The Playgoer: "Passing Strange"--Stranger to B'way?

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Passing Strange"--Stranger to B'way?

Today, Riedel reports on the backstage buffonery over what to do with a genuine rock musical once you've pored millions of dollars into bringing it uptown to Broadway.

The other day in the green room of "Theater Talk" (the talk show I host on PBS), Stew, the founder of the band that bears his name, said he's often baffled by the Broadway argot.

For example, the term "button": the big finish to a song that's supposed to get the audience to applaud.

Shubert chairman Gerald Schoenfeld (who, even when he's on his cellphone, still says "hold the wire" when another call comes through) thinks there should be more "buttons" on Stew's songs.

"I had no idea what he was talking about," Stew confesses. "In the rock world, you don't necessarily expect applause at the end of every number. Sometimes, songs just flow into each other."

One area of contention is the noise level. The Shuberts and McCann think the band is too loud.

"The drummer is too exuberant," Schoenfeld often remarks in a booming voice of authority.

He might as well have screeched: "Turn that noise down, you rapscallians!"

Liz McCann, the lead producer, is the embodiment of good intentions. But she also ruined Well (another Public Theatre creature) by transferring it from downtown glory to Tony-fizzer, and sticking it with a flashier new clunky set in the process.

This will make a fascinating comparison with In the Heights when it opens down the street. I assume the producers of that will not be so stupid to pump down the volume.

I mean--with all the over mic-ing and Young Frankenstein sound blitzes on the Rialto these days, these people are worried whether a five-piece band will rock out a little too..."exuberantly"???

2 comments:

RLewis said...

I caught PS last saturday and loved it. I didn't see a lot of young folks in the audience, but the older couple next to us seemed to enjoy it. If it were louder, I bet it'd only be better. Toward the end they could really crank the volume up to 11. And if there were more chances to applaud, I would have, so maybe both sides of the issue could use some tweeking.

But my reason for writing is that coming out of the theater we were met by an ambulance. 2 emt's were rolling a stretcher down the alley toward the stage door. Any word on weekend injuries backstage?

I hope all is well. It's a great show, but unless they can get a song or 2 on the airwaves, I doubt it attracts enough audience to run very long even if reviews are good. It's not the show, it's the context (Bwy w/o stars?). It's a great time of year to hit the TKTS booth downtown.

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Like RLewis, I just saw the show and fell in love with it. I can't remember the last time I walked out of a show feeling quite so exhilarated. Have yet to write my review, but I don't mind sharing in advance that this is the best musical by far that I've seen in this admittedly theadbare year.