Reviewing Etiquette during Previews, Industry Respect Rules, or the Morgan James ‘Into The Woods’ Fiasco
Original Post: 7/25/12 :: Revisited: 8/27/12
Since the beginning of the newspaper, it’s been customary to withhold reviewing a play until opening night. Over the past twenty years it has become customary for productions, especially new plays, to begin with an “out-of-town” tryout or preview. Under this system, an eight-to-ten week sitdown would pop up in San Francisco, Chicago, Tampa, or Boston, often during the spring to prep for a fall New York premiere. Each night producers would hand out comment cards or even field questions from the audience after curtain. They’d staff the lobby, outside, and at the stagedoor to hear what people were saying, “the buzz.” What did they love? What did they hate?
Every night when the curtain would rise, a slightly different show would play. Rewrites were constant. Score, book, and blocking changes were dime a dozen, rehearsing one show during the day and performing a different draft at night. Out-of-town previews allowed the opportunity for composers, lyricists, directors, and actors to work on and tighten their show away from the talons of the New York critics and media. Several months later, the show would open in New York, hopefully with a great word of mouth. Today, the out-of-town preview has become more of the exception than the rule due to the high cost of moving a show across the country and the logistics of booking several precious theaters spaces.
Previews – public performances before critics are allowed in to review – are meant as a kind of insurance policy for producers. The idea is that they offer a system whereby shows can “work themselves out” in front of an audience before any kind of final critical judgment is passed, and that tickets will be cheaper as a result. Over the last half century, they have become the norm in theatre. But it wasn’t always this way – and still isn’t for some other performing arts, such as ballet or opera. Paying previews have only been permitted in the West End since 1968. Before that, producers would either stage out-of-town try-outs for their shows or open cold in the West End. – Lyn Gardner, The Guardian
With the decrease in original plays and musicals and an uptick in revivals and adapted works, the need to workshop entirely new content has lessened. Forgoing the out-of-town, preview periods in New York have instead become longer and more drawn out. Where as previously a show may have only previewed for several days, now it is not atypical to see a month or more pass before an opening night. The flattening of communication, merging of media outlets, and the ability for opinion/thought leaders to emerge across the country, has cut into the advantage of starting out somewhere else. No longer is a show “safe” from review simply because it opens in another city. “While a gentlemen’s agreement between critics and producers prevents newspapers from publishing reviews prior to opening night, there is nothing that can be done about paying customers having their say via blogs and internet sites and, in some cases, these unofficial reviews can be just as widely read,” says Gardner. Critics knew a piece of theatre was still a work in progress and only desired to review it once it was ready. Even in the case of Spiderman: TOTD, major reviewers held off months, and 200,000 audience members, before they eventually were reluctantly forced to go in.
Following last night’s first preview performance of The Public Theatre‘s highly-anticipated transfer of Into The Woods, a short, 140 character review was published:
From several accounts, the first performance was indeed a bit rocky, as was to be expected. Also good to note here that tickets to the production are free. The show is in an outdoor performance space with several days of rain earlier this week, throwing off rehearsal schedules for the ambitiously staged show. Certainly with over a thousand in the audience, several others likely posted their opinions online as well. The difference with this reviewer, however, is the fact that she herself is an up-and-coming Broadway actress, a member of unforgiving New York theatre community. Almost immediately after posting, veiled acknowledgements of her “review” seemed to crop up a from social networks Facebook and Twitter to Playbill.com and several online message boards. Soon thereafter, the fiasco began with dozens of @-replies decrying her premature review. Within an hour rebuttals were streaming through theatre fans’ Tweetdecks from thespians, actors, community members, and leaders in the industry. Composers like Scott Alan and recent co-workers (actors) Matt Doyle and Jason Lamon soon pounced.
And it went on and on (many tweets have since been deleted/made private, making this particular discussion with Scott Alan, more difficult to follow):
@morganajames but you shouldn’t tweet about it either. We should support one another in this industry & that tweet was disgusting. sorry.
