Gone Too Soon

Just recently two of my current favourite Broadway shows posted their closing notices: Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 and Bandstand. In all honesty, I’m not particularly surprised by either (more so Great Comet) but both are very disappointing to me. (I know I just talked about both of these shows recently in my post about my last trip to New York City but both are very special to me and felt they deserved talking about again in their new circumstances.)

With the recent controversy surrounding Great Comet and the lack of any proceeding casting announcements (until announcing the closing and that Dave Malloy would be back), and with Dave Malloy tweeting that the show was in trouble, it seemed, unfortunately, inevitable that Great Comet would close. I had still held out hope that something could save it, but no such luck. It is disappointing that it is closing in such a way and just how everything went down with it. It’s such a unique show with an extremely talented cast. It’s sad that the ticket sales weren’t there without a big star attached. It’s definitely good enough to hold its own without one. I’m also disappointed that I won’t now get the chance to see Great Comet from the orchestra or stage seats. Not that is was actually likely to happen before but now there’s really no chance of it. It’s also sad knowing that I will never get one of the letters from the actors that are handed out during “Letters.”

A lot has already been said about the Great Comet controversy and I’m not sure there’s really much I can add to the conversation. It’s just very a shame how everything worked out. I do think it might have been helpful (for lack of a better word) to have mentioned that the show was that much in trouble when they were releasing statements and why they were happening that way (why Mandy’s run in the show was cutting Oak’s run short). I suppose I can understand why they wouldn’t necessarily want to put that out there initially but I do think it would have helped with the public’s understanding of what was happening and why. But I also understand that there’s a lot more to it all, on all sides, than just that, that it’s a complicated situation, and also that we (the public) will never really know the whole story of how things played out.

With Bandstand I didn’t really see the closing notice coming and hoped that it would run a very long time, but it never really seemed to take off (like it should have!!!). I don’t think I ever saw anything negative about it. And I know they’ve also been getting a lot of recognition for all they’ve been doing working with veterans and portraying the lives of veterans and the sorts of things they go through. It too has an extremely talented cast, with a lot of them playing their instruments on stage too!

I had hoped that both Great Comet and Bandstand would have long lives on Broadway. I think they both bring a lot to the theatre world. Great Comet brings its unique style of storytelling and music and its use of space and all around design (there isn’t really anything traditional about it). Bandstand brings its brand new, original story (something we don’t always see a lot of) and it’s beautiful use of music and dance as part of its storytelling. 

There’s always something a bit sad about a Broadway closing. There are the limited run shows that are only meant to last a short time; there are the runs that are cut short; the open-ended runs that end suddenly, or not so suddenly and have just run their course; and sometimes there are the shows that close before they even open (Nerds comes to mind as a recent example of this last one). Whether it is planned or not it is a sad thing when it comes to an end. I know I’ve been emotional when a show I’ve been working on comes to an end, and they always have set runs).

This is also one of those times when it’s annoying to not live in or near New York- I can’t just go see these shows again before they close. I just have to see them close from afar, and just be happy that I got to see them at all. At least they will live on through their cast recordings, which I have been listening to a lot lately. 

The one silver lining to Broadway shows closing is the opportunity for new shows to open bringing new stories and songs (if it’s a musical) for us to fall in love with. Really, when you think about it, on show’s closing is another show’s opening. But that doesn’t take away from or replace the sadness that comes when a show you love is closing. 

So to Great Comet and Bandstand (and now to Groundhog Day too, even though I didn’t get a chance to see that one), and everyone involved in these shows, all the best in your last few weeks and thank you for bringing these stories to the stage!

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The Woodsman

I just watched The Woodsman on Broadway HD and wow! It. Is. Stunning. If you get a chance to watch it, do. The Woodsman tells the origin story (or a version of the origin story) of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. The staging in beautiful and the use of puppets incredible. It’s done so simply but also so intricately.

The set is quite simple and moved around by the actors. There is a single violin player on stage playing throughout while the performers provide other sound effects, for example clapping to indicate the sound of chopping wood and whistling for birdsong.

The lighting design is beautiful, with the added use of handheld flashlights throughout to great effect. They flashlights are used as an indication of magic and the simple act of shining them on a pair of sparkly shoes shows the power of the slippers. There is also a beautiful moment where flashlights are used as fireflies.

There is no dialogue in the piece, except at the beginning which sets up the story and the location, and one other particular moment. Even so everything, every emotion and thought, is conveyed so clearly through the actions, the sounds, both man-made and from the violin. Even through the puppets. Instrumental and vocal music help to set the scene and the mood and emotion.

Puppets are used in a variety of ways including for the Witch, the Woodsman (once he’s been turned to tin), a very intricate, multi-part tiger, and some very effective crows. Some of the puppets require only one person but some are multi-person use puppets. All are amazing to watch.

It’s great that there are filmed productions like this. Ones that show the variety of what theatre can be and do. I’m a sucker for the traditional musical but I also love to see different types of productions like this and I love that things like BroadwayHD are making these recordings available and more accessible. If you get a chance to watch this production, I would highly recommend it!

