Friday, December 30, 2011

Twitter: Fan Mail For the Future

One of the things I love most about live theatre is the access to the actors and actresses. I got my first taste of this when I waited at my first stage door a few years ago. I’d see very few Broadway shows that that point in my life. But I’d hear the rumors of “close encounters” and after seeing the magic that was the musical Next to Normal, I knew I needed to try to see some of the people who performed such magic on stage.

I went to wait at the stage door of the Booth Theatre. I was a “first timer” and didn’t have a Sharpie for getting autographs (a mistake I’ve only made one other time since). The first actor came out the door (Aaron Tveit). I didn’t push my way through and let him get on down the line.

Ignore the face issues. I'd had a long day & all my make-up had worn off! :)
There was a lady standing behind me that could tell I was a tourist and crazy nervous. With my very…pronounced Southern accent, I’m used to getting attention in New York. She told me to push my way up front (there weren’t many people there anyway) so I could get my autographs. I got all the other casts members autographs (save Jennifer Damiano, who didn’t come out that night), and the lady who encouraged me to “get in there” was kind enough to take a picture of me with Alice Ripley. To this day, I appreciate the lady who gave me the courage to do something out of my comfort zone, and to Alice Ripley, who was one of the kindest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet at a stage door.

That was my first addictive taste of not only being in the same room watching magic happen on stage, but then getting to personally thank the actors for doing what they do. Sure, they get paid for it, but how often do you get to tell an actor or an actress that you appreciate what they do? If they are a television or film actor…probably never. But you can with those who frequent the stages of New York (and other areas of the country).

It’s rare that I don’t “stage door” a Broadway production. The times that I don’t seem to be the shows with the biggest names (i.e. How to Succeed with Daniel Radcliff and Follies with…well, the entire cast). I don’t like to fight the crowds. But shows like Jerusalem offered me the chance to have an actual conversation with John Gallagher Jr (of Spring Awakening and American Idiot fame). American Idiot offered me the chance to talk with some amazing actors and actresses and let them know how much their work meant to me. And I finally got Aaron Tveit’s autograph at the stage door for Catch Me if You Can (truly an amazingly sweet person).

While I love my times at stage door, one of the coolest tools that I have found to communicate with the actors and actresses that I love so much is Twitter. So many people blow it off as silly and non-effective. I will very strongly disagree with anyone on this. While I have truly mixed feelings on tweeting while watching a performance (I plan on writing a little more about this in the near future), I LOVE the access to the stars that I get.

Not everyone tweets. But some do. And I’ve found that theatre performers are fantastic about tweeting fans back. I won’t lie, it started with American Idiot. I began to follow and tweet cast members of the show. But then I found that I could tweet members of other casts and people were tweeting me back! In fact, Lexi Lawson (who I saw on tour in both Rent and In the Heights) has tweeted me back the few times I’ve tweeted her (or mentioned her in a tweet).

In just the past week, I’ve had tweets from a tour cast member of the American Idiot cast and from a cast member of a tour of Spring Awakening I saw a little over a year ago. Sure, they don’t know me. There’s no reason for them to tweet me back or tweet me at all. But knowing that they take the time to do that means something to a little insignificant person like myself. The Idiot cast member even mentioned my tweet, along with the tweets of several other fans, in a blog post he wrote.

Essentially, twitter turns actors into “real people” for the masses. Not that they aren’t real anyway, but it gives the fans access that was previously unattainable by the general public. And while I feel it helps me to feel validated in my thoughts and opinions, I think it also lets the actors and actresses have a sense of connection with their fans and lets them know first-hand that they are touching hearts and lives with the work that they do. And who doesn’t want that kind of validation?

There are some superstar tweeters out there. Wallace Smith (one of American Idiot’s Favorite Sons) is a gem. He tweets back, re-tweets, AND he is continually tweeting uplifting words of wisdom and things to brighten anyone’s day. Kelvin Moon Loh (ensemble member in the American Idiot tour) has been a great person to answer tweets AND he blogs. As I mentioned before, Lexi Lawson has been great about tweeting back and seems to try to answer as many tweets as possible. Sometimes you get lucky. I sent a reply tweet to something Steffi D (former Canadian Idol contestant and cast member of the equity tour of Spring Awakening) the other night and she tweeted me back. Aspen Vincent (swing on the Broadway run of American Idiot) likes to tweet back occasionally and also tweets for her cat, Miss Kate Vincent.