@ScottAlanNet I’m sorry to offend. It’s not about ‘not supporting’. The prod/dir was offensive (sexually) and it just wasn’t for me.
@morganajames then don’t tweet your opinions, love. it IS about supporting. It’s a FIRST preview featuring FRIENDS and IDOLS we respect
@morganajames people read your tweets & you need to be apart of this industry & be respectful & feel honored to be working in it.
@morganajames it disgusts me to see performers judging art. Theatre is already judged by so many. WE are the ones who need to SUPPORT.
Likely before James even got off the subway back home, she was in one of the trickiest situations of her career; the entire situation blew up out of control, with hundreds, if not thousands, weighing in. While the number may not seem substantial compared to other recent public relations disasters, proportionally to the community, it is massive.
In my opinion (rarely given here), it’s difficult to stomach an up-and-coming understudy/ensemble performer of three highly-criticized shows (The Addams Family, Wonderland and Godspell) to proclaim the death of musical theatre, especially in a show full of industry idols spanning several decades. While her opinion and thoughts may have been well-founded, the arts and criticism don’t operate in the same relationship as does the rest of the world. A industry of positives, support, tact, respect, and relationships, for a non-reviewer to outwardly criticize a non-finished work is viewed as blasphemy. She works in the industry (and would like to continue doing so, I’m sure) and needs to be aware the cast and crew are former or future colleagues. Publicly she should have nothing but praise for any production, similar to how you don’t see your favorite movie stars give thumbs down to a new box office opening. Behind closed doors or with a group of friends, articulate and nuanced discussion (as we are all taught in arts edu) should be had. Instead, James featured far-reaching, polarizing, and contradictory micro-messages to tens of thousands online and for public consumption.
A lone ranger named Matt summed the evening up best: Tact is an art form and one that should be honed by any actor in the business seeking to advance their career. I don’t particularly agree with censorship, but that’s just how the business works. Be critical, but be mindful of your form of expression. In other words, don’t piss off your potential employers. Or their colleagues. Or their friends. It’s just not a good idea.
Edit: Since posting, Morgan has tweeted several times, apologizing for her remarks.
You’ve waited in a line snaked around the corner outside the theatre, seemingly always in the way of those entering and exiting ShakeShack. Finally making it to the main door, you hand your ticket to the usher and glance up to find a blue or black board, labelled “At This Performance.” On any given night of a large-scale Broadway production, there’s bound to be several cast substitutions due to injury, illness, or other production-related reasons (dance captain sitting out to watch the show, etc). An ensemble member might be filling the shoes of a supporting role and have a swing (understudy for an ensemble track, in layman’s terms) step into his or her place. Maybe a lead actor in the production has an alternate for matinees performances, generally reserved for the most vocally demanding roles. The general consensus among 98% (not scientifically proven, but certainly true) of theatre audiences is understudies are inherently bad; people assume they’re the second string or the “backup.” While most see the sign and exhale in disappointment, a smile comes across my face and my excitement intensifies — I love understudies.
Now, I’m not saying I think “Snow Day” when I see white slips of paper pour out of my Playbill, but in general, understudies get the most unfair treatment in theatre. They’re judged as inferior and insufficient before the curtain even rises. It’s no wonder you can often see them trembling the first moment they step onstage — impossible expectations on placed on them from the start. Instead of eagerly anticipating the performance, audience members are disappointingly texting their friends XYZ actress is out, already bummed.
