On Tuesday, my dad and I were settling in to our seats in the orchestra section of the Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental Theatre, Playbills in hand, waiting for the performance of “Spring Awakening” to start. It was shortly after seven and we had arrived there very early because we didn’t think that it would only take five minutes to walk from the hotel to the theater. (Although, I happen to walk very fast.)
As people were filing in to their seats in the theater, a man that was wearing a Broadway in Chicago tag carrying a large, green insulated rectangular box started walking up the aisle, yelling about the bottled water, Twizzlers and Rasinettes he was selling as though he was selling hot dogs and beer at Wrigley Field. Perplexed, I pulled out my Blackberry, turned it back on (I turn off my Blackberry before I enter the theater, natch) and twittered about it. I then promptly turned off my Blackberry after I had finished the tweeting.
What was confusing about this was that this was occurring at a Broadway in Chicago theater. If you were sitting in the orchestra section, you probably paid $90-$95 for your ticket. Any of the community theaters I’ve seen plays at don’t do this and neither do any of the storefront theaters that I’ve seen shows at. (I’m, of course, using these examples because some people view these as being lesser than Broadway and Broadway in Chicago.)
It would seem to me that this practice almost encourages people to play with their candy wrappers during a show–which, thankfully, didn’t occur at the performance of “Spring Awakening” I was at. If you sell concessions in the theater as well as in the lobby, aren’t you encouraging people to bring buckets of chicken in to a theater. (Which reminds me, how do you sneak a bucket of fried chicken in to a theater? Are ushers really that passive now?)
A Broadway tour or a Broadway show is, to many people, a big fancy show you get dressed up to go see. Although, many people don’t dress up to go to touring shows or Broadway productions and I was actually thanked by an usher at the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway for dressing nicely when I saw “Wicked.”
I have no problems with selling bottles of water, or even popcorn out in the lobby. For one, bottled water is very nice for those of us who have dry throats or bad coughs. And on that note, a bottle of water is not as noisy as a cough drop wrapper. But when you sell any sort of concession in the theater, you really begin to demean theater and drop it down to the level of a, well, baseball game. (No offense to baseball, I myself happen to enjoy watching baseball games.)
And, besides, it’s not like Broadway in Chicago is struggling to bring in money.