Brooklyn Heights Players Slain by Brooklyn Paper

Oooofah!  The Brooklyn Paper’s drama “critic” Mike McLaughlin – heretofore known for his recent search for “love” –  has delivered a John Simon-esque massacre of the Heights Players latest production.  Simply put, the lovelorn scribe sinks Show Boat:

Brooklyn Paper: The beloved Heights Players ran aground with “Show Boat,” their current production.

Like the current of the mighty Mississippi, which provided the setting for the show, this vintage Jerome Kerr and Oscar Hammerstein musical of racial taboos and star-crossed love was simply too daunting and unnavigable for the Willow Street thespians.

I don’t mean to be a Players hater, but with a few exceptions, the Brooklyn Heights company recruited an underwhelming cast lacking enough energy to propel the audience through the long performance of the classic Broadway musical.

Who needs critics?  An evening with the Heights Players is fun!  Call 718-237-2752 for tickets or visit .

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  • Beavis

    Ass the saying goes: opinions are like a-holes, everybody has one.

  • Heights

    So much for his review…he doesn’t even know Willow Place from Willow Street!

  • Curmudgeon

    How cruel! The Heights Players are always fun and neighborhood folks have been enjoying them for years. They always put on a good show for their audience and the evening is always fun. This review is out of place and heartless!

  • AEB

    Review aside—the choice of “Showboat,” a huge work that makes great demands of its players, seems to me unwise, to say the least.

    I suppose it could be scaled-down by doing it (suitably cut) in a concert version, in which case its success would depend on the vocal talent of the cast, but otherwise–yikes!

  • AEB

    “Show Boat,” that is….

  • Eason

    You need to head uptown if you are looking for an award winning production of something that sets you back $100. These people aren’t trying to win Tony’s or anything, many of them just like doing plays, no matter how “hard”, because they love the theater and they’ve been doing that for the BH community for a really long time. They put A LOT of their own personal time into that place, to do something they like to do, for locals who want to spend time watching a show they haven’t seen before or a show they havent seen in a while. Being overly critical of that theater’s productions is fairly unnecessary to the audience it wants to attract and damaging to ticket sales, which helps keep it around.

  • AEB

    There are all sorts of ways to be critical, from nice to nasty.

    I’m not sure that any critic should adjust his or her standards just because a production under consideration isn’t meant to be “professional.”

    I’m not sure that helps the players or the (potential) audience, which needs to know whether a show is worth its money and time.

    Again, it’s a matter of how you say what you want to say. In these circumstances, I’d say a critic should be to-the-point but still “saving.”

  • ABC

    On the other, SHOW BOAT? are you frakking kiddin’ me? I’ve been to a couple Heights Players shows and to be honest, I don’t get why they’re quite so amateurish. This is NY! Home to a million out of work actors. Why not get a couple in there sometimes. Why not mount a show that fits within the confines of their time/budget. You could do Othello. You could do Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? You could do a lot of things – most things — but not Show Boat!!! Hey, if it’s a little club with the same actors and directors over and over, okay. But if you want to be a place where locals can go see a good show, you gotta step it up!

  • Clarknt67

    Personally, I think slack should be cut for obviously financially disadvantaged production houses like the Heights. They clearly don’t have the resources to mount a show that will wow audiences who frequent Broadway.

    Of course, that said, artistic geniuses can do wonders adapting to that challenge. I’ve seen many bare-bones productions that wow me with their inventive “short cuts” around such limitations. There is no excuse for mounting a show that fails to entertain and involve the audience.

    I haven’t seen the production in question, so I have no idea how well they navigated the show. “Show Boat” is a very ambitious show.

  • TM

    The reason this theater group is so amateurish is that they are so insular. New people are discouraged from auditioning from the minute they walk in the door and the “old” members get all the choice parts in every production. That is usually the downfall of neighborhood theater. This one is one of the best examples of that. They also don’t seem to understand the limits of their space. There are hundreds of one set productions that would entertain and draw in audiences. Why not use common sense–and then do better marketing.

  • EG

    My question (and I’m truly not trying to be sarcastic, but I can’t help it): Did McLaughlin read cliff notes prior to stepping foot in the theater? I feel as though his article simply “missed the boat”- with incomplete criticisms of basically 4 out of oh—10 principal cast members, and 25% of the storyline. It made me feel like he wrote this review, perhaps took a few bathroom breaks during the first act, and then decided to leave during intermission. If you have no idea what this show is about as an audience member, Mr. McLaughlin’s article should not be the compass guiding you into this production.

    While “Show Boat” is undoubtedly an ambitious effort for any smaller scale theater, let’s keep in mind: there is no Hal Prince-production budget or American Airlines Theater-size stage. But, it’s the Heights Players–a theater organization that has consistently entertained audiences for over 53 years. Their longevity is a testimony to the quality of their productions (drama, comedy, musical, children’s theater) as well as the evolving loyalty of their audiences, who are not just of the local variety, either (and probably have better theatrical knowledge than the dearth McLaughlin demonstrated in his review.)

    Mr. McLaughlin, if you’re going to pan a production, please do so like a real critic and discuss a few more “valid” reasons than citing four characters, an instance of vocal disparity, and the length of a first act. In fact, I’d like to encourage Mr. McLaughlin to abstain from theater critic duties altogether, and go back to writing his personally entertaining accounts about his suffering love life aboard his own sunken Love Boat.

