Sometimes I marvel at the human capacity for self-delusion. In a recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, storied theater director Harold Prince spoke about his recent production of Paradise Found at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London. And some of Prince's comments really got me scratching my head. Most of them in fact.
As you may know, Paradise Found was by all accounts an unmitigated disaster. Granted I didn't see it, but we're not talking mixed reviews here, but outright hostile pans. The fabulous West End Whingers were unrestrained in their disdain. "We're still a wee bit shell-shocked, to be honest..." The delightful SarahB at Adventures in the Endless Pursuit of Entertainment wondered at the end whether it was just an "elaborate joke."
Well, according to Prince, the problems with the production stemmed from the fact that the theater and the cast were too small:
The material is great. But it should be big...Now I have to do it somewhere where there's a large chorus. We had wonderful actors...but everyone was doubling and tripling...That's not what the material demands...I'm meeting with the authors the week after next, and we’re going to aim for it.
Again, I didn't see the show, but none of the reviews that I read said that the venue or the cast size were at fault. No, most of them seemed to focus on the material itself, which one reviewer called "[A] pastiche Arabian Nights fable of unbelievable coarseness and vulgarity."
I know that some creators refuse to read reviews, but I can't imagine that Prince was completely insulated from the critical drubbing that Paradise Found received. But I was simply floored by his contention that the show just needed to be bigger. No, Hal. Great shows work in small paces and with small casts. John Doyle's recent productions of your Sweeney Todd and Company certainly come to mind. The idea that all you really need to do is throw some more money at Paradise Found for the project to work is ludicrous.
Of course, this is probably an academic discussion, because Prince is highly unlikely to find investors clueless enough to open their purse strings for a full-scale production of Paradise Found. Yes, this is the man who made millions on Phantom of the Opera. But he's also the man who gave us Lovemusik. And Roza. And Grind. And A Doll's Life. And Bounce.
You get the point.