Making a Change – The Show Selection Process

userpic=theatre2If you’ve been reading my theatre posts for the last few weeks, you’ve seen the following line: “The fourth weekend in April is Pesach, but the Indie Chi Productions dark comedy Dinner at Home Between Deaths at the Odyssey Theatre (FB) sounded so interesting I’ve booked Sunday tickets.”

It did sound interesting. I made the selection based on a press release before it opened. As it has been running, however, I’ve been seeing its rating over on Bitter Lemons:  It is currently at the end of the ratings, with a score of 48% bitter. Quotes from the reviews include “a bit undercooked; with lighting cues missed, the stumbling over lines, and an integral plot incident causing unintentional laughter.”, “a sitcom whose humor is eccentric and contrived rather than savage and true”, “falls frustratingly short of both suspense and laughs, teeter-tottering between naturalism and farce. Stuart Ross’ direction so misunderstands the nature of the immature text that the actors are left “dead in the water.””, and “And then there are the plays that are really bad. Poorly conceived, badly written, terribly miscast, and excruciatingly directed. Such a play is “Dinner at Home Between Deaths”, now having its world premiere as a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles. There is one good thing about this play, though: it’s only 90 minutes long” (although I must note some reviewers liked it).

One advantage of being a professional audience, as opposed to a professional critic, is that I pick the shows I see. Further, since I pay for shows, I can decide where to spend my money (note: even when I coordinate with a publicist, I pay at least Goldstar prices for my tickets). Further, when I book through Goldstar, I have the Red Velvet advantage: I can cancel a ticket. When I get a heads up about a potential train wreck, I’d rather go see something with a better chance of success. But what to see? My basic constraint was that it had to be Sunday, as Saturday is the first day of Pesach, and if we were going to a second seder, it would be Saturday night. That cut out some of the top rated shows on Bitter Lemons: “Waiting for Johnny Depp“, “Baby Oh Baby“. Others, such as “Cloud 9” weren’t on Goldstar, or (in the case of “You Never Can Tell“) were, but were too expensive.  I looked through the shows that had tickets for Sunday, and tentatively decided on “Anton in Show Business“, which was on Goldstar and had the following description:

When you’re a well-known TV star looking to increase your theatrical street cred, what do you do? Sign on to play a role in a small Texas repertory theater’s production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. Go behind the scenes with three actresses — a jaded stage veteran, an eager Southern belle and Holly, the wildly popular TV star — in Anton in Show Business. Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Jane Martin won the American Theater Critics Association New Play Award for this raucous comedy. Now Nell Teare directs this all-female cast of Anton in Show Business at Hollywood’s Hudson Mainstage Theatre.

I had seen the press release on the show and it was of interest, but I couldn’t work it into the schedule.

Now, the other day, my wife had met a writer and an actress while having lunch somewhere, and they had mentioned they had a musical opening at the Met Theatre in Hollywood (which is the new home of Rogue Machine, having previously been home to DOMA, but this was neither a RMT or DOMA show). We googled the writer and the actress, but there was no mention of the show. My wife emailed him, and found out the show was “Psychosexual – A New Musical“, which had tickets on Brown Paper Tickets.  The description of the show was:

Marriage Counselors and Best-Selling Authors, Doctors Brad & Sarah Morton, are on the verge of getting their own big-time Television Show, produced by celebrated Media Mogul and Talk Show Host, Omeika Carter. Unfortunately (and unbeknownst to Omeika) Brad and Sarah’s own relationship is on the rocks.  Seeking solace, Brad has started to frequent Floyd’s Fabulous Fantasy Club, where exotic dancer, Leah Lane, has caught his attention.   With Club Owner Floyd Ryder seeking to take advantage of every situation, and fellow dancer, the sensual Kayla Sizzle, also looking for love, “PSCHOSEXUAL: A LOVE STORY” will both make you laugh and warm your heart.

Potentially interesting, but something was raising red flags. This show was opening in two days. There had been no press release. It wasn’t on Goldstar. It wasn’t on LA Stage Tix. It wasn’t on It wasn’t on Footlights. The actress playing the lead wasn’t promoting it. It wasn’t being publicized anywhere that normal shows are being publicized. That was odd. That says “vanity production”. Sensing something, I investigated the writer more. He has written mostly for the animated TV screen (think “Cartoon Network”), and has had one other musical, “Campaign”, done with the same composer at this show.  I found a review of that show at the LA Times:

Mounting a full-blown original musical takes plenty of guts. In that regard, the creators of “Campaign,” a world premiere at the MET, deserve kudos for sheer ambition.  They also deserve a few discreetly hurled brickbats for the general clunkiness of their production, which fails to coalesce into a cohesive professional effort. A chief obstacle is the uninspired book by Samuel Warren Joseph, who also wrote the music and lyrics with Jon Detherage, the show’s musical director. […] But despite a few laughs along the way, the show seems stale, with retro musical numbers that sound like they’re being channeled from the 1950s.

Reading this, I was unsure whether I wanted to move from a known train wreck to an unknown train wreck. Better to see how the reviews for this show shake out before seeing it. On the other hand, although the production of Anton only has one review so far (it just opened), that review was extremely positive, the playwright won an award from the show, and past productions of the show have gotten very positive reviews — so at least there is a good chance of a decent book. The show is also publicized in the usual places.

Guess which show I’m switching to? Now you see the thought process that goes into selecting a show. Remember: This is the era of the Internet. People will research.