Magic Moments in New York Theater

Magical Moments on Broadway: Ghost, Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins, Sunday in the Park With George
Magical Moments on Broadway: Ghost, Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins, Sunday in the Park With George

“Every moment at the theater is magical,” Anna Kivela wrote, one of more than 100 theatergoers who responded to the question: “What was the most magical moment you have witnessed on a New York Stage?”

But Kivela wound up choosing one particular moment that left her in awe..

It should surprise no one that Kivela was not alone in picking a moment in Ghost (in her case when ghost Sam and the psychic Oda Mae dance with Sam’s wife Molly near the end), since the responses were part of a ticket giveaway contest for that musical.

Everybody agreed that there is magic in the theater, but there was a wide interpretation of what that means.

 Literal Theater Magic, from Phantom to Mary Poppins

“If you’re talking literal magic,” replied Margarita Javier, “when I saw Phantom as a kid and (spoiler alert!) the Phantom disappears at the end, I was all “HOW DID THEY DO THAT?! That’s some voodoo shit right there!’”

Elizabeth Simmons picked another moment brought about by special effects, this one in the current revival of “Harvey.” When Jim Parsons talks to his invisible rabbit friend, she says,  “you really believe in spirits.”

Other popular special effects moments:

Mary Poppins flying over the audience with her umbrella: The show was the first Nina Monshine saw on Broadway. “We had seats in the balcony and she was flying below us, so at some point we couldn’t see her anymore… but then she suddenly popped up right in front us and everyone in the balcony cheered… I’ll never forget that.”

“Even though I could see the wires and knew how it all happened I was still in awe and in tears as she left Jane and Michael,” Michele Woodward agrees.

Spider-Man flying

“I’ve seen people “fly” on stage before but never over the audience and all around the theater,” says Alesandra Krug. “I felt like a little kid again with a stupid smile on my face. It was so magical and fun.”

In Beauty and the Beast when the Beast is transformed towards the end of Act II: “To this day I’m still in awe of it,” says Alejandro Melendez.


“War Horse” and “Peter and the Starcatcher” are Philip Iannitti’s favorite moments, and neither have “fancy wires or pyrotechnics to create beautiful magic onstage.”

Quick Thinking at Finian’s Rainbow

When I saw Finian’s Rainbow in 2009,” says James Smith, “an audience member in the middle of the orchestra sneezed in the middle of Og (Christopher Fitzgerald) realizing that he is in love with Susan. In the middle of his lines, he looked out to the audience member and said ‘Bless you’, in the line and perfect rhyme with his lines of ‘You, You’ to Susan


“During the song “Once and For All”, Stephanie Carlsen says, “as the set moves forward with all the Newsies singing, I always get a little choked up (read: bawl my eyes out). It’s a really powerful moment in the show.

Billy Elliott

Matt Kennedy recalls: “At intermission, my mom (I’m cool) turned to me and said “You never cry but now you are. I don’t know how to handle this situation.” It was an unusually profound experience.

The Normal Heart

For Anthony Murisco, it was the last scene in The Normal Heart. “Even from up in the cheap seats, you felt how powerful it was.”

 Closing Nights

Sarah Packard recalls as magical the final show on Broadway of Next to Normal, especially when Megan got to singing the lyric “something next to normal would be okay….” and started to really cry…and then Adam Chanler-Berat was crying, too.

For Felicia DiGiacomo, it was Hair on March 7, 2010 “when the Aquarius tribe took their final bow. Life-changing show overall. On that day specifically there was an extra amount of love at energy in the Al Hirschfeld.”

Meg An recalls “the moment Lin Manuel Miranda walked out on stage during closing weekend of In the Heights. The energy in the room was breathtaking and the amount of applause was more than I have ever heard even during curtain call.”

Sierra Rein is the most vivid in her recollection of a closing night performance: “‎2008, I had just landed in New York to pursue musical theater. I grabbed a ticket to Roundabout Theater’s last performance of “Sunday in the Park with George.” At the very end of the show, the audience and the cast all together are in tears (myself included) and we begin giving them a standing ovation right at the final crescendo of the “Sunday” vocals. George had to raise his hand to quell the audience’s exuberance just to say his last lines, “white…a blank canvas…so many possibilities…”, and he did so with so much beauty and emotion and wonder, and the rest of the cast swelled and cried with him. The entire audience was swept up in the truth of the show and what it meant to them…and for myself, it solidified why I was in New York in the first place. And apparently, Sondheim was two rows back from me. Magic all around.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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