That said, I would be lying if I didn’t preface this by saying that I often see particular productions more than once and through cast changes. One of the things I love most about theatre is seeing the different choices actors make as they navigate through the role on their own — how two different people in the same production (and with the same director) can interpret a role in two very different ways. It’s always thrilling to see those who originate roles onstage — if the actor’s been involved since development, the part is often times written around his or her own personality and strengths. Even having seen these incredible actors onstage so many times, I can honestly say I am often times more blown away and impressed by those with their single moment in the spotlight rather than by the actor who performs the role eight times a week for a twelve or sixteen month contract. I see a alot of New York theatre, but can only count on one hand how many times I’ve been truly disappointed with an understudy’s performance. Don’t even ask me how many award-winning actors I’ve seen not live up to the expectations set by reviewers, the media, and online fans.
A recent column in The Guardian sums my thoughts into one succinct sentence:
And it’s often been my experience that understudies perform as well or better than the much-hyped actors they replace – because they want it more, because they’re hired for factors other than looks or name recognition, because of the sheer adrenaline of playing a role they haven’t fully rehearsed.
There are tens of thousands of live theatre actors trying to make it in New York everyday. While the understudy was not the first person chosen, there’s certainly a reason as to why he or she was chosen ahead of all others. Often times, this is due to age or lack of experience — producers and casting agents are hesitant to put a show on the shoulders of an unknown entity — it’s easier and more comforting to rely on a recognizable name with a handful of credits under the belt. Seeing an understudy gives a sneak peak to the stars of the future. The big names you see winning awards and featured on marquees were not given those opportunities straight off the bat. They started, like everyone else, at the bottom of the heap, swinging, ensembling, supporting, and yes, understudying. I’m now at the point in my life where I’m seeing these transformations happen in front of my own eyes from Sutton Foster to Alice Ripley, Gavin Creel to Raul Esparza.
People place too high a value on the billed, packaged production rather than the performances in from of their faces — they want to see X show with Y playing the leads or else “it’s not worth it.” Somehow someone giving just as thrilling or honest of a performance is “not worth it,” often times when the audience member has nothing to compare it to. Seeing a show with the “Original Broadway Cast” with “the people on the CD” is for, too many people, more about something they can “check off” on a list no ones cares about.
Seeing the look of thrill on an understudy’s face after their first number is nothing short of astonishing. It reminds me of one of the reasons why I got into theatre myself. These understudies are the ones who are driving “the show must go on” mentality. Their performances are one-of-a-kind and thrilling. Nothing is stale or routine and the adrenaline is visible. In most cases, the audience forgets they’re seeing the #2 by the third or fourth number until curtain call when the actors onstage are showering their colleague with additional applause. Now, I’m not trying to convince you to search out these understudies like I do or follow the last-minute callouts on BroadwayUnderstudies.com/@Understudies. Someone like, Merwin Foard, for example, one of my favorite actors who’s made a career out of being a high-profile cover for the stars. I’m merely suggesting that you think twice before angrily marching up to the box office to refund your above-the-title ticket. Remember the age old adage that actors are real people too and need a day off and that there is someone just as dedicated and talented in the wings whose been waiting for months for this opportunity.
What are your thoughts on understudies and the bias toward them? Have you ever had any notable experiences, good or bad? Any future stars you’ve seen in their early days?
Right now I’m sitting in the San Francisco Airport outside Gate 54A coping with a three hour fog delay before heading back to the East Coast. With the twenty minutes of free wireless access I’ve received from watching a three minute Charmin paper towels ad, I wanted to pass along a great post from a favorite blog of mine, The Producer’s Perspective, by Ken Davenport. Ken is a New York-based producer who’s had great success in the Broadway and 0ff-Broadway markets. He’s also been one of the leaders in leveraging new, social, and 2.0 media into the arts administration and marketing model. I applaud him for that.
Ken has done a lot of research, crunching the numbers on whether the discount culture for the “perishable performance” is actually hurting the industry more than helping it. For almost any show playing in a Broadway or off-Broadway house, discount codes can be found through a quick Google search. Some sites, like BroadwayBox, even aggregate these codes from different mailing lists, newsletters, email blasts, and direct mail flyers (try it for yourself right now). With the price of live theatre so high ($500+ for a family of four), not doing this bit of legwork is foolish. With a few clicks you can often cut prices in half and save hundreds of dollars. While these discount codes generally mean fuller houses, are they mutually beneficial to the audience and the producer? While list price for tickets can range from $120-180 (with premium seats sky high at over $400 each), the average price paid by an audience member is often only $60-80 after all discounts have been accounted for — check this week’s published grosses to see.
