About This Blog

I really like theatre, and I like writing and talking about it.

This blog is mostly about my relationship with theatre, the moments that make me fall in love with this art form, and the times when we don't always get along.

I'll be writing about things that I like, that I think are good and interesting and want to share. I will probably also write about things that I don't quite get, or think are wierd. I may also write about things that aren't theatre, strictly speaking, because it's my blog and I can.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Probably the Worst Show I Ever Saw- Christmas Edition

Merry December, people! The Holidays are fast upon us, and as I'm furiously knitting Christmas gifts for friends and family (nothing makes up for a lack of money like working really, really hard on something), I'd like to take the month to reflect on Christmas shows.

Christmas shows are the cash cow for many a theatre company, and often rightly so. Few things get you in the holiday spirit like dressing up in a pretty red or green velvet dress, and going out to see a heartwarming, well-known family tale, preferably full of opulence and seasonal music.

I hope to pay tribute to all my favorites over the course of the month, but I thought it might be appropriate to start with a hilarious low point and move up from there.

The year before last, one of my roommates found cheap tickets to see a star-studded production of A Christmas Carol playing a the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. It was their opening night--a soft opening, I believe, but definitely not a preview--and Christopher Lloyd would be playing Scrooge, and John Goodman as the Ghost of Christmas Past, including others. Actually, two well known celebrities who were supposed to have roles dropped out a few weeks before production, but we didn't think much of it at the time.

So, Kodak Theater, right? Big fancy venue, hosts awards shows, so this should be a pretty opulent production. So I was surprised to find, when the curtain rose, that the set was rather...small. Actually the whole show just seemed under-produced. There wasn't much music or dancing, the costumes were bland, and the special effects never went beyond some smoke covering spirits as they snuck in and out of Scrooge's bedroom set.

But other than a slightly disappointing set and some sluggish direction, we didn't anticipate the horror to come until the first set change, from Scrooge's office to his home. Scrooge is supposed to go to open the door, see the face of Jacob Marley in the knocker, and be terrified, but then enter the house.

Well, something went wrong in the set change, and when he reached the door, it was dangling open. There was evidently some bit of pre-recorded narration that was supposed to be playing, so instead Mr. Lloyd stood there for a moment, then walked around the back of the house, and with his microphone still live, said to whoever was back there: "Uhh, the door was open!"

So they changed to the set inside Scrooge's apartments, which took a ridiculously long time, with still no narration playing, so nothing at all happened until smoke started billowing out of the fireplace, and the actor playing Marley crawled out.

The horror continued from there--set changes were sloppy (we noticed white sneakers on several crew members), and the audience was left for several long intervals staring at the scrim of the streets of London, while listening to the narration, which was apparently cribbed from a John Geilgud radio play for the BBC, and not intended for the stage.

Things got really bad in the second act--after an intermission during which we could hear power tools being used on the stage--mostly thanks to that damned scrim. It kept coming and going at the wrong times, at one point even cutting part of the cast off from each other. Christmas Carol enthusiasts will know the scene...Scrooge points out two small children, Ignorance and Want, clinging to Christmas Past's robes. Except that the scrim cut them off from the ghost, so all they could do was stand behind it and paw feebly at the air.

Their was even a point at which the scrim flew in about half-way, paused for a second, and then flew back out!

By this point, the actors were completely fed up. And I have to give them total props, they were real troupers, and gave the best possible performances despite the circumstances. At the end, when Scrooge had returned home, the narration and scrim were about to take over the stage again, so Mr. Lloyd abandoned the stage altogether and hopped into the audience to distribute plastic prop coins and greet people in the aisles (much to everyone's amusement).

A few weeks after the press (and user reviews) finished ripping into the show, we were issued an apology from the production, and an offer to come back and see the show again. I chose to decline, because even if the show was no longer a complete train wreck, it still probably wasn't a very good production, and I've seen several amazing productions, and have high standards. And shouldn't I have high standards? It's an all-star cast at the Kodak Theater. This should've been amazing!

It looks like most of the fault lies with the director/producer/adapter--according to his bio (or like thereof; it read more like a director's note), he didn't appear to have any actual experience.

The next year, I was looking on Playbill's website and saw a headline that said "All-Star Production of A Christmas Carol Cancelled in Chicago". I scrolled to the bottom of the article--yup. Same guy.

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