Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Theatre Snob? Moi?

Sometimes, I think I'm a "theatre snob." I see a lot of shows in a year and there's not a whole lot of them I think are good. I know a good show when I see one, and I'm pretty sure I know a bad show when I see one. While I can appreciate the hard work, thought and effort that goes into creating a production, there's a difference between appreciating the effort and seeing a good show.

***Warning to my theatre friends, you might not like this post. If I say something about your show, please take it in the constructive criticism vain it is given.***

In the past month, I've seen three shows that numerous others have lavished praise on. When I say, "lavished praise," I mean what others say completely differs from what I saw and would say about the show. One show was actually quite good.

"Bare," presented by All Alike Productions and Zach Rosing Productions was one of the better shows I've seen all year (Check out some highlites here). Admittedly, my expectations were low because there wasn't much money to put into production values. But, the cast and crew did a good job putting the story together and forming a show that exceeds the production values. The only nitpicks I have about this show is a costuming detail and a thought about a leading lady. It's set in a Catholic High School where students are seemingly required to wear uniforms. But if memory serves, there was one or two "uniforms" that didn't match the others. By that I mean, most were in a blue and green plain skirt, and one or two were in a red and yellow plaid. My colors might be off, but the point is they were radically different from each other. As far as the leading lady, she created a great character and had some great moments. She has one hell of an emotional song in Act 2. Other's thought it was lovely. I would say it sounded like she was taught the song, but not trained to sing it. That is, some of the parts were at the top of her range and there was a bit of a "scream" to her singing. Of course, my ears are more sensitive to little things like that. So, take it for what it's worth. The emotion and the character were there, just a bit screechy for my ears.

Also, April, if you read this... You OWNED that character. That was the best I have ever seen you.

Then, there's "Seussical" from CCP. Actually, the only people I've heard saying great things about it where the people that were apart of the show. I'll say that right of the bat it would be difficult for me to enjoy ANY production of "Seussical." The book is just bad. Needless to say, I did not like it, Sam I am. Now, the leads were good in their roles. But some of the production staff's choices left me scratching my head.

For instance, they probably spent over $3,000 renting, buying costumes and wigs for the various characters. The Who's were all pink. If it was pink, it was worn. My problem isn't the color, it's lack of continuity. The Who's wore probably 10 different eras of clothing (60s, 70s, 80s, etc) but nothing went together. Kind of a hodgepodge of pink, rather than a thought out design choice. Then, at the very beginning, all of the Who's come out wearing their show T-shirt. When I realized one character had come out in this orange "Seussical" shirt, I thought he got to the theatre late and didn't have time to change. Next scene, they're all in their pink.

And, for some reason, some of the animals were "Lion King" inspired costumes, while others seemed to be actual animals, and still others were human personification of animals. I appreciate the effort to bring all this out, but the lack of continuity and vision really hurt the costuming.

Let's not talk about the lighting, sound, and orchestra.

Which brings me to "Pippin." "Pippin" made me a little mad. I've worked with most of the leads in Pippin. I've seen their and most of the staff's work, respect them all, and know of what they are capable. Still, the show left me kind of empty. So, much potential on that stage...

Actually, I think the "circus performer" concept and design was a great idea for the show. It was an interesting way to present the story. The execution wasn't all there though. If the leading player is supposed to be the "Ringmaster" of the "circus" and the ensemble are all "circus performers," why not the supporting characters and leads? I didn't see that they related to "circus" atmosphere at all.

There was a lot of hype on Indiana Auditions about the "magic" tricks in the show. Perhaps, that hyping is why I felt underwhelmed by the actual tricks. Aside from a sword-swallowing bit (that was throw away, off to the side to be completely missed if you weren't paying attention to that performer), there were two other magics tricks. Tricks that didn't exactly mystify me and all too easy to figure out the "trick" to them. Again, for the hype, I was expecting more and better magic. So, maybe the hype let me down.

Now, the acting was fine, the choreo was good (the actual dancing was off though), the songs sung well (Really, Ginger, the music was a high point for us), the set and stage design was brillant, as were the lighting design. But, all in all, it was a mediocre show.

I guess what bugs me is that mediocre seems to have become acceptable in theatre around here. Again, I can appreciate the hard work, the effort and the thought that every single one of the performers, staff and crew puts into any show. But, friends, don't settle for mediocre with your art.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just a theatre snob. Is that bad?


Zach said...

What's funny about Bare is there *was* money for more to invest in the production. We just didn't know it until opening night was over. Could have made our lives much easier had we known this early on. Or we could have ran a second weekend. Overall I was *very* pleased with what we got based on the money we spent. It's all about finding people who are excellent at what they do.

ML said...

Those last two sentences... Sums it up well for me.