Does twitter changes lives? Probably not. But I think it’s the wave of the future as far as fan-actor connections go. No more fan letters covered in glitter and stickers. Instead, we vlog, blog, and tweet to let our “heros” know what we think of them. That colored, glittered, sticker covered letter I sent to Joey McEntire from New Kids on the Block when I was 8? I have no clue if he ever got it or read it. But knowing that I have a tweet that was read by an actor I admire, and that they then took a couple of seconds to tweet me back…well, that means the world to me.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 in Review

This was my first full year of blogging about theatre. I wanted to share a brief "year in review" of things that I blogged about this year. A "cheat sheet" of my blog this year, if you will.

-I successfully blogged about all but three of the shows I saw.

-I made a resolution to see more new shows (something I did okay with).

-I purchased my first ever season tickets (to Cumberland County Playhouse).

-I saw Spring Awakening on tour (for the second time) and had stage seats!!

-I got the horrible (although not shocking) news that American Idiot would be closing on Broadway.

-I saw In the Heights on tour and fell head over heels in love with that beautiful piece of performance art.

-I saw American Idiot on Broadway for the last time.

-I saw an amazing production of Tuesdays With Morrie at Cumberland County Playhouse.

-I saw The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures and Jerusalem and got a healthy reminder of how amazing a straight play can be (this coming from a girl who adores her musicals) while discovering the amazing talents that are Mark Rylance and Stephen Spinella.

-I got to experience the wonderful production of Chicago at Cumberland County Playhouse. Four times.

-I did a guest post about New York for a friend.

-I blogged about my opinion on censorship in theatre.

-I said goodbye to Chicago at CCP.

-I fulfilled a lifelong dream of seeing Bernadette Peters on stage when I saw Follies in New York.

-I saw Wicked on tour for the second time and took my younger sister with me this time (her first time seeing a professional tour).

-And I said goodbye to a show I'll never get to see (on Broadway at least).

Now, onto 2012. I already have some shows lined up for the new year. American Idiot on tour and a production of God of Carnage in Nashville are up first.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

I've often liked musicals that weren't beloved by the critics. Don't ask me why. I thought Catch Me If You Can was wonderful. I liked the music, the plot line was familiar. The acting was well done. It made me smile. Catchy tunes? I thought so. Sadly, the critics were not fans and that show closed after 166 performances and 32 previews. From the first preview to the final performance, it was less than six months.

A show I would have loved to have seen was Wonderland. I'd been following it (online, of course) for a couple of years. When I found out it was coming to Broadway, I was very excited. Critics slammed it. It closed after 30 previews and 33 performances. It was there less than two months. The worst part? It closed on May 15th, the very same day I got into New York for a week long trip. I never got to see it. My only hope to see it now is if a tour happens, or in regional and/or community theatre.

Up next? Bonnie & Clyde a New Musical (written by the same person who wrote Wonderland). When I first saw clips of the show, I thought to myself, "this is a show that I will want to see!" They followed up by some songs that were released on their website and facebook page. I loved them all. So there are two for two. The clips were good, the music was fantastic (all my opinion, of course). I knew I'd need to make a trip to New York to see this one. Previews started November 4th. The show opened December 1st. Critics slammed it and an official closing announcement was made today that the show would be concluding it's Broadway run on December 30th. Once again: less than two months total. Once again, a show I'll not get to see.

I have a few opinions about critics AND producers when it comes to Broadway shows. I understand that the point of a Broadway show is to make money. I'm not naive. I get it. I understand that critics review shows for a living. That's their job. They are paid for their opinion. I get that. Once again, I'm not stupid. BUT there are some things that don't make a whole lot of sense to me.

