Last Friday, the highly-anticipated musical version of Pedro Almodóvar
's Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown
finally began previews at Broadway's Belasco Theatre
Initially, the Bartlett Sher
-helmed tuner was to have commenced previews on October 2. Then the start date was pushed back to October 5. It was less than two weeks ago that the production announced
its second delay when Sher cited the “enormous, complex undertaking” involved in ensuring every aspect of the production came together by the time the first curtain went up on the show.
Well, so much for that. In attendance for this past weekend's earliest previews were two bloggers, The Broadway Critic
and Family Circle
The Broadway Critic caught the very first preview, which inadvertently became the very first run through of the musical in its entirety. The blogger noted how Sher asked the audience for "love, kindness and to come back to see the show.” But so infuriated was The Broadway Critic by the end of the evening that he called the show "a disaster" and said he wanted his money back.
On the flip side, Family Circle saw the show Saturday evening and noted that despite all the kinks that still must be worked out, the show was deemed as "already very much on solid ground." Family Circle summed up the post by stating, "Yes, the production has issues, but it holds significant potential. Give Women
a month and I am confident that this will be the musical to beat this season."
Although The Broadway Critic most definitely saw the glass as being half-empty to Family Circle's half-full -- and one has to wonder if any significant improvement occurred from the first night to the second -- the fact that either of them wrote passionately about their experiences (remember, this musical began previews on Broadway without the benefit of enough technical rehearsal time, let alone no out-of-town tryout) speaks volumes about how rapidly good and bad word-of-mouth can spread in the age of social networking. When anyone with a platform can buy a ticket for a preview, he or she can do considerably more damage from their soap box than producers ever dreamed possible just a decade ago.
Of course, had Sher and company pushed back the first previews any more, the move would be been met by two consequences. First, a third push back would have signalled -- rightly or wrongly -- that the show was beset with issues; in other words, the show may have been perceived as being in trouble. Second, given how well the advance box office for Women On The Verge
is doing (it's one of this season's toughest tickets already), the production would have had to deal with a couple thousand angry ticket holders who would not be so easily reaccommodated anytime soon.
What would my take have been had I been in that first preview audience?
Certainly, there's a part of me that would have wanted to post my account of what occurred, and I can't fault either of the two bloggers for sharing theirs. However, in the end, I think I would have resisted by instead thinking how only in live theatre are you accorded the rarest of rare opportunities to see a blooming production, thorns and all, as it is just beginning to unfold.
But I readily admit that I'm the exception to the rule -- something producers must consider before allowing any show to start previews before they're absolutely ready for their paying public.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB)
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