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Which is an addendum to this post: Dear Broadway, Honestly, Why the Fuck Am I Even Here?

In the past few days, there’s a lot that I’ve thought and a lot that could be said here about the James Barbour situation.

I could ask you to think seriously about whether Barbour would have been punished more harshly, or given less opportunities for a second chance, if the victim had been a young man and not a young woman.

I could ask you if you’ve ever been the victim of any kind of sexual assault. Or really, truly known anyone who was. Whose life was changed forever in the wake of that crime.

Or if you’d feel the same way about ‘second chances’ if he’d committed, and confessed to, some other kind of violent crime.

I could talk about the fact that 60 days in prison seems paltry compared to the long term impact that his act would have had on his victim, but that is my opinion.

And even more importantly, all of that — getting bogged down in the technicalities of the law, or arguments over what is appropriate punishment for a person who commits and confesses to such a crime — is actually beside the point. My original point has nothing to do with the law, it has to do with how I feel as a paying member of the Broadway audience.

As a woman, I feel uncomfortable with, and alienated by this casting decision. And I know for a fact very many other women (and men) do too. This feeling contributes a larger sense that Broadway is not behaving like the kind of community that values women, or wants women to feel as if it is a safe space for them. It also makes me wonder if this Broadway — the one that casts men who confessed to sexual conduct with a minor — is a Broadway that I personally want to be a part of, or financially support.

That’s the point I wanted to make. That the James Barbour casting is one factor — admittedly a large one — in my sense that Broadway can be a very sexist and misogynistic place. One that is not welcoming to women, despite the fact that we are the people keeping it alive.

And I believe that we deserve better. That we can BE better.

Broadway can be better.

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Welp, internet. I’ve hit my limit. It’s finally happened.

After five years running The Craptacular, and more years loving theater than I can accurately tally, I just cannot take another minute of Broadway’s sexist, misogynistic bullshit and stay silent. Just cannot be done.

Because guess what? Women make up close to 70% of your audience. Theater as a commercial enterprise literally doesn’t exist without women. And yet, every time I turn around, it seems like Broadway is going out of it’s way to make us feel unwelcome. To tell us we’re worthy of little more than the opportunity to fork over our hard-earned cash to buy your tickets.

Sometimes you’re just mounting generally sexist musicals, like Wonderland and Bullets Over Broadway (and, I hear, Honeymoon in Vegas). Other times charmers like John Why-the-Fuck-Are-You-Still-Writing Simon go about insulting little girl’s looks for kicks (turns out Little Red just wasn’t little and lithe enough for that dirty old man), while lovely gentlemen like Michael Riedel publish lovely little bon mots like this one:

Female empowerment is fine for daytime television, but it’s flesh-crawling in a musical.

Still other times it gets even worse, and producers and casting directors hire men who are confessed sex offenders — with a penchant for teenage girls — to take leading roles on Broadway without batting an eye.

And I’m supposed to keep giving you my money?

More and more I wish I could say ‘fuck no.’ Because honestly. Sometimes I don’t understand why I’m even here. Why I keep coming back for more in a space that is openly hostile to me just because I was born with a vagina and, 32-some-odd-years later, I continue to identify as a woman.

And worse, I don’t know how to change it. Other than this. Then calling it out.

Because I’m tired of being silent about it.

Tired of watching people like James Barbour sexually abuse little girls and then get high profile Broadway gigs. Tired of sitting back while men publish sexist shit in some of the most circulated papers in the country — and the world — and get applauded for being so hilariously witty and contrarian and whatever the fuck else you fuckers think Michael Riedel is. Tired of being told to brush it off, like I’m being oversensitive, when if you swapped the word “gay” in there for “female,” there’d be uproar. Tired of reading articles in the New York Times where men speculate about why women aren’t coming to the shows they’ve mounted — without a single woman in a prominent place on the creative or production teams — without bothering to interview them for the aforementioned articles they are writing. Tired of sitting down in my seat at the theater only to hear Frank Wildhorn’s show tell me that it’s the woman’s fault her marriage fell apart because she emasculated her poor unemployed husband when she got a job to support her family (Wonderland). Or turning on my television to watch a supposedly satirical musical refer to women as ‘frigid’ and ‘bitches’ without any aim of actually subverting those stereotypes for productive commentary (Galavant).

