- The Stage - https://www.thestage.co.uk -

Dear West End Producer: ‘How should you respond to a colleague who said Fun Home left him cold?’

West End Producer

First, check if they have a pulse. It can be very monotonous working in The Stage’s cold office near London Bridge, so perhaps your colleague actually stopped being alive a few years ago. This is one possibility. Many people who work in offices sit in the same position, wearing the same shirt, eating the same ham sandwich and moaning about the same things for decades. So I suggest you gently pinch, tickle or slap the person in question to see if they respond.

Presuming they pass the ‘alive test’, you should sit them down and ask when they last cried. Can they recall how they felt after losing a pet? Leaving a partner? Watching Beaches? Did any of these events cause a tear duct to well up and a drying of the throat to occur? No? Then maybe they’re simply the kind of person who doesn’t cry at anything (in which case I suggest taking them to Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again – that’s enough to make anyone cry).

Perhaps he doesn’t like musicals – many people I know hate them. They find the thought of actors singing on stage positively vomit-inducing. “It’s not real – people don’t suddenly burst into song!” they exclaim. “It’s too smiley. Life isn’t smiley. Life is Brexit and Donald Trump. I hate all those jazz hands. I’ll take Shakespeare over Sondheim any day.”

These people go to a musical with the intention of hating it, literally willing it to be as dull as a show about Moby and his Dick. It’s no wonder they said Fun Home left them cold – I imagine they even felt cold after Judi Dench’s rendition of Send in the Clowns.

However, I suppose theatre and art are subjective. What one person loves another hates. Just like Marmite. Maybe it was the new songs, the brilliant score, the wonderful performances, or that the show was the most emotionally honest musical I’ve ever experienced that put them off. But when shows come with such stellar reviews there is often an unrealistic expectation put on them. Who knows?

There’s also the possibility that your colleague had a bad view with Brian May sitting in front of him, so didn’t have the same theatrical experience as you. Or maybe he’d had a particularly bad day. I know it can be very tiring, stressful and depressing working for The Stage, so in that respect I have nothing but sympathy.

I’d advise you to take your colleague for a drink. Find out what it was about the show that left him cold. Listen intently, smile at his answers, and then gift him a copy of the soundtrack. Tell him to take it home, open a bottle of wine and listen to all the songs again. And if he still doesn’t warm to it, there’s nothing you can do but take him to shows that have flying cars, a helicopter, a revolve or a leading character who is green, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer [2]