Merch Down Broadway

I am no longer the connoisseur of cloisonné pins I once was, but I do still occasionally buy souvenirs of Broadway-style shows. While kid-theater spectacles such as The Wiggles or the Backyardigans will always have the best range of cool stuff for sale in the lobby, but for years now, the bigger and longer-running shows have made an effort to transcend T-shirts, “special edition” program books and refrigerator magnets with the occasional stuffed animal (Annie’s Sandy, for instance) or other unexpected item.

Top theater tat (British expression I find so much more appealing than “gewgaw” or “tchotchkes”) that tickled my wallet in 2010:

1. A plastic drinking flask from the tour of the Hair revival. The logo’s tricked up to make it look like an old-fashioned bottle of hair tonic. It’s sturdy, made in the U.S., and according to the Hair shop website the show’s co-creator James Rado had a hand in its design.

2. A coffee mug from the Goodspeed Opera House production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Coffee mugs are commonplace at theater concession booths, of course, but the Goodspeed doesn’t always offer them—unless, as in the case of this Loesser/Burrows organization-man opus, it’s intrinsic to the plot. The show’s Act One ensemble showstopper is “Coffee Break,” during which the employees of the World Wide Wicket Company unanimously lament that if they can’t take their coffee break, “something inside me dies.” That’s the legend on this mug, which also bears the classic logo from the show’s original 1961 Broadway run. The Goodspeed usually develops new poster art for its shows, but I’m glad they went with this sexist ‘60s standard-bearer, which shows the back of corporate desk chair with a man’s arm holding a phone jutting out one side, long women’s legs akimbo on the other side.

3. Didn’t actually buy this, but this show’s still in town as I write this, and I’m tempted to wander into the lobby just for the quick purchase:

Spamalot coconut halves (which, I think, might be made of plastic) with which you can mimic the horse-riding noises from the show. An instruction booklet explains that they are “imported exclusicvely by African Swallows.” The brief demonstration I got from the chipper proprietor of the Spamalot souvenir booth at the Shubert Theater in New Haven Thursday night was worth a portion of the show’s admission price by itself.

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