I get hate mail. I guess it comes with the territory. I'm pretty honest with my views, although I certainly do try to back those views up with credible support. And I must confess I have a tendency to get a tad snarky when it comes to writing up a review on a show that...well...sucked.
Ergo, the hate mail. Here's an email that I received recently from the author of a show to which I gave a rather negative review:
I'm sorry you were so unhappy watching the performance of my musical, [Suck-Job Special]. I feel like I owe you a little happiness. In fact, reviews like yours gave me an uneasy feeling -- a feeling that I should give back the honors and the piles of royalties that this musical of mine has brought me over the twelve years, and continues to bring me. And there were many, many productions over those years, successful both with audiences and critics throughout the country. Anyway, here's the part that will make you happy: That feeling about giving it all back? It passed.
In other words, he's laughing all the way to the bank. Well, all I can say is: No, he's not. This show is not doing that well at the box office, and I would be very surprised if it had any kind of afterlife once it closes. But even if it did, so what? Since when is economic success equivalent to artistic achievement? If only his show were as well-crafted as his email, I might have given it a better review. I have no intention of responding directly to this gentleman, but I did make mention of the email on Facebook and Twitter. (Follow me on Twitter @ccaggiano) I reprint the essence of those posts here:
Dear Bad Writer: Are you sending angry emails to everyone who panned your show? You must be very busy.
Of course, many of my homies came to my defense. A college friend wrote me saying "You obviously are doing something right. People never respond strongly to the mediocre. Congrats." I must admit that I get a sinking feeling whenever I see the name of a composer, librettist or lyricist in my in-box. I usually reread my review before I read their correspondence to solidify my resolve, and sometimes wait a day or two before I'm ready to face the music, as it were.
I was reminded of the hate-mail kerfuffle when my dear friend Steve on Broadway sparked a lively discourse on Twitter when he asked if anyone had ever walked out of a Broadway show. (You can read the responses on Twitter by searching for #walkoutofshow.) I myself have never walked out of a Broadway show, nor any professional production for that matter. Obviously, that doesn't mean that I've enjoyed everything that I've ever seen. As the above discussion would indicate, that's hardly the case. But the reason that I've never walked out is that, as a teacher and indeed student of musical theater, I always learn something even from the most atrocious shows, even if it's what not to do.
Oh, there have been times when I've been tempted. I've seen some pretty dreadful stuff over the years, most of which I've listed on my page The Musicals That Suck. Some recent shows that have been downright painful to sit through include The Pirate Queen, A Tale of Two Cities, Dirty Dancing, Happy Days, Lestat, Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein, and LoveMusik. Some historical stinkers I've suffered through include Victor/Victoria, Starlight Express, Roza, Mutiny, and Into the Light.
But never once did I consider walking out. Before I started blogging, I hung in there because the more notorious the flop, the more I got to dine out on the whole sordid story with my theater friends. And now that I have the blog, I get to vent in printed form. I mean, come on, aren't the bad reviews the most fun to read? Well, they're pretty darned fun to write as well. I guess I'm able to suffer through the worst with the knowledge that I'll be able to get a bit of my own back when I sit down at my computer.
What about you, dear reader? Have you ever walked out of a Broadway show? A touring company? A London show? I mean, even I've walked out of bad community productions or high school travesties. I'm talking professional shows, put on by people who really should know better, or presumably should be able to produce better. If you have walked out, what was the show, and why? If you didn't leave, why did you stay?