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My View: A musical wonderland provides great escape

By Mary Nicotera

To say that I’m a musical theater geek is a gross understatement. Anyone who knows me can unequivocally vouch for that. In fact, it has become such a necessity in my life that I actually set aside funds as a line item in my annual budget to allot for this expense.

Musical theater provides me an escape from the crazy stresses of life. Nowadays, this includes the over-the-top rancor, bloviating and incivility of the frustrating political climate.

For two hours and 40 minutes, I allow myself to be fully enrapt and absorbed as I enter a world of laughter, tears, amazing special stage effects and world-class talent. I am Alice in my own little Wonderland.

I’ve been a Shea’s Performing Arts Center season ticket holder for many years, and have gradually earned great seats in that magnificent venue, with an up-close view that I cherish. These seats allow me to sense and see real emotion portrayed by the performers. This is fantastic except for the fact that I am now pretty much a seat snob. Bottom line – if a very good seat isn’t available when I’m buying a ticket to a show, then I simply don’t go.

When I first became a subscriber at Shea’s, my daughter was young and we went to each show together. They are memories we will treasure forever. When she grew up and moved away, my closest friends and family started taking turns in the second seat, which I gift to them for their birthday or Christmas present. Alas, I am thus responsible for creating a few more seat snobs as they, too, have become accustomed to my fabulous center field of vision.

Mary Nicotera.

Though I have a big preference for the old-fashioned classics, I can’t count how many times I’ve seen “Phantom of the Opera.” It started for me in Toronto (thrice), then Shea’s (several times) and even once in the third row on Broadway. Except perhaps the time they mistakenly thought skinny Paul Stanley of KISS would make a great Phantom, PTO is always fine entertainment. It is unabashedly uber theatrical in overdrive. Insert multiple heart emoji and exclamation points here.

Three years ago, I went to New York City on my own to see a few shows I was dying to see. It was hectic, as I saw three musicals in two days. I learned that it’s fairly easy to get a great seat when you’re buying one ticket in advance. I’d appreciate it if you could please keep that between us.

One of the shows, “The King and I,” was starring my favorite actress, Tony Award winner Kelli O’Hara. Kelli had long ago earned a spot on my bucket list. Right there at Lincoln Center, and with a tear in my eye, I checked that item off my list as she entered the stage and swept me off to Siam.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I also support and attend a few local theater productions each year. We have amazing small venues and talent right here in Western New York, and the shows are affordable. Given the size of the theaters, the local experience is up close and personal. There usually is not a bad seat in the house, which you now know is extremely essential to my personal enjoyment.

If you have a need to escape the many travails of life and love to be inspired, I encourage you to take the leap and attend a performance. There are shows available here catering to almost any preference or budget. And I think we all can benefit from a little bit of frivolity, farce and fantasy in our lives.

Mary Nicotera, of Williamsville, can’t imagine anything that would lead her to give up her two precious seats at Shea’s.

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