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National Tour Vs Regional Theatre

National Tour Vs Regional Theatre

BwayLB
#1National Tour Vs Regional Theatre
Posted: 6/2/24 at 1:37pm

In over 15 years that I’ve been attending theatre here in California, I’ve had my fair share of attending some national tours and occasional regional theatre. Just yesterday, I saw Funny Girl in Costa Mesa. And it was my first time seeing a touring production since Anastasia in 2019. But now I would like to ask today which one of the two you prefer?

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ErmengardeStopSniveling
#2National Tour Vs Regional Theatre
Posted: 6/2/24 at 2:00pm

It really depends on the show and the scale of the production and the theatre.

I primarily see New York theatre because that's where I live, but sometimes it's more interesting to see a GOOD regional take on a piece, especially for a small-to-midsized musical or play.

Sometimes there's something freeing in not having the estates/original authors/director watching their every move and exploring in a lower-stakes environment. Sometimes budget limitations necessitate inventiveness. Regional productions can also highlight the strength –– or weakness of a piece of written material. 

  • I'd like to see a production of The Notebook or How to Dance in Ohio or Tootsie or Lempicka at a top regional like the Guthrie or Pasadena or DC Signature, because I though the Broadway productions surrounding those middling pieces of writing were weak and they might benefit from new eyes.
  • A bad regional production of MAME or FUNNY GIRL is going to be interminable.
  • There are shows like CABARET or SWEENEY or LES MIS that can be done dozens of different ways and they still pack a punch. I thought Joe Mantello's production of HERE WE ARE was flat out brilliant, but I'd like to see another good director's take on the material just for comparison. Same with the re-gendered COMPANY.
  • Do I care to see a production of Wicked or Moulin Rouge at a regional theatre that may not have the budget to pull it off effectively? Not particularly. But not every show needs that scale.
Updated On: 6/2/24 at 02:00 PM

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Kad
#3National Tour Vs Regional Theatre
Posted: 6/2/24 at 2:22pm

Ermengarde sums it up pretty well. Tours function primarily to bring Broadway productions to other places. Regional theaters are more interested in creating their own things as well as serving their local audiences, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Top tier regionals rival anything seen in NYC in many cases. 


"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."

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The Distinctive Baritone
#4National Tour Vs Regional Theatre
Posted: 6/2/24 at 3:26pm

It's also important to note that "regional theatre" is on a very broad spectrum of professionalism, from semi-pro organizations such as the storefront theaters of Chicago to the big LORT theaters like The Guthrie. Theatre that is strictly amateur - community and educational theatre - is an entirely different ball of wax.

BwayLB
#5National Tour Vs Regional Theatre
Posted: 6/2/24 at 3:41pm

In terms of regional companies, I’ve seen Musical Theatre West in Long Beach and McCoy Rigby in La Mirada

sppunk
#6National Tour Vs Regional Theatre
Posted: 6/2/24 at 5:40pm

I generally prefer regional over touring - I live near EPAC and Fulton and Open Stage in south central PA and they have great pride in what they do and do uniformly excellent productions. 

I find many touring productions now cut so many costs the focus isn’t on the stage but the bank account. Every theater does this of course, but I feel you get more buy in from local/regional that has good local artists. 
 

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RippedMan
#7National Tour Vs Regional Theatre
Posted: 6/2/24 at 8:17pm

I feel like a tour is less exciting from a staging standpoint as it’s built to move. So I prefer seeing a regional or an out of town tryout. 

bear88
#8National Tour Vs Regional Theatre
Posted: 6/3/24 at 4:50am

They all have pros and cons.

Even though some local theaters have shut down or offer fewer shows, we still are lucky to have plenty of choices in the San Francisco Bay Area. And there are times when those smaller productions (from small companies in tiny theaters) are a real thrill. I have seen terrific productions of Next to NormalNatasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, my very first Sweeney Todd, Assassins, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and, most recently, a fine and creatively directed production of Tick.. Tick... Boom! (still running at the New Conservatory).

There are the larger regional theaters which feature a lot of new shows and things that have appeared off-Broadway in New York along with a few Broadway shows as well as Broadway or off-Broadway tryouts. I'm putting ACT and the Berkeley Rep in this category. A step below. barely, is the San Francisco Playhouse, which puts on some excellent productions and occasionally brings in ringers like Nastascia Diaz (now in the Cabaret revival on Broadway) as a heartbreaking Sally Durant Plummer in a wonderful production of Follies a couple of years ago. (Musical revivals must keep the lights on at San Francisco Playhouse but plays are the bulk of their seasons.)

Those regional productions often are terrific, and I am rarely more pleased than when the director and actors really nail a show, especially when my expectations are tempered (Vietgone at ACT, Cambodian Rock Band at the Berkeley Rep). The Broadway tryouts are different. You know you're going to get high-quality, and at times absolutely stellar performances with top-notch direction and staging. The actual show might not be as good, but it's always interesting to see new work with Broadway stars or people who should be. I've seen a bunch of them in recent years.

We also have been fortunate this season to get impressive productions of A Strange Loop and The Lehman Trilogy (which just opened at ACT and I saw on Saturday night) along with the usual Broadway tryouts (Hippest Trip; Galileo, now running at the Berkeley Rep).

