A Theatre Rant: Jukebox Musicals

A Theatre Rant: Jukebox Musicals | Essential Twenty

I loved Tina The Musical when I went last month. Unfortunately the performances was overshadowed by an unruly audience, as is the case in most jukebox musicals, and I wanted to get my thoughts down on paper about it. As much as you can call this blog ‘paper’.
I’ve previously written about my theatre pet peeves, but I want to expand. You see the problem with jukebox musicals to me isn’t that the plot is a bit naff (although frequently it is as they try to shoehorn in as many hits or misses, whether it works or not), or that the song choice is always painfully predictable, but it’s that it drags the non-theatre goers out of the woodwork.

I don’t have a problem with people being introduced to the theatre. In fact, I want more people to appreciate the theatre…unless it puts the price up and then I’m not interested. However, people treat these shows like they would a concert. And the theatre isn’t a concert. Now a lot of jukebox musicals end in a way to get the audience up and dancing – Tina The Musical ends with a big concert and Mamma Mia has a boogie number at the end. This is part of the performance and is designed to make us stand up and join in. Some critics disagree with having these big numbers at the end as it’s a way of getting the audience to give a standing ovation whether it is deserved or not, and I’m not here to comment on that today (it may be a future post). But what I want the audience to do is let that be their fun number, and treat the rest of the show with the respect a piece of theatre deserves.

Now down to what really ground my gears at Tina when I went. The first was the constant nattering: I don’t know if this was all over or just the guy sitting behind and to the right of me but it’s all I could hear. His constant loud whispers really went through me and I got more irate as the show went on. If I wasnt across an aisle from him, I’d have said something! The second was the same guy as the nattering, but he decided to adlib the harmonies and the lyrics. If I wanted to listen to you, I’d be looking at you rather than the stage.

Look, I totally understand people wanting to have a good time and when that occurs at the aforementioned showstoppers at the end of the performance then by all means, sing along. But when I’m listening to a quiet ballad that reflects someone’s real life, you’re just being distracting and quite franky, you’re being rude.

But the one thing that really got up my nose when I saw Tina The Musical were the sheer amount of people getting up to use the toilet during the show. Now there will always be one or two people who have to go, but I counted around 20 people on my half of the stalls. 20 out of ~200 people may not seem like a lot, but it blooming felt like it when I was sat close to the door and saw every time someone walked in and out.

This is my call for the theatres to start implementing a policy like they have at the start. At pretty much every professional production, if you are late for curtain up you are not let into the auditorium until a suitable break in the performance. Why is this not the case when people leave to go to the toilet? As an audience member it is incredibly distracting, so I can only imagine what it’s like if you’re up on stage.

I have very strong opinions on theatre etiquette which may fall on the harsher side, but I go to the theatre to appreciate the actors on stage, and to have a good time. The constant grumblings I have about what is honestly a incredibly small group of theatre-goers is making me not want to go to the theatre. I mean I’m obviously not going to stop because I love it, and I’ve been able to turn a little hobby into a bigger thing where I’m invited to see productions as a member of the press. But the awful behaviour of select audience members makes em want to stay away from the more popular productions and other jukebox musicals.

I know I sound like a spoilsport, but it’s one of the few things that I have strong opinions on. And if I can’t write about it on Essential Twenty, where can I vent about it?

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