Broadway is a place best kept for perfection; a place for zero mistakes. But what if a show is designed with errors to make you laugh? That’s the goal of Broadway’s newest play, “The Play That Goes Wrong.” The show, written by Mischief Theatre’s Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, opened for previews on March 9 at the Lyceum Theater on Broadway.
“The Play That Goes Wrong” originated above a bar in London and eventually moved to Duchess Theatre in London’s historic West End, where it won the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.
The Broadway production includes the original London cast, all of whom are making their Broadway debuts: the playwrights – Lewis, Sayer, Shields – and cast members Rob Falconer, Greg Tannahill, Charlie Russell, Dave Hearn and Nancy Zamit.
The show is hilarious if you like easy humor. The plot follows the production of a murder mystery, “The Murder at Haversham Manor,” and the mishaps that ensue in the production.
The show begins with Chris Shields introducing us to a theater group that has put on productions like “Cat” (because they only had one actor), and “James and the Peach” (because budget cuts wouldn’t allow for a giant one). At the beginning of the second act, Chris Shields is surprised to find people still in the audience.
Lyceum Theatre was not silent, not even for a second. The audience was full of infectious laughter. You find yourself wondering what was supposed to go wrong, and then by what actually went wrong. It is a cathartic experience, and you will be attached from the start. There is so much to see that does indeed go wrong that one viewing may not have been enough to see them all.
If you need any reason to laugh, the easy humor lends itself for that. It is funny simply because it is; the plot of the story is fascinating and could be a compelling show on its own, but with the addition of hilarious mishaps, the plot is trivial. You sit waiting for the next moment to go wrong, hoping you’ve caught your breath from the previous scene.
There are some moments that feel too long and repetitive, but you will be laughing too hard to notice them until after the fact. The show is also very crowd-interactive; the actors laugh on-stage, take bows for a roar of applause and motion for cheers at some points.
“It is all very, very carefully scripted, but the moments of audience reaction differ from night to night,” Sayer told The Chronicle. “It all depends on how the audience behaves and what they are going for. Dave has free range to feel those moments, slightly because of his character. He is like the kid in the school play who always waves at his parents.”
If you’ve worked in theater, you’ll appreciate the technical failures. The laughs were never forced, and the cast was truly incredible; a standing ovation at the end was the least they deserved.
If you wish to read more about the play from Jonathan Sayer go to TheHofstraChronicle.com for the full interview.