My Visit to Planet Fox ("Why Do They Love Wal-Mart So Much?")

CNBC executives should have a drink and relax; the Fox Business Network we saw wouldn't be able to organize its way out of a paper bag.
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Since our musical "Walmartopia" opened Off Broadway on Labor Day, my husband Andrew and I have done a lot of interviews. But none has been so entertaining and adrenaline-producing as our encounter with Fox on Wednesday, Oct. 17 when "Walmartopia" appeared as part of "Happy Hour," a daily show on Fox's new business network. Everyone's watching the fledgling channel to see if Murdock's empire can overtake CNBC as a leader in cable business news.

From my perspective, CNBC executives should have a drink and relax; the Fox we saw wouldn't be able to organize its way out of a paper bag.

First a little background: Through our publicists, Fox producers arranged an appearance where our cast would perform the opening number of "Walmartopia" outside Fox headquarters. This is no small feat. The 11-person cast of "Walmartopia" would need to be transported along with costumes, wigs, and props (big smiley faces) to Fox headquarters in midtown Manhattan. They would need to have microphones, our music director/conductor had to record a backing track with the band. "Are you sure?" we asked. "You could just use the video recording from the stage musical and save a lot of time and expense." It's all or nothing, said Fox. If we're going to do the interview, we need the whole number."

In the Belly of the Beast

On an overcast morning, Walmartopians converged upon Fox Headquarters, a giant bland building that broadcasts Fox programs right into the street as well as around the world. What a sight it was -- our cast in Wal-Mart vests mingling (or at least coexisting) with well-coiffed Fox employees in a tiny green room. "I smell Republicans," said our director. ( For the record: the only coffee was hazelnut.) The lovely and irrepressible Heléne York asked the young men in suits who queued up to a computer or sidled up to the coffee "Are you a Republican?" and enjoyed their shocked responses. Soon after we arrived in this room it became clear that some communication problems existed within the Fox team. We tried to stay out of it, but it looked like no one knew what to do with us, and we certainly couldn't tell who was in charge.

After an hour of spinning our wheels in the green room, we all moved outdoors to witness more arguments and discussions about the technicalities of recording the number. The more people that emerged from the building, the less clear it became what the plan was. Would they even do the interview? How would the singers be heard above the din of traffic and construction? Who was in charge? Why wouldn't the producer who arranged this come down out of her office? It also became clear that they didn't know what she had promised. Though countless emails had passed between our people and Fox outlining our technical needs, their response was "oh, we didn't know that." Despite all this, the cast remained chipper, our company manager and a couple of cast members handed out postcards to curious passersby. A smarmy young man approached us saying he needed "good-looking people" to be in the audience for a Fox morning show. Fifteen people talked on blackberries, cameramen and technicians set up, moved around, argued, discussed...and still nothing. Our time window was closing, as several cast members had other commitments.

At last Andrew and I were introduced to the anchors, Cody Willard and Rebecca Gomez. They were disarming and charming--until the cameras were on. Then it was rapid-fire questions, like "Why do you hate Wal-Mart so much?" We barely had a chance to finish a sentence before they were on to the next. At one point Andrew said we need a national health care system, to which Cody replied: That's ridiculous! And then, a remark that still mystifies me: "We're not fighting for big business; we're fighting for freedom." Huh?

I think we did a fine job. We brought to light some of Wal-Mart's business and employment practices, decried the monoculture of the big-box economy, and got to make a joke about putting all other musicals out of business. But I felt bad for the cast, who stood around for hours only to stand behind us in Wal-Mart vests never to show their singing and acting talent. (The show did run video clips from the show under the interview, but no audio)

Well, see for yourself. The clip is available at on YouTube:

and along with many other treats at

Next I'll report on a very different experience: an interview with Al Jazeera network.

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