First, Noel

Coward-ly lines give Hay Fever a shpritz of springtime lunacy; Hairspray holds firm at Fair Park

Adapted from the subversive "hair hopper" movie by John Waters, Hairspray now is a watered-down pageant of go-go boots and Pucci prints bopping along on forgettably pleasant songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and jokey dialogue by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan. "I'm like a half-filled book of Green Stamps," Edna moans. "Beyond redemption."

You said it, sister. Waters' real joke is on us for buying into this dippity-doo-doo as great musical theater. His movie, full of ugly people and garish images that sent up middle-class values, has been fried, dyed and shoved to the side for Hairspray the family-friendly Broadway confection. Cash those checks, John, and have a good laugh.

Would you pay to watch actors flub lines and sneak out for smoke breaks? At Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, the Lower Greenville venue owned by actress Sue Loncar and lawyer-husband Brian (the "strong arm" from TV ads), new general manager Tom Sime is considering charging admission to rehearsals and production meetings. Sime, until a few weeks ago a Dallas Morning News theater critic, floated the idea of "Reality Theater" via e-mail to area directors, saying he hopes to "cultivate relationships with our patrons and foster a sense of what some call ownership."
David Wilson-Brown, Elly Lindsay and Jennifer Knight provoke lots of good laughs in Hay Fever, Theatre Britain's best production to date.
David Wilson-Brown, Elly Lindsay and Jennifer Knight provoke lots of good laughs in Hay Fever, Theatre Britain's best production to date.


continues through April 3 at Trinity River Arts Center.

Call 972-490-4202.

WaterTower Theatre already offers top-level subscribers access to an early rehearsal. "But there's not much interest in it," says James Lemons, WTT communications director and frequent play director (he's currently staging Enchanted April). "The rehearsal process is a fragile thing. You have to let actors mess up. Putting them on display could be a problem."

Actor Coy Covington chimes in: "What you see in rehearsal may not be what eventually ends up on stage. And while this might be interesting for audience members/subscribers--I personally can't imagine it would be--for the creative team it would be distracting and potentially inhibiting."

It's theater as petting zoo, actors as baby goats to be ogled and giggled at. Except, says Sime in his dispatch to directors, visitors would "be instructed to be absolutely quiet and would be restricted to the balcony...[They] would quickly realize how dull rehearsals can be, and probably wouldn't stay that long." So you pay to get in, but it's boring, unpolished and you have to be quiet. A lot of theater is like that anyway.

Reality Theater strikes me as an oxymoron. According to the old Uncertainty Principle, the act of observing alters the reality of the thing observed. At some point, actors being actors, they'd start hamming it up for reactions from the peanut gallery. Life may be a cabaret, old chum, but leave the baby goats alone until opening night.

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