Monday, February 20, 2023

RANT: Broadway Bullying and Bad Cinderella

It seems like every season these days someone decides that one show will be hated - cancelled, if you will - before the show even loads into a theater. Sometimes, it's because whoever these keepers of "good taste" are, they have decided that the show is "unnecessary." Their signal is always something along the lines of "Who asked for this to exist?" or "Did we really need another [fill in whatever current trend they have to bash]?" (Honestly, when it comes down to it, is any musical necessary?) Sometimes, it's one of the regular whipping boys, or one of those deemed to be "over-exposed." You know, the Wildhorns, the Mirandas, and the like. 

This season, this honor has been given to Bad Cinderella by another of the Main Stem's perennial love/hate generators, Andrew Lloyd Webber. Granted, ALW has done himself zero favors by calling his show Bad Cinderella. The jokes write themselves.

Before I go any further, I'd like to preface all of the rest by saying that I feel everyone has the right to their opinion and their expression of it. And, how anyone chooses to spend their time and money is their choice alone. That said, I have a real problem with uninformed opinions, hypocritical opinions, and those who call themselves Broadway "fans," yet go out of their way to prove they are anything but.

Not everyone likes Sondheim, Herman or chocolate ice cream, so it stands to reason that not everyone will like the billionth take on Cinderella, Webber or mint chocolate chip. Especially, I guess, in this case, his egregious behavior upon the closing of the West End production of the show was an issue. When that all went down last year, people were legitimately upset with his Lordship; oaths were sworn to never support him, blah blah. Cut to today, to many of those same oath-makers who have now secured tickets - many to the first previews. What could possibly be the reason to do a 180 on this issue? I mean, surely these arbiters of taste and justice know that buying tickets is in no way "sticking it to Andy." They must know that ticket sales only help fatten his wallet. So what could their hypocritical motives be? They'd never admit it, but many of these people are, well, bullies. 

The truth is, the "thrill" of social media outrage fades quickly, and gives way to the more "fun" and "social media bolstering" need to be a first-night naysayer. And so the "I won't support hims" and the omnipresent "first preview vultures" have blended into a perfect, nasty storm. Together, their entire reason for being centered on February 17th at the Imperial Theatre.

These are the people who like to Tweet that they are "taking one for the team," or try the old self-deprecating routine, along the lines of, "I couldn't help myself! I have to see just how bad it really is," while a few are at least honest and admit, "I hate this already, so it'll be fun to report back at intermission." No matter how these takes are worded, they all have two things in common: predisposition to dislike the show, and a priming to formulate the wittiest (read "snarkiest?) barbs they can muster. And for what? A few extra likes? Ratios? 

What's worse, in this case, is the low level to which they have sunk: the girls are all too skinny, the star is "too pretty," "the men were only hired to show off their bodies." Body shaming is not just shaming when it is aimed at people of ample girth, folks. Just as people struggle with too much weight, so too do those who struggle to maintain weight. Or maybe they have been critically ill recently? Isn't commenting on beefcake as wrong as commenting on cheesecake? How do any of us know what any of these cast members are going through?

Then there are the "list-ers," who apparently took comprehensive notes on everything they perceived as a problem. It's worth noting that it's the FIRST preview, and things are bound to happen. But these lists are unreal: how dare cast members and stage hands try to avoid catastrophe by wiping up spills on the stage during a show!; how dare the lights come down a little too slow (or up a little too fast)! 

But the one that really gets me is the thread-creating complaint that the tape marks don't match the set and actually glow in the dark! Seriously?! If you did know anything about marking a stage - everything from where a set piece goes, to a mark for a soloist, or the grid numbers across the front of the stage for the dancers - then you'd know why they are different colors, and why they glow in the dark. There are several reasons why they look like they do - chief among them safety. And the show is not set. Maybe when the show is set, and when the marks are deemed permanent, they'll match the set. Maybe they won't. 

Being a real Broadway fan doesn't mean automatically loving every show that opens. It doesn't mean sharing only positive comments. But it does mean trying to go to each performance with the mindset that you owe it to the art form you purport to love to have an open mind about it.  Like it or dislike it, but at least give all involved the respect to say why and then let it be. 

Simply put, when a show has been seen by fewer than 1,000 people after a single preview, it shouldn't be enough to make it a trending Twitter topic. And it certainly shouldn't result in cast members having to take to social media to beg people to see the show for themselves and form their own opinions. Perhaps, most importantly, would you say any of these things directly to the creative team and company? Would you like it if someone said those things to you? And NO, it is not their job to take your nastiness. Try being thoughtful in your criticism, positive and negative; contribute to a more comprehensive discourse.

Finally, as a very seasoned theatergoer, I can assure you that I, too, have strong opinions about shows. But here's something to consider: if you really love the theater, go into each new piece with the idea that there is always something to appreciate about every single show. That's as true for every show I've loved as it is for every show I've disliked. Hard as it is to believe - it sounds counter-intuitive - it is possible to learn more from a show that you hate than one you adore. Every experience will only make your love for theater grow and change. That is what a true fan knows.


  1. Bravo! Well said! I didn't start telling people how truly dreadful 'Cats' was until after I saw it. :)

  2. A lot of good points. I felt it was bullying as well, as if some people felt it was all right to "pick on" this show before it arrived. I think the real reasons for people's opinions and reactions are not being stated - and was surprised when I saw it that I thought there are a lot of good things. The audience agreed: They gave the show a standing ovation in part, I think, to try to overrule critics who were helping close the show.


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