Wednesday, August 25, 2010

. . . as the curtain rises on Ed's latest folly

I've already gotten two e-mails protesting my giving Louise Kennedy even an inch of ground in the previous post.

But ponder, you Louise-bashers, the case of Ed Siegel (at left) before you go too far with the long knives.

Ed, of course, was Louise's predecessor at the Globe - but since he left, he seems to have really wandered off the reservation. The first major embarrassment came with his "me-so-horny" take on Sleep No More. I tore that one apart here.

You'd think he'd learn from his mistakes, but no; Ed's back with another cringe-worthy essay in the Globe magazine - this one attacking the reborn North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly.

Where to begin? Well, let's start with the North Shore itself. The non-profit theatre famously imploded - as in went bankrupt - a year and a half ago. The huge arena stood silent as a grave for months. Then theatre impresario Bill Hanney single-handedly raised it from the dead as a for-profit venture (coughing up millions in the process), and opened a season (in an amazingly short time) featuring Gypsy, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and A Chorus Line.

But this isn't good enough for Ed - after seeing just one show (a solid Gypsy, btw), he decides it's time for some tough love. Diane Paulus may be dismantling the A.R.T., and Reagle may be firing its best hope for future growth, but no, it's the North Shore - struggling to pull back its subscriber base with a season of two crowd-pleasers and two classics - that he feels deserves a kick in the pants.

Although while Ed tries to deliver a kick in the pants, he instead winds up flat on his face. His solution to the challenge facing the North Shore is - wait for it - to program less popular shows. No, I'm not making that up; that's really what he says. Never mind that the North Shore is a for-profit business now, and so there's no Board to make good any of the debts or obligations attendant on artistic risk. Other people's money is apparently no object to Ed. Indeed, his advice to the North Shore is to import "edgy" shows from non-profit theatres like SpeakEasy Stage up to Beverly. No, wait, it gets better! Ed actually excoriates the North Shore for doing shows (like A Chorus Line) that have toured in Boston, but at the same time wants them to re-mount productions that have played in Boston even more recently.

Right . . .

And what will happen if Bill Hanney doesn't follow his prescription? Well, he just won't go to Beverly, Ed says.

But I have to ask - who cares if Ed Siegel goes to Beverly? And how could he imagine anyone could care?

To be fair, Ed has one solid point to make amid all this drivel - it would be great to see more local stars like Leigh Barrett, Timothy John Smith, and Mary Callanan up on the North Shore stage. In the past, it's been obvious the North Shore's focus on dance (choreography helps fill that giant space) left many locals, who are great performers but not accomplished hoofers, out in the cold. It would be wonderful if that changed.

But complaining about a risky business venture that - even if it's showcasing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (a fun show, actually) - is still doing the local area a great service isn't just mean-spirited; it's actually nuts. The Globe owes Bill Hanney an apology, and Ed needs to vanish back into the ether over at WBUR.