I've heard it said that you can watch a TV show or go to a movie and easily forget it, but that live theater stays with you. That may be true, even though there are some shows I’ve seen that I’d just as soon forget. Some of the stranger ones –
I once watched Patti LuPone on Broadway in a rendition of Sweeney Todd that was so unusual that my friend said she sat there thinking, “I could have spent this money on more purses on Canal Street!” She totally hated it, and it was Patti LuPone! I did hear they eventually toned down the deafening screech played each time someone died. I like Sweeney Todd, but this was a little out there, even for the demon barber of Fleet Street.
I was really excited to see Michael Crawford on Broadway, in his first role since Phantom. Dance of the Vampires. You’ve never heard of it, have you? It opened and closed with no fanfare, which was for the best. When one of the characters started singing Total Eclipse of the Heart, I don’t think it was supposed to be funny, but the audience laughed. Yeah, it was that kind of show. Apparently it was big in Germany for years. Go figure.
Probably the worst thing I’ve ever seen was a professional touring show. Out of deference to the schools and others who continue to do this show (which I’m sure is great when done well), I will leave the title to your imagination, although I will say it’s not even six degrees away from Kevin Bacon. What bothered me wasn’t the actual material, it was the way it was put together. I didn’t like the casting, the acting, the set. I didn’t like the main character at all, who was too old for the role, too cocky, and just not nearly engaging enough. I have seen high school shows I’ve enjoyed more, and these were supposed to be pros. Instead of enjoying it, I sat there thinking it looked cheap and amateurish. I expected more.
I’ve seen plenty of community plays, church musicals, professional tours and several Broadway shows. I think you come in with a certain expectation as an audience, based upon the company, and if that expectation is met, you are pleased, even if it isn’t top notch. When I direct, especially in a small setting, I always encourage the cast to make it better than what people expect to see. Then I love hearing from the audience that it was better than what they expected! Yeah, that’s the goal. Reach a little over your head, and the audience won’t be wishing they’d spent their ticket money on a purse!