Favorite Theatrical Performances


One of my favorite activities is attending the theatre. I liked going on school trips or with my family as a kid, but my real love for the theatre began when I took ENG 240: Theatre and the Arts in England as an undergraduate in January 1993. On that trip we saw two performances of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford and another two at the Barbican Centre in London. We saw seven additional productions in London, plus I attended a concert (at St. Martin-in-the-Fields), The Mousetrap, and a performance of the Bolshoi Ballet (at Royal Albert Hall) on my own.

I have compiled links to some of the performances I attended on that trip, and subsequent theatrical experiences on this page.  This is mostly for my own reference, but I also think some of my students will find it interesting to see what (and whom) I've seen over the years.  And hopefully it will encourage some of them to attend as many productions as they possibly can, since it is one of the richest sources of culture and history available to us in the modern world.


Having a good experience at the theatre is often a result of having good seats. As a student I learned to also try to get affordable seats whenever possible, by getting them at the Box Office on the day of the performance. One such occasion was in July 2003 when I attended Absolutely! (perhaps) at Wyndham's Theatre.  The cheapest seats that day were on the stage.  Yes, that's right...on the stage.  So if I really want to, I can say that I was part of a Franco Zeffirelli production!

Reviews of the production.  (Note: Joan Plowright was unwell the day I went to see the play, so we saw her understudy instead...she did an excellent job.)




Shakespeare's Antony & Cleopatra is one of my favorite plays to teach, as well as watch...

In 1993 we saw a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford. I was lucky enough to get a front row seat for this one, which was especially nice for the view of actor Toby Stephens in his toga!

Then in 1998 my friend Sarah and I went to see the National Theatre's production starring Alan Rickman & Helen Mirren. This performance was most noteworthy because Helen got naked before Cleopatra's final scene...  

In 1993 I went to Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa to see the premiere of Billboards, the ballet set to Prince's music and performed by Chicago's Joffrey Ballet.


Also in 1993, I saw the Bolshoi Ballet perform at Royal Albert Hall in London.

In the summer of 2000 I had a chance to see Stephanie Beacham (from The Colbys) in Fanny Burney's A Busy Day in London...or at least a part of it.  After intermission they were unable ot raise the fire curtain and the second half of the play had to be cancelled.  We were offered tickets to a different performance or refunds.  Unfortunately I had to take a refund because I could not make it back to London before the run ended.   


I went to see The Children's Hour starring Keira Knightley, Elisbeth Moss, and Ellen Burstyn at the Comedy Theatre in London, April 2011.


One of the highlights of the Cornell class trip in 1993 was the RSC's production of The Comedy of Errors starring Desmond Barritt playing both the role Antipholus of Ephesus and Syracuse (who are in fact twins). Interestingly enough, Mr. Barritt has been to Cornell twice since to direct students in their own productions of Shakespeare.

One of my goals in life is to see every Shakespeare play in production at some point. To that end, in September 2004 my parents and I attended a performance Cymbeline at American Players Theater in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Luckily we had georgous weather since, as many of you may know, APT's main stage is an outdoor amphitheater.

I have also seen The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) as performed by the Reduced Shakespeare Company at the Criterion.

In 2017 I was in London for a few days of work, and took the opportunity to go see David Tennant in Don Juan in Soho a couple days before the production closed.  I also went to the stage door following the show, where Mr. Tennant was happy to greet fans.


An Enemy of the People
In 1997 I attended a production at the National Theatre in London, starring Sir Ian McKellan. Both the story and actor were equally compelling!


In 1997, during another January excursion to Stratford-Upon-Avon, one of the plays I attended was the anonymously written morality tale Everyman. Characters in the play include: Death, Knowledge, Good Deeds, Beauty, Strength, and even a Charlatan Priest for good (?) measure.  

It was showing at The Other Place, and later transferred to London.

The next play alphabetically is Noel Coward's Hay Fever  that I saw first in 1993 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, starring Maria Aitken, and again in July 2006, starring Dame Judi Dench.

One of the stand-out productions I attended was the RSC touring company's Henry V in 1997 (in Glasgow) which was set during World War I, instead of the Hundred Years' War (though historians know the similarities between the medieval and modern wars...).


Although I have always liked Shakespeare as a playwright, I find him most interesting when he plays historian. A good example of this is his Henry VIII, which I taught as part of my course of the same name at Cornell in 2004 and at Monmouth in 2013.

Above is a photo of Henry and his Queen Katherine of Aragon (played by Jane Lapotaire and Paul Jesson) from the RSC production I attended in 1997.

A more recently written royal play is Simon Callow's HRH that I saw at the Playhouse Theatre in London in 1997.

One of my most memorable theatrical experiences came in 1998 when I went to see Kevin Spacey in Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh at the Almeida Theatre in London.  The play and performances were fantastic, as was arriving at the theatre at 4:00 a.m. to get day tickets (the production was sold out otherwise).  Luckily I was not alone in the queue for long...Edwina arrived at 4:30 and we have been friends ever since.  

