…and the show’s creator is fine with this. After all, it’s for a good cause, the good cause apparently being the elevation of race grievance politics above art, commerce, fairness and common sense.
Bear with me now, as you strain to comprehend this apotheosis of progressive cant gone stark, raving mad:
Josh Groban (a talented performer who is white)…
leads “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” to 12 Tony nominations. He is replaced by the talented “Hamilton” alum Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan (who is black),
but the show’s box office drops like a stone once Groban leaves the cast. Thus Oak is scheduled to leave the cast in August. Mandy Patinkin (who is a Tony award winner, a musical theater icon, a bigger star than either Groban or Onaodowan, and who is, incidentally, white)
…was hired to replace him. Ticket sales rebound at the news. But crazed, social justice warrior race-baiting bullies on social media attack Mandy for “taking away the job of a black actor.”
Mandy Patinkin, who already has well-earned reputation for backing out of commitments on the flimsiest of reasons, also has social justice warrior credentials to protect, so he blubbers an apology, saying in part, “I would never accept a role knowing it would harm another actor.” This principle so flunks the Kantian test that it makes my teeth hurt. If this was the universal ethics standard applied to acting, it would mean that no matter how unsuited an actor cast for a role proved to be, that actor could never be fired. “Back to the Future” would have to star Eric Stoltz. Now actors could still quit in a whim, leaving the cast high and dry, like, oh, to pick a random example or two, Mandy Patinkin did to both “Chicago Hope” and “Criminal Minds.” But HE could never be fired, no matter how self-indulgent he was (and no one is as self-indulgent as Mandy) because it would be unethical for another actor to replace him.
Mandy is apparently rich enough that he can afford to quit jobs to pander to race-baiters and engage in blatant virtue-signalling. Or he is completely gutless. My guess is the latter.
The show’s creator, David Malloy, is also a compliant social justice warrior, or at least an enabler of them. So he too apologizes,noting that without a big draw in the lead role, the “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” will probably have to close soon. “So sorry to have missed the racial optics of it,” he says in a series of tweets, cheerily signing off with “going for ice cream or whiskey or likely both. so sorry. thank you for the love.”
So because of “optics,” aka a false racial narrative that the progressive lock-step theater community must bow to or else, everyone in the cast, black, white, brown, whatever, male, female, gay, straight, trans, will be out of a job thanks to Mandy’s cowardice in the face off social media bullying. Because ending the show rather than replacing a black star with white superstar (if an old one) is the right thing to do.
I’m trying to glean the principles being illustrated here. A black actor can replace a white one, but it’s racism if that role is ever played by a white actor again. Do I have that right? And it’s more ethical to engage in flagrant diversity grandstanding than to keep a terrific show running. I’ll call this the Mandy Principle. Also, political correctness bullies are always right, and should never be told that they are fools, even when they are, and even when the result of capitulating to their nonsense hurts everyone.—artists, investors, audiences, Broadway, theater, my brain.
An ideology that achieves results like this is a menace to civilization. I am reminded of the wonderful “Fawlty Towers” episode called “The Germans,” in which a German family visiting Basil Fawlty’s small English hotel is treated to even more deranged behavior from the host (John Cleese at his best) than usual, and utter chaos. “How did we ever lose?” he asks in wonder.
I wonder how long theater can survive being run by people who think like this. Don’t get me started on countries run by them…