First: critics are not the be all end all of theatre. Sure, they know their stuff. It's why they get paid to do what they do. But I believe that some critics look for things to pick on. Not every Broadway show looks the same. Not every show sounds the same. Not every show is meant for the same audience. I'd rarely take the same people to a showing of RENT or American Idiot as I would a showing of Oklahoma! or Phantom of the Opera (yes, I'm aware that only one of these shows is currently open on Broadway). My point: sometimes critics let their opinions of what they like personally, cloud their view of how well a show is written, directed, staged, etc. Just because you don't like the show Mr. (or Ms.) Critic, doesn't mean someone won't like it.

Critiques should be non-biased. They should look at the quality of the show. They should look at the quality of the talent. They should look at quality of the direction. And they should write about it. Even when I am not a fan of a show, I try to bring out the things about the show that I did like. I try my best to let it be known that while I may not like a story, I am doing my best to look at the show in as unbiased way as possible.

Secondly, producers need to give shows a chance. I understand that money is an issue. But word of mouth is a powerful thing. An audience fan base is an amazing thing. Social media is an amazing thing. And sometimes things just take a little while to catch on. Would Wonderland or Bonnie & Clyde have ever made a turn around? I can't say for sure. But I know the online support for Bonnie & Clyde has been incredible since it was first rumored that the show would be closing. A vast majority of audience goers that I have seen online were saying that they loved the show.

My opinion on that? It is a really crappy time to open a show. Right before Christmas. In an economy like this. Not a smart move. I'm seeing very few shows and doing very little for myself right now. All of my extra money is going toward buying Christmas presents. Period. I think if producers had given Bonnie & Clyde a chance to take off after the holidays, this might be a very different story. But we won't ever know for sure.

All in all, I think critics are too quick to judge a show based on their personal likes and dislikes and producers are too quick to close a show that isn't earning money right away. Either way, let's just hope the world will remember Bonnie & Clyde. Because I don't see any miracles happening to keep the show open. The only positive out of the whole deal is that lead Jeremy Jordan will be free to reprise his role in Disney's Newsies when it makes it's journey to Broadway.

Do you think critics are unjust in their reviews at times? Do you think producers are too quick to pull the plug?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cumberland County Playhouse 2012 Season

The 2012 season at the Cumberland County Playhouse has recently been announced. If you haven't heard about it, or you haven't received your Spotlight newsletter, here is a rundown of what to expect this year:

Driving Miss Daisy (Adventure) January 21 - April 14
The Sound of Music (Mainstage) February 10 - April 6
The Moving of Lilla Barton (Adventure) March 1 - May 25
All Shook Up (Mainstage) March 16 - May 12
Cowboys (Mainstage) April 13 - June 15
Wonderland (Mainstage) April 26 - 28
Smoke On The Mountain (Adventure) May 10 - August 4
Bob Gunton in Walking On Water (Mainstage) May 18 - June 16
See Rock City (Adventure) May 31 - September 1
The Music Man (Mainstage) June 22 - August 17
Backwards In High Heels (Mainstage) July 27 - November 2
TBA - August 23 - September 21
TBA - September 27 - November 9
Five Guys Named Moe (Adventure) September 7 - October 26
Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Mainstage) November 16 - December 23
A Sanders Family Christmas (Adventure) November 1 - December 22

It looks to be an interesting season coming up. My favorite musical of all time is up (Sound of Music!), along with a couple I've been interested to see for a while now (Driving Miss Daisy, and See Rock City). Also a little note: after doing some amazing research on the productions I wasn't as familiar with, I am excited for this coming year, including Bob Gunton in Walking on Water (if you didn't know, Mr. Gunton has been in several Broadway productions, including playing Juan Peron in the original Evita, and playing Sweeny Todd in the 1989-90 revival, both of which earned him Tony nominations).

You can read the release on's Nashville page HERE.

If you're interested in purchasing season tickets, you can call the Cumberland County Playhouse at 931-484-5000. Individual tickets can be purchased by calling or by visiting the website.

Let me know what you're most excited for this season.