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Dork Age / Theater

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  • Cirque du Soleil has had a few missteps in tour itineraries and miscellaneous projects (such as entertainment for the Celebrity Cruises line) that went over poorly, but for the live shows that serve as the company's backbone, the company generally works hard to improve troubled productions and refine good ones, so even a rocky start can pay off later. But in doing more and more shows, trying to put new twists on their usual fare, and expanding into new markets that may or may not be welcoming, they hit a Dork Age in The New '10s, resulting in a purge of shows and triple-digit company layoffs over 2012-13 to set things to rights.
    • ZAIA (2008) was an attempt at a permanent show in China, specifically gambling mecca Macau. The show was panned by Cirque fans as old hat, gamblers weren't interested in seeing a show (unlike in Las Vegas, where Cirque has several popular shows), and it was competing with the country's many native circuses; it closed in 2012. ZED, by comparison, was hailed by critics and fans when it opened at Tokyo Disneyland less than two months later... but bad luck, namely the tourism slowdown following the Tohoku earthquake in 2011, also doomed it to closure in 2012.
    • Criss Angel Believe (2008) was a magic show collaboration with the illusionist. With high expectations as their sixth resident show in Las Vegas (facing locals fatigued with their omnipresence), their first magic show, and their first show built around a specific performer, it opened to almost universally negative critical reviews and even nastier audience response. It's still running and professional reviews have improved, but that was due mostly to the bulk of Cirque-typical elements being dropped in a Retool.
    • Banana Shpeel (2010) was a vaudeville-inspired variation on the company's house style (with much more time given to comedy acts than the norm) and their first show for "legit" theaters, doing a tryout run in Chicago before hitting New York City in the spring of 2010. Heavy retooling in the wake of poor reviews for the tryout delayed the NYC opening by three months... which meant that it opened after their traditional tent tour OVO arrived in the city for a two-month run, instead of before. While reviews were better in New York, they weren't as good as OVO's, and Banana Shpeel wound up closing two months sooner than planned. A New York Times article detailing what went wrong is here. A North American tour was planned even after the closure in New York, but scuppered after its opening engagement in Toronto flopped.
    • Viva Elvis (2010) was a Las Vegas-based Jukebox Musical / circus hybrid based on the music of Elvis Presley. But while The Beatles LOVE proved this concept could work for Cirque, Presley's more down-to-Earth music and world wasn't as good a fit for them. According to Variety, it never sold more than 60% of its seats for any given performance, and thus closed in less than two years — the first Vegas Cirque show to close outright.
    • IRIS (2011) attempted to establish a permanent show in Los Angeles with its history-of-filmmaking theme. Reviews were good, but locals didn't bite and it couldn't attract out-of-towners. It closed in 2013.
  • Even Rodgers and Hammerstein, those titans of American musical theatre, could hit a rough patch now and then. Their 1958 show Flower Drum Song, for instance, was condemned as "an Oriental minstrel show."
  • Even those who are only, at best, casual fans of ballet will generally agree that the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg is suffering from this under its current artistic director, Yuri Fateyev. Horrendous casting decisions, while a favorite for critics to bring up, aren't the only part of the problem, either.
  • A huge debate among fans of musical theatre involves this trope: Has the medium gone through a Dork Age and come out on the other side, has it been trapped in one with no way out since X show/era, or has it not fallen into one at all? The answer depends on the fan's tastes. The worst-case scenario is seen as the form permanently falling into this trope in The '70s. Most of the "Golden Age" shows of the 1940s through the '60s had come and gone, composers of that era were largely running on fumes with their newest works if they weren't retiring or dying, and not all fans embraced the harder-edged, often conceptually challenging and dark work of Stephen Sondheim, the most acclaimed composer-lyricist of that decade. Also, Broadway was notoriously slow to adapt to changing popular musical tastes, and many of the early shows that incorporated rock, R&B, pop, etc. did not age well — if they were even successful to begin with. The most commonly cited Dork Age is The '80s, when Andrew Lloyd Webber's success in the previous decade exploded starting with Cats, which formally ushered in the age of the spectacle-driven "megamusical", a subgenre that critics drubbed as style over substance. Although the megamusical is dead and gone with regards to new works, the old ones remain popular while Disney stage musicals, Wicked, and the like owe a lot to that subgenre aesthetically.

    Since the Turn of the Millennium, the medium has suffered creatively for the exploding popularity of the Jukebox Musical (which exclusively relies upon music an audience knows going in), the increasingly mercenary approach to All Musicals Are Adaptations with the Disney musicals opening the floodgates for seemingly every vaguely-popular family-friendly property being put on a stage, theatre in general becoming subject to Pop-Culture Isolation, and challenging adult-oriented works failing to manage toeholds in Flyover Country. Between all that, and older fans being reluctant or even unwilling to accept post-Golden Age styles, cases have been made that 21st century musical theatre is nothing more than an overpriced tourist trap, the odd The Book of Mormon or Hamilton aside.