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A comment on An Officer and a Gentleman’s departure

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officer_headerSo they are letting it go and not trying to fix it.

Officer closes July 1 and it seems won’t be seen on these shores again. How disappointing, but then I can imagine the show has been losing money so badly over the last few weeks that the idea of closing it, making some of the necessary changes and repairs then re opening would have just been too costly.

Ultimately, I think Frost and his other partners have done the only thing that could be done – close the show. It is a tragedy and I repeat what I said in my earlier column on this, that it is a shame the show was thrown into the spotlight in Sydney with reviewers invited along so early in the process. If ever we see another attempt at an original musical being given this sort of commercial presentation again, please, please start it in Adelaide or Perth and don’t invite reviewers till much later.

This has been a real disaster for cast and crew and everyone working on the show. People re-organise their lives, rent out houses, change their plans and their locations to commit to long running seasons such as this. To suddenly be thrown out of work when they expected to be working until next April is an emotional and personal mess for many people that cannot be easily measured. Nor can it be easily understood by many members of the general public. In the last 24 hours alone, I have heard some hair raising stories of the financial and emotional hardship this closing will bring upon so many in the production.

Of course, the other side of the argument is that this is ‘show business’, and to live in this world, we all know there are huge risks involved. If one chooses to work in this world, one must accept that things like this will happen.

This is probably the biggest flop since High School Musical. (HSM saw actors commit to a long running tour that ended abruptly after only a few weeks.) It is ugly to watch – not to mention sad – but one can’t blame producers who ultimately have to make a decision that will protect investors and producers as best they can under such unfortunate circumstances.

Of course, the other fall out of a flop of this magnitude is that investors may become more wary of re-investing another big musical. Unfortunately, this event could well have far reaching negative effects on every part of the commercial theatre industry and on all producers, not just the ones involved in this production.

At least no one has tried to trot out the hard financial times as the reason for the show’s failure. The show didn’t work, the score and the book were just not ready for this sort of exposure. Whether it ever will be ready is perhaps questionable, and another discussion entirely.

A flop is a flop. No one can really be blamed, but I go back once again to the big “if only” in this.

Sydney and Melbourne are hard cities to open new shows. The level of criticism and expectation is on par with New York and London. There are a lot of cities in America where a show can open, learn and fail without the sort of eagle eye our capital cities fix upon shows. Next time – it might be prudent for producers to try the smaller cities and then maybe plan to close and fix again before Sydney or Melbourne.

Let’s hope all those affected by this show can quickly get their lives together again and even better, get into another show as quickly as possible. Certainly the producers of the upcoming The Addams Family and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang have a much larger and richer group of people to choose from for their upcoming shows.

Good luck guys.

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Les has written 59 articles on AussieTheatre
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