News Column

Philadelphia Daily News Chuck Darrow column

July 25, 2014

By Chuck Darrow, Philadelphia Daily News



July 25--YOU SAY you'd love premium seats for "The Book of Mormon," the Broadway smasheroo musical comedy that Tuesday begins a seven-week run at the Forrest Theater, but you simply can't swing (or justify) paying hundreds of dollars for a perch near the stage? Well, how does $27 sound?

That's right, $27. Total. Heck, that's usually what you fork over for the laughably larcenous "fees" that are usually extorted from live entertainment consumers by ticketing agencies.

And, no, they aren't counterfeit. And, no, you can't have any of what I'm smoking. But you can possibly score a $27 ticket for any scheduled performance.

For a 30-minute period starting 2 1/2 hours prior to curtain, a limited number of seats -- including some on the front row -- will be made available via a random drawing. All that is required is a valid ID (and, of course, the money to pay for either one or two tickets, depending on how many you request).

"Entries," explained John Gilmour, the publicist for the national tour that began two years ago, "go into a hat. It truly is random." He added that the limit is one entry per person per performance. Which means that some particularly lucky fans of the musical from "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone about young Mormon missionaries in Africa may actually cop discount tickets on multiple occasions.

"Some people have tried numerous times and never gotten in, others have been really lucky and gotten in several times," he said. "It really is the luck of the draw."

So, what's the catch? Why would the producers of what is arguably the 21st century's biggest stage hit sell tickets for as much as a 90-percent discount? That seems almost un-American.

"Because," reasoned Gilmour, "sometimes tickets are limited in some markets. This truly gives everyone a chance to see the show. It's something [Stone and Parker] really believed in -- to encourage as many people as possible to see the show.

"The producers . . . wanted to offer these low-priced tickets in every city on the national tour. We've been doing it since the show opened in Denver two years ago, as well as in New York City since the first preview in 2011."

According to Gilmour, the cast members also benefit from the arrangement because they can feel the energy from loyal fans "who waited in line to see the show."

Incidentally, Gilmour suggested that drawing hopefuls need not waste a lot of time waiting to register for the lottery. "They accept entries between 2 1/2 and 2 hours before showtime. I encourage people to show up 2 hours and 5 minutes before the curtain," he confided. "They don't have to wait around for [25 minutes]."

Forrest Theater, 1114 Walnut St., Tuesday through Sept. 14, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, $67-$162, $202-$277 (premium seating), 215-893-1999, kimmelcenter.org.

Durang swings and misses

Early word was that when it comes to his performance as Vanya in his 2013 Tony-winning comedy, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," as an actor Christopher Durang is a great playwright. After attending Wednesday's matinee performance at New Hope'sBucks County Playhouse, I can attest that that is an accurate assessment.

It's not that the 65-year-old Bucks County resident doesn't make an earnest effort. And his frequent stammering actually imbues his character -- an aging, gay Baby Boomer whose life is pretty much restricted to the rustic Bucks home he shares with his adopted sister, Sonia -- an added texture of vulnerability.

But then comes Vanya's second-act rant/soliloquy about the long-gone innocent days of his youth. It was bad enough Wednesday that, twice, he actually had to say, "Line," so that one of the other actors could jog his memory with a key word. But, more egregiously, he delivered the monologue -- the play's emotional anchor -- with all the manic energy and anger of someone sitting for an IRS audit.

But don't take this as a warning to stay away from the show. There are still many pleasures herein, from Durang's witty and smart script to the performance of the ensemble cast led by veteran Hollywood character actor Marilu Henner ("Taxi," "Johnny Dangerously") as the third sibling, Masha, a fading B-movie star who returns to her family's home with a superficial boy-toy years, if not decades, younger than she.

But if you do go, do so knowing you'll likely see Durang experience some difficult and uncomfortable moments.

Bucks County Playhouse, 70 S. Main St., New Hope, through Aug. 10, show times vary, $25-&74.50, 215-862-2121, bcptheatre.org.

___

(c)2014 the Philadelphia Daily News

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Source: Philadelphia Daily News (PA)


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