Miscellanous Musings ’bout Musicals (mmmm!)

arts and entertainment, theatre

Lots of you probably know I’m a techno-geek. But did you know I’m a music ‘n’ theatre-obsessed geek?

Well, I have lots… LOTS… on my mind about theatre stuff, but for now I’ll just subject you to some random musings. Hope you don’t mind.

Magic in musicals
I believe the very best musicals are MAGICAL. An audience with mouths wide open, no concept of time elapsed… an experience that makes you really think or dream or wonder or desire long after the curtains go down. Singing in the Rain is magical. Little Shop of Horrors is magical. Though it wasn’t quite my taste, Les Miz is magical.

Breaking of the third wall
It may have been cute once, but I’m getting sick of musicals constantly referencing the audience. It’s okay to have a narrator (I think this works in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, for instance), and it can be fun to involve the audience in some ways interactively (as in The Mystery of Edwin Drood). But snide remarks about ticket prices, frequent comedic asides or jarring pleas to the audience and so on… this all reminds me that… damn, I *have* paid $90 for this artificial experience. It’s not real. It’s almost akin to having a serious TV movie broken up by commercials (wow, way to break the mood).

I’m forking over hard-earned cash because I want to escape from reality for a bit. Quit the jarring reminders that I’m sitting in a not-so-comfy chair in the nosebleed section, okay? It’s not nice, and it’s not particularly funny either.

And speaking about prices…
$100+ to see a musical on Broadway. I’d like to know where that money is going. How much to the performers?… and not just the big-name stars, either! How much to the orchestra folks? The choreographer? I sincerely hope the actual ARTISTS (not just business managers) are making the bulk of this cash.

Still, even if that’s the case, it’s making me sad to see ticket prices so high. Heck, I’ve noticed even community theatre productions are selling tickets for as high as $53 a seat!

Thankfully there are ways to save a lot of money on tickets!
Here are a few tips:

  • In New York City and I think a few other cities, if you don’t mind seeing a show that’s been running for 6+ months, get half price tickets at the TKTS booths either the day of or day before.
  • Offer to usher!
  • See if theatres offer free open seating for previews or dress rehearsals. For instance, I’m going tonight with friends to see Into the Woods for FREE from the very talented Theatre Works group in Palo Alto. Tickets are normally $40-$53 each!
  • If you’re in the Bay Area, sign up for the Artsopolis newsletter. Sort of like the airline weekend Internet specials, Artsopolis sends out a newsletter each Thursday with ~40%-off deals for lots of great local performances!
  • Scan Craigslist.

Please, please, PLEASE, people… don’t patronize scalpers. IMHO, these folks are the scum of the earth and at least partly responsible for inflated ticket prices. By the way, if you see people selling tickets on CraigsList for more than face value, flag the posts! Scalping is against CraigsList’s terms of service!

See the musical or listen to it first?
I’m still trying to figure out what’s best. A few times, I’ve become so familiar with the score of a musical before seeing it, that I find myself either somewhat bored during the show or disappointed that the performers don’t sound like the folks I’ve grown comfortable hearing sing the musical.

On the other hand, I know that it’s sometimes very helpful and enjoyable to have a better understanding of the plot AND the lyrics before seeing a show live.

A little-known secret to upgrade your theatre seat at no extra cost
At a recent show I attended in New York (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), I was initially saddened that my half-price ticket was for a seat in the VERY back of the theatre… until I saw a neighbor grab a comfy seat pillow and instantly become 4 inches taller. I’m guessing that this isn’t an appropriate option for those NOT in a back row, but let me tell you, using such a pillow myself improved my appreciation of the show immensely… not only due to my improved height, but my happier bottom 🙂

Theatre as a solitary affair
At the above-mentioned New York theatre trip, I ended up seeing the musical all by myself. Er, no, it wasn’t a private one-person showing, but rather, this was the first time I had attended a musical alone. It was a bit sad and disconcerting, frankly, and I don’t think I’ll do it again. There’s something about having a friend or family member or date or significant other next to you, even without any words shared during the show; it’s hard to describe, but I now realize just how comforting it is!

You paid $100 and you’re walking out before the show is over?
I’ll never understand why people pay such money to see shows on Broadway and then hustle towards the exits WHILE THE ORCHESTRA IS STILL PLAYING. Whether they don’t consider the orchestra to be part of the show or they’re so eager to be first out the door, it makes no difference in my mind. It just seems like moronic, disrespectful behavior.

What’s with the standing ovations for EVERY fricking show?!
Colleges have grade inflation, theatres have ovation inflation. Both, IMHO, are equally annoying and regrettable.

When a name just isn’t worth it
John Lithgow, I’m sorry, but you’re not a singer. You can’t even cleanly hit an ‘F’ above middle C. Please step aside and let actual singers take your role.

Then again, the public seems to be so name-obsessed (in movies, music, everything… gah!) that talent is subordinate. How regrettable.

Sure, I love some of the ‘big names’ (Nathan Lane is a hell of a lot of fun and he CAN sing. Same for Norbert Leo Butz… though if I were him, I’d have gotten a name change eons ago). But it’d sure be nice to have musicals marketed based more upon their book and such, rather than what big name star happens to be coming or going.

Why aren’t William Finn’s musicals more popular?
I know, I know… he writes about gay people and brain tumors and other non-traditional issues. But his musicals have so much HEART in them! Luckily, though, his Spelling Bee musical has caught on like wildfire… so it seems that he’s finally getting his due. Then again, outside of New York, just how many people HAVE heard of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee? Ah, if only the world of musicals got as much press and play (no pun intended) as the over-inflated world of bubblegum pop.

I guess that’s about as likely as high school arts programs getting as much support and funding as athletic programs. Oh well. I can dream, right?

2 comments… add one
  • Smorty Dec 1, 2005

    Hi,

    Can you give me a link to this Norbert Leo Butz fella, I haven’t heard of him

  • Joe Mar 6, 2008

    What a fucking bitch you are! Crying about scalpers scum of the earth yet you have pictures of ILLEGAL FUCKING DRUGS ON YOUR SITE what a fucking hypocrite. Get the fuck over yourself and your worthless musings.

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