QUOTE(Sparrow @ Mar 13 2007, 12:30 PM)
I don't see your logic that generalises infrequent theatregoers as undiscerning tourists. People are individuals. Some may have different taste from your own and I'd guess that is the real problem.
It has nothing to do with taste, mine or anyone else's. It's a fact that to be discerning you need experience of something. Most of those who make up West End audiences are the sort of people who go to the theatre about once a year, and when the only theatre they've seen is the occasional mega-musical or jukebox show they have nowhere near the breadth of experience required to judge whether a show is great or merely populist.
I'm like that with films. I rarely go to the cinema - I forget the last time I saw a film, but I think it was in 2005 - and because of that I'm not discerning enough to judge the worth of a film. I know what I like, but that's not the same thing.
Much as I see the down side of design heavy West End extravaganzas, at the other end of the scale are the incestuous cliques of certain producing theatres, some of whom mistake pseudo intellectualising for quality. Either that, or mediocre social angst staged with patronising street cred for local audiences. It's no use preaching to us that regional producing theatres hold the key to quality. They have pitfalls of their own.
I'm aware of that, and I've come across more than a few shows that have been tagged with the label "experimental" because the author doesn't know how to communicate with the audience and has decided that this is the audience's fault rather than a failing of the work. ("Written by and starring": four words to strike terror into the heart of mortal man.)
But one thing you get in the West End but not in the regions is the use of spectacle as a substitute for quality. It's not just a matter of budget: it's also that the only people who can sit through two hours of flashing lights and stunning sets and come away thinking they've seen a great show are those who don't see much theatre. That's not snobbery. It's just how things are. The more of something you see, the less willing you are to accept anything other than the best.
A few years ago two people I know went to see The Lion King. One of them is an actress, and she was distinctly unimpressed. She described it as "a pantomime". The other was someone who almost never went to the theatre. He thought it was one of the best things he'd ever seen in his life and returned to see it every six months or so. The actress wasn't being snobby about it. It was just that she had enough experience of theatre that the show couldn't satisfy her.
That's the difference I'm trying to get across. Frequent theatregoers with a wide experience of theatre will spot spectacle for what it is and will demand more than just the glitter. Infrequent theatregoers haven't the experience to make that distinction. It's easy to present spectacle: all you have to do is throw money at the show. Writing a good musical takes talent, and that's much rarer. If your audience consists mainly of infrequent theatregoers you can make a success of mediocre material by pouring money into the staging. You can't do that with an experienced audience: they won't buy it.
And that's why I think talented performers can make a better show of their talents in the regions. In the West End they're often playing second fiddle to the staging, and even a poor performer can fall back on the glitter of the presentation to keep the audience entertained. In many regional shows there's no such safety net. When I saw Miss Williams in Sheffield she was standing on a bare stage with an audience of experienced theatregoers on three sides of her, and she had to hold that audience with nothing but her voice. That's when real talent has a chance to prove itself.
I have always hated eggs. I remember back when I was a sperm I tried to head-butt one. It did not end well.