20 June 2010


I will openly admit to having both pet peeves and personally preferred guidelines about theater. Some of the guidelines are, I believe, fairly universal among theatergoers (do not speak to anyone in your party, even at a whisper, except during scene-change applause; no flash photography; no late seating except at scene changes - and please be quick and quiet about it; and, of course, I join Hugh Jackman and all of Broadway in asking that you please turn off your cell phones). Standard requests generally made by theaters themselves and, thankfully, often observed by all.

My pet peeves are not quite so standard. Perhaps the biggest one is, by friends' consideration, decidedly odd, but I am rather passionate about it: I cannot stand adults playing children. This simple fact almost ruined my experience of Little Women, which, with the inimitable Sutton Foster as Jo, should have been a slam dunk for me. (For the record, the entire show, save for the casting of an adult as Amy, was a lovely production.) There is something about the often cloying way in which fully grown and mature people attempt to de-age at least 20 years and ask us to believe their faux naïveté and innocent charm that feels so absurd I simply cannot buy it, and I resent the production for asking that I do so. I believe it first hit when, barely a teenager, I was turned off of an otherwise excellent touring production of Urinetown by one "Little Sally."

I believe that even the most talented of actors cannot pull off this particular type of part. Case in point: I love absolutely everything that the amazing Kristin Chenoweth does, but this year when an e-mail from the Tony Awards invited me to remember (though it was my first time seeing it) her 1999 Tony-winning performance in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, I found that even she did not prove to be an acceptable exception to my no-adults-as-children rule. She fits every possible requirement, from her height to her high voice to her irresistible zest, yet ... it just doesn't work for me.

It is this concern that currently holds me back from seeing a local production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which I avoided for this very reason when it was on Broadway. I have a longtime love of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, so this show should otherwise be right up my alley. If I am able to make an exception and check it out, I will definitely share my thoughts here. In the meantime, I say to playwrights and casting directors everywhere: If a child's part is too large for an actual child to handle it, please reconsider.

KidultsThe inspiration and title for this post came from Amazon.com's assertion that I would surely like Mandy Patinkin's 2001 release Kidults, where as far as I can tell, Mandy sings children's theater standards ("If I Only Had a Brain," "Singin' in the Bathtub"). Nice try, Amazon.com. Yes, I have great respect for Mr. Patinkin, but this venture swims too close to the "no adults as children" situation. 

In other news, Mandy Patinkin appears in what is one of my favorite Glee quotes ever: "Are you saying that your fathers impregnated Patti LuPone in the Marriott in Akron? Was Mandy Patinkin in on this?" Thank you, Ryan Murphy.