Broadway or Bust: Texas Wesleyan student wins trip to New York to see Tony Awards rehearsal!

Texas Wesleyan student Jacob Sanchez won a trip to New York to see the Tony Awards rehearsal. Photo by Chuck Greeson/Texas Wesleyan University.
Texas Wesleyan student Jacob Sanchez won a trip to New York to see the Tony Awards rehearsal. Photo by Chuck Greeson/Texas Wesleyan University.
We’re not sure who was more excited – Jacob Sanchez for winning a trip to New York to see the Tony Awards rehearsal, or us when he agreed to blog about it for us. The stage is yours, Jacob!

My name is Jacob Sanchez and I’m a senior theatre major at Fort Worth’s Texas Wesleyan University. This past April, I entered a contest sponsored by to win a trip to the Tony Awards rehearsal in New York City. The contest, titled The Ultimate Broadway Fan Showdown, had Instagram and Twitter users submit a Broadway-themed photo with a caption of why we were the ultimate Broadway fan and include the hashtag #bringmetobroadway. I was chosen as a Top 30 finalist and the public was able to vote on whichever picture they thought should win. Thanks to over 8,300 votes, I won the trip and flew me and a friend out to New York City to see the Tony Awards rehearsal earlier this month. The great folks over at Performing Arts Fort Worth asked me to document my trip, so here is a quick recap of that amazing weekend!

Part of our prize was a dinner for two at New York’s latest premier steakhouse, NYY Steak. So after getting in that Friday night we had dinner at this very high-profile restaurant. I had a delicious 20 oz. New York Strip and (for the sake of humility) let’s just say the steak won that battle! Afterwards, we headed to our first show on the trip. We saw BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, the new musical written by Woody Allen based on his film of the same name. Award-winning director Susan Stroman of THE PRODUCERS fame helmed this hilarious show set in the 1920s about what you’re willing to sacrifice for your art.

Jacob met BULLETS OVER BROADWAY's Betsy Wolfe.
Jacob met BULLETS OVER BROADWAY’s Betsy Wolfe.
The cast included Zach Braff in his Broadway debut, Marin Mazzie, Betsy Wolfe (who I love!), Helene Yorke, and Tony Award nominee Nick Cordero, among a slew of other amazing triple-threats. This was my friend Kaila’s first trip to New York and it was such a great show to call her “first”!

On Saturday, we saw the Tony Award-winning revival of PIPPIN and the new original musical IF/THEN starring Idina Menzel. I also saw PIPPIN last summer with the original revival cast and I cannot wait for Fort Worth (and Dallas) audiences to experience this magical and extraordinary production. It’s got everything you want in a musical and even some death-defying acrobatics and wondrous illusions that’ll leave you breathless. Tony-winning director Diane Paulus is brilliant and so deserving!

IF/THEN was a musical so original that it kept you engaged the whole time as you wondered what was going to happen next as Elizabeth, played by the talented Idina Menzel, sought through a world of endless possibilities. It was so amazing watching Idina live on stage and even more so to have her autograph my poster at the stage door! Her voice is truly astounding.

The beautiful stage at Radio City Music Hall.
The beautiful stage at Radio City Music Hall.
Then came Sunday (Tony Day!) as we readied for the big Tony Awards rehearsal at Radio City Music Hall. The lines were huge that morning as we waited to get in, but luckily I was the first in line and (according to Kaila) the first one to walk through the door for the rehearsal!

The best part of the rehearsal was getting to see all of the performances, surprises, and even hear all the jokes before anyone else! Everyone attending sat in the first balcony so we were not far from the action at all! The audience went wild as Hugh Jackman entered, bouncing like Tigger on his way to the stage, and the celebrity presenters in attendance like Lucy Liu, Zachary Levi, Fran Drescher, Orlando Bloom, Bradley Cooper, Rosie O’Donnell, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, among several others.

Afterwards on our way to see the matinee of VIOLET starring Sutton Foster, we bumped into Tony Award-winning costume designer and Chair of the American Theatre Wing, William Ivey Long. We got to talk to him about his designs and how we loved his work in BULLETS and how we were excited for the CINDERELLA tour to stop by Bass Performance Hall. He asked us where we went to school and what we were studying; it was really cool how he was so interested in where we were from and how we got there.

So then there’s VIOLET with Sutton Foster. There was something so remarkably special about seeing her perform right in front of us (and we were sitting so close to the stage). I had never seen her live before but in everything I’ve heard her in, you can tell she’s earned her place in the Broadway community as a true triple-threat, this show included. VIOLET is a character and show so different than what we all know her from, especially those musical comedies. This is Sutton at her best. Grab the two-disc original Broadway cast recording if you can because you won’t regret it!

Jacob with Tony Awards nominee Kerry Butler at the Tonys Watching Party.
Jacob with Tony Awards nominee Kerry Butler at the Tonys Watching Party.
That night, I sat down in Times Square for the Tony Awards Viewing Party hosted by Tony-nominee Kerry Butler and current WICKED star Justin Guarini. It was so awesome to be sitting in a “room” with hundreds of other Broadway fans watching the Tonys. Before NY1 interviewed me and a couple of other fans on the local news, Broadway stars Corey Cott (NEWSIES), Liana Hunt (NEWSIES), Lindsay Mendez (DOGFIGHT, WICKED), Kyle Dean Massey (PIPPIN), Chris Jackson (HOLLER IF YOU HEAR ME, IN THE HEIGHTS) were interviewed and at least two of them called this day the “Super Bowl” for Broadway fans.

And it’s so true. We were cheering on the winners and applauding like crazy after the performances. When they say that the Broadway community is so loving and supportive, it also includes the fans and I was so proud to be amongst those in the crowd who call themselves fans, as well.

I was upset not being able to catch this year’s Best Musical winner A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER but I’ve been listening to the cast recording on a loop just because of how smart, witty, and bloody brilliant it is! But I got to see their Tony Awards performance live which (almost) makes up for it! Hopefully I’ll be able to see it next May when Wesleyan gets to go back to New York for our annual Playmarket reading, but who knows… maybe it’ll come to Bass Performance Hall by then…? 😉

Thanks to everyone for your support, especially those of you who kept voting for me! It really was the trip of a lifetime and the best way for the “Ultimate Broadway Fan” to experience New York City! Go see a Broadway show! Or if you can’t make it to NYC, subscribe to Bass Performance Hall’s just-announced 2014-2015 Broadway at the Bass season… I hope I can! HAHA!

You can see more photos from Jacob’s adventures in New York here.

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