(Note: The production moved to the Old Vic and later to Broadway. Mr. Spacey earned a Tony nomination and won the Olivier Award for Best Actor in 1998.)


In 1993 we saw an excellent production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband, starring David Yelland as Lord Chiltern, Hannah Gordon as Lady Chiltern, Martin Shaw as Lord Goring, and Anna Carteret as Mrs. Cheveley at the Royal Lyceum Theatre.  Martin Shaw was later nominated for a Tony Award for this role.

A clip of the production that someone put on YouTube.


Another highlight of the Cornell class trip to England was An Inspector Calls at the National Theatre. It won Olivier Awards for Best Revival of a Play and Best Set Design.

(Note: The production was revived at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in 2019, so I went and saw it again! It's still brilliant!)


My very favorite theatrical experience of all time was seeing King Lear at American Players Theatre in 1989. As noted above, APT is located outdoors, which can provide some pretty spectacular moments. The day our class went there was a storm moving in from the west. And, as if specially ordered, just as Randall Duk Kim's Lear shouts "Come, thunder!" came the first crash of thunder and flash of lightning. Most of the audience ran for shelter, but a few of us were entranced enough not to notice the downpour that drenched us for the rest of the show. I doubt if any performance, no matter how great the play or actor, will ever compare with that!


Tom Stoppard's Jumpers (2003) at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre.


Kiss Me Kate (2002) at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London.


In 1997 I went to Neil Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor starring Gene Wilder. This was particularly interesting for me since Mr. Wilder is the cause of my only real phobia... of blueberries (think Willy Wonka), so seeing him in person was quite surreal.



I have seen the stage production of Disney's The Lion King on two occasions. First in London in 2000, then in Chicago in November 2003. 


Macbeth (2018)

Hal Holbrook in
Mark Twain Tonight! (2012)

The Master Builder (2003)


As a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation since college, this one was a real treat.  Patrick Stewart has such a great presence on stage, and after seeing his X-Men co-star in Ibsen, I am definitely a fan of the playwright as well.

More productions...

  Mary Stuart at APT in 1998.

Me and My Girl at The Adelphi in 1990.

The Merry Wives of Windsor in Stratford (the RSC) in 1997.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Barbican (the RSC) in 1996 and at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in 2019.

The Mousetrap at St. Martin's Theatre in 1993.

Another production from my 1997 visit to Stratford was Much Ado About Nothing at the RSC, starring Alex Jennings and Siobhan Redmond.

The Odd Couple
(1996) at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London... starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman.


& Britannicus 
starring Dame Diana Rigg and Toby Stephens.  

See reviews of the productions.

In 1997 I saw Ben Elton's new play Popcorn at the Apollo Theatre in London. It went on to win the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 1998.


Another favorite production at APT was their Richard III in 1997.

I also had the chance to see Martin Freeman
as Richard III
at Trafalgar Transformed
in London
in 2014.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1996)

At the Royal Haymarket (my favorite theatre). Starring Jessica Lange, Toby Stephens, and Imogen Stubbs. I had a seat with "restricted view" but did not mind at all...it was so worth it!


One of my favorite groups to see perform is 
I saw them for the first time my senior year of college at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City, then the following November with my parents in Chicago, and again in Glasgow, Scotland and Toledo, Ohio.

Another of their ventures is the IMAX film Pulse, which I managed to see in Cedar Rapids in the summer of 2004.

Still more productions...

Stephen Tompkinson in Moliere's Tartuffe in 1998 at The Abbey Theatre in Edinburgh.

Trelawny of the Wells (1993) starring Sarah Brightman and Helena Bonham-Carter.

Thurgood (2008) starring Laurence Fishburne was the first - and as yet only - Broadway production I have seen.

The Royal Shakespeare Company is good at many things... one of which is setting plays in unconventional times or places. This way the people are encouraged to attend multiple productions of the same play, and audiences may in fact appreciate different aspects of the story because they are seeing it in a different context. One such production was of The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Barbican in 1993. Instead of Renaissance Italy, the setting was during the Big Band Era.

My first (and so far only) visit to the new Globe Theatre in London was in September 2000 to see
The Two Noble Kinsmen. This is a play which Shakespeare may or may not have written towards the end of his career. For more on the controversy surrounding the play itself, check out the British Library site on Shakespeare Quatros.

As I mentioned on my Other Interests page, I wrote my term paper in January 1993 about the RSC production of 
A Winter's Tale
.  I wrote the paper, which was about representations of time, by hand in two hours on the Circle Line of the London Underground.  The reference I gave to David Colbert for his book on Harry Potter has to do with the character of Hermione, who is turned to
stone in The Chamber of Secrets, just as her namesake was in A Winter's Tale.

One interesting side note on this... the character who brings her back to life is Madame Pomfrey - played by Gemma Jones - and in the play is Paulina - played when I saw it in 1993 by Gemma Jones... Coindicence? 
Or very clever casting??

And finally, W;t (2000) at the Vaudeville Theatre in London.

Some reviews of the production.

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