I’m tired of keeping your fucking shows afloat with my hard earned money — even when they dismiss me, or don’t tell my stories, or demean me — while you laugh all the way to the bank without promoting women in the ranks around you, Mssrs. Producers/Theater Owners/Artistic Directors. I’m tired of buying your papers and valuing your opinions on theater when you couldn’t find a single fucking female to talk to in an article where you talk about women seeing theater, or a single fucking female to edit your writers so they don’t say disgusting misogynistic bullshit in their columns.

So I’m just gonna keep on talking about it. I’m gonna be that girl. And I know already that it’s going to be annoying and exhausting. It’s a banner I’m really not in the mood to bear. But clearly no one else is going to do it. So I’ll be here just making noise. Maybe someday someone will hear me.

I bet the comments section on this post is going to be a bastion of really intelligent conversation, too. Can’t wait for that, either.

 

Addendum: And Also One More Thing About the James Barbour Situation

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It feels like a travesty, every time this happens. Every time we manage to snatch an hour or two of the general public’s time and make them face a thing about musicals, or a musical itself, or both, and then we fuck it up. Because we get so few of these opportunities, and it seems like every failure just decreases our chances of increasing our chances, if you know what I mean.

As I’m guessing you can tell, I’m not sorry to say I don’t ascribe to the idea that like… we have to play nice. That we have to sit around and say only kind things because if we don’t support our own art form when it somehow sneaks it’s way into the ball, like Cinderella in a shabbier dress, then who will?

I think that idea is bullshit. Because I think bad musicals make musicals as a whole look bad. And I think we look like idiots with no taste who don’t know any better when we applaud bullshit. This is the genre that brought us Next to Normal! And The Book of Mormon! And Fun Home! Musicals can be smart and funny and touching and thoughtful. They can DO something. They can SAY something. They can be utterly filthy, and written entirely in the modern parlance — seriously, have you MET Alex Timbers? — and still be intelligent and good and tightly crafted.

And Galavant was none of those things. A cut-rate Men in Tights/Spamalot mashup, maybe three jokes in the entire hour landed. The only actors who looked like they understood what show they were in were the King and his huge lunk whose face I recognize but whose name I can’t even be arsed to go look up. Which is bad news if I can’t even care about the only good performances in the whole damn show. Plus, I swear there was only one song, re-written with forty different sets of lyrics, which, who do you think you are, Les Miz? (Newsflash: No one is Les Miz. Les Miz shouldn’t even be Les Miz.) And the words all felt like… like they were written by old men who were trying to sound young and cool. You know, as opposed to people who actually are young and cool. Sorry Glenn Slater.

And while we’re at it, I’d like to point out that while Galavant seems to think it’s very smart and TOTALLY subverting gender stereotypes, it used both the word “bitch” and the word “frigid” to insult female characters. And insinuated that being “a man” is like… only one very specific thing. And I know this show is set in the fucking dark ages, but it’s 2015 here in reality where this show is airing. And if you’re going to pretend to be smart and witty and say things just like the kids these days, then you look like a dick when you keep trading in shitty, outmoded gender roles.

Also. It didn’t make no sense? Like. I get, now, that we were getting the story in pieces. And that Galavant was being lied to by the Valencian Princess. But the way the story unfolded was convoluted and the truth wasn’t clear and neither were the lies and I’m still not sure what’s what and you guys I like to think of myself as a pretty savvy consumer of musicals and TV and story telling and if I can’t follow you at all you really are doing something wrong.

Ugh. You guys. It was just… I trusted Alan Menken! I thought we could do this! I KNOW there are smart funny people out there who write good shows. I believe in musical comedy. I don’t think The Book of Mormon is the last work of genius we’ll ever get to see. So why, why, why, when we finally get to the big dance, do we fuck it up like this?

Why can’t we find a way to make our own genre compelling?

