First show: “Carousel,” the Lincoln Center revival with John Raitt, 1965. I was 5 or 6. Odd fact that stays with me — the Starkeeper was played by Edward Everett Horton, whose name I recognized as the narrator of “The Fractured Fairy Tales” from The Bullwinkle and Rocky show.
First off-Broadway show: “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Also, my second show. Not the original cast. I still think it’s better than the revamped version, but nobody remembers the character of Patty [not Peppermint Patty] anymore.
First non-musical: “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme,” by Molière, at the Comédie-Française. I was 13. My French wasn’t exactly fluent, but I enjoyed it.
First exposure to Shakespeare: The Mr. Magoo version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” on television.
FIrst exposure to non-animated Shakespeare: The Olivier movie of “Hamlet.”
First exposure to live Shakespeare: The musical of “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” still one of my favorites.
First exposure to Shakespeare, live, no gimmicks already: “Richard II,” RSC, London. Boring for three hours, then a sword fight.
First time seeing a Broadway show without an adult taking me: “Candide,” 1973.
First time seeing a Broadway show with a date: “Candide,” 1973.
First show that I went back and saw again: “Candide,” 1973.
First show that made me want to write for the theater: “Travesties,” by Tom Stoppard. The third writer to blow up my adolescent mind, after Kafka and Pynchon. I wanted to write like Stoppard, to make the language dance and the concepts and moments shift on a dime. I needed to know everything he knew. He led me to Joyce and Wilde. I still don’t know everything he knows and never will. And yet, and yet, and yet …
First show that made me appreciate perfect lyrics: “A Little Night Music.” The way “Now,” “Later,” and “Soon” blend into the trio is the greatest achievement in musical theater.
First show that made me appreciate how a musical could express real life: “A Chorus Line.” When they announced the Broadway transfer, I caught the 77 bus into NYC and stood in line in the summer to buy six tickets for the December holidays. Front row center balcony, the perfect vantage point to see the kaleidoscopic patterns of Bennet’s choreography. I love Sondheim’s mastery of lyricism, but Kleban wrote how people I knew talked. The tickets, by the way, were eight dollars each.
First time seeing nudity onstage: “Equus.”
First show with college girlfriend: “Eubie.”
First time seeing two shows in one day [also with college girlfriend]: Spring break, 1979. “Sweeney Todd” and “Wings.”
First play I directed: “The Real Inspector Hound.” By Stoppard. At Swarthmore College.
First play I wrote: Yeah, not gonna talk about that. It was in high school. It was pretentious and terrible.
First time at the Delacorte Theater, Central Park: “The Pirates of Penzance,” 1980.
First show seen with my wife [aforementioned college girlfriend]: Memory fades, but research suggests it was “I’m Not Rappaport.” We got free tickets, thanks to my brother. He got them because the play was staged in a house designated for musicals, so they had to pay some musicians under the union rules of the time as what were referred to as “walkers.” My brother, a cellist, was one of them, I’m not sure how.
First show seen with my son: “The Lion King.” Also with my wife and parents. My brother was playing in the pit. For real, this time! And he got us house seats, which was sweet.
First time at the Delacorte Theater with my son: “Twelfth Night,” 2002. Terrible production.
First time seeing three shows in one day: “The Coast of Utopia,” by Tom Stoppard.
First musical written by me: “Lamb to the Slaughter,” with music by Matt Frey, based on the Roald Dahl story. Fourteen minutes long, performed in front of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop, with Masi Asare, Lawrence Rush, David Sisco, and me performing. A blast.
First musical written by me which people paid to see in public: “Math Anxiety,” a ten minute musical written in 48 hours with composer Michael Hunsaker and staged a week later by the Raw Impressions Musical Theater in an evening of rapidly written shows. Performed by Karen Hyland, Dennis Holland, and Darryl Winslow; directed by Tesha Buss, musical direction by future crossword champ Dan Feyer. Six performances, and I was at five of them. A crazy, thrilling ride.
First fully-staged full-length musical written by me which people paid to see in public: “The Usual,” with music by the late Mark Sutton-Smith, produced at the Williamston Theatre in Michigan, with Joseph Zettelmaier, Emily Sutton-Smith, Leslie Hull, Brandon Piper and Carolyne Rex. Directed by Tony Caselli. I was up for the last two weeks of rehearsal into the premiere. People unrelated to me sat in the audience and laughed, gasped, and cheered at words that I wrote. One of the greatest experiences of my life.
First full-length musical written by me to make it to Broadway: Watch this space.