The fact of the matter is that now, full price tickets, not full houses, lead to a production’s success (recoupment). It is only through paying this MSRP (of sorts), that a production will be able to turn a profit. Unfortunately, today’s information age makes this more difficult than ever. People desire, nay expect, discounts on everything, and now with these aggregated services, finding these valuable codes is easier than ever. It’s become the first step in the process. Patrons who have paid full price in the past are shifting as well. But then, why shouldn’t they?
What’s Davenport’s suggestion? Increase the value of a full-price ticket. Producers should play their chips and use all the bargaining tools they have to drum up this business. Among his initial recommendations, he suggests creating an exchange policy to swap performance dates if something comes up. It costs nothing, but provides great service and added-value benefit to the customer. He suggests giving consumers something they can’t buy to sweeten the pot. Right now, Ken gives away a backstage tour after every performance of Godspell. It’s low-key and fifteen minutes of someone’s time, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a fan. People pay hundreds for this at auctions and raffles and he’s giving one away every day. How about bundling in a t-shirt or a mug? These items have large markups at souvenir stands and cost nickels to produce — the customer will feel like they’re getting a deal. When they wear the shirt or bring the mug to work, you’ve got word-of-mouth marketing, a personal endorsement. Read the rest of Ken’s post on how to encourage more full-price ticket sales here. The obvious goal of any business model is to have customers paying full-price, but right now arts administrators have the fear of discount deals running away from them. To succeed, we keep the balance of paid and discounted in check, or face the fact that soon people will expect, nay demand, ticket prices well below our break even cutoff.
Now to those of you who’ve used discount codes, put yourself in the administrator’s shoes. What do you think? What other sort of services or benefits would make you willing to pony up a bit more?
Ken Davenport is a mover and shaker when it comes to arts marketing. If you haven’t heard of him before, Ken is the the founder of Davenport Theatrical Enterprises, a New York-based production and management house. Since 2004, Davenport Theatrical has been responsible for both Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, including the current revival of Godspell, Chinglish, Oleanna, Speed the Plow, You’re Welcome America, Blithe Spirit, 13, Altar Boyz, The Awesome 80s Prom, and My First Time.
Instead of taking the standard, tired approach to arts marketing, Ken injects a freshness I’ve not often seen in the industry with my limited experience. Preparing to graduate from college in a few short months, I’ve been researching both commercial and non-profit organizations for employment, but have been disappointed with the antiquated approaches many take. On the surface, this may seem to play to my advantage, offering a skill set and strategy not yet provided by someone within an organization. Unfortunately, many in the industry do not understand progressing marketing trends and are hesitant to try uncontrollable and sometimes unmeasurable approaches. Davenport Theatrical, on the other hand, spearheads this advancement in arts administration, moving forward from the status quo of glossy mailers and scheduled BroadwayBox discount codes to fill seats. As the yearly attendance figure has remained constant from last year, it is going to take a new approach to draw in new publics.
Trying to “break down the wall between the business world and the rest of Broadway” (Davenport’s own words), his production of Godspell has emerged as a leader of new and social media media marketing, and the results have proven tremendous so far. Godspell was Broadway’s first ever crowd-funded musical. Producing theatre and investing in the arts is risky and costly industry. Given Adam Epstein’s failed attempt to mount a production in 2008 and the recent history of withdrawing investors, Davenport motivation in crowd sourcing was likely to spread the risk of backing from a few large producers ($50,000+) many with smaller shares ($1,000+).
