Friday, January 22, 2010

PlayhouseSquare: Chicago. I want my $70 back. [Rev 1]

The last production I attended that was so completely uninteresting, unentertaining, unsatisfying, and devoid of any possible redeeming quality is a large part of the reason I stopped patronizing Great Lakes Theater Festival.

Through Playhouse Square, Chicago has proven something I had previously thought not possible: There is a musical in this world that I truly hate. Sure I've seen musicals that I didn't fall in love with, and many that I was apathetic to, but until tonight none has provoked the emotion of pure, unadulterated, hatred. (24 hours later, I still am unable to think of any performing arts event I've had such a violent reaction against: even the aforementioned GLTF show was better, if for no other reason than the creative use of plywood)

As I started writing a draft of this post during intermission, at which time I was debating with myself if it should stay for the second act. As the end of intermission approached the only reason to stay I had with was -- and I quote -- "I paid $70 for this stinking pile of dread, I don't want to waste it".

For only the third time in my theatre going life (one of them involved a fever and the overwhelming need to vomit) -- and the first time in nearly 3 years I left during intermission. I think forcing myself to stay could have been classified as cruel and unusual punishment. Perhaps a slight buzz would have helped matters -- I contemplated visiting the bar but decided that there was no way I could consume enough alcohol to enjoy the second act, while still being safe to walk to my car, much less drive home.

I hate to be entirely negative, yet I can not identify one moment, let alone a scene or song, during the first act that was even borderline enjoyable. The acting was at points tolerable but generally devolved into a screeching mess just about the time I was starting to think that things were getting better. The music was brass-heavy but unlike my experience with Wicked I think that was intentional. The one pleasant distraction was watching the lone violinist, however I could only actually hear about a third of the notes she was playing [it did not appear or sound like her instrument benefited from any sound reinforcement]. I was unmoved by the choreography, blocking, and related staging. The acting and costuming was mediocre, at best. I've seen high school productions with more soul and enthusiasm.

Of course, the fact that I'm not a particularly large fan of jazz (ranking one notch above country and two above punk in my hierarchy of genres) does not help matters. In fact, just knowing the song All That Jazz came close to talking me out of seeing the show... but I didn't heed its warning. [For the record, I'm not a particularly large fan of Legally Blonde: The Musical either, but that had enough goofy entertainment value, energy, and soul to make it tolerable]

When this year's schedule was announced I had low expectations, especially compared to the fantastic 08-09 season... yet I have still managed to be disappointed. I might be back to see In The Heights, but it will take some serious contemplation.

I can think of few things I wouldn't have rather spent $70 on, and that includes parking fines and overdue book fees.

As a footnote to this train wreck, the front of house this evening seemed particularly chaotic and I had to practically beg for a program.

(Edited January 23rd to correct some particularly egregious gramatical errors, and to further emphasise my complete lack of anything good to say about this show)

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