 

Stage Door: A Privilege Not A Right

This post is inspired by some recent interactions on Twitter, specifically Ben Platt’s Twitter (tweets directed at him and his response) and the discussions these interactions have inspired. If you are not aware of what happened, the gist of it is that people were complaining (rudely) about Ben not coming out the stage door after a performance of Dear Evan Hansen and I’ve seen a lot of responses to the situation, a lot from other actors. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen discussions about the stage door on social media either. British actress, Carrie Hope Fletcher has also talked about this topic on social media and her YouTube channel and just recently Brendon Urie, currently starring as Charlie Price in Kinky Boots on Broadway, announced that he will no longer be going to the stage door. I just wanted to take a moment and throw in my two cents from the fan side of things.

The following is Ben Platt’s response as quoted directly from his Twitter  account, posted on July 3, 2017:

“Performing Dear Evan Hansen every night is wonderful but also hugely tough- as much as I would like to be out there every night, very often I cannot come to the stage door after the performance. My priority must always be self-care so I can recreate the same quality show each night. That’s my job, and what each and every audience member is paying for and deserves. Before you tweet hateful things about how I don’t value our incredible fans when I can’t come to the door, please pause to consider that my responsibility to them is first and foremost to give my all each night. I preserve myself because I value each of them deeply.”

I 100% agree with Ben. The fact that he even felt it necessary to respond, and that he should be made to feel bad about not coming out the stage door is ridiculous to me. He (and any other actor who is put in this position) doesn’t owe anyone an apology, no matter their reason for not coming out the stage door.

I, myself, am someone who goes to the stage door when I see a Broadway show (I’ve been to some in other cities as well but it’s not the same vibe as on Broadway). I’m actually planning a post in which I will talk about some of my own personal stage door experiences, but that’s another post for another time. I do understand being a bit upset if someone you were hoping to meet doesn’t come out the stage door when you’re there, possibly waiting specifically for them. But if that happens, you don’t have to show it. Just move on.  And whether or not someone comes out the stage door doesn’t (and shouldn’t) affect your experience of the show you just saw or their performance in it. Sure, it can heighten the experience, getting to meet the actor(s) you admire, but even if you don’t, you still got to see theatre (and when it comes to Broadway, it’s usually great theatre). I can admit that I’ve been disappointed if I didn’t get to meet someone at the stage door, but I’m still happy with those that I did meet and it didn’t change my experience of the show at all. I still left having had a great experience.

I don’t see any point in getting mad at someone for not greeting fans at the stage door. For one thing, the actors DO NOT owe us (the audience/fans) anything, beyond the show itself. You’ve paid for a ticket for a show and that’s it (unless it’s some sort of VIP ticket that includes a meet and greet, but that’s a whole other story!). It’s simply a bonus to be able to meet anyone at the stage door. I’ve waited around for someone to come out before, when there has been indication that they would indeed be coming out and then it turned out for some reason or other they didn’t. And it was fine! Other people who had been waiting as well were getting upset but I didn’t see the point in that. It was only going to be a bonus to meet that person but I also understood that they had no obligation to come out and they had another show to do that night (I had seen the matinee) so it wasn’t really all that surprising that they didn’t end up coming out and it was totally understandable.

In my experiences I’ve generally found the security people at the theatres are good about letting those who are waiting know whether anyone else or anyone specific is still coming out, especially when it’s getting closer to the end.

I also completely get it for someone like Ben Platt who is performing such a demanding show 8 times a week. Like he said is in response, his priority is the show. He has to look after himself first so that he can do the show 8 times a week (because you know that people also get upset when understudies go on, which is a whole other thing that could inspire its own specific post!) Just because someone doesn’t come out the stage door doesn’t mean they care about the fans any less. Sometimes it’s because they care about the fans, and want to make sure that they can see the best show possible that they don’t come out. Sometimes actors have other plans after a show and need to leave quickly, or there’s a reason they need to stay at the theatre, or they have friends/family visiting, or they need/want to relax between shows on a two show day, or maybe they just don’t feel up to it. Whatever reason they have  for not coming out is OK (and really, they don’t need a reason).

It sucks that actors are made to feel guilty for not coming out when they have a valid reason (valid meaning any possible reason they have for not coming out, whatever it may be). It’s their choice to leave as much as it’s your choice to wait. A Broadway actor’s job isn’t to pose for pictures and sign stuff after performing a two and a half hour show (and perhaps 2 in one day). Their job is to perform the show. That’s it. Don’t make them feel bad for doing just that.

I’m sorry the performers have to put up with stuff like this because they really shouldn’t have to. It’s also annoying (for everyone) because for the majority of fans it’s all OK, it’s just that select few that have a tendency to ruin things for the rest of us.

Stage dooring can be a great experience and I’ve heard about great experiences from both sides of it. We, the fans, just need to remember that it’s not about us and there’s no need to take it personally if someone doesn’t come out after the show.