Reduced-price run-throughs could benefit casts, audiences

One of the unfortunate realities of local theater is that shows often open before the cast has had a chance to perform in front of a live audience. It’s the nature of the beast; community theater productions have short runs (as little as one weekend, or, for the fortunate, a couple of months).

The tough part is that performers and directors need audiences to get their bearings — to learn where the laughs really are, how the climatic moments register. On Broadway, previews can go on for many weeks. (Remember the days of out-of-town tryouts?) That’s a luxury local houses can’t afford.

A couple of Las Vegas companies have figured out a way to have a couple of preopening performances. (Signature, for example, hosts a half-week of reduced-price previews.) I recently attended what was termed a “rehearsal performance” in which, for a third of the regular ticket price, the public was invited to attend a production’s final run-through.

That’s not a final solution, but it did let the actors get a feel for what they had. Not so bad for the public either. The fiscally challenged could see a play they otherwise would have been unable to afford.

I spoke with a currently unemployed middle-age computer whiz who said he wouldn’t have been able to see the show if not for the cut-rate prices (low prices are not just for the young). Sounds like a win-win to me. ...

I was reminded recently of how the quality of a production can vary from show to show. I attended a performance of a musical recently prior to my “official” attendance and was dismayed by how bad it was. Just about everything seemed off. I got the impression that most of the actors had no clue about character or situation.

Quite a surprise, then, to find everything in top shape just days later. It’s amazing how much things can change in a short while. And it hits home one of the unique treasures in theater: Every presentation is different, is played in current time and is influenced by a number of ever-changing factors. When a critic writes about a production, all he can do is write about the particular production he saw; the one you see, good reader, may make for a whole new ballgame. ...

There are certain shows you don’t discuss at parties if you want to keep friends. “The Sound of Music” is one. The obscenely popular “Les Miserables” is another.

I was elated then to open up a recent New Yorker magazine and find a soulmate in film critic Anthony Lane. He writes: “(There’s) a remarkable battle that flames between music and lyrics, each vying to be more uninspired by the other. The lyrics put up a good fight, but you have to hand it to the score: a cauldron of harmonic mush, with barely a hint of spice or a note of surprise. ... Fans of the original production, no doubt, will eat the movie up, and good luck to them. I screamed a scream as time went by.”

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.