And christ, what can we do to help? Besides, you know, mindlessly complimenting anyone who endeavors to put any musical thing on TV during prime time. Because I’m sorry. That’s not a thing I can do. And clearly, it doesn’t help anyway. We keep landing ourselves with this shit.

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Look At This Hot Photo of Jonathan Groff, Though

JonathanGroff - The Art of Discovery

Happy holidays, y’all! Just thought you needed a little more merry to put in your, um, stocking.

Recently I was leafing through this lovely new coffee table book called The Art of Discovery only to… discover… that it included this biceptually revealing photo of Broadway’s OG mid-2000s boyfriend, Jonathan Groff. The book contains a bunch of artful photos of celebs and a bit of text for each where they describe something that truly inspired them.

The best part about Jon’s entry? Besides the pleading look in his eyes that implores me to join him immediately in a four-poster bed? His inspiration of choice is all to do with Spring Awakening and his 4 eva bestie Lea Michele — an experience that we TOTALLY SHARED WITH HIM VIA THE MAGICAL MAGIC OF LIVE THEATER.

It made me happy. Also it made it hard to concentrate for the next hour.

If you would like to be similarly concentrationally challenged, you can get the book — which is published by Rizzoli and is a collaboration between The Creative Coalition and Renaissance Hotels –wherever bookish things are sold.

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Sometimes you have these moments where you’re just like “What is my life?”

Sometimes they happen when you’re in the office, on an average Monday, and you catch your colleague answering the phone with “City morgue, you kill em, we chill em…” when, you know, you work at a direct marketing agency.

Other times, they happen when you’re sitting in a theater, glass of altogether decent champagne in hand — okay, in a cup-holder specially designed for stemmed glasses — about to see Mamma Mia and you feel the entire theater rock beneath you and you remember that holy shit, you are on a fucking boat. A cruise ship, actually. The Quantum of the Seas to be exact. Where there is seriously a full production of Mamma Mia happening, well, possibly as we speak.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that Lucky and I got to take a quick cruise to nowhere on the new Royal Caribbean ship a few weeks ago, as a part of their “Big Apple Launch” and while aboard we obviously had to carve time into our busy schedule of drinking/riding bumper cars/gambling/drinking some more for some Broadway at Sea. Because honestly, who would we be if we skipped out on the chance to see some cute boys sing and dance (shirtless) when it was basically smacking us in the face? (Answer: We don’t even know.)

If I’m honest, neither one of us had terribly great expectations for Mamma Mia. It’s not really our show, to begin with. And like… how good could it be on a cruise ship, really?

The answer to that is highly fucking excellent, it turns out. Color us shocked.

Everything was just so… tight. On point. Firing on all cylinders.

I don’t know you guys. Mamma Mia is always Mamma Mia. It looks a bit out of date, these days. And the sound design is like… from outer-space. Sometimes there’s literally no logical reason for anything that’s happening on stage.

But the cast was excellent. I have literally NEVER seen the dancing so good. And everything just felt… fresher than it’s ever been when I’ve seen in on Broadway. Maybe it’s because the cast just got out of tech five seconds ago. Maybe it’s because I was drinking my champagne in a flute like a big girl and not a sippy cup, I don’t know. And the thing is, I don’t care. That shit was damn fun. And totally worth three hours of my seafaring life.

Plus, the fun thing about theater at sea is like… the cast is right there. All the time. They live on the boat with you. So, if you’re like me, and you have a crush on the adorable boy who plays Pepper, you can chase him through the casino to chat him up. (If you’re me, you can also fail miserably.) And I probably shouldn’t encourage that kind of behavior but WHATEVER. I do what I want! Especially when it concerns cute theater boys.

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The Phantom of the Side Show #ThereIFixedIt

Look. Here’s the deal. I really didn’t like Side Show.

I didn’t hate it. It didn’t make me hellaciously mad, or want to like… stab everyone in a seven foot radius.

