*Note: This post is not meant in any way to discredit the talent of the cast or production teams behind the productions of “Annie” being produced on Long Island this month. Nor am I advocating for audiences to see any particular productions other than “Annie.”
A certain little optimistic ginger has taken over Long Island – or at least the theatre scene.
Three Long Island mainstage theaters – to my knowledge – are producing the story of the debateably sickeningly sweet orphan.
As a Long Island performer and critic I have to wonder – why? Why would three (or more, if you count touring companies and Annie Jr. productions) theaters choose the same show to play at the same time?
Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy “Annie.” It’s entertaining for the most part (usually the scenes that don’t include the titular redhead) and it has one of the best villain songs in musical theatre (no one can top Alan Cumming and Kristen Chenoweth’s “Easy Street” in the 1999 Disney TV movie adaptation, fight me.)
But from a business and artistic perspective the oversaturation of this musical on Long Island this holiday season is pretty puzzling.
You would think theaters would want to offer patrons a variety of options.
For example, let’s say I’m Ralph and Shirley Mudge from Lindenhurst. We’re not subscribers to any particular theater, but we’re looking for a couple of shows to see over the next month. We check the local listings: “Annie” in Oakdale, “Annie” in Syosset,” “Annie” in Merrick.
We’ve been to all three theaters and they each have something different to offer. So how do we choose? Maybe it depends on where we want to have dinner beforehand. Maybe it depends on if we know of a particular actor in the show. But we know one thing – we’re not likely to see three productions of the same show.
But let’s say the same three theaters produced three different productions, disregarding the fact that other theaters may be doing any of the following musicals as well. One does Annie – okay, fine. Another does “Holiday Inn” – Shirley’s favorite holiday film. And the other one does “White Christmas” – Ralph’s top pick for holiday films. Now they’re more likely to see all three.
I don’t pretend to be a business expert – I’m pretty awful at math and spreadsheets confuse me – but it just seems like it makes more sense to offer a variety.
And that brings me to my second point – artistic variety. I am a big advocate for theaters pushing boundaries and offering audiences a chance to see shows that challenge them to step outside their comfort zone. But I’m not ignorant. I know theaters need to sell tickets to stay afloat. However, I wish more theaters would consider tossing in a non-mainstream show into their season. Maybe the holidays aren’t the time to do that. There are maybe 10 musicals at most that are specifically holiday oriented shows so I understand why a theater would go with a safe bet like “Annie.” In one case, subscribers for one theater voted for it to be the theater’s holiday musical.
Still, I continue to wonder – do we really need three or more productions of “Annie”? Even if they were all Broadway caliber, I know I don’t have time or the desire to see all three and I’m not alone on that stance.
I wish everyone involved with these productions the best of luck and I hope the theaters all do well financially, but I continue to ponder if three productions of the same musical will bring something special to patrons this holiday season.
But hey, at least there isn’t a stage adaptation of the 2014 movie…
No one let Cameron Diaz sing again. Ever. Seriously.