What is ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’?
There are two places you can see the Broadway hit “The Play That Goes Wrong” in North America this weekend: the Lyceum Theatre in New York City, where the Broadway production has been running since early March 2017, and the Lexington Opera House.
The first national tour of the British import from the Mischief Theatre has been in the Opera House the last couple weeks getting ready to hit the road for a tour that will route through Boston, Chicago, Toronto, Dallas and even Cincinnati — to name a few stops — before winding up in Los Angeles.
According to the tour, the official opening is Sept. 18 at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center, but the truth is Lexington gets the first look at this production Friday and Saturday night.
“It is so remarkable that we were able to do this, and we worked really hard to make this happen,” Lexington Opera House General Manager Luanne Franklin said. “It affords our community not only an opportunity to see a Broadway show — it’s the first time, ever, off the boards in New York City — but we’re inviting people to our home town, and they’re getting to experience Lexington and our businesses are seeing some economic impact from that as well.”
Unlike many of the shows that roll through the Opera House on its Broadway Live Series, “The Play That Goes Wrong” is not a widely known title. But most viewers will recognize the signature style of British comedy we’ve seen from companies such as Monty Python and on series such as the British import “Fawlty Towers.”
This show takes us to the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, which is presenting a production of the Sherlock Holmes/Agatha Christie-esque mystery, “The Murder at Haversham Manor.” But the prestigious production is befallen by pretty much every disaster that can befall a play from malfunctioning and misplaced props to missed lines, set and stage disasters and many more mishaps the cast and crew don’t even want us to think about until we see them happen on stage.
To the tour’s associate director Greg Tannahill, himself an Englishman, the show exemplifies the appeal of British comedy.
“There’s something about British people trying to hold their dignity in these disastrous situations,” said Tannahill, who was in the cast of the original production of the show. “Basically, human beings are cruel. We love to see people crumble and fail, and watching a pompous, dignified Brit crumble — from up here to down there — is even more entertaining.”
That distinct British tone has helped keep the show on Broadway for a really long time for a non-musical production. The Broadway production is set to run through Jan. 6, at which time it will have played 27 previews and 745 performances. In a note of local interest, Mara Davi, who played Marian in the Lexington Theatre Company’s production of “The Music Man” in July, just joined the cast of “The Play That Goes Wrong” on Broadway.
Part of what helped attract the company to Lexington, Franklin says, was tax breaks available to the production company through state film incentives that also provide incentives for Broadway shows. With around 50 people in the touring company, plus local crew, Franklin says the show has had an impact on area hotels, restaurants and even tourist attractions such as the Henry Clay Estate and distilleries.
“Theaters across the country vie for these opportunities, because they are so rare, and tax incentives often play a role — they certainly did with this one,” Franklin said.
For the company, it is just a good place to figure out how to take this door-slamming, pratfalling show on the road.
“It’s beautiful,” Tannahill says of the Opera House. “It’s absolutely beautiful. It’s perfect for these guys to kick off this tour.”
IF YOU GO
‘The Play That Goes Wrong’
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 14 and 15
Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.