Chris Colfer was just 18 and fresh out of high school when he decided to take a trip – alone – to New York City.
He had just finished filming the pilot for Glee in Los Angeles and managed to invite himself to the Upper West Side apartment shared by his future castmates Lea Michele and Jenna Ushkowitz.
So the small town boy from Clovis, California, flew across the country for the adventure of a lifetime.
‘I fully expected Lea or Jenna would greet me when I arrived at Kennedy International Airport — but I quickly learned that’s not how it worked in a big city in 2008,’ Colfer writes in a New York Times essay.
‘Getting into the taxi of a complete stranger was the most terrifying experience of my life up to that point. I was convinced that I would be whisked away and murdered like one of the victims in The Bone Collector.
‘I was too afraid to look my driver in the eye or try pronouncing his foreign name (it was Gerald, by the way). The taxi’s door locks were broken and clicked loudly whenever the vehicle accelerated, so naturally, I thought gangsters were shooting at us.’
He didn’t exactly feel settled even after he arrived at his friends’ place.
‘At 3 in the morning on my first night, a garbage truck rumbled down the narrow street outside and rattled the whole building. I leapt from a deep slumber on the couch and ran into the kitchen. After some reassurance, the girls tucked me back in, but I couldn’t sleep another wink.’
There were other misadventures like trying to hail a cab but overall, Colfer had a trip he would never forget by seeing as many Broadway shows as possible.
‘My first New York theater experience was a preview of Shrek the Musical, and boy, did all the families from the Midwest and I love it!’ he recalls.
‘I also saw Gypsy, with Patti LuPone; Hairspray, with Harvey Fierstein and Marissa Jaret Winokur; Mary Poppins; Avenue Q; and Spring Awakening three times. But nothing compared with the musical number in Shrek when Sutton Foster tap danced with the rats. It just tickled me.’
And he will never forget the way he felt the first time the Manhattan skyline came into view during that first scary cab ride.
‘I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t feel — all I could do was stare in bewilderment at the towering buildings in the distance. I had seen The Wizard of Oz a million times, but until that moment on the bridge, I never knew how Dorothy felt when seeing the Emerald City.
‘It was as bittersweet as it was magical, because I knew I’d never see New York for the first time again.’