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Are Boston Theater Audiences Getting Ripped Off?

Look around the theaters of Broadway the next time and count how many shows playing actually originated on Broadway. Maybe there will be several, maybe just a few, depending on the night that you go. Shows come from areas like London and Toronto, and Boston. In fact, this latter is one of the biggest areas to ship their shows to Broadway, and that’s caused quite a stir in the theater world recently.

Currently there are many shows playing in New York, but recruited from Boston, including “Stick Fly,” “Porgy and Bess,” and “Once,” (the only one of the handful not actually playing on Broadway but in New York.) While this would usually be good news for the arts and the actors in the show as they bring culture to the nation, there are some who feel Boston audiences are the ones suffering from it.

First there’s the matter of Boston audiences being used as guinea pigs, with only the best shows going to New York. That was the case for “Stick Fly,” as the director said, “What ultimately got the play to New York was that folks came to see it in Boston, in a sold-out theater.”

Then there’s the matter that some shows are actually changed during the transition of those many miles from Boston to Broadway. And that’s a fact that now has Boston audiences really up in arms. This happened most recently with the play, “Sons of the Prophet.” It was shown to a Boston audience first last spring, and has just wrapped up on Broadway. But once the Boston showing was over, writer Stephen Karam went back and rewrote the play, dropping an entire storyline from the play and the characters along with it.

Karam has said that he never went into it “thinking it was a half-finished play,” and that he “wishes [he] had seen those things sooner,” but that doesn’t change the fact that two audiences are seeing two different plays. And the first can’t help but feel a little ripped off.

But is it really all that bad? The understanding with Boston shows traditionally, was that they were shows originally aiming for Broadway. Now though, as theater-goers develop more intense loyalties to their own local theaters, this seems to be a hot topic among today’s theaters.

Is it so bad for plays to shoot for the Great White Way?

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