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Giving a Show Stars

September 24, 2014

After the performance of “Grim: The Musical” at the Charing Cross Theatre, my guest for the evening asked how many stars I’d give it. As both regular readers know, I don’t review shows nor give ‘star ratings’ to anything I see. A 1 to 5 scale doesn’t work well for me, probably because I did time in the travel trade and know what they don’t do for hotels.

To digress on that, did you know that in many countries you can get more or less an extra star because the bathroom soap is wrapped rather than in a communal cake on a string (likewise the butter in the dining room…)? Or that a goldfish-bowl sized pool rates two extra stars, a broom-closet meeting room another, $100 to the local inspector the full house?

Add to that the fact that I’ve stayed in all types of hotel and learned that in a single country there are 5-star hotels I wouldn’t have boarded my cat in (I mean, for $400 a night you’d expect the “Playboy Channel” to remain unscrambled at least. I didn’t want to watch it of course, just noticed when flicking through, really. No, really); while at the other end of the scale there are no-star hostels I’d cheerfully live in if they’d have me as part of their extended family of owners.

And so it goes with theatre. Some “5 Star” lauded stuff I’ve seen, I wish I hadn’t, some denigrated “1 star fodder” I wish had run long enough to see again. Still, I did think about what I’d say might earn a show its stars (individual wrapped ice-creams rather than a communal one on a string being, of course, a starting marker. Not). Accepting there isn’t such thing as a “no star” show – though perhaps if one was so totally offensive to everybody, it could happen – then:

One star more or less means the cast turned up sober, remained on the stage without falling off, and completed the performance with the audience awake.

Two stars if the plot is coherent, the odd line or song lasts in the memory until clear of the foyer and something appeals in the production or cast performances.

Three is earned for producing something of “West End” standard. Adequate in all respects – story interesting, a string of memorable scenes and performances, but you’d be careful who you told to “go see” as it won’t appeal to all.

The extra star comes if the show is worth recording and transferring to Broadway. A good-looking and good-sounding piece that you’d happily send a friend to for a special evening out.

Five stars, well, “Once,” the original “Les Misérables” or “Cats,” “Amadeus,” “The Audience” is probably the standard. Something that takes theatre to a new level, that leaves the audience staggering out to the box office to try and get another ticket as soon as possible. Ageless and timeless, “a classic.”

By that scale, of course, I’d dish out 5 stars around every 10 years, but as I don’t, I don’t. Perhaps that’s the reason why?!

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