Touring productions are in some ways my least "favorite," if that makes any sense. But they serve an important purpose, as Kad notes, bringing a version of the Broadway show to the country. My first exposure to Show Boat, Carousel and Chicago and countless other shows all came on their national tours. The main San Francisco theaters are too big for many smaller shows and I am usually disappointed in touring shows if I have seen them on Broadway. But if I haven't, they're fine - and often quite a bit better than that. The Fun Home production which reopened the smaller Curran Theatre in 2017 remains one of my favorites, and I recently enjoyed the Funny Girl tour stop in large part because Katerina McCrimmon was terrific as Fanny Brice. Fingers crossed for Company, which I am seeing later this month. I'm not able to go to New York City every year, so it's nice to see a version of what I missed.

A last thought in response to ErmengardeStopSniveling: Whenever a regional company does Here We Are, which I enjoyed a lot at The Shed, I strongly suspect the adaptation (even without changing a word) will be a lot less forgiving of the rich protagonists than Mantello's version. He and David Ives (and Sondheim, for that matter) pulled their punches a bit. 

Phillyguy
#9National Tour Vs Regional Theatre
Posted: 6/3/24 at 8:26am

Living in Philadelphia, generally I prefer regional over touring. 

What I’ve come to realize is that some actors probably prefer to live outside of NYC. I’ve seen the same actors appearing across different regional theaters in Philly that could absolutely be on Broadway but choose to live here. The caliber of acting and overall production is really quite excellent. 

On tours, you often have newer talents who are still getting their footing. But the biggest issue I have with tours is getting sound right. 

I’ve seen terrific tours and having green actors is not the reason I don’t see them. It’s just that I’ve now seen every show on Broadway so I have less desire to see it again on tour. For my favorite shows that are no longer on broadway, such as Les Mis that’s coming back on tour, I will absolutely see it again. 

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James885
#10National Tour Vs Regional Theatre
Posted: 6/3/24 at 11:20am

I live in the LA region, so fortunately have a lot of theatre options.  I think I prefer regional productions vs touring, but I appreciate both. I only get to NYC usually once a year on average so it's nice to be able to see productions of shows that people are buzzing about. I recently saw Fat Ham at the Geffen Playhouse with the original Broadway cast, and am looking forward to seeing A Strange Loop later this week at the Ahmanson - both are shows that I likely would not have been able to see otherwise. At the same time, there are places like Pasadena, La Mirada and South Coast Rep that do great work.


"You drank a charm to kill John Proctor's wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!" - Betty Parris to Abigail Williams in Arthur Miller's The Crucible
Updated On: 6/3/24 at 11:20 AM

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ErmengardeStopSniveling
#11National Tour Vs Regional Theatre
Posted: 6/3/24 at 11:39am

I do think one big problem with regional theatres and rep companies is when there's an over-reliance on local talent –– not just actors, but directors and designers and other artists.

Less of a problem when it's somewhere like Chicago, that has a large talent pool and a theater ecosystem that is probably #2 to New York. But I have friends in DC and Boston (theatre workers and audience members) who complain about seeing the same people again and again, or people who are being hired for projects that they're not quite right for (either because they're a company favorite/friend, or because they're the best-but-still-not-great option).

That doesn't mean they should be bringing in the WHOLE company from New York and stop hiring locally. But a mix of people is healthy, and can help keep the locals on their toes and egos in check.

The downside of course is that outside of Chicago and New York and LA, it's close to impossible to make a living as a stage actor without a side hustle or a spouse with steady income. But these companies have to put audiences first.

Updated On: 6/3/24 at 11:39 AM

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James885
#12National Tour Vs Regional Theatre
Posted: 6/3/24 at 11:55am

ErmengardeStopSniveling said: " But I have friends in DC and Boston (theatre workers and audience members) who complain about seeing the same people again and again, or people who are being hired for projects that they're not quite right for (either because they're a company favorite/friend, or because they're the best-but-still-not-great option)."

I have definitely heard similar thoughts from folks around the local theater scene more than once. However, I've also heard a lot of the opposite: complaints about regional theatre companies casting New York based actors in principal / leading roles instead of looking to highlight and feature local talent. Or complaints when a regional company produces a new original work by a New York based playwright instead of work by local playwrights. 

I guess it really is a tightrope walk and I don't envy the artistic directors who have to make these decisions.


"You drank a charm to kill John Proctor's wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!" - Betty Parris to Abigail Williams in Arthur Miller's The Crucible
Updated On: 6/3/24 at 11:55 AM

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ErmengardeStopSniveling
#13National Tour Vs Regional Theatre
Posted: 6/3/24 at 12:48pm

What we also have to remember is that many of the companies who preach "hiring local" only do that because they don't budget to house people and send staff to New York for auditions, OR they like building a cult of personality where the AD or director is the most prominent figure in a room. If a regional is hoping to get into the Enhancement model to develop new work, they must have the infrastructure to put up artists.

I firmly believe that whoever is the best for the job should be hired, as long as a reasonable housing budget allows. Same goes for playwrights: Whether you live in Sheboygan or Brooklyn, write compelling work, get yourself signed by a reputable agency, and have your plays pitched out just like anyone else.

I'm also a firm believer that overexposure exists and artists having a "home base" can lead to laziness, whether that's John Patrick Shanley at MTC, or <insert name of regional theatre acting staple>, or artistic directors who have it in their contract to direct a show a year.

Spread the wealth. A theatre company is not a charity for artists.


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