06 August 2009

"Just Close Already"

I have just found out that 2 charming gentlemen I have had the pleasure of working with over the years will join the cast of Broadway's MAMMA MIA in September, and for the first time in a long time--maybe ever--I began to seriously consider buying tickets to MAMMA MIA. At the very least I was thankful it existed. Not because it is the culmination of a lifetime of theatrical hopes and dreams for either gentleman, but it's certainly a good gig, and they deserve above production contracts and health weeks.

And then I thought back to the number of times I've heard someone say--or said myself a show (MAMMA MIA or otherwise) should "just close already."

And I realized that's an incredibly stupid thing to say. Why would anyone who is at least tangentially related to the theatrical community want a show to close? I am embarrassed by my past cynicism for a number of reasons:

1) The "HEIDI Principle"--You know, that scene in THE HEIDI CHRONICLES? Where Heidi gives that speech to the society ladies describing some catty women she overhears in a gym locker room? The "Women, Where Are We Going" speech ending "I thought the point was that we were all in this together." The New York theater community prides itself--and is heralded--on being welcoming, like "a big family" so why would any of us (bloggers, non-working actors, award winning composers) wish death upon another show? We don't have to like everything, hell, we don't have to like anything and can tear it apart to shreds, but we should always be happy to see it running, if only because it means people are working, people like us (and, possibly, someday, including us).

2) Think About Who We're Mad At--Though it may be a joke, to say "why doesn't it just close already" is to express anger--not bemusement--that the show is a long-running success. But no one in the history of theater has ever thought that meant it was good, just that people are willing to pay lots of money to see it. Lots of people. And lots of money. Lots of their money, that they could choose to spend on Yankees tickets, or, perhaps a trip to Paris or Branson. And though, as forward thinking artists, we all wish there is more of a market for the NEXT TO NORMALs out there (and those struggling to get off the ground), the fact of the matter is, we can't dictate what people "should" want to see. And I am willing to bet that just as much--if not more--money has been lost trying to custom tailor shows to MAMMA MIA's audience than NEXT TO NORMAL's. (Which do you think lost more money, HOT FEET or [title of show]?) Just because a show is frothy, silly, and, in some eyes, tacky and vapid doesn't mean the creators and producers didn't take a risk in mounting it as a Broadway production.

3) No News Is Good News: If you want a show gone (who knows, maybe you're a writer or producer with a property that could ONLY go in the Winter Garden, and you've been waiting 15 years to get it up), don't bring it up. At a panel I witnessed this summer, Jefferey Sellers talked about how important it was to keep theater "in the conversation". If you TRULY don't think it's worth your time, don't talk about it. And don't think about it. Will that make it close faster? No. But if you don't care, does it matter?

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