Davenport believes Godspell‘s message of “community” makes it the perfect choice to launch this style of campaign, matching feel of the show with his method of producing — wow, looks like strategy to me! By having a large number of small investors, Davenport has created, as he puts it, “a marketing army,” who has a vested interest in the production’s success and will work with him. People have always wanted to feel involved with what goes on behind-the-scenes and after the curtain falls. What’s Ken’s solution? He sends his community members and investors two personal update emails every week letting them know how the show is doing and gives them a “marketing challenge” to build buzz and group sales.
Davenport also takes a note straight out of Dave Kerpen and Scott Stratten‘s book; he doesn’t let a positive mention of one of his shows go by on social media unnoticed. “If someone is going to take the time to pay you a compliment,” he says, “you best be there to acknowledge it.” People who are vocal about your brand, especially positive, are an invaluable asset and he acknowledges that — many other producers let those good word positive mentions rot in unmonitored online discussion communities. Gone are the days when arts organizations can sit back and wait for customers to come to them — in order to keep the conversation going, arts administrators need to take a step down from their pedestal and Engage.
Davenport is looking toward the future of gamification in arts marketing, something not even on the radar of many others. He’s already launched this strategy by encouraging audience members to check in on foursquare to receive a free prize. He’s also taken advantage of word-of-mouth marketing (WOM) by finding the most vocal fans of his shows and using them as ambassadors with a point system to get free tickets. Now that’s cool. Davenport “gets it” — I hope others soon follow suit.
A terrific interview with Davenport from January where he goes into depth on much of what I’ve spoken about:
With over four billion hits per day and more than 60 hours of footage uploaded every minute, YouTube has changed the way we think of and interact with the web. Since the service’s launch in 2005, we have become publishers of content, giving a platform to all with a webcam — no longer does one need a studio setup or large budget to upload and host video footage in the public domain. Soon after YouTube’s commercialization and acquisition by Google, new services began to emerge developing on the technology created, taking advantage of the fast growing trend. Two short years later, UStream entered the market with something a little different. Speeding up the process of instant gratification again, UStream made it immediate, allowing the live streaming of content to audiences around the world, free of charge. We first saw the wonders of this service in the lead-up to the 2008 Presidential Election when primary reports and debates were streamed immediately online for all to see, building the fascination with this new online technology.
As could have been predicted, it was not before long we saw the arts take hold of this technology. For an industry specializing in audio and visual imagery with a finite number of admissions and high price tag, it was a perfect fit. Since the mid-1970s, established theatres have been attempting to incorporate live broadcasts into their business models. One of the most prominent, Live from Lincoln Center, has brought to our living rooms countless productions every year of their sold-out spectacles, recently Candide, Porgy & Bess, Contact, The Light in the Piazza, and South Pacific. Often aired on PBS, these productions are geared toward grey-hairs, free to watch on local television. Generally speaking, they broadcast Tuesday nights, have a historic biopic during the intermission break, and are hosted by a C-list Dick Van Dyke. Anything fresh or sexy was reserved for movie theatres with a steep admission up-charge (think something like Spike Lee’s Passing Strange, filmed months earlier with heavy post-production). Even these “accessible” movie theatre broadcasts are hard to come by and air sparingly at awkward times, setting them up to fail.
With the advancement of live streaming technologies, we’ll soon see these productions move into this realm. Over the past several years, we’ve seen this on a smaller scale with productions like the Hair revival posting their finale online every night. Streaming (not broadcasting) a full production is the next logical step:
- Live-streaming breaks new ground in the way it merges theater and technology.
- Theatre, in its most basic essence, is a live art form making its live transmission without post production natural.
- Web 2.0 can allow performances to be interactive in a way that a traditional audience setting cannot.
- It combines the excitement of live theater with the community live streamed video fosters.
- Provides an additional source of income, limitless in the number of participants, to an industry with a finite number of admissions nightly.
- Relatively low-cost of startup and almost-guaranteed audience around the world.
