Alright, here's the story . . .
Chicago's Goodman Theatre presented a musical called Turn of the Century. The musical was written by Rick Elice and Marhsall Brickman and directed by Tommy Tune. For many in the theatre industry, the production in Chicago was considered a "try out" before Elice, Brickman and Tune took the piece to Broadway.
So it seems like a good deal right?
The Goodman gets to present a big time musical (and charge a nice penny for folks to see it) and Elice, Brickman and Tune get to see how an audience reacts before investing in a Broadway run.
What could go wrong? Well . . .
When the play was produced in Chicago, it got mixed reviews.
Now a play with a lot of hype behind it getting some mixed reviews isn't exactly news . . . but I found what happened next to be really interesting.
In a follow up Chicago Tribune article, the creators of the piece talked about the production. Here is a section from the article, written by Tribune arts reporter Chris Jones.
Elice had only good things to say about working with the Goodman Theatre. But clearly, the strictures of doing a new Broadway-sized musical on a regional theater schedule had been something of a rude awakening for the production team. "Turn of the Century" had only a handful of preview performances before the press showed up, instead of the usual weeks of previews typically enjoyed by shows in out-of-town tryouts, such as "Drity Dancing."
"Come back and see the show in a week or two," Elice said, lightly. "By then, it will be where it would have been at the end of the usual preview period."
Trickier yet, limitations on rehearsal time (most of which is needed for understudy rehearsals) has made it impossible to put in major changes in Chicago. Those will have to wait for the next incarnation.
"We put on the show we honestly thought we wanted to do, Elice said. "But with the best will in the world, having sixteen hours of rehearsal time between the first time an audience saw the show and opening night was just not enough to implement what we immediately started to learn once we had an audience."
So basically you just had the creators of the musical you are running (and still running for another few weeks) say the following:
1. The play wasn't that good . . . but it really wasn't our fault
2. You people that saw the play during the first few weeks were screwed, you really should have came later.
3. The really good version of the play is coming to another town . . . later.
Did I mention that the play is STILL RUNNING? So what you have is the creators of the piece pointing out flaws in the piece WHILE THE PLAY IS STILL RUNNING!
So if you are the Goodman Theatre, how the hell are you supposed to sell tickets to the rest of the run of the show . . . . while the creators of the piece are saying that?
Folks, this is what a public relations nightmare looks like. You have one group (The Goodman) trying to make some money off the remaining run of a show and you have another (Brickman, et. al) basically trying to save face.
The lesson for you in all this . . . choose your artistic partners wisely.
The other lesson . . . when talking about an artistic event that doesn't meet critical standards . . . DON'T MAKE EXCUSES. Just take your beating and move on.
UPDATE: First, much love to Kris Vire for linking to the post.
Second, I had a few people email me and say (basically) that the article wouldn't matter to the Goodman because they had already sold a ton of tickets way before this article (or the mixed reviews) came out.
This may be true, but it misses the point which is . . .
What about the next show?
What happens the next time they bring a show into town for the big "Pre Broadway" tryout? I can easily see a situation where people are hesitant to purchase advance tickets because the bad taste in their mouth left by the show (and the follow up article).
But the thing for YOU to remember (since you probably ain't a major regional theatre) is that the things your artistic partners/collaborators say and do have a direct impact on you. So likely I said above . . . choose wisely.