Since arriving back at school, I have been focused (nay, determined) on trying to find time to mosey on down to the American Repertory Theatre to see their production of “Finding Neverland”, the new musical full of Broadway stars that has already announced it is heading to the Great White Way this season. Despite the fact the Cambridge run is sold out, and that Standing Room Only seats cost about $125 (with no promise of room to stand), I became a bit disenchanted. It was the same thing that happened to me with Pippin almost two years ago.
Then it occurred to me.
Why would I want to drop $125 to see a show that isn’t done yet?
Finding Neverland began its run back on July 23rd, running through September 28th, with a whopping 3 weeks worth of Previews, allowing changes to be made until August 10th. The show is then going to close, disappear from the collective theatrical conscious for a few months, and then reappear just in time for everyone to fall in love right before the Tony’s. It was designed to be workshopped, people paid good money to see something that isn’t the final product. There is a strong chance that the show that audiences saw on July 23rd will be very different than the show that opens this March. The show will be done when it matters to the Producers, in March when the Broadway seats are filled. Then what does that make the Cambridge audience? Theatrical guinea pigs. Lab rats seeing how well we respond to the show. Not to say the cast didn’t work hard on this run, however there have been ideas that this show had big plans since Jennifer Hudson sang a song from the show on national television.
In the past 3 seasons, 4 shows have started off at ART, and then transferred to Broadway. Each of the four shows has brought home the gold (or, silver if you will). The ART is being credited as being a theatrical gold mine, an example of quality shows that are being opened at a Regional Theatre, that are of such quality that they are then picked up and transfer to Broadway.
Another way to phrase it, it is like the Golden Age of Broadway shows, where new works were tried and tested in a market outside of New York that are a good barometer for New York audiences, rewritten, recast, rehearsed and then Magic, it opens to outstanding notices in New York.
The mission of the ART as defined by their website is “to expand the boundaries of theater by programming events that immerse audiences in transformative theatrical experiences”. If you look at past seasons, I can see that idea in programming, if you at the past three seasons, sort of, I guess.
The ART is getting people in seats, people want to see their shows and kudos to them. The audience are excited about having Broadway caliber shows in their backyard. When we go, we know what we are seeing. It is important to note when the transformative ground breaking theatre is being made and when we are focus group for future profit making endeavors, and when we are lucky enough, it is both at the same time.