But not for the reasons that you might think. Or at least not entirely.
See, I don’t like musicals. During the seven or eight years I lived in New York, I probably saw four or five Broadway shows. Thoroughly Modern Millie (first wedding anniversary), The Man of La Mancha (brother-in-law was in town, he wanted to see it), Hairspray (rush tickets with my wife and another couple), Movin’ Out (more on that later). Oh, and In the Heights, because my sister’s firm took summer associates there and they had a couple extra tickets.
Of the shows we saw, Movin’ Out was probably my and my wife’s favorite. Movin’ Out was a musical featuring the music of Billy Joel (played by a rock band on a stage above the stage) and the choreography of Twyla Tharp (performed initially by the leads of several New York-based ballet and modern dance companies).
After seeing it, I started looking at the reviews in Time Out New York. (Note that the Time Out series of magazines have a bunch of separate review sections. Among other things, they have a section for food, for dance, for theater, for movies, for music, and for comedy.) The theater reviewers hated, hated, hated Movin’ Out. Their review was, essentially, Don’t see this show.
The dance reviewers, on the other hand, loved it. It was a starred review in the Dance section.
Which brings me to the idea of priors: our perception of things depends, in large part, on what we bring in with us. Why did the theater reviewers hate the show? My guess is because it wasn’t a very good Broadway musical. There was a guy above the stage who sang all of the songs. The show had a story line, but the dancers communicated it through their movement. If I remember correctly, in total, the people on stage said one line. There was no banter, no singing voice other than the pianist/singer’s, the sets and the action were impressionistic. It’s what you would get if you saw a modern dance piece set to a dozen and a half Billy Joel songs.
But the dancing and the choreography: they were spectacular. Twyla Tharp is an incredible choreographer, and the people on stage were some of the best dancers in New York, home of some of the best dancers in the world.
Remember how I said I don’t really like musicals? That’s probably part of the reason we liked Movin’ Out so much. I valued the music and my wife the dance. And the show didn’t do any of the things that musicals do that annoy us. But those same qualities are likely what annoyed the theater critics so much.
Ultimately, the reason I probably won’t go see The Book of Mormon is because all of the reviews rave about how, other than the profanity and the obscenity, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Robert Lopez have made a quintessentially Broadway musical. And, thanks to my priors, that’s really not what I want to see.