I just didn’t get it. The lyrics are horrid — they have no rhythm or really useful rhyme structure, and a complete lack of any kind of natural flow so it mostly just sounds like people are stumbling around trying to spit out words as fast as they can. And there’s maybe one melody in the entire show, which like… is a thing I could get over (I love Les Miz, for example), if like… somehow the material really made me care. Or feel something.

But basically the only moment I gave a fuck about anyone on that stage was like, 99% of the way through the show, when Sir came back to beg for a job or whatever, and like… OMG. If the only time I feel any real emotional pull is at the end when the bad guy gets his comeuppance, there’s really something wrong. I really shouldn’t have more sympathy for that guy than for the stars of the show.

Anyway, here’s the thing. I think I figured out how to make this work. Because in the middle of the second act, when Terry — who’s name I honest-to-god could not remember for the entire show — sings that song about only loving half of the Daisy and Violet duo, and then does a dream ballet, I had a very important epiphany about Side Show.

It would be better if The Phantom was in it.

Which I think means that I’ve also figured out where Andrew Lloyd Webber got the idea for Love Never Dies. And I’ve basically never laughed so hard in the theater as I did at Love Never Dies. So really, I stand by this The Phantom of the Side Show idea. Like. Make the impresario The Phantom and I’m going to laugh my face off for three hours and buy it on DVD to watch again and again.

So sorry Side Show. Until you make another edit and find a real emotional core — one where I actually feel for Daisy and Violet — or add in The Phantom, I’m just never going to love you as you are.

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A Welcome (Back) of Sorts

So, everyone.

You may have noticed that things have been a little… quieter… here at The Craptacular lately. There are lots of reasons for this, some of them personal. For one thing, both the Mick (Aileen) and I (Laura) have been fortunate enough to see our respective careers — the ones unrelated to this web site — advance significantly in the last couple of years. That’s great for us. As it turns out, it’s not so great for our little passion project.

There’s also the issue of shifting landscapes, both in theater and in technology, that are changing the ways that people consume entertainment and talk about it online. (The last play I saw was onscreen in a movie theater. Wrap your head around what that means for a second.)

Our goal now, in light of all that, is to give you something new. You may have noticed some changes in the way this space looks. And you will be seeing some differences in the way that we present information. For one thing, you’ll be seeing a lot more of… well… us. The idea of mystery and anonymity has never much appealed to us, and frankly doesn’t work very well with our lives. Our nicknames, even — Lucky and the Mick — have been more of an inside joke than a true mask. And the reality of us is pretty simple: We’re two women who are friends, who live in New York City and love theater. Because of that, we often have the excellent privilege doing and seeing cool things that make us happy, and, alternately, turn us into grumpy rage cases who are sure that the world is ending and that Theater Is Dead.

We want to take you on that journey, and invite you to fully participate in it. We’re looking forward to not only giving you new things to read, but giving you new ways to have a conversation with us about this thing that we all love — theater.

So watch this space. And watch some theater today — even if it’s on YouTube.

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So this one time, Lucky and I had a chance to interview Alex Timbers for Broadway Radio. And we were both so staggeringly nervous I’m not entirely sure how our racing hearts remained within the confines of our chests. Which, thank god they did, because I kind of like being alive.

But anyway. The point of that story is this– there came a time in that interview where I was just fully incapable of containing how much I love Alex Timbers and I went on this ridiculous, gushing, fangirl monologue at him, all about the brilliance of the Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson book and how he’s such a great writer.

And look. You may be wondering why the fuck I’m talking about Alex Timbers right now in a post that’s ostensibly about Found, the Musical, but here’s the connection– what I loved about Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, what I raved about in Alex Timbers’ face for Broadway Radio, was that the book of that musical was written in the modern vernacular in a way that felt authentic and mature. In a way that understood modern popular speech could be used, even on the Broadway stage, to communicate things far more profound and emotionally compelling than our Grandparents and the crotchety people on the Tony Nominating committee would ever suppose.

And THAT is what I really, truly loved about Found, the Musical.

