June 10, 2007

The Subscriber's Lament

I haven't done much discussion here about local theatre, but we do see quite a bit whenever we can. This year we decided to be season subscribers for the first time. Based on the strength of last season's smash Assassins, the natural choice seemed to be Signature Theatre. Besides, they were opening a new space, and it would be exciting, right?

Well what we ended up with was a real mixed bag.

First up we had the last show that would be in the old "garage" space - My Fair Lady. It was quite honestly horrid. The leads were annoying, the costumes had bizarre quirks, and can we talk about the neon purple runway? Don't get me wrong - it had its moments - the Ascot scene was well done. But on the whole it was just too long and dull.

To open the new space we had Into the Woods, which is what I was most looking forward to. I've seen it twice (plus the Broadway video) and was never disappointed. This one was a bit uneven but mostly pretty good. The set was really amazing and well thought-out. And some of the performances were strong - I really liked Eleasha Gamble as The Witch and Donna Migliaccio as Jack's Mother. Others disappointed, though - The Baker in particular. (It's my belief that for the show to be successful one has to be fully convinced of the love between the baker and his wife.)

Next up was Crave in the smaller black box space. It was really just an hour of four people moving around and saying random things that had little if any relation to anything. The lighting was good, but that's really the only positive thing I can say. It was suddenly over and ScottE and I turned to each other and said, "That's it? Seriously?"

The big surprise came when we saw Saving Aimee, a musical written by...brace yourselves...Kathie Lee Gifford. I know! The surprise was that it was good! Actually quite compelling! It's a biographical musical about the life and loves of Aimee Semple McPherson, who was like a precursor to today's televangelists. The strength of the show was really the lead, Carolee Carmello, who was a powerful presence. (Her voice had too much vibrato for my taste, but I was able to overlook it.) Another star turn came from E. Faye Butler, who portrayed a former madam that Aimee converts to Christianity. The set was really well done, and most of the songs were entertaining. Not an amazing show, but we were still pleasantly surprised how much we enjoyed it. (Oh, and Kathie Lee herself was sitting just two rows in front of us. Very gracious and very skinny.)

The last show was to be Nest, but we ran into scheduling issues. First we exchanged our tickets to a later performance in the run due to a time conflict from work. Then they cancelled that show, and we were only left with a couple of performances to choose from, none of which we could do. So in the end we just had to donate back the tickets. It was pretty much crap.

So the lesson from all this is that a season subscription is a leap of faith. There's a good chance that there will be something you won't like. But you may also end up seeing a treasure you never would have chosen to see otherwise. Try it out - it can be fun! We decided to pass on renewing for the next season, but may try a different theater in the future (probably something closer to home).

Photo courtesy of playbill.com by Joan Marcus.


Stef said...

Did I ever tell you Aimee Semple McPherson once did a broadcast/sermon from the old theater I worked at in Pittsburgh? And shut up! You never told me Kathie Lee was there when you guys went! How's Cody???

I did buy a subscription to Studio Theatre for next year. It's my 3rd sub ever, and you're right, it's a total leap of faith. But on the nights when it's really good, it's so worth it.

The Kara said...

Let me just say: I HEART SUBSCRIBERS. A subscription IS a bit of a crap shoot, and as I work on subscription seasons around the country, I'm always curious about what shows people will exchange out of etc. and into to bring friends. I am SHOCKED about the KLG show - one of my friends worked on a version of it that played in upstate NY and said it was bad news, but sounds like they tweaked it to make it work so go KLG! Ms. Carmello is also pretty amazing. I have yet to subscribe to somewhere in NY, but I'm thinking about Second Stage which is the theatre you guys went last time you were here. I've also been flirting with the idea of somewhere downtown - I'm going to the Atlantic Theatre this week so we'll see!

joyous said...

You didn't miss anything with Nest. I really didn't like it. And I just saw Withces of Eastwick last night, and it's...fine. It's a musical. Based on a movie. Except there is a big, sweaty, hairy man in it and you would enjoy him, J-Lo.