Simple. It is one of only three Broadway shows I have ever left before it was over. That's right. One of only three in hundreds of performances I've attended.
If you've ever been in the Lyceum, you know what I mean when I say the place is dark. The walls are covered with dark wood paneling; the floors and seats are covered in dark material. It reminded me of the lobby of The Haunted Mansion at Disney World. Still, I was grateful for the air conditioning and especially for the leg room afforded the front row of seats. And, man were we close!
So, the lights dim, and the curtain goes up. I had to squint, it was so bright (we were, after all, supposed to be outside on the deck of some ocean liner). The scenery looked like the old-fashioned kind you see in vintage Broadway pictures, very two dimensional with painted flats strapped together. And, in act one, the scene never changed AT ALL. I think they moved some deck chairs around to simulate moving about the deck.
In looking back at my Playbill, I can see that the show took place in New York and Paris, too, but if it did in act one, the boat must have been in the New York harbor, because I can't recall a different setting. Or maybe the scenes changed in act two. I'll never know, just like I'll never get to hear that cast sing "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" or the title number. (My companion that day bought me the cast recording of this revival as a gag gift. I think I literally gagged. The cellophane wrapper is still on it.)
I can live with cheesy sets. I've seen plenty of limited budget dinner theatre and high school productions to appreciate the effort and imagination it takes when stretching a theatre dollar to transport us to the south pacific or gang ravaged Hell's Kitchen. But I have a real problem with it when I'm paying Broadway money to see even lesser quality. Maybe from further back, it looked more sumptuous. I doubt it.
Let's talk costumes, shall we? Again, the limitations at the local level often mandate that homemade look coupled with thrift shop finds and things on loan from grandma's attic. And it has its certain charms, especially when the loaned stuff can't be seriously altered and needs to be. But I can honestly say I gasped when the curtain came up on a stage full of actors in costumes that looked borrowed from every costume shop on the East Coast, but not one from the same place. The ship's captain had epaulets and bars sewn onto a suit jacket. I'm not kidding.
There is another issue with sitting in the front row, especially with a brightly lit set. The light spills over onto the front row and the cast can see everything you are doing. Or in my case, not doing. I was not applauding. Not once. It was that bad. Not even for the effort, as the entire production was an insult to everyone who ever stepped foot on a Broadway stage, and even more to truly talented people who never make it. I know... bad form, Jeff! But I had to communicate my displeasure somehow. I didn't talk, thumb through my Playbill. I didn't make faces, though I'm sure they could see the look of horror, then disgust, and finally, anger. More than once they looked right at me, and you could see in their eyes that they couldn't figure out why I never clapped.
I was feeling self-conscious about it, and was feeling more and more angry at the wasted time and money. So, I turned to my companion, opened my mouth, and she said, "Would you mind if we left? I hate this. You hate this. And I'm hungry." And with that we left, our two dead center front row seats our final statement to the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes company.
I'm guessing we weren't the only ones. The show closed the following weekend after 24 performances.
The third show I walked out on was much more fun, and, ironically, the same year as Swinging on a Star. 1995 and 1996 weren't the best of times for musical on Broadway, even if they did give me two of my favorites: Sunset Boulevard and RENT.
I am going to save that third title and adventure for another blog!
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