Not that I laughed so hard I cried at the Booty Time scene. Or that I very nearly fell out of my seat in paroxysms of hysterical joy and laughter during the Johnny Tremain scene. Not that it made unbelievably excellent use of the multi-talented Nick Blaemire in a way that makes me think like, maybe his time has finally come and the world will see what a bloody star he is. Not that there was something crazy awesome about watching TV’s Danny Pudi allow himself to mold into an off-Broadway company, and then dance beside legit actual amazing awesome Dancer with a capital D Andrew Call during the endlessly lovely “Something That I Love.” Not the found letter from the barf bag, which was seamlessly turned into song by Eli Bolin, and not Barrett Weed’s badass performance of “Stupid Love.” Though all those things were wonderful and made me happy that I was in the theater.

No. What I loved first and foremost, was that this show told me a story in a language that felt absolutely and utterly authentic to my life. To the lives of the people around me. To the way I communicate with my friends and loved ones as a part of the post-MTV, Daily Show generation.

There was no pandering to some idea of the Golden Age of Theater that’s long gone and maybe never really existed at all anyway. No feeling of disconnect between the writers — Hunter Bell and Lee Overtree — and the material, like the way it feels weird when your mom says “fo shiz” or Steven Sater says “my junk is you.” Just the kinds of words my friends and I use, telling the kind of story that is both entirely of this moment, and entirely universal. Love, loss, the difficulty of coming into one’s own and being authentic to our own beliefs in a world where it’s really easy to feel like giving them up is the only option. And okay, maybe the idea of selling out is a little more Gen X Y Z whatever than it is like… relevant to the Greatest Generation. But guess what? The Greatest Generation can’t be the only ones supporting theater, the only ones hearing their voices on stage, and that, my friends, is why Found felt so fucking exciting.

Well. That and the absolutely insanely terrifically wonderful cast who made me laugh until I cried and feel all the feels. (And yes, Mom, I can translate that last sentence for you. But maybe you’d get it if you just saw Found, instead.)

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Saturday Night in the Pouring Rain with George

Sometimes, when you’re walking through Georgetown toward the car after dinner, you get caught in a rainstorm so unbelievably torrential that your you cannot see 10 feet in front of you and your umbrella is utterly useless and you end up soaked to the bone. So wet that by the time you’ve sat through an entire performance of Sunday in the Park with George your undergarments are still damp and your shoes are still squelchy and you are basically at least 30% popsicle from the air conditioning.

And sometimes at the end of that performance of Sunday you’ve cried so much you’re blowing literal snot-bubbles when you try to breathe and you’re just so, so thankful it’s dark and no one can see you. Or like, you really hope no one can see you because you forgot tissues so your scarf will have to do and this is embarrassing. Except you’re kind of not that embarrassed because like… THIS IS MOVING MATERIAL, OKAY?!

Wait that’s… That’s just me?

Okay then.

Well. That happened. This past weekend in fact, down at the Signature Theatre in Washington, DC., where their lovely/emotionally devastating — if straightforward — production of Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize winning show, starring Claybourne Elder and Brynn O’Malley is running through September 21st.

Now, before I say anything else about this show that I really, really loved, I have a confession to make. Because it would be sort unfair if I didn’t make it: I think Claybourne Elder is a pretty glorious human being just in general. We met at a Bonnie & Clyde press event and bonded over Sara Brightman’s pure craptacularity and at this point I basically follow him around the country to see his performances (Pippin in KC, Georges in DC) and he never treats me like the creepy stalker I probably am. Instead, he just gives the biggest, best hugs ever and notices things like the ever-changing style of my hair. He’s just that kind of guy.

Anyway. I’m mentioning that bias up front because it’s only fair to do so before I tell you that Clay has now tied himself for the first place position on the very important/hotly contested The Mick’s List of Favorite George(s). And not because he gave me a good hug after the show. Or almost poked his thumb right through my right eyeball when I made a nearly-disastrous turn to face him at the bar.

No. It’s because his performance as George(s) was simultaneously the most aloof and the most emotional I’ve ever witnessed. Which maybe sounds weird. But I think it was that emotional distance in early scenes that really gave heft to his feelings when they finally broke through, especially in scenes like “We Do Not Belong Together.”

