Snohomish High principal enthralled with Broadway

Some people are skiing fanatics. Some spend free time and money on fly fishing or mountain climbing. Snohomish High School Principal Beth Porter has a passion, too. She’s in the audience.

Porter is crazy about theater, especially Broadway productions.

She and her husband, Buzz Porter, have seen nearly 500 Broadway shows. About 300 of them have been in theaters in Seattle or other cities, but they have seen 190 shows in New York City.

They’re about to add a double-digit number to that sum. The Porters, who live in Bellevue, try to make it to the Big Apple every year. In the past decade, they have visited New York about 15 times. They’ll be there over the Snohomish district’s winter break, and already have tickets to a whopping 20 productions.

“We just enjoy travel,” Porter said. The principal has been at Snohomish High School 13 years, six of them as assistant principal.

“Both of us have demanding jobs,” said Porter, 44, whose husband is an attorney. “Some people’s hobby is skiing or camping. This is our hobby.”

Seeing the list of stage shows on their itinerary, what theater fan wouldn’t suffer an attack of jealousy’s green-eyed monster? That’s Shakespeare, by the way. Iago speaks of “the green-eyed monster” in “The Tragedy of Othello,” a play not on the Porters’ December ticket list. Here are the plays they do plan to see at Christmastime in New York:

Big Fish,” “Betrayal,” “Buyer &Cellar,” “A Christmas Story: The Musical,” “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love &Murder,” “Macbeth,” “Matilda,” “Kinky Boots,” “After Midnight,” “The Glass Menagerie,” “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” “Chicago,” “Once,” “Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays,” “First Date,” “New Year’s Eve with Chita Rivera,” “Cinderella,” “Pippin,” “Waiting for Godot” and “No Man’s Land.”

Porter’s love of musical theater goes back to girlhood.

“My parents had some records. We grew up listening to ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ ‘Godspell’ and Cher. That was the music of my youth,” Porter said.

The child of a military family, Porter was born in Alaska and moved more than once between Seattle and Virginia. An older sister played French horn, and the family went often to hear her play in high school musicals.

Her first experience with professional musical theater was seeing “Godspell” at Seattle’s A Contemporary Theatre. “I was knee-high to a grasshopper,” Porter said. “It was the most amazing experience I’d ever had,”

Her husband embraced her love of theater. For her birthday years ago he gave her tickets to “Les Miserables” at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre. It was the first Broadway show they saw together.

“Before we got married, he knew I liked musicals. Now he’s almost worse than I am,” Porter said. “It’s very much our shared love and passion.”

For her 40th birthday, Buzz Porter surprised his wife with a party on the stage of The 5th Avenue. Porter has even taken her fandom to the next level, appearing on stage.

Twice, at fund-raising auctions for The 5th Avenue, Porter has purchased the opportunity to appear briefly in a musical. “They call it a walk-on role,” she said.

The first time, she was in “Hello Dolly.” Last spring, Porter had what’s called a “super walk-on” in “The Music Man.” For her bit part in the musical number “Wells Fargo Wagon,” she was in full costume and had to attend a song-and-dance rehearsal. The thrill was worth any stage fright she suffered, Porter said.

Porter doesn’t have children. “With 1,800 at school, that’s more than enough,” she said. Seeing actors grow professionally, she said she has at times felt “like a proud parent.”

“You see them at Village Theatre, and later at The 5th Avenue,” she said.

Can Porter pick a favorite, of all the shows she’s seen? “It’s so hard to say. Some musicals were ground-breaking, the work they did, but it’s not for everyone. ‘Les Mis’ has always had a special place in my heart,” she said.

Porter is also a fan of the TV series “Glee,” with its stories of a high school glee club and all the drama of teenage lives. At Snohomish High School, she said, “some of our kids know I have an odd tendency to break out in song every now and then,” she said.

And look closely, if you happen to go to a show at Snohomish High.

“I have done a few cameo roles,” Porter said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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