I used to get annoyed when I read book reviews, especially bad ones, that downgraded a book because of an issue with the seller or formatting. A recent experience changed my attitude.
My family and I went to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Phantom is one of my favorite productions. I love the music, the costuming, the setting. We arrived a half hour early and stood outside the theater for twenty or so minutes before the doors opened just ten minutes before the official start time. We’d been driving for an hour and a half, so the women in the party headed for the rest room. In old theaters, the accommodations can be less than adequate. This was no exception. The line went out the door. We rushed to find our seats only to find a line of people waiting for usher assistance.
When our turn came, the usher led us to an aisle and pointed in the vague directions. We started up the stairs to the balcony.
The lights went out.
The production had started with dozens of people still rushing to find their seats. Let me tell you, that place was DARK. The only light was a tiny little illumination on the stage. We were in the balcony, so that didn’t help. There was no way we could see our seats. We couldn’t even see our feet. The little ankle high emergency lights weren’t adequate for a staircase that steep. So we stood there, hoping for some assistance or a light or something.
Nothing came. The people in the seats next to the aisle complained we were in their way. So we carefully picked our way back down to the theater wings where the ushers were located, where a crowd of people were bunched in the little entryway. The ushers offered no help to anyone. We all stood there through the entire opening scene. Scene two was bright enough, and our eye had adjusted to the dim. We raced to the appropriate row and disturbed everyone in it. In fact, there were dozens of people all over the theater in the same situation. This was a tight old theater with about half of the room between rows as a modern airplane. A half-dozen people had to stand up so we could sidle our way to our seats.
Finally seated, I turned my attention to the stage. The production was well into the second scene. The kids had missed the opening and had no idea what was happening. I was irritated. Broadway tickets aren’t cheap. We’d all been anticipating the day only to feel let-down at the very beginning.
Even though the music was lovely, the costuming gorgeous, and the set impressive, I didn’t enjoy much of the first half. It took a while to relax and focus on the stage.
This particular theater seats over 1600 people and was packed. Ten or fifteen minutes was not enough time to get that many people seated. The venue was built in the 1920s. I would like to think the theater management would know that. Or that they would care, but the overall attitude of the staff was very we sellout every show, so whatever. Phantom is magical, but the production lost some of its shine for me that day.
Anyway, the whole point of this post is that I discovered that things other than the story or the production CAN have a huge impact on enjoyment. If a reader has a formatting or seller issue with my book, their irritation will bleed over into their overall impression like my issues with the poorly managed theater affected my experience.