Lilli Cooper, who impressed as Martha in the original production of the Tony-winning Duncan Sheik-Steven Sater musical Spring Awakening, is back on Broadway this season in the critically acclaimed SpongeBob SquarePants, The Broadway Musical at the Palace Theatre. Cooper, who portrays Sandy Cheeks in the new musical based on the hit animated TV series, has also been seen on Broadway in Wicked, and her other theatrical credits include roles in Sundown, Yellow Moon; The Great Comet; The Wildness; and The Threepenny Opera.
We recently asked the actor, who hails from a showbiz family—dad Chuck Cooper is a Tony winner for his work in The Life, while brothers Eddie and Alex are both in the biz—to pen a list of her favorite theatregoing experiences.
Audra McDonald in Porgy and Bess
What can I say, Audra has been my inspiration, an idol, and absolute icon to me since the first moment I heard her voice. Hearing her sing this classical music that I grew up on was a dream come true. Not to mention she acts her face off.
Entire company of Passing Strange
This was a masterpiece I could have watched over and over again. Every person on that stage blew me away. It was an unforgettable experience to be able to see into the mind of an artist like Stew.
Cynthia Erivo in The Color Purple
This show moved me to immediately call my mother after to tell her how much I love her. I wept in the arms of my friends and cast mates who came with me. The talent on that stage was hard to believe. And Oprah starting a standing ovation in the middle of an act didn’t hurt.
Entire cast of The Scottsboro Boys
Yet another masterpiece telling a heartbreaking truth. I saw this Off-Broadway and at the Guthrie, and it still sticks with me today. And to point out a pattern, it has become obvious that theatre comprised of artists of color was and will always be incredibly influential to a young artist like myself.
Eddie Cooper in Little Shop of Horrors
He’s my big brother, and I couldn’t have been filled with more pride. He chewed up that scenery and stole the show alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Ellen Greene. It was epic.
Gideon Glick in Significant Other
Gideon and I have been friends for over ten years, and seeing him pour his heart out in this beautiful play was cathartic and immeasurably moving. He made me weep and gasp for air laughing.
Fiona Shaw in Medea
This was one of the first plays I’d seen on Broadway. It was an overwhelming expression of human pathos I’d never seen onstage before, and her performance solidified my passion to become an actress.
Christine Dwyer in Wicked
Christine is the first Elphaba I ever covered, and I couldn’t believe the shoes I had to fill after that performance. She blew me away, not only with her flawless voice, but with her impeccable acting. She’s a force to be reckoned with.
Laurie Metcalf in A Doll’s House: Part 2
She’s just so good. She’s brilliantly funny and heartbreaking and makes you think. I would run to see her in anything she does.
Mark Rylance in Twelfth Night
Watching this man onstage is always a master class in acting. He makes choices you think no man on earth could pull off, and somehow he does.
And couldn’t list my top 10 without an Honorable Mention:
Chuck Cooper in The Life and Caroline, or Change
I see my grandfather and my brothers onstage whenever I watch my father. It’s an incredible experience, and he’s pretty talented to boot.