Updated: Sep 8, 2019
In January at a curtain call of Frozen Caissie Levy pointed to someone in the audience and told them they shouldn’t be doing that. She followed it up with a tweet. What prompted Elsa to do this? It turns out someone in the audience was filming the production and nearly put Caissie off and probably had a big impact on her performace. This is far from an isolated incident. In Puerto Rico Lin-Manuel Miranda changed some lyrics in “My Shot” to tell “the Lady filming in the 4th row, please stop it”. And who can forget Patti LuPone stopping a production of Gypsy when someone was taking flash photography? And this week a number was interrupted in 9 to 5 because of filming.
So what makes people do this and is it a problem?
The defense I’ve heard of this is that theatre is expensive and therefore exclusionary so these recordings are needed for those who can’t see them. Is this valid?
It is certainly true that theatre can be expensive but that means that many people in the audience have worked hard saving to see the productions and certainly do not deserve to have that production ruined from (usually) light from phone screens. It could also impact the performances as the actors can be put off by the lights in the audience. So again people who have paid a lot for tickets would not get to see the best performance.
As for price, there are certainly ways to get cheaper tickets. For all the complaints about the £200 tickets for Mary Poppins (which I do hope comes with a free ride through the auditorium by umbrella as West End Wilma suggested) there are also tickets going for £17.50.
But what if you aren’t in London or New York - what do you do? Most productions tour, so many regional theatres can be supported at the same time as seeing a show. There are also smaller local productions which often produce original theatre with cheap tickets which supports new talent. I am always excited by an overture starting as the lights go down and that is regardless of whether it’s Broadway, the West End or a 50 seat auditorium.
I understand that people want to see big productions and it’s difficult to get seats for several productions such as Hamilton (if you haven’t been able to win the Hamilton lottery – and I honestly think there are better of odds of winning the jackpot on the Euro millions). But as Lin-Manuel Miranda has said far from capturing his work a grainy video and subpar audio “misrepresents” his work and it shows a lack of respect from the writer, performer and all those involved.
But if you really want to see parts of the show outside the theatre there are many worthwhile recordings. There are recordings on morning TV, from West End live, the Royal Variety Performance and more. And I’ve completely obsessed over the recording of “Let It Go” that was on the view - It’s here by the way https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qofj8MKO6mk You’re welcome! Productions are now shown live at cinemas at times, sometimes you can see a whole show recorded and of course there are the soundtracks musicals all put out.
And at the end of the day it’s a product and despite the lack of respect for other audience members and performers and the bad quality recording, it’s stealing. And it’s a view of the show that won’t get close to showing the magic of seeing it live. In order to keep theatre alive the producers need to make a profit, so tickets prices are a reflection of what people are willing to pay but also the production costs including performers wages, crew wages, theatre rent – and it means they can keep finding new shows to present to us.
So please, next time you’re in the theatre just switch you’re phone (and ipad, laptop, smart watch…) and allow yourself and those around you to just enjoy the moment.
Now, where’s that MTV recording of Legally Blonde…