rarely get starstruck, but if I meet someone whose work was an important part of my childhood — someone who I know from the cast albums I had in the 70’s and 80’s — I totally geek out.

Big River

The cast of <i>Big River</i>
The cast of Big River Martha Swope

I got tickets to this at TKTS not really knowing what it was, just that it was a new musical in what was a particularly sparse season. Turned out they had just opened the night before to rapturous reviews. The cast was on fire. I joined half the audience by rushing to the front of the stage during the curtain call, screaming like it was a rock concert. I went back the next day and had the same take-me-to-church experience.

The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

Lily Tomlin
Lily Tomlin in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe
Annie Leibovitz

Lily Tomlin’s hilarious, heart-stopping one-woman show. The first time I realized the power of what theatre can do.

La Bête

The cast of <i>La Bête</i>
The cast of La Bête

The original one. I’d never seen anything like it. The stylized sets and direction, that fantastic, endless monologue, those terrific actors. I didn’t know what half of it meant, but it left me breathless and I haven’t stopped thinking about it for 25 years.

Crazy for You

The cast of <i>Crazy for You</i>
The cast of Crazy for You Joan Marcus

I saw it at least 50 times. I had just moved to the city, and my temp job was renting the infrared headsets at the Shubert, where I would eventually do Spamalot years later. For two months I stood in the back downstairs and basked in the creative wonders of Susan Stroman’s magnificent choreography, learned from watching the comic timing of the skilled leads, and thrilled to the simple but stunning stagecraft of the “Entrance to Nevada.” I loved seeing how different audiences reacted and began to understand the science of both getting and losing laughs.

The Sisters Rosensweig

The cast
The cast of The Sisters Rosensweig

Another Broadway show where I was Mr. Headsets for a couple of months while I was auditioning. If Crazy for You was class, then Sisters was master class. Watching that entire original cast night after night — especially the sublime Madeline Kahn — was all the grad school I needed.

The Who's Tommy

The cast of <i>The Who&#39;s Tommy</i><br/>
The cast of The Who's Tommy

Great stagecraft. Those pilots jumping through the clouds….I mean come on. So great. Plus a cast loaded with soon-to-be-stars belting their faces off

As You Like It – Theatre For a New Audience

HR - Mark Rylance.jpg
Mark Rylance

Mark Rylance’s Richard III and Twelfth Night from a couple of seasons ago belong on this list as well, but my love for Rylance started here, in a small, superb non-traditional production Off-Broadway

Floyd Collins

Adam Guettel
Adam Guettel

Masterful and inspiring. I have forever crushes on my friends who were in it.

Dreamgirls — Actors Fund


Okay, I’m cheating a little on this one since I was actually in it, but 9/11 had happened just two weeks prior and everything was nuts. We all just grabbed on to each other, dove in and did it. To say our hearts were in it is a huge understatement. Our beings were in it.


The cast of <i>Hairspray</i>
The cast of Hairspray

The most fun I’ve ever had watching a show. When I grow up I want to be Dick Latessa.

The Light in the Piazza

Victoria Clark and Kelli O&#39;Hara in <i>The Light in the Piazza</i>
Victoria Clark and Kelli O'Hara in The Light in the Piazza Joan Marcus

Joyous, heartbreaking transcendence.

The Other Josh Cohen

David Rossmer and Steve Rosen in <i>The Other Josh Cohen</i>
David Rossmer and Steve Rosen in The Other Josh Cohen Carol Rosegg

A disarming, unpretentious and utterly charming show. Oh, and my friends David Rossmer and Steve Rosen wrote it and starred in it. So.

The Trip to Bountiful

Cicely Tyson in <i>The Trip to Bountiful</i>
Cicely Tyson in The Trip to Bountiful Joan Marcus

Horton Foote can do no wrong, and Bountiful is my favorite play of his. Following in the footsteps of Geraldine Page and Lois Smith is unthinkable, but Cicely Tyson’s mighty performance was one for the ages.

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