Amalgamation of Life

Not another teen musical(?)

Not another teen musical(?)–

When is it appropriate (or inappropriate) to change a show for an audience or its participants? I’m specifically thinking of when a show has been changed or edited to make it more appropriate for use by teenagers or to be seen by a wider, non-adult audience. Let’s take for instance my time working on Curtains! I have to admit to a lot of personal bias–I love this show, even with the changes.

Let’s go through some of them together:

  • Opportunities where foul language exists was changed
  • A complete rewrite of phrases has been offered to the discretion of the director

and my favorite…

  • Additional casting opportunities for female roles

To me, aside from the additional opportunities for females, it doesn’t matter or bother me when in production. But because it’s not the original production (thanks theater snobs), and the way children uh… exist (?) in today’s world, it can seem unnecessary, semi-anticlimactic and pandering. I don’t blame people for having this point of view, I don’t think they are wrong. But I have to ask: why does it matter to make, what I consider, minor changes if it creates a more inclusive and welcoming atmosphere?

While this show wasn’t performed at my home theater, I tend to think of my home audience when I write these type of posts. What I call our ‘standard’ audience is usually a mixture of long-standing season ticket holders, new-ish members, and production followers. The production followers are an exception to everything I’m about to write, because they are likely to enjoy any type of production (high school, revival, original, etc.). To focus on my season ticket holders and new members, they may not be aware of the changes or the impact of those changes have on the production.

And truly, do those things have an impact on the production? Curtains! might be an exception to the rule because even with edits and paired down moments, it’s still an overly dramatic show with highly suggestive material even for me viewing the teen edition in print. Would I have noticed them as an audience member? Maybe. Would it have bothered me? Not likely. I am likely to have gotten lost in the show (it’s so freakin’ funny, regardless of changes) and, admittedly, I am no expert–I wouldn’t have noticed the differences unless I had a script in front of me and was following along.

Who would do that? And why would any one care? I don’t know, but those people exist. And maybe Curtains! wasn’t a good example–should we look at another show? Specifically one that happened this year at my little black box: Avenue Q School Edition. Let’s go over the main differences between the available versions:

  • Cleaned-up language throughout the show.
    Specifically the song “Internet is For Porn” has been replaced with “Social Life is Online”
  • Complete cuts of songs
    • “My Girl Friend Who Lives In Canada”
    • “Loud As The Hell You Want”
  • Amended scenes focus less on drinking
    Think the Bad Idea Bears on a PG-13 scale
  • Name changes!
    • Lucy T. Slut is now just Lucy
    • Mrs. T. is now Mrs. Butz

Aside from the fact that the people who wrote the original score and script did write the new songs, and agreed to tearing up the less-desirable songs, is there any benefit to the changes? Again, I have to ask myself these questions while considering: is this anti-climatic? Does this pander below an audiences receptiveness/acceptance level? Who are we potentially offending if we did the original score? And does all of that matter?

It does. Pandering is probably the wrong term, but it’s nearest to my intent: you have to match your known audience receptiveness and acceptance level. Are they going to spread maliciousness about your production, or your theater, with one show that is graded above PG-13? A show they can’t take their young children to? You’re limiting yourself and potentially damaging your theaters reputation in the name of maintaining authenticity and original-runs integrity. Not always worth it, if I have to answer the questions myself, personally.

This is a lot to think about, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. ‘Til next time.

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