- Limits the impact geographic location has on audience members experiencing new pieces, enabling a diverse and limitless experience.
- Transcending quality and personal tailoring of of new technology deeply engages a 21st century audience.
- A new dramatic paradigm that could launch an entirely new dramatic form born of today’s technology.
The biggest forseeable issue standing in the way of this movement is blockades from Actors’ Equity. I foresee the union having extreme concerns with losing control over content, despite their lackluster performance monitoring bootleg traffic. They’ll cite it as distancing from the art and, if passed, push for radical increases in per diem and minimum salaries. I don’t think the move is for all companies, and to be quite honest, never expect to see commercial venues incorporate it into their business strategy, fearing all will substitue the online edition of the performance with sitting in ORCH BB 101. But for fringe producers and festival productions have much to gain by any method to pull in additional profits and build name recognition.
Chris Mellor of The Guardian believes, “Streamed theatre is still an underdeveloped (for some, unknown) tool and most producers are yet to grasp its full potential. But at a time when it can be difficult to fill venues, it represents a new way of helping the box office pull in additional revenue.” Starting small, these organizations should start by streaming rehearsals or press events for all fans to see and share. Arts organizations have little market research on their publics; by engaging them in web 2.0, depth of knowledge can be ascertained quickly, easily, and with little/no cost. By giving this audience what it’s looking for and creating this engagement, smaller arts organizations can use a long-tailed approach, better suited for their niche market. A better engagement strategy means a more involved audience who can grow with the organization — it won’t be long before these patrons pull themselves into seats. The sooner this shift happens, the sooner invested audiences are ensuring financial black for the arts organizations they patron.
The average failure rate of a Broadway show is just over 75%.
All New York theatre productions, whether in the for-profit or non-profit arena, are at a bare minimum looking to break even on the shows they mount. A majority of Broadway plays and musicals produced today are commercial productions intended to return a profit for the producers, investors, and backers that fund them. Often times, this results in an open-ended run, allowing the greatest potential for large-scale financial success. In an open-ended run, a production opens with no closing date and is run at the discretion of the show’s lead producer. Length of run depends on reviews from critics, word of mouth, award season nominations/wins, and the effectiveness of the show’s advertising marketing plan, all of which effect ticket sales.
Backing a production carries with it an inherent financial risk with the nature and unpredictability of the industry. Shows don’t necessarily make a profit immediately, and in fact most don’t. Houses are heavily “papered” early on during previews and the first weeks after opening. A papered house, full of comp seats, are given out to members of the theatre community in hopes of filling the audience with friendly faces who’ll share their experience with others. A full house not only helps to build buzz (generally positive as it comes from the community), but makes the show look like it’s performing better than it is. If a production’s weekly expenses (known as a “nut”) are met or exceeded, backers make a profit. Only on rare occasions do even the most successful productions turn a profit straight out of the gate — building the word of mouth and getting that mixed-positive Brantley or Isherwood review is key.
Producers find this initial loss of money acceptable and build it into the initial capital raised (to pay equity actors, union crews, theatre rent, royalties, etc). They realize running in the red short term is an expected, necessary evil with the expectation that, eventually, average ticket price and attendance will pick up. The increase of these two box office figures helps to pay back their initial capital and ultimately make the production become a profitable investment. Citing the 75% stat from earlier, often times things don’t work out so nicely. Take Lystistrata Jones, the most recent quick-to-close show on the Great White Way, as an example. Despite strong reviews after opening (from Brantley, no less), ticket sales for the production didn’t increase and backers saw a bleak financial future – the show was closed after thirty performances.
