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
vegastheaterchat@aol.com. You can write him
c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70,
Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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