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Recovering from Reality TV

An article on theatremania.com reported the closing of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Broadway in early January. The article also highlighted the addition of actress NeNe Leakes to play the role of the Wicked Stepmother for the ending of the show.

I understand the article used her previous credential “of The Real Housewives of Atlanta”  to offer readers insight into how we may recognize this actress. I did, however, also notice the social assumptions to view having been on reality TV as a less significant credential– at least in this specific theatre setting. 

The only commenter assured my observations of what I hear from peers and social media about the lack of respect for reality TV:

“Disgusting.I bet she’s never even seen a Broadway show. What an insult to many hardworking actresses who need the work. Shameful. Her success is an insult to anyone with talent and a worth ethic.”

I quickly searched IMDb and wikipedia for the actress and found that she does have a long history of acting and vocal performance experience and training. I wonder if a better siting for Leakes would have been, “known for ‘Roz Washington’ from TV show Glee“. At least here the theatre community would have been more knowledgable about a musical theatre TV show than a reality TV. 

Perhaps this is just another example of the clashing between the television and film world of performance and the stage and live theatre side of it. Either way reality TV does take a tougher toll in criticism for a multitude of reasons including the lack of artistry in character development, idolizing and glorifying out of the norm figures in society and superficiality in general. However, I do believe there is something important about this genre of work as proven by the fact that there are fans of reality TV shows. Reality TV fills a void of entertainment in our generation of wild characters that we can identify with in the present moment. Writing a play or movie script takes months or years where as the story in a reality TV show happens in a split second (or perhaps somewhat encouraged events). It’s still quicker and fresh– only relevant for a moment and there must be something quite alluring to us that there is enough reality TV following to continue the genre. 



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