You can go but be back soon …

We regularly thumb through the well-read pages of our favourite books and watch films on DVD over and over again, so why not go back to the theatre for seconds? The idea of returning to a show can conjure up images of mega-fans who have been to see their favourite musical hundreds of times, but repeat theatre trips are not only the preserve of zealous devotees.

This Tuesday marked my third trip to Avenue Q and started me thinking about the merits of multiple returns to a show. While my theatre choices are largely decided by the amount of money in the bank and I am far more likely to spend my few hard-earned pennies on seeing something new, it is occasionally worth splashing out on a second or third visit to a show that is truly outstanding.

In the case of Avenue Q, it is the theatrical equivalent of a cup of tea; warming, familiar and I cannot get enough of it. Other shows, however, I have returned to for different reasons. In the cases of Hair and the ill-fated Spring Awakening it was because closing notices were posted soon after my first visit and I seized the opportunity to see them again before they took their final bows, while my decisions to revisit Wicked and Jersey Boys were partly influenced by friends wanting to see the shows –  although I must admit that I did not require much encouragement. As for Les Miserables, a return trip hardly needs explaining.

Although in every case it was a powerful first impression that enticed me back, going back for more is not simply an opportunity to relive a treasured theatrical experience. Every time I have seen a show for a second (or occasionally third) time I have taken something new from it; one of the many beauties of theatre is that no two nights are the same and each audience has a unique experience. Seeing the same show with a different cast, for example, is always an enlightening experience and one that confirms whether a show is stunning in its own right or was rendered brilliant by talented performers.

There is also something to be said for knowing the storyline. While revisiting a musical may not be quite the same as watching Inception for the second time and barely blinking to make sure that you pick up on every little detail, there is much to be gained from a familiarity with the plot, allowing an appreciation of the fabulous costumes or the ensemble dancer with the impressive high kick. Hair is hardly known for an elaborate plot, but on a second viewing the hallucination scene was much more enjoyable without the sense of utter bewilderment that I was thrust into first time round.

As well as revisiting the same production multiple times, seeing a different creative interpretation of a play is always interesting if nothing else. I have now experienced three different versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – not including the school production in which I had the pivotal role of ‘unnamed fairy’ – and each has added another facet to the play. There may be creative choices that leave you cold, but even the worst interpretations have something to reveal about the original text.

Of course there is the odd downside to going back to a production that you loved. Like the dress that looked sensational in the fitting room but just isn’t quite so fabulous in the cold light of day, occasionally a show will disappoint you by not living up to your rose-tinted memory. It is also difficult to resist the temptation for comparisons, especially when you particularly identify a role with a specific performer; Avenue Q without the wonderful Daniel Boys and Julie Atherton was never going to be quite the same, although stand-out performances Adam Pettigrew and Rachel Jerram banished any hint of disappointment (check back soon for a full review).

But as long as you go along for your second (or third, or fourth) helping with an open mind, revisiting shows can be immensely rewarding. Whether you discover aspects of the production that you never noticed before or see a breathtaking new cast, there are still lots of surprises that can come with a second viewing.

And for the benefit of other audience members, one last piece of advice to those going back to a favourite musical: you might want to remind yourself not to sing out loud along with all those well-known lyrics.

I took this topic to Twitter to see how other theatregoers feel about return trips to shows. Here are a few of your thoughts:

@Alttheatre Seeing a show more than once is always a good idea.You never get the same experience twice!

@Weez Theatre is ephemeral. If you love a show enough to see it more than once, then do so, ‘cos when it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Return visits are almost essential for beloved productions and/or longrunners. Mind you, it can go too far. Surely after your 15th trip to Wicked (for instance) you must start to wonder what other shows are like!

@LucyInTheSky22 Some (Wicked, Les Mis, Chicago) are worth seeing different casts in – and I never get tired of them. Try to see newbies tho! Oh and Avenue Q! Mainly because I love introducing other people to it …

@DanielWhit I’ll happily see a show more than once a lot of the time, interesting to see shows when you know the full storyline, can often pick out many quirks or hidden links. Either that or for different performances by covers.

What do you think about going back to the same show again and again? What shows can’t you get enough of? Leave a comment!

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