  • ABC

    my feelings about the Heights Players are along the lines of TM. it’s seems a little clubby to me.

    and EG — huh? you don’t have to describe the plot or review every actor’s performance in a review. a review is not about summarizing a show. and if you don’t have a budget or a stage, don’t do Show Boat. how hard is that?

  • bornhere

    I think, like anything else, there are peaks and valleys. I would tend to believe that anyone who had seen the HP’s productions of “Amadeus,” Ragtime,” or “Musical Comedy Murders of 1940,” etc, etc, would have an extremely positive take on the caliber of the work offered by the group.

  • Eason

    TM, it seems to me you are upset you didnt get a part in a heights show, or lost out to someone who works with them often, and now you are all upset and think THAT is the “downfall” of the heights players? Might I just point out that you are saying that a community theater which has been around 53 years, may be on the decline because they chose to cast “someone who works with them often” over you (who thinks they are on the decline because you didnt get the part).

  • EG

    I completely agree with you ABC that it doesn’t have to be a summary review, but it just seemed too negative and not meaty enough of a review.

    And as far as pulling off the production in the theater budget or size-wise, it’s not like they put a boat in the middle of the stage. Carousel and Ragtime worked just fine with the amount of cast members on stage. Unless I’m misunderstanding your point.

  • Brooklyn Guy

    TM and ABC feel left out of the club. The club of neighborhood people who are willing to spend 5-6 nights a week for 3 months to put on a production. I have been going for more than 10 years and HP consistently have many new people in the leads, and yeah, a lot of regulars filling-in. The HP is not an equity theatre like the Gallery, and, ABC, so all those millions of unemployed equity actors are forbidden from working at the HP (more than 99 seats, and no money), although some work at their peril. And that doesn’t mean that Gallery has the monopoly on good shows. But both Gallery and HP have produced great shows and bombs – that is the nature of community theater, or just theater. Brooklyn is fortunate to have such theaters that are willing mount all these productions for $15-20 a seat. Neither is well funded and spend what they take in, and no salaries. I go to most HP productions and not as many Gallery, and have always enjoyed them.

    Anyone that saw Ragtime (breath taking, mostly new leads), Three Penny Opera(brilliant, mostly familiar leads), State Fair (probably the silliest show ever mounted, but which was a great production with a mix of leads), Into the Woods (wow! new and old talent), Guys and Dolls (Perfect, all new leads), South Pacific (mostly familiar, but just the best) knows that these were big fabuolus musical shows.

    Show Boat was ambitious, heavily staged, and not all the principles were perfect, but I really enjoyed the show. I was amazed they could do it at all. The cast obviously enjoyed it as well. I understand that the show has sold out for all nine shows before the open – very rare; guess the subscribers are ok with it.

    As for the reviewer, he should be ashamed if that is all he could write – pathetic – stick to Broadway or Saint Ann’s. EG was right, this was written in the toilet. I

  • bornhere

    And a personal stage whisper for Mike McLaughlin, “Psst — it’s Kern. Jerome Kern.”

  • TM

    To Eason and Brooklyn Guy, All good comments except that I only auditiond once and every person I dealt with from the minute I walked in the door was so rude that I had no further desire to be part of the group. My experience was that it was not welcoming, parts are clearly already cast ahead of auditions and that particular audition process was handled less professionally than I have known when working in many other companies. That was also the reputation of the group when I inquired about it. Let’s hope things have changed but old habits do die hard.

  • since47

    To TM: What show did you audition for where every person treated you so rudely from the minute you walked in the door? Although the Heights Players consists of many members who have been there for decades, which you feel may make them ‘insular,’ I believe it’s a welcoming group – it couldn’t exist otherwise. Although directors may have actors in mind for a show, pre-casting is rarely done at the Heights Players, and is discouraged – you never know who is going to show up at auditions. Sorry, TM, but your comments seem to be more personal than factual.

  • TM

    Yes, of course, my experience was personal and it’s also a fact. I then checked with others–quite a few in fact–who said they had a similar experience. Just take it for what it’s worth and counsel the people who greet newcomers to be friendly and welcoming. I fully expected to have to pay my dues initially by painting sets and handing out flyers. I seriously did not think every new person gets a part. I have been in a number of other successful community theaters in other large cities. My first experience was so bad that I chose not to become involved. I am only taking this opportunity to inform the group of what their reputation with a number of people in Brooklyn Heights is. I wish you and the group a lot of luck in the future.

  • AMS

    I read Mr. McLaughlin’s rather tired and lame rebview of the Heights Players production of Show Boat, and I wonder did he
    see the same show as I did. I sa it last night and understand
    that he swa it opening night, Well if the crowds were similar
    then he must have a hearing problem, because the audieance
    loved the show and showed it after numbers and at the end
    of the show. i asked and was told that the company got the
    same kind of reception on opening night. Could it be that
    he just doesn’t like the Heights players?? After all a friend of
    mine in the company said that when he was there before he talked about always going to the Gallery Players. They are
    two different groups. ANd what is the fuss with som eof the other people who have written no t such nice things about this show and the group in general. First they are community theater, some of you should look up the work community and
    find out what the word means. And secondly, they always have new faces on stage as well as long time members. How do people
    think they stay alive and have ben around presenting quality theater at gret prices for 53 yes 53 years. Now this show might
    have a few slight weaknesses, but let us give them credit for giving those of us who can not afford Broadway prices a chance to see and hear this great classic!!!!!! Let us hope that they continue to do so and don’t let McLughlin scare them away from shows we all want to see!!!

  • DogMa