I was very excited to be selected to be one of Gammage Theatre’s “Gammage Goers” for the 2011-2012 season. In this program, they harness the power of theatre goers’ online networks to spread word of mouth about current productions. They gain not only the exponential reach of the Goers’ networks, but the added benefit of a review seen as more credible coming from a family member or friend. The shows I was selected to review this year are West Side Story, Green Day’s American Idiot, and La Cage Aux Folles.
One of the questions I asked the panel when I interviewed to be a Gammage Goer was, “What happens if I don’t like a show?” (hoping the question wouldn’t immediately eliminate me). They wisely responded that having an honest, negative review only adds credibility to the program. So, it’s a good thing they feel that way, because I didn’t love this cast of West Side Story. As much as I wanted to like Uof A grad Kyle Harris as Tony, I just didn’t. I had seen him in Hair a couple of years ago, and thought he was great. To me, his voice doesn’t fit this role and his broad portrayal was distracting. The rest of the cast was good, but nobody blew me away.
I did, however, in my immediate post-show video interview, want to focus on some of the positive as well. So, as you’ll hear in my interview, I believe that seeing a production of West Side Story is important context for understanding the groundwork that was laid for the Broadway musical to evolve. Anymore, it seem like every show likes to tout that it “Redefines musical theatre.” West Side Story made that possible. Arthur Laurents, author of the musical’s book, said, “I thought maybe it would run for three months. I didn’t care. It was so not what a musical should be.”
Here’s my immediate reaction:
(Disclaimer: Tickets to the show for myself and my wife were complimentary in exchange for my participation in the Gammage Goers program. As I mentioned, they in no way influenced my response.)