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Stop listening to other people! (Other than me!)
Posted by: portenopete 12:35 pm EST 01/06/19
In reply to: THE FERRYMAN: What am I missing? - Teacher64 08:11 am EST 01/06/19

What you're missing is the experience of seeing the play through your own eyes rather than through the lenses of critics and advertisers.

One of the biggest challenges of being a regular and media-obsessed theatregoer is to tamp down one's expectations when going to see things that are buzz worthy. I saw The Ferryman in London after it had transferred to the Gielgud and changed casts twice. I hadn't read any reviews but I was aware from the ads that the reviews had been adulatory and that everyone I knew who'd seen it was impressed and felt it was a worthy follow-up to Jerusalem (avoiding the inconvenient fact of The River).

The only disappointment I had was missing Paddy Considine. His replacement- or rather his replacement's replacement- was very good and blended into the ensemble but didn't dominate the piece the way I suspect Considine does. (It was only the third or fourth performance of this iteration of the cast, so his work may have deepened and embiggened.)

But I didn't know the story or the time period or the huge number of characters or the fact that there was a goose and so these things were all revelations.

And to complain about a character "telling a story" in the middle of a scene? Well, the device goes back a long way and in the hands of the actresses I saw, the stories were spellbindingly told and I was riveted to my seat and deeply moved to both laughter and tears. (Did no old relatives ever tell you a story when you were a kid?)

As to Hamilton....

I saw it in its first months at The Public. Foolishly I had refrained from pressing "Buy" when the tickets first went on sale because $125 seemed like a steep price for an Off-Broadway show, no matter how much I had liked In the Heights. But within the first lines of Brantley's review- about all I had planned to read regardless of its verdict- I threw my paper down and went on line and of course there was nothing left. But a few weeks later I waited for five hours for a return and was even gifted with a Cadbury's Easter Creme Egg- it was Easter Sunday- for my pains. (The Easter Bunny in question was Lin-Manuel Miranda hisself: when he came into the lobby and saw the crowd waiting he popped across to Walgreens and came back with gifts for us.)

I had heard not a note of the score and was amazed how this insanely intricate work was still accessible on a first hearing to a middle-aged white guy with no particular love of rap or hip-hop. Before the end of the opening number I was in tears, both for the story itself but equally for the craft of the composition.

I know not everyone can see things the second they open- and for the record I am neither rich nor a New Yorker so it's not like I just had to walk around the corner- but if you are the sort of person who is constantly disappointed by things that others go apes**t over, then I'd consider trying to catch the earliest performances before the hype men and women start pumping up the publicity.

I remember having dinner with a friend who'd seen a preview of The Book of Mormon and having to literally put my fingers in my ears and go "La la la la" while he insisted in talking about a particularly funny scene to someone. I'm glad I did because, similarly, I have never laughed so hard at a show and I have heard so many people complain after years of waiting and viewing clips on YouTube and elsewhere that it wasn't all that. (Stone & Parker were brilliant in not releasing any footage of the piece for months after opening: they really whet people's appetites.)
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