The other night my family went to see Wicked, the musical based on the Gregory Maguire book. My mother had thought it would be a good way to celebrate both my younger brother's and my June birthdays. Unfortunately, the trip to the theatre was more than a learning experience.
The show itself was not badly done - the cast was extremely good, the production was a glorious fantasy of lights and fabric and set design, and the plotline was a solid reconstruction of the novel. The music itself was absolutely dreadful, recalling the sonorous heydays of Andrew Lloyd Weber and Rent. If I heard one more synthesized piano ballad I might have flung myself off the mezzanine where we were sitting. Early 90's musicals have little musical value (if any), so a 15 year later spinoff is less than enjoyable.
What shocked me most was the audience. Now, I understand that while at the places like the Pantages, which produce the grand cult status musicals (The Producers, Mamma Mia, Legally Blonde, you get the idea...), they attract a crowd that might not normal vacate the theatre, I did not expect the chaviest American audience possible. "Not the usual theatre going crowd," I comment to my brother as we watched the parade of strangely dressed women (its about 65 % women there) and their entourage.
Not only did the usher proceed to scream at everyone "No cell phones, no talking, no photos, no singing!" up and down the aisles as if we were at a Hannah Montana concert, but when my mother leaned over to tell him how she thought this was inappropriate theatre tactics (her words were "In any other theatre we don't have someone yelling at us like we were a crowd of monkeys or groupies, especially not in Europe"), some woman walking by said, "This ain't Europe. This is LA, baby!" The way she emphasized "baby" made me wonder how long she had been practicing that line.
The women behind us were equally ridiculous, complaining extremely loudly about the light being emitted from my mother's cell phones as she was trying to turn them off and then proceeding to chew gum through the entire show. Every denouement was accompanied by a loud "SMACK SMACK SMACK." One of the women was also deaf and had her companion repeat every line. "What did they say? What did they say?" Unfortunately her companion was either deaf herself or extremely obtuse and would repeat incorrect lines and information. "He's an antelope," she said right after the goat character mentions he is a goat. This went on for the entire performance.
I also now understand why formal theatres refuse to seat patrons during the middle of the show - watching lights and heads bob up and down aisles during the middle of the show is extremely distracting and ruins parts of the performance.
I guess I've complained enough, but I wasn't ready for this to be the equivalent to going to a 2 p.m. matinee for a Disney movie. Lesson learned.