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I (Don’t) Speak Six Languages

This week, I hosted my last Broadway Plus experience of the summer at Chicago. This summer, I have had a total of twelve hosting opportunities and this was my second time hosting at Chicago which made me feel very confident going into it.

I knew all of the steps for the Chicago-specific procedure so I was set and ready to go. I had it in the bag…or so I thought.

The first few steps were a breeze. However, as I waited behind the curtain as the cast did their bows, the man in charge of the merchandise table came up to me and informed me that the guests never came over to pick up their gifts. While I thought this was a little strange, it wasn’t a major alteration in my plan. I took a mental note that I needed to add a step and take the guests to get their gifts before leading them to the stage door. No big deal.

As the cast left the stage, I made my way to row B in search of my guests. I knew that I was looking for a party of four and I knew the contact name so I scanned the row for the right people and spotted them pretty quickly. I went right on over and said the contact name. They looked back at me very confused. I said the name again. Still, no response of confirmation. And again. Still nothing. All of the sudden I realized what was wrong: THEY DIDN’T SPEAK ENGLISH!

I was momentarily speechless, as it dawned on me that I was going to have to complete the rest of the steps of my standard procedure without a common method of communication. And then another thought came to mind: how did they enjoy this musical if they couldn’t understand it?


After conducting some research, I discovered that in the 2017-2018 season, tourists were responsible for approximately two-thirds of Broadway tickets sales! In addition, tourists typically opt for musicals rather than plays because musicals are more of a spectacle and are much easier to follow along, especially for non-English speakers. 

My Japanese guests had seen the movie Chicago which is why they picked this Broadway show as the one to see while in NYC. Tourists tend to gravitate towards seeing classic musicals that have been around for a while, have a movie version, or have received widespread acclaim. This trend definitely lines up with Nathaniel’s and Lizzy’s experience at Broadway Plus, as they’ve noticed that international tourists’ most popular requests include Chicago, The Lion King, and Phantom of the Opera while domestic tourists’ favorites are Wicked, Hamilton, and Frozen.

Having these guests from Japan taught me to always expect the unexpected, but it also taught me an even more valuable lesson about people and communication. No matter where you are from, a dance is a dance, a song is a song, and a spectacle is a spectacle. Although my guests didn’t understand the words, they DID understand the EMOTIONS, as emoting is an action that is conveyed with one’s entire body, not just with the mouth. Just like any other guests, they thoroughly enjoyed the show and the backstage experience, as musicals possess the unique ability to unite people from all different parts of the world, transcending lingual, cultural, and ideological barriers.

Working at Broadway Plus this summer has shown me just how many “plus sides” there are to theatre. I’ve only gotten to touch upon some in this blog series, but I can’t wait to continue to find more “plus sides” and I hope that you, the reader, have been able to learn along with me and are inspired to conduct your own research and investigations. 

Signing off for now,