I know that this might not be original thought since Rob Kozlowski and Kris Vire have already addressed the overproduction of some shows in Chicago, but I feel this need to step in and say, “Enough” about the overproduction of certain shows in Iowa.
To the theaters in Iowa: enough with the productions of “Annie,” “Leaving Iowa,” “The Odd Couple” (BOTH VERSIONS), “High School Musical,” “Dates With a Nut,” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”
With “Annie,” we have a production in Des Moines and a production at Theatre Cedar Rapids that are fairly close to each other. The Old Creamery did “Leaving Iowa” last year and the Waterloo Community Playhouse is doing it this year. I’m almost positive that more theaters in Iowa than just those two have done it recently. The Old Creamery is currently doing a production of “The Odd Couple” and WCP did a production of the female version last year. Oh, and in Chicago, the Raven Theatre is doing a production next year. Personally, I’m going to have “The Odd Couple” fatigue. We have two productions of “High School Musical” within a month of each other at Theatre Cedar Rapids and the Waterloo Community Playhouse. Old Creamery did “Dates With a Nut” in 2006 and 2007 and Iowa Theatre Artists did “Dates With a Nut” in 2008.
I’m not too sure if Marshalltown Community Theatre and Theatre Cedar Rapids doing “The Laramie Project” should be in this grouping as well. And I think no one should do anything relating to “Nunsense” for a while. That includes “Nuncrackers.” We had “Nunsense” at Act I of Benton County last March, “Nuncrackers” at the Old Creamery last December and “Nuncrackers” is being done at Cedar Falls Community Theatre in December.
Personally, I think that some of these are as bad as University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa doing “Three Sisters” at the same time.
Enough with the repetitive production of these shows within the course of a year. My main problem with the multiple productions of “The Odd Couple,” along with my problem with multiple productions of “Macbeth,” is very simple. It’s not like Neil Simon didn’t write any other plays. Look, Iowa City Community Theatre is doing “Chapter Two.” Riverside is presently doing “Richard III.” Why not do “Measure for Measure” or “Jake’s Women,” or one of the “Suite” plays for a change?
I understand that sometimes royalties are expensive, but aren’t there more shows with inexpensive royalties you could do instead of just doing “The Odd Couple” and “High School Musical”?
As much as the production of “Nuncrackers” and the description of “Death by Chocolate” makes me groan, I have to give CFCT some props. “Kiss Me Kate,” “Luv,” “Death by Chocolate” and “Moon Over Buffalo” haven’t been produced recently to the best of my knowledge. Dreamwell did “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen and their production of Mae West’s “The Drag” is being done this weekend. The best knowledge I have of Mae West’s playwriting is a scathing review of “Sex” I read in a book of theater reviews from the New York Times. “Hello, Dolly!” and this weekend’s “The Little Dog Laughed” at Riverside haven’t been done too often. Stage Left Productions is doing Neil LaBute’s “The Mercy Seat.” Theatre Cedar Rapids is doing Tom Stoppard.
I can only really think of two plays that can do multiple productions in one year and not make me kvetch: “The Pillowman” and maybe “The Laramie Project.” I am well aware that a lot of people who go see “The Laramie Project” at MCT probably aren’t going to see it at TCR. And the multiple “Pillowman” productions happened last year and I missed both of them.
Although, my key problem with multiple productions of “The Odd Couple” is simply this: it’s outdated. I think the best point about this was made in Sharon Falduto’s review for the Iowa Theatre Blog where she wrote, “It’s hard to watch Neil Simon’s play, about manly men doing manly things and living together in a manly way, without putting it in the context of a gay marriage.” I definitely remember a crew person on my props crew for WCP’s “The Odd Couple (female version)” pointing out the lesbian overtones in the show. At least, that’s how he felt.
So, please, Iowa theatre companies, and also Chicago theatre companies, please go through the catalogue of plays and musicals and pick a show that someone in the vicinity hasn’t already done.