Monday, July 12, 2010

North Shore Music Theatre

I'm apparently supposed to be thrilled and ecstatic that the North Shore Music Theatre has re-opened its doors.

And I'm trying REALLY hard to care. I really am.

But I just don't.

First of all, it's in BEVERLY.

Secondly, I don't really like the dusty old chestnuts that they produce again and again (they've opened their new season with "Gypsy"...)

I enjoy new work, but NSMT will not be producing ANY, according to a recent Globe article.

So, I probably won't be going there to see anything.

Frankly, it just doesn't sound very interesting. And why should I trek all the way to Beverly to see a cheese-ball musical from 1945, when there are excellent ones being produced here in Boston?

And if I really wanted to see a corny New York-style musical, I could also just plan a trip to New York. It's not that far. Just ask the actors that NSMT hires.

Which brings me to my next concern: when a new theatre opens, or even when an old theatre RE-opens, it's usually good news for the local actors and designers and directors; for the artistic community of that area.

But it's not really such great news for any of us.

North Shore has, traditionally, not hired ANY theatre artists from the Boston area, as far as I know.

Many, many years ago, they used to do scaled-down Shakespeare every now and then, primarily for high school students, with Boston actors: I remember my friend Bill in their production of "MacBeth" and Neil Casey as a bowler-hat sporting Horatio, Natalie Brown as an alcoholic Gertrude and Bob Saoud and Mark Carver as a romantically involved R&G in "Hamlet".

But that was a LONG time ago.

(Note: I just went to the NSMT web-site, and these Shakespeare productions aren't even listed as part of their past seasons. So apparently I dreamed even this all up...)

Even their "Christmas Carol", which used to employ a handful of local actors, was cancelled, to make way for "High School Musical VII" or something like that.


Now, I know, I'm being a crank. It's a MUSIC theatre, after all, what should I expect?

Well, I guess I would expect a theatre in my community to actually ENGAGE its community and support local theatre artists, even in a small way. You can't tell me that Kathy St. George isn't good enough to perform there. Or Leigh Barrett. Or any number of excellent musical theatre performers that chose to live here in Boston.

Why should I attend a theatre that has no dialogue with the place where I live, that only hires artists from out of town, that doesn't even ATTEMPT to do those things?

I even recall Jon Kimball, the former grand pooh-bah of NSMT, addressing that issue in an interview a while back. I remember him saying that NSMT had an un-written policy of only hiring New York performers because New York was the capitol of musical theatre in the country, so if you didn't live there, you weren't really a serious artist or a professional.

Personally, I think that's one reason why NSMT failed in the first place.

It's why I didn't notice when they closed, and why I don't care so much that they've re-opened.

They alienated the artists living in their community, and totally trashed them.

Why should I support that?

Perhaps this will all change, with their re-opening.

But I somehow doubt it.

So, Hooray.

North Shore Music Theatre has re-opened.

And I should care because...?


  1. Not commenting on NSMT at all let's correct a couple of things. First GYPSY premiered in 1959, not 1945, Gypsy Rose Lee's memoirs on which the musical is based weren't published until 1957

    Secondly while GYPSY may indeed be 51 years old, it is hardly one of the "cheezy" musicals, when played right it's quite dramatic and has one of the best books of a musical ever written.

    It is widely considered amongst the top theatre critics as the Greatest Musical of All-Time.

    Now commenting on their show selection. The theatre is a MUSIC theatre as you stated and when a theatre re-opens especially as a for-profit they must start out by generating money through ticket sales, thus they must pick shows that have a track record for selling tickets, which they have done.

    Also it was stated that they are not going to produce new works....for now, but they have stated they DO want to get back to producing those kind of shows.

    If NSMT is holding their auditions in NY and a Boston Area actor really wants to be considered, they should go to NY and audition.

  2. Well hi there.

    Thanks for your comments.

    It seems you are a die-hard "Gypsy" fan, thank you for the history.

    Just to clarify, when I said "some musical from 1945" I wasn't necessarily referring to "Gypsy", but to any number of musicals NSMT might produce (some of which, I would imagine, would be from that era, at some point).

    I have no problem with Gypsy, I'm not a critic (nor would I ever pretend to be one). I have just seen it a million times, (it IS 50 years old!) and I don't really need to see it again. Unless they did something REALLY weird to it. Like set it on Mars, or something. But that's just me.

    What I was getting to here is that I don't really CARE that NSMT has re-opened, which is a shame, because I should and want to care.

    Part of the reason is their programming, which is really just a matter of taste. I just don't like old musicals that are done as if we are museum pieces (again, to me), and I would probably not go to a theatre that does ONLY that.

    I'm sure I am wrong to think that. But that's really how I feel.

    If they start doing new work again, or plays, great. I look forward to that. But that doesn't seem likely. As you said, they need to produce shows with a "proven track record" in order to make money. They need to sell tix to as many people as possible. OK. That's fine. They just won't be selling one to me.

    But the real problem here, from my perspective as an actor, is that I have a real problem when I feel that a theatre excludes the local theatre community. And NSMT, unfortunately, has a history of doing that. It seems elitist and wrong to suggest that NO professional actors live in the area and that only serious actors live in NYC. It's unfair. I shouldn't have to travel to NYC to audition for a show in Beverly. That's just foolish and cost prohibitive. It's like I'm being punished for not living in NYC. I don't WANT to live in NYC. My family, my roots, my history are here (ironically, where the theatre is...) Whether you can act (or, in this case, sing) should not depend on your zip code.

    Perhaps they have local auditions, I really have no idea. Maybe Equity requires such a thing. But if they do, they ultimately do not hire local actors. And I refuse to believe it's because they all suck.

    I really have no stake here: I would not be hired as an actor at NSMT anyway, as I'm not a singer. And the work they do doesn't really interest me, so I wouldn't audition even if I DID sing.

    But again, this is my opinion. I have no power over anything. This is just a blog.

    But really, if NSMT is concerned about making a profit (as their programming suggests) I would suggest that they seriously consider hiring local actors: we are CHEAPER. We don't need housing or transportation, like an out-of-town actor would need.

    But thanks so much for your comments, I really appreciate it that you took the time to read this!


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