I've got a friend who's constantly frustrated by one of my theatregoing habits. No, it's not texting, or talking, or taking photos during the show... What really bothers her is how often I go back to see a show I've already been to, rather than spending my limited funds on tickets for new productions.
She has a point, I suppose. A few weeks ago, I saw Les Miserables for the 8th time (I think - I lost count a long time ago), and I'm already beside myself with excitement about my 5th visit to The Lion King in a couple of weeks. Other top scorers: Joseph (5 times), Once (3 times) and Miss Saigon (3 times, and counting). And for each of these, I could have gone to see something new instead.
Then again, these numbers are really not that dramatic, especially when you consider they cover at least 20 years of theatre trips. I know of people who would laugh at my puny 8 visits to Les Mis, because they've seen their favourite show tens or even hundreds of times. And then there are others, like my friend, for whom going to see a show more than once is a rarity. So who's right?
The fact is, going to the theatre in the West End is not cheap, and each time I go to book a ticket, I have to make a choice. Old or new? If I won the lottery, I'd see everything (twice), then I'd go to New York and see it all again on Broadway. But since I haven't won the lottery, and sadly I doubt I ever will, I have to choose wisely. So why do I - and lots of others - keep going back to the same few, when there are so many fantastic shows on offer?
Well, firstly, and as silly as it sounds, if I'm going to spend all that money on a theatre ticket, I want to know that what I'm going to see is good. And yes, you can read reviews and take friends' advice, but at the end of the day, there's something quite relaxing about going to see a show you know you'll enjoy, because you already have. Then there's the practical side: I remember the second time I saw Wicked, I enjoyed it a lot more, because I wasn't focusing on the details of the story and I could sit back and enjoy the spectacular show.
And of course there's the argument that no two shows are ever the same anyway. It's not like watching a movie over and over (although I'm guilty of that too). A different cast - and audience - can make a huge difference, not to mention things like where you sit and who you go with. So although, yes, I've seen The Lion King 4 times already, each visit has been different to the rest, and I know that when I see it in August, it'll be different again. For one thing, I'm going with a friend who's never been to a musical before (shock horror), so I'm just as excited for her as I am for myself.
Do I wish I'd missed a couple of those trips and gone to something else instead? Maybe. But I've always had such a great time seeing my favourites that I can't really say I've lost anything. So I'll continue annoying my friend by going back for seconds, thirds and ninths, and in between I'll keep trying to see as many new shows as I can too. After all, isn't that what credit cards were invented for...?
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