Monday, June 21, 2010

JAN: I went to see Menopause, the musical, Thursday night at the Trinity Repertory Theater in Providence, and it's a play that I've been wanting to see for a long time and never got around to it. Anyway, the production was terrific, well staged, great singing, great comedic acting, and fun songs. The three women I went with, along with the rest of the audience, couldn't possibly have had a better time.

But I was -- and I hate to admit this -- just the tiniest bit disappointed. And it had nothing to do with the actual performance. I kept thinking that I'd wished I'd seen the play when it first came out, when it was fresh and seemed more over-the-top. So I'm pretty sure my reaction really had to do with my expectations.

They'd been built up to a point where the real thing just couldn't satisfy them. I remember once when Bill and I went to see the movie Bonfire of the Vanities. It had gotten terrible reviews, and we had been planning to see another movie that was sold out, so we decided to just hold our nose and see it. Because our expectations were so low, we really liked the movie. So I'm wondering, do you think that your own expectations color your response to plays, movies, concerts, books -- maybe a bit unfairly?? Have any of you been burned or assisted by what you, yourself, bring to the show?

RHYS: I was recently taken by a group of friends to see Jersey Boys. That was another play I'd been dying to see. It was the Broadway touring cast and the singing was outstanding, but again I was reminded of the old Peggy Lee song, "Is that all there is?" It was too loud, for one thing and no great scenery, no special effects, no big production numbers which I love in a musical (I'm a sucker for 42nd Street and its big tap routines).

I don't know about you but I find that recent musicals are sadly lacking. Where are those songs that everyone keeps singing as they leave the theater? Where are the good stories? I just wish that Rogers and Hammerstein were still alive.

ROBERTA: Ruh-oh, I just convinced my sister to spend the big bucks to see Jersey Boys on Broadway. I'm going to try not to expect too much! I think this happened with my husband reading THE HELP. By the time he got around to it, I had raved about it so much that maybe it couldn't possibly live up to what he expected. For me, it was a surprise love affair, head over heels. On the other hand, look at the folks who salivate for the latest in a popular author's series, like the Harry Potters. Expectations certainly haven't seemed to hurt her sales!

HANK: Oh, did you see the broadway musical Titanic? It was supposed to be fabulous, but we saw the touring company version, and it was--so pitiful. The scenery looked as if it were drawn by first graders. (But not as cute.) On the other hand, everyone told me Wicked was fantastic fantastic--and I worried--could it be *that* good? And yes, it was.

But Jan, I heard Shutter Island, the movie, was terrible. So we netflixed it, just to see--and I thought it was terrific! SO maybe I was giving it the benefit of the doubt--because I expected it to be bad.

RO: I'm frequently disappointed by things that are overhyped. Some recent bestsellers - which shall remain nameless - have left me thinking "What's the big deal?

" Okay I'll mention one. Universally lauded, soon to be a major motion picture. A bunch of over-privileged, underachieving Upper West Side thirty-somethings who are genuinely surprised that they are not more successful than they are when they haven't done anything to merit the adulation they crave. I was so bored I started to count the number of times the heroine folded and unfolded her coltish legs. And every time the "he said, she said" story lagged, the author threw in a mention of Tolstoy - to remind us that this wasn't an episode of Sex and the City, but a work of serious fiction. Ack.

OTOH, I loved Jersey Boys! Who knew I was such a Four Seasons fan. The lyrics must have been laying (lying?) dormant in my brain for decades. You'll have fun. Then again...I had fun at Mamma Mia so there's no accounting for taste.

HALLIE: So interesting... yes expectations do affect how I react. Expect the worst and you can never be disappointed! Not a great philosophy of life, however. The same dynamic is at work when you 'discover' something that no one told you about - the pleasure of finding a great book/movie/restaurant/city/food, of discovering for yourself is lovely. Like eating capers on Crete. Who knew capers could taste that good? It's one of my pleasures as a book reviewer, reading books that I know absolutely nothing about and finding the one that knocks off my socks.

RO: I bet they're like the capers in Sicily. Yum. Welcome home!

JAN- Don't know if I could listen through an hour and a half of Abba music, but I loved Jersey Boys, too! Also capers. In any country.

Come tell us if and how your own expectations color your reviews.


  1. Yes, Mamma Mia! LOVED it. Jonathan was baffled.

    Capers. Yes. (How long do they keep in the fridge, by the way?)

    Just saw Girl wth the Dragon Tattoo--which I am the only person who hasn't read but I am trying to avoid mysteries right now..and I loved it! Everyone told us it was terrific, so I had the expectations situation--but yup, there it was. Terrific.

    And he must have read Prime Time, because he used a plot twist that I used in PT. NO problem, Steig, wherever you are! (or if great minds think alike, well, isn't that nice!)

  2. I'm listening to Girl with the Dragon Tatoo now and I've heard the movie is awesome, but don't want to see it until i'm done.

    It's long, so I think I will have walked about fifty miles by then....

  3. Roberta, et al, my sister spent bucks to treat me to Spamalot, starring Richard Chamberlain, for an--ahem--big birthday. Two minutes before the show began, I had a little panic attack: What if he was awful and my since-childhood crush on Dr. Kildare would be ruined?

    Luckily, he was FAB. Such a good sport. I still get a thrill thinking about it.

  4. I had no expectations for MTM; went with my mother and a friend of hers (actually, she'd bought the 3rd ticket for my dad, but I suggested he'd rather go watch a basketball game with the friend's husband.)

    Loved it. Laughed until I cried, bought the CD so I could hear the lyrics more clearly. Went with my crit group a few months later. Just as good, even with my now high expectations.

    Didn't like Girl with Dragon Tattoo much at all. No desire to see the movie.

  5. I think capers last forever...sort of like Richard Chamberlain.

  6. Ramona,
    Would love to see Spamalot.

    Terry, I think my problem with MTM, was that I kept thinking I'd seen or heard some of it before. I kept thinking.....ANOTHER reprise on hot flashes? Maybe its because I've recently read Paula' Munier'ss Hot Flash Haiku poetry book..or maybe, just maybe I'm really, really scared of Menopause...


  7. Jan, nothing to fear, nothing to fear! Talk about an expectations porblem--I know some people have a very difficult time, and it's certainly, um, life-changing.

    But I don't feel any different now than before. SO--you're so healthy!
    It'll be fine.

    AS for Spamalot. I--um, sorry, didn't think it was very funny. (I thought the program was hysterical, though. Did you have program that was fake?)

    But if Richard Chamberlain had been in it, I wouldn't have cared. Sigh.

  8. I thought Spamalot had flashes of wonderful humor, but as the material was already familiar from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it felt like a rehash to me.
    I loved the female lead's songs--all spoofs on Broadway musical numbers.
    And I saw David Hyde-Pierce and he was fabulous

  9. I resisted seeing Mamma Mia for years. It was in my city of San Francisco and I avoided it. After all, we have Beach Blanket Babylon--the best musical of all time anywhere.

    I finally saw Mamma Mia and loved it. My guilty pleasure.