As someone who has spent the greatest part of my life loving and intensely involved in the arts, I can always remember having a critical voice at the back of my head whilst watching things. You know the one: it notices that someone didn't get through their quick change fast enough so their hair is slightly unpinned, or that the scenery didn't clear the stage the way it should have, or that someone just messed up the choreography.... the one that, when silent, proves the quality of what you are watching.
I had the opportunity to go see one of the west end's newest shows last night. I was actually really looking forward to what I expected to be a strong show filled with energy and excitement - it was a brand new adaptation and still in previews, so those two qualities should have been a given. Instead, it was working too hard and failing to hit the right marks, the energy was lacking, and there was a complete lack of vocal strength from most of the leads.
The show itself is ok, but I am not convinced the changes made between London and Broadway have been for the better. What was most painful to see, however, was the lack of enthusiasm and energy that seems to be spreading through a lot of the "mainstream" productions these days. Leads are cast not because they are perfect for the roles in casting or ability, but because they are "names."
As someone who trained for this kind of work, it is a bit of a slap in the face when some TV presenter or reality TV star is handed a role of a lifetime and then can't actually do it justice. Shows should never look tired or like a lot of work - which is not to say they aren't hard work - especially not after a week and a half! Performing is as much a job as anything else, and of course there will be days it goes better than others; all jobs are like that. But the trend to bring "names" in to sell a show, regardless of their suitability, is one that ultimately will only serve to disappoint and ostracise the people who have a vested interest in the business as a whole and will undermine the trained performers and the industry.
The ensemble in the show last night were talented and working very hard with the little they had been given, but it wasn't enough to keep the energy up when two of the leads had no discernible chemistry at all and a few were struggling with being heard. My inner critic was unfortunately loudly commentating throughout. And as I left, I couldn't help but feel let down by an industry that has been so much a part of my life. I dont think it was just that show; the convention to cast via reality TV show or simply through notoriety is one that is prevalent today. And it saddens me to know that it is likely going to get a lot worse before it has a possibility to get better. But I have my fingers crossed.... and my expectations lowered.