What Happened To Show Business...and the world we live in?
Happy Hump Day!
Once again Hump Day refers to getting over a hump...the middle of the week. I got a tweet on Twitter this morning that really got my brain to racing.
Someone commented that there weren't that many auditions anymore (or so it seems to him) and he's wondering if Broadway is dead. So I'm ranting today! As you read my thoughts, look at the images of glamor that I have interspersed in my blog for your viewing pleasure.
I believe that show business as I dreamed it to be is dead. I truly do. I believe that the movers and shakers, for the most part, are more interested in the bottom line than in the artistic integrity of the show. Is this show grossing more money than everything else on Broadway? I am ranting today about what I consider what is missing now in the world of "show": Heart, soul, individuality, and a respect for what is and what was. Class and integrity come to mind. Is a show grossing more money than last week. In today's economy, a "moderate" success cannot and will not succeed,
The move in this direction started in Hollywood long before it got to Broadway.
Let's face it, Hollywood and The Hollywood Studio system was started by men who had a love for the movies. You can say what you want to say about Louis B. Mayer, The Warner Brothers, and Zanuck and all the others, but they all had a very high standard of what they wanted their films to be and their main goal was ALWAYS entertainment.And it wasn't just what was happening on the screen. They were dream factories. They gave their audiences a world of escape. Movie magazines were devoured as fans wanted to read about the stars of the day.
I don't think Carol Channing, Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Yul Brynner, Gwen Verdon would have had the careers they had in today's world. It was their uniqueness that I gravitated towards...still do. When I saw Newsies from Papermill Playhouse performed on The View a few weeks ago, it did nothing for me. It was the same old gymnastics that we see in every show these days. Where are the Fosses, the deMilles, and the Bennetts today? Do today's choreographers have a distinct style that sets them apart? If so, I don't see it!
This past year, it was reported that Snookie was being paid more than Toni Morrison to speak at Rutgers University!
In 1971 when MGM sold it's properties to corporations, movie props were just auctioned off! WHY didn't all of these artifacts of our movie heritage go into a museum. God knows Debbie Reynolds tried for years and years and could not build up enough interest. A Huge shame. Movies were taken over by corporations. And, folks, the same thing has happened to Broadway and the theatre.
I'm going to repeat myself once again. This is for my newer readers. I grew up in South Carolina in the 60s and 70s. I moved to New York in 1979 at the age of 18. I grew up watching television specials and variety shows where entertainment and glamour was the norm. And because of the success of That's Entertainment in 1975, the nostalgia craze was rampant. I dreamed of being a part of that world. I got into my first show when I was 13, MAME, with The Theatre of The Republic in Conway, South Carolina. I was lucky enough to find an incredible mentor, Miss Florence Epps.
I would go to her home every Wednesday and Thursday after school for elocution lessons and studying and reading aloud the classics. If there was a word or a phrase I didn't understand, I had to look it up so that I understood EVERYTHING!
One thing she instilled in me was a respect for the legacy and past of the theatre. She told me that every time I stepped on to a stage that I was carrying the mantle of all that had gone before me and to ALWAYS respect that!
I have NEVER forgotten that and I still think about that when I walk onto a stage or into a theatre.
How many people working in the theatre today know that Helen Hayes was considered the First Lady of the American Theatre? Can they tell you anything about Ethel Barrymore beyond the fact that she is a distant relative of Drew? What about the other Barrymores? Who was Mark Hellinger? Maybe even you don't feel this is important. The bottom line is that as Broadway becomes more and more like Vegas, the theatre going experience that we once had is disappearing!
For me, going to the theatre is a sacred experience akin to going to church.
Carol Channing talks about her first time on a stage: "My mother said, 'Carol, would you like to help me distribute Christian Science Monitors backstage at the live theatres in San Francisco?' And I said, 'All right, I'll help you.' I don't know how old I was. I must have been little. We went through the stage door alley (for the Curran Theatre), and I couldn't get the stage door open. My mother came and opened it very well. Anyway, my mother went to put the Monitors where they were supposed to go for the actors and the crew and the musicians, and she left me alone.
And I stood there and realized – I'll never forget it because it came over me so strongly – that this is a temple. This is a cathedral. It's a mosque. It's a mother church. This is for people who have gotten a glimpse of creation and all they do is recreate it. I stood there and wanted to kiss the floorboards."
I don't get to the theatre as often as I'd like. I just can't afford it. The bottom line is that the theatre is an elitist art form now. The average person cannot afford to go to the theatre unless it is a very special occasion for them.
When I go to the theatre, I STILL DRESS out of respect for those on stage. I hate this "dress down mentality". When did it go from dressing up to go to an event, to dressing down in sneakers and T-shirts and jeans. And don't even get me started on these cabaret performers who dress like that on stage.
I even dress to go to a cabaret show.
If you don't respect me as an an audience member to be concerned about how you are dressed on stage,I will not be concerned about missing your next show. Black T-shirts and jeans are a turn-off to me on stage!
I never thought I'd say these words, I don't enjoy going to the theatre like I used to.
People are texting, tweeting, talking, and eating in the theatre. I went to see Follies last month.
Before the show, waiters are serving drinks in the theatre prior to the show and during intermission! And hawkers are selling T-shirts, posters, and cds! PLEASE BRING BACK THE SACREDNESS OF THEATRE GOING!!!!!
WHY IS THIS GOING ON!?!?!
I think there is a sense of entitlement going on. "I spent a lot of money on these tickets, therefore I can do anything I damn well please regardless of how that effects those around me. I don't know you. Why should I be concerned about YOUR enjoyment or YOUR experience?"
What has happened to our CULTURE?
People are walking around now like the living dead. They are walking around like zombies in the street bumping into one another barely paying attention as they step off the curbs into ongoing traffic. They sit across from each other in restaurants barely making eye contact with each other.When I go to the theatre, I always say hello to the people I am sitting next to. After all, we are about to take this journey together.
It amazes me how people go into a completely darkened rooms with complete strangers and some never even make the effort to say "Hello" and "How are you?"
Yesterday, I wrote about Bernadette Peters. To me, she is a Broadway star! But who is starring in Mary Poppins on Broadway? The Phantom Of The Opera? The Lion King? The Book Of Morman, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert?
As an entertainer who has spent my whole life trying to build up a name for myself, I wonder why aren't the names of the people who are carrying these shows being made more public. I'll tell you why. It's a lot easier for the producers to replace them without having to worry about changing marquees.
Can you imagine if a producer like David Merrick was around today? Would he succeed? With Hello, Dolly!,as each STAR left the show, she was replaced with another STAR keeping the show alive from 1964-1971.
The same was done with MAME. It also happened with Woman Of The Year and Applause. When Kristine Chenowith and Idina Menzel left Wicked, who were their replacement "stars"? Do we have that kind of star power on Broadway anymore?
Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!
Thank you, to all the stars pictured in this blog! I love you ALL!!
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
Now, GO OUT AND DO SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE TONIGHT!
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Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com