Live-Streaming Broadway Musicals: Will She Loves Me Start a Trend?
Like almost every other musical theatre fan, I was glued to my computer screen watching the live-stream of the Broadway production of She Loves Me this past Thursday night. The idea of live-streaming a Broadway musical carries a most delicious excitement for those who can’t get enough Broadway and who will take the next-best thing, especially at the manageable cost that one seldom gets with the price of a Broadway ticket. The question is, can a live-stream of a Broadway musical be an effective alternative to making the trip to the Big Apple and will this become a trend?
For anyone who watched the live-stream, but did not see She Loves Me in the theatre; you saw a pale imitation of the elegant and charming production that sings and shines each night at Studio 54. In the live-stream, there is something missing. The energy doesn’t surround you, nor does the experience of theatre truly come to life when a screen separates the audience from the performers. Though we can see through this barrier, it turns out to be a much less transparent barrier than one hoped. There is a detachment that cannot be denied.
This is not to say that the live-stream presentation was not entertaining. A few gaffes and stumbles to be sure, but the performers were their talented and captivating selves and, overall, it was an accurate, 2-D simulation of the three-dimensional experience that can be had for eight-times the cost. We have to ask ourselves, “Is it worth spending more money to experience the show in the theatre, or are we going to embrace the simulation as the future of our theatergoing?
Having spent decades watching musicals recorded live for programs like American Playhouse, and Live from Lincoln Center, we understand it’s not exactly like She Loves Me is treading that different of a territory. Sure, where a program is prerecorded, there is an opportunity for multiple takes and editing, but we have have essentially had this experience before. Viewing a musical over technology is no replacement for seeing one live. The energy that manifests when performers and audiences collide in one one room can only happen in a live experience.
This does not mean that we are not grateful to have an opportunity to see a Broadway show that we may not have the money to see live in NYC. It’s a cheap but understandable substitute. Add to this that She Loves Me is not as well-known as it should be outside of the circles of musical theatre buffs, and it is amazing and important that we now have a production that can be seen and revisited by the multitudes. Since the production is getting ready to close on Broadway, it isn’t going to hurt ticket sales to have this live-stream experience. I would hate to see this become a trend that becomes an alterative to live theatre, that potential audiences decide not to buy tickets because they prefer to wait for a streaming experience that is cheaper. Right now, that isn’t an issue, but if this catches on, it certainly could be.