Evolving Show Content Presents New Challenges

CATEGORY: Starlight

On occasion, Rich Baker, Starlight president and CEO, likes to provide information and insights on topics related to our Broadway season, venue, industry trends and more. This issue’s topic addresses content advisories for Broadway shows.

This seems like a good time to talk to Starlight patrons about show content, especially in light of some survey comments we received after Annie (specifically related to the use of the words “damn” and “hell”) and Pippin (the sexual innuendo and suggestive dance moves) last summer.

When I joined this organization nearly two years ago, I was very aware of Starlight’s longstanding stature as a family friendly venue. I am also very aware, however, of the challenges in finding Broadway-quality shows without adult language or situations in today’s booking environment. This is due in part to our changing values as a society but also to Broadway producers’ desire to tailor their offerings to a more diverse and expanded audience.

I remember when A Chorus Line debuted in the mid-‘70s with a song (“Dance Ten, Looks Three”) about enhancing certain body parts and another song (“Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love”) about the awakening of young love during puberty. Both were considered scandalous by the standards of the day. Now, they would be viewed as fairly tame among today’s theatrical offerings.

Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is a matter of personal opinion, but what can’t be denied is we are a more permissive society than even a few short years ago. And, as many of you know, the arts are often on the forefront of pushing such boundaries.

It also seems Broadway producers are much more liberal in their use of salty language and adult situations than they used to be. Some of this is in an effort to be true to the authenticity of the material.  For example, if in Jersey Boys the street-smart musicians said “Gosh” and “Golly” rather than the tougher four-letter words they utter throughout the show, it would seem almost comical. Sometimes. however, language and adult scenes are used mainly for shock value and may not be necessary to the integrity of the show. Unfortunately, while we wish some such material would be “tamed down” for national tours, the original creative team has to agree to do so, which rarely happens.  In fact, they often feel that by making their show a bit “racy,” they’ll attract a younger audience, thereby “future proofing” the Broadway brand. To me and others, this seems a high price to pay if they alienate their existing core audience at the same time.

So, how do you as a patron know what to attend (or bring your son or daughter to) at Starlight? This is where we hope to be of service to you.

We will continue to work hard to book the best of Broadway at Starlight each summer, knowing some shows are more family friendly than others. Although we can’t censor the shows that play here, we can better educate our audiences about what to expect. Rather than state an appropriate age a show is suitable for, which quite frankly is difficult since children don’t mature at the same pace and some are worldlier than others, we have posted on our website a content advisory for each Broadway musical we schedule. When you click the Advisory tab on each show page, you’ll find details on specific content (adult language, sexual situations, etc.) that audiences may find objectionable. With this information, you can decide whether or not it’s a show you’d like to attend.

If you have questions after reviewing the advisories, I encourage you to call a Starlight ticket services representative at 816.363.STAR (7827).

I know the relationship between Starlight and our audiences is based on a history of trust, and we truly want to help you make informed decisions. Believe me, the last thing I want is to have you sit through a show at Starlight that makes you or your family uncomfortable. Conversely, I hope you understand we try hard to bring Starlight audiences the best touring shows each season and, nowadays, that often means those shows come with some content that might not be acceptable to all of our guests. We hope our efforts to educate Starlight consumers will allow us all to find a happy medium.