production

Why do we do it LIVE?



I'm starting this post with a picture of the Phantom for a reason.  No, it's not my favorite show of all-time although, yes, I'm a mild Phantom fan (Phantom was the first 'real' show I ever saw).  No, I haven't seen it 50+ times. Only 3 times live in LA, SLC, and on Broadway.  And no, I'm not here to promote "The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall," although yes, I own it and it's friggin' amazing.  The reason I'm starting with the Phantom is that it has one of the answers to the question I'd like to pose ...

Why do people spend money to see LIVE shows?
And by LIVE I mean, in person, at the theatre.
Why not go see a movie instead?

That's a pretty important question for a person like me who up until now has made a living charging people a certain amount to sit in a theatre with 300-2,000 strangers (depending on the venue) to see a show we've put together.

There's an argument that claims that LIVE performance, especially LIVE theatre is dying because film is a far more effective means of telling a story.  So, seriously, why don't people go to the movies instead?  The sets are better.  The costumes are more expensive.  The actors are more trained.  :) Etc etc etc.  You get the point.  Why spend $22 to see a live show produced by T.J. Davis when you can spend $8 and see a film produced by Steven Spielberg?

The Phantom is the longest running show in Broadway history and hundreds of people from around the world shell out $100 or more each night to see a cast full of people you've probably never heard of put on a show that over 50% of the audience has already seen before.  It's been made into a full-on motion picture starring Gerard Butler.  There are clips galore of various Broadway and touring companies on youtube.  And now, an actual stage performance is being distributed via BlueRay and DVD around the world.  Why do people still flock to see it LIVE when they have all these other options to see the same exact show?  Do you know why?  I think I do.


Every producer, director, choreographer, musician and actor should ask themselves this question at the beginning of each new LIVE project.  Why are we doing this LIVE?  The answers to that question will vary depending on your situation.

A community theatre might say something like, "We do our show LIVE because it gives the community actors a chance to showcase their talents and grow as people."
A musical act might say, "We do it LIVE to further engage our audience of listeners and convince them that we are as awesome as they think we are."
For a comedy troupe it might be, "We do it live because LIVE is the best way to experience comedy." (A very true statement btw:)

For me and for the shows that I've been involved in creating, I don't know that I have the complete answer to that question, but I think we've figured out at least a portion of it.  We do it LIVE because of the magical, inexplicable interaction that happens each night between the performers, the audience, the playwrite, and the unseen spirits in the theatre.  Those people who have come to see our shows in the theatre and sat in the seats on those magical afternoons or evenings will have at least an idea of what I'm talking about.  There is something really exhilarating about the back-and-forth energy between the key players during a high-quality a LIVE performance.

Next time you go to a show, ask ... was it worth it?  Did I have the LIVE experience that I deserve to have when I go to the theatre?  Do I feel like I was really a part of what happened on that stage?  If not, then no offense, but why bother?  Why not pop in a DVD or go to the movie theatre?  It's cheaper

Brian Regan upsets me

I don't know why this is bothering me today, but it is.  Erin and I went to Brian Regan in SLC when he was here a month or so ago.  I'm not usually much for stand-up because of the type of degrading and crude humor that is often involved, but Brian Regan is the exception.  I went into it daring him to entertain me and he did.  He stood up there and kept our attention for 75 minutes straight. Completely amazing.  What a talent.
The part that upset me was the lack of artistic preparation involved.  His "set" consisted of a tall stool, a microphone, a couple of water bottles and a large, low-quality video screen that allowed the huge crowd to see his facial expressions as he skillfully played us.  There was a big, ugly black curtain drawn width-wise across the length of the stage.  That was it.  ... That was it.

If you charge $50 per ticket, someone ought to be thinking of the entire experience and how to make it awesome EVERYWHERE.  It would not have been difficult for someone to come up with some small, appropriate set piece to help set some kind of mood or background for the show.  There was nothing visually interesting included in the "production" and coming from a world where we bust our tails to make sure that every aspect is fun and appropriate and entertaining ... that kinda makes me feel ripped off.

It's my own fault of course, since I bought the tickets, but to be honest, I don't think I'll go again the next time he's in town.  It was not a significant experience.  Entertaining?  Yes, but forgettable.  Not enough creativity included.  "Guy stands in front of people and is awesome at telling a bunch of jokes in a row."  Pretty amazing from one viewpoint, but the lack of effort in other areas upsets me.

Here's one of my fave quotes of all time from fashion mogul Christopher Burch:

"Every single thing we do is broken. When you look at a drug store, it is broken. Why? The shopping environment is not good. They don't understand how to place products; packaging is not effective and beautiful. I'm using that as an example, but everything in the world can be much, much better. I think entrepreneurs have a great opportunity to think of how to make things more understandable, simple and beautiful." 

This applies everywhere, but especially in the realm of live entertainment.  Come on, Brian Regan, give us more than we expected.  Try to give us more than we paid for.