Pages from Michael Butler's Journal
STARS IN NEW THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS
I am not in favour of using "stars" in new theatrical productions for several reasons:
- A new show should stand on its own merits as a play. The book, lyrics and music should not depend on a "name" to bring the audience into the theatre. That does not mean actors without talent. In fact you want the best talent you can find. Give the new work a chance to stand on its own merits.
- A star costs money--usually a lot of money. This fact creates a necessity to have the production structured to afford the additional cost, either a larger venue or a higher ticket price. Thus the show becomes driven by the star, not by the play itself.
After a play has been a success and you want to bring it back, tour it to non-theatrical venues, or perhaps go into very large halls, then by all means study the economics of having a star to assist in the sales. At that time in the history of the piece, the play may have reached such stature that it would attract and support a super talent to bring it to greater theatrical heights.
The other exception is the star vehicle--that is when a theatrical production is designed as a showcase for a star performer.
HAIR and LENNY are two examples of shows which made stars (Keith Carradine, Peter Gallagher, Cliff Gorman, Paul Jabara, Diane Keaton, Melba Moore Ben Vereen, et al.). Those plays were not made by stars but by talent, frequently found literally 'off-the-streets'.
POPE JOAN is sensational vehicle for six actors and an ensemble. In particular it has the role of a lifetime for a woman. Now we are addressing the one thing a play should be--a Star Maker.
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