The thing is, though, I don’t think any George(s) can pull it off without an excellent Dot by his side. And I’ve seen some excellent Dots, but none of them have been as excellent as Brynn O’Malley — get ready for this girl, Broadway, I don’t think you’re ever going to be able to look back. O’Malley took Dot from sort of nag-y, whine-y sidekick with a real fondness for Georges, to this whole other thing. To this woman who had a power and intelligence of her own (and not just in relationship to Georges). It was great. So, so great.

There was just an emotionality to both Elder and O’Malley’s performances that cast their whole relationship in a different light. At intermission, Lucky looked at me and said “This is the first time I’ve ever really believed Georges loved Dot.” And though it wasn’t, strictly speaking, the first time for me, I understood what she meant. The way they related to each other in that first act was so much more unique and powerful than any production I’ve seen before.

So I just… I loved it. And I wish I could see it again, maybe six more times. And I swear if I could, I’d remember my tissues next time. Because like… that scarf will probably never be the same again. But it’s okay. Because Sunday is always worth it.

And if you’ll excuse me, now, I’m going to go commit some emotional self-harm and listen to “Finishing the Hat” over and over while worrying that I’m going to die alone and unappreciated just like Georges did.

ps. For your reference, Clay is tied with Jason Danieley, who I loved for very different reasons and in very different scenes. He is then very closely followed by Mandy Patinkin and Daniel Evans.

pps. We interviewed Clay for Broadway Radio a little while back and he was lovely and charming and told us about the most famous fake baby on Broadway and how he approached the voices of the dogs in Sunday and also was just great. You can listen to it here.

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Whatever man, King Lear is a bullshit play and seeing even good productions of it makes me think that maybe Shakespeare was a hack/want to tweet some incendiary shit about how Shakespeare is the worst, and I’ve been creepily referring to Willy Shakes as my ‘husband’ since I was a teenager (yes, I was that weird of a kid in high school). So. I get it, Ira Glass.

Because like, here’s the thing. Lear makes me feel like… Oh my god, why the fuck did you just make that totally bad decision, and how do you not know your stupid children better because you raised them, and even if you didn’t, you’re a freaking king, how have you not learned more about humanity by now, so fuck you for being stupid and also why have I been in this theater for six thousand hours and seriously you brought this shit on yourself, so I have no sympathy for you, and OH MY GOD WHY ARE WE STILL SITTING IN THIS THEATER I THINK I AM GOING TO DIE HERE.

To put that more intelligently: Lear is the play where I feel as if Shakespeare’s hand is intrusive. Where you can feel him, as the writer, pulling strings in such a way that it makes the characters feel inauthentic. Not just vapid assholes (because hey, most of them ARE vapid assholes, and I get it, that’s the point) but like… behaving as fronts for the Ideas and Machinations of a playwright with Something To Say, and not like real human beings.

And I get it. Lear isn’t really for or about me, so that’s probably part of my relationship to the material. But like. If this play is about an Aging Wealthy White Man Grappling With Losing His Mind and Maybe His Legacy… then basically isn’t it like, perfect for Ira Glass? Like. Isn’t Ira Glass a Future Aging White Man Worried About Losing His Mind and How to Preserve His Legacy? And if Ira can’t really get there, then maybe isn’t it possible that there are some problems here with the material?

Because honestly, even just thinking about seeing Lear again makes me tired. I get annoyed when good people are cast in it because then I feel like I have to see it even though I know it’s going to make me miserable. Make me forget that Shakespeare is not only one of the most important writers in the history of the English language, but one of my personal favorites, whose work continues to enlighten me as I grow older, whose work continues to show new layers and colors as my life grows and changes and reveals them to me.

So like. I’m sorry you had a kind of shitty night of Shakespeare, Ira. Shitty enough that it made you start to wonder if all of Shakespeare doesn’t kind of suck the same way. I’m sure you didn’t mean to piss off the entire Shakespeare-loving world. I just wanted to say like… I Stand With You. Because Lear is bullshit and that’s an okay way to feel. Even if everyone else says it’s bad.

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