While the open-ended run is the most popular producing strategy, there has been a trend, especially among non-profits and cash-strapped producers, toward the “limited runs” and “under strictly limited engagement” — same thing. Limited runs are popular for reasons beyond financial uncertainty such as prior commitments from actors (A-List stars with full bookings looking to step into a 10-12 week production) or the availability of a theatre between one show’s load-out and the next’s load-in. The biggest benefit of marketing a limited run engagement is the simple fact that from the moment the show is announced, it’s closing notice is as well — a finite end date is known. Eliminating the “I’ll see it eventually…” mentality, audiences instead have to act sooner-rather-than-later to buy tickets, limiting, if not removing, the initial period in the financial red. As of late, it’s been more and more common for these limited run productions to “extend,” from adding a few additional weeks of performances all the way to becoming completely open-ended. Prominent critical acclaim, high box office receipts, and award season wins/nominations have extended the runs of The Light in the Piazza, War Horse, God of Carnage, One Man Two Guvnors, August:Osage County, and Anything Goes over the past several years.
A short, more informational post today, but I think it provides a basic, yet sound understanding of financial theatre production. Later this week I’ll take a look at how, as of late, type-of-run selection has been used strategically by producers — announcing limited runs to deceive patrons into a spiked, short-tail frenzy buying model, only to “extend” soon thereafter. On November 15th, Disney announced it would bring it’s new production of Newsies (launched at Paper Mill Playhouse) to the Nederlander Theatre under a “strictly limited engagement.” Is The Walt Disney corporation, valued conservatively at $41 billion, struggling to finance a ten million dollar capitalization, or is there a more targeted business plan behind the scenes?
As if the slew of half baked updates for the much-anticipated Les Miserables film this week weren’t enough, another rumor was confirmed this afternoon by Playbill.com, when it was announced the original composing team Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil were writing additional music for the film. But I mean really, should they really be thinking about touching anything after Pirate Queen…
Yesterday Hugh Jackman, who’ll be stumbling three hours through the role of Jean Valjean in the film, tweeted:
If there’s one thing any person in theatre knows, it’s that you don’t mess with someone’s Les Mis. The sort of person who puts Les Mis on the pedestal it may (or may not) deserve is certainly the one who won’t want anything even nipped or tucked, not to mention NEW. Why do we think the same boring, uninventive staging was used for the 2006 Broadway revival and the “reimagined” [not] National Tour that hit the road last year?
Allegedly, the Alain and Claude didn’t know Hugh had tweeted after hearing the song for the first time, so the firestorm that occurred soon thereafter was much surprised. Immediately after muploading his picture with CMS, the tweet garnered widespread attention (1.1 million followers) and spread across the web drawing more criticism than praise.
No other information has been released about the new song “Suddenly,” which immediately triggers gag-inducing thoughts of a tune with the same name from Xanadu. Further rumors have it slated to appear early in the show before the revolution begins, likely around “Master of the House” and Valjean’s rescuing of Cosette.
On the heels of casting rumors, turned announcements, of Amanda Seyfried and Taylor Swift (which was soon retracted), public relations for the film have been sloppy as of late. In a smart move, Cameron Mackintosh, producer of both the stage and screen productions, pushed forward the all-but-confirmed casting of Helena Bonham-Carter as Mdme. Thenardier to smooth things over with fans and give them somewhere else to redirect focus. Ever since the moment Mrs. Lovett/Bellatrix Lestrange’s name was in the running for the role, Les Missers rejoiced. The pairing alongside Sacha Baron Cohen, whom Carter worked with in the Sweeney Todd film, didn’t hurt either.
Whether fans will accept the new song is anyone’s guess. This is a crowd quick to judge — remember that time they pounced on the idea of a Jonas Brother as Marius for a brief stint in the London production, only to allow him to extend,and then invite him back for their sacred 25th Anniversary Concert? Personally, I’m against it, and not because it’s a show I hold near and dear to my heart. Why then? Because it’ll just create another musical motif they’ll have to weave through the score, resulting in an added a reprise Cosette will have to sing in Act II (erm…end of the film).
Do we really need another 10 minutes of Les Mis? Well, yes, if it’s even half as entertaining as this: