Sunday, 6 April 2008

THOUGHTS: Gone With The Wind

First Preview Power Strikes Again!

It's late and the RZ is a very tired blogger who has just sat through a particularly long and muddled musical. Some proper prose (including a worth paying) may be forthcoming, but here are some basics based on the notably unfinished show that the RZ saw tonight:

-The current runtime is 4 hours 6 minutes including interval.
-The RZ managed to hold out until 11PM before turning his phone on to check the time. He was not the only one doing so.
-There will (thankfully) be cuts.
-The cast, including Darius Danesh, are fine. Not amazing, but fine.
-Some of the accents, however, are like what real cockneys think of Dick Van Dyke
-The score is boring. Most of it is slow and attempts to be sweeping, but the RZ guesses that there isn't enough of an orchestra to pull off a properly lush sound. None of the songs stood out, but some reminded him of better songs from better shows.
-There are some laughably bad lyrics like "Wounded soldiers are physical wrecks, but at least they're members of the opposite sex".
-There is a LOT of narration. Everybody takes turns spewing dates and season changes and announcing the locations and how this or that character is feeling or what they're thinking.
-If the RZ was handling the edits, the narration is the first thing he'd cut.
-The author really tried to incorporate everything from the book. Something has to go because everything drags.
-Even though the first act is the shorter one, the RZ suggests summoning Officer Lockstock to enforce the rules on too much exposition.
-The second act is preachy. One song is the black cast singing "Every child just wants to be loved."
-The song about is painfully bad.
-The set is impressive when you enter, but pretty minimal by Napier's standards. There's a revolve for "interiors/house" and some platforms that are punted on and off stage. After a while the sets are as dull as the music. Is this really the same man who gave us the visual wonderments of Time, Starlight Express, and Cats? Or a reduxed rehash of Les Miz?
-The burning of Atlanta is a couple flashing lights and some fencing getting pushed over.
-The audience were racing like mad to catch their trains. Hopefully the cast made it home as well.
-The audience seemed to be OK with the show in general but almost everyone said it needed cuts.
-They hired child actors to appear in two scenes.
-Bonnie is a voiceover and has the lamest "death by horse" ever onstage. Aren't the crew from Handspring done with their run at the National yet?
-The act break is roughly in the middle of part 3 from the original novel.
-Mark Shenton was in the row behind the RZ, and the critic from the Daily Mail was also present.
-Did the RZ mention that it was four hours long?

In short: Unless you're a huge GWTW buff or a nerd for going during previews, wait until the press reviews are out because the edits could make everything more cohesive and add some much needed energy.


monkeyboyrogue said...

Why are you reviewing a show on the first preview? Seems like a cynical effort to get your view out there prior to anyone who is respected.
If indeed the Daily Mail reviewer was there too, shame on them.
Go see the show when it is legitimately open and finished.
Poor effort!

Rogue Zentradi said...

(Warning: Long-windedness follows)

Posting about first preview is always a contentious issue (especially on the occasions when someone posts from their phone at the interval to ATC.) Like it or not, people do talk about what they see during previews, and this is what builds the word of mouth which has saved some shows (Wicked) from mediocre reviews and doomed potentially worthy endeavors (Merrily We Roll Along). Either way, watching a show come together over the reports is a rewarding experience in and of itself.

In terms of the ethics of blogging first preview, you have the classic two hander argument. On the one, the show is unfinished and the creative team need their 2-6 weeks to make necessary changes and revisions. By being held to the fire from the first night, they are being put under additional pressure due to bad word of mouth being spread from day one and lack the freedom to be flowing creative types.

On the other, people are paying good money to see what is effectively a work in progress. While the incomplete nature of previews is offset by cheaper tickets, patrons are still gambling up to £50 on this show before, as you put it, anyone who is respected comments on it. Tickets for two rival my weekly rent, and with the stakes that high, it's only right that patrons have a sense of what they're getting themselves into.

When you see a transfer or a tour during previews, there's not much to be worried about: the script's already been hammered out and it's taking in the local aspects (cast, audience reaction). When it's new,
things can be far more difficult. In the case of GWTW, the show isn't nearly as polished as it should be two weeks from press night. As I pointed out at the end of my post, the show is running extremely long, and Friday's article in the Mail explains that they want to cut at least 30-45 minutes over the next two weeks (technically they have 16 days from now, but factor in two frozen performances before press night). Given the scale of the work required, it's impossible to make a proper recommendation for or against going at this point - the creatives could pull a rabbit out of the hat and tighten this up into a good show or they could blow it for any number of reasons (not enough time, backstage drama, etc.) It's just too hard to tell this time, and I do wish the show the best.

Last, given that there were no surveys or feedback channels at the performance (some audience members, however, ARE being surveyed at the Saturday matinee), the creative team could do far worse than looking to the bloggers and message boards for honest commentary on what needs fixing - the people who write and read such sites (like yourself) are the most hardcore of attendees, and if you please the hardest 10% the other 90% will usually be satisfied as well.

I can tell you now, though, that there won't be first preview reports for "Marguerite" or "Never Forget" here, though - both share first preview night with each other *and* an academic engagement. One (probably Never Forget) will get a second preview visit, the other closer to press night.

As far as the accusation of being cynical...guilty as can be.

Pauly said...

Actually... If you say you are reviewing a first preview most people will know that it is going to improve... Although in the case of this show... I wonder...