Tuesday, February 08, 2011

What's Premature and Brilliant on Broadway

Today, in the New York Times, Ben Brantley reviewed Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark because he wasn't sure if it would be eternally postponed. Though I am hoping Spiderman closes so no one else is injured or killed (on stage or in the audience), I thought it was unfair of him to give the review during previews. Perhaps he could have reviewed the preview as a preview and promised us another review when the show actually opened (if it ever does.) Though again, I would like Spiderman to close, I think the point of postponing its opening was to give it a chance to make it a better show for a better review. As a playwright, I would be a little upset if a critic decided to come to the previews of my play because he was feeling impatient and afraid he would never get a chance to see my show.

However, if a critic crashed previews for my broadway play because he could not wait to see it, that actually might be one of the better days of my life.

Enough about the perfunctory nature of Broadway and its critics.

Broadway has just done something really brilliant; the powers that be have finally trusted us to drink in the theatre.

In early December, I was given tickets to see American Idiot at The St. James Theatre on West 44th st. I was trying to keep an open mind about a rock musical and had heard pretty good things, but I wouldn't say I was really looking forward to seeing what I thought would be a fair version of Rent meets Jersey Boys - so I headed straight to the bar.

I knew I would be overcharged but since I had gotten the tickets free (thanks to the fantastic Theatre teacher, Scott Paynter at the Westerville Central High School in Westerville, OH), I thought, why not? Since I knew I wouldn't be able to take my beer into the theatre, I made sure I had enough time to chug a bottle of Bud Light before the curtain went up.

But that's when everything changed. I didn't see any bottles or even glasses at the bar. What I saw instead were...sippy cups! No, they weren't letting babies drink at the bar, the sippy cups were for us, the adult audience members! Everyone was getting their alcohol delivered to them in a sippy cup - to take into the theatre! And to keep!

In many of our Youngblood meetings, we discuss how the theatre going experience could be much improved by allowing audiences to eat and drink during the show - causing further merriment as we entertain. PLUG - YOUNGBLOOD BRUNCHES.

And Broadway has wised up. Thank you, St. James Theatre, for trusting us to imbibe during American Idiot (without spilling on ourselves or on your seats.) Thank you St. James Theatre, for letting us have a better time. Thank you St. James Theatre for the souvenir. Speaking of souvenirs, what a great way to get even more of our money! I was charged not only for my Bud Light - but also the cup - I believe it came out to about $14. Imagine if the cup said "American Idiot", you could charge us even more! And then when my friends came over and I served them a beverage in my American Idiot cup, I would be advertising for you for free.

So Broadway and Off-Broadway, learn from the St. James (and the theatres across the world like The Abbey in Dublin which allows you to bring your drink inside the theatre), we love to drink during the show and some of us will throw down a little more cash to do so.

Making theatre and concessions cheaper to foster the future audiences of American theatre is a whole nother blog.

Also Broadway (American Idiot, specifically), Director plus Lyricist does not equal Book Writer. And while both Michael Mayer and Billie Joe Armstrong are very talented individuals, this show could have been very strong with a stronger story. If you're looking for book writers in the future, Youngblood playwrights are ready, willing, and able.


joshcon80 said...

I agree with your point (re: booze and food) but not so much with your point about Brantley (re: the ethic of reviewing previews.) The Spiderman producers are totally playing a sleight of hand game here, continually pushing back the "opening" of the play to essentially keep out critics they know will shit bomb their show. if you are selling full priced tickets to sold out audiences every night for months on end, you are not in previews, friend.

plink said...

I agree with Josh. Totally fair to review it. Once you pass 50 preview performances I say you're fair game.

Also, when you have 65 million dollars you can hire ANY playwright you want. I'm not saying you have to get Tom Stoppard, but you could afford him. He'd pick up the phone. You could make Paddy Chayefsky rise from the grave. Heck, with money like that you could even get Sarah Ruhl!

Imagine how much MORE money they could have raised if it was TAYMOR, BONO and GUARE.

Playwrights are a sound investment.

Steve Lam said...

I don’t see the harm in being unique and trying to create a cultural revolution by helping others to be more aware of the environment. They may look and dress different but that is the beauty. Everyone is welcome to come and learn and be a part of this event which may make history in bridging social classes together. Maybe you all can come down off of your anger podiums and see that we are not so different and hop aboard! Don’t for get to bring an umbrella!

joshcon80 said...

Dear Steve Lam,

What the F are you talking about?


Event Tickets Broker said...

The Spiderman producers are totally playing a sleight of hand game here, continually pushing back the "opening" of the play to essentially keep out critics they know will shit bomb their show.