Last night was a history-making night on Broadway. Not only did Spider-Man, the most expensive Broadway musical ever, begin previews, but also Broadway fans embraced twittering during a show on a massive scale. While there of course have been previous occasions where there was twittering/texting/posting mid-show, never before have so many people broken theater etiquette in such a manner. I hope it never happens again.
I am honestly glad people are excited about Spider-Man. I'm excited. Clearly Michael Riedel is excited in his own way. The more energy we can get behind a Broadway show the better, as far as I am concerned. The issue is that the practice of typing on a media device while a show is going on is disruptive to those around you. It's also disrespectful to the performers and the entire team behind the show.
Now, obviously, these days, word gets out on a show well before the official "opening" of that show. And--as a side note--I have often wondered if the whole pre-opening night moratorium on legit reviews should have been abolished when low-price previews were basically eliminated. But that point is separate from this one. I am not faulting people who use social media during intermission or after the show, it's the ones who are clicking during the show (hereinafter "offenders") that bother me. And, before anyone doubts that there were offenders, I know from many people at the show that there were laps glowing and fingers moving throughout.
The particularly worrisome thing about this slew of offenders is they are Broadway fans, people who should know better. When I am at the theater and I see someone on their Blackberry, I often tell myself it is a tourist or a NY person who rarely goes to the theater. That is not the case here. On other occasions, I bet many of these offenders have been distracted by someone emailing in the seat next to them during a show. Yet this behavior is somehow justified here in the name of getting the word out? I asked one mid-show tweeter and was told he felt he "had to warn people." Warn people about what? I don't get it. Are people buying tickets online before intermission and you need to stop them? You can't wait until the break?
Of course, if I were one of the offenders, I might continue my horrible habits. After all, the Broadway community was clearly following their words. Ellen Gamerman at The Wall Street Journal posted a ridiculous blog post focusing on tweets without mentioning that audience members are to turn off cellular devices inside the theater. Given her post, you would think tweeting away all during a show is normal and accepted. But it's not. It's annoying. Once you are in a theater, you should behave a certain way. Your behavior should ideally not distract those around you or take anything away from the performance. If you are eating loudly, have your cell phone generating noise or are typing, there is someone sitting near you that is cognizant of that activity when that person should be focusing on the product they spent money to see.
I know many out there may think I take this stuff way too seriously, and perhaps that is true, but my earnestness is rooted in the fact that I still believe in the magic of theater and want it to be preserved. I am not an old curmudgeon--I never even understand what Andy Rooney is talking about on 60 Minutes. I am just against things that disturb the theatrical experience, as corny and naive as that makes me seem.
With all this in mind, I of course hope this Spider-Man conduct does not start a bad trend. If Harry Potter's voice cracks during the first preview of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, no one outside the theater needs to know at the exact moment it happens. If Dane Cook curses in the wrong place during Fat Pig (and someone other than Neil LaBute actually notices), I can hear about it after the show ends. And, as happy as I am for all Spider-Man tidbits, I don't need to know about them while the musical is happening. Even if Bono takes to the stage in place of Reeve Carney, I don't think anyone will suffer if the news stays within the Foxwoods walls until intermission.