I had the pleasure of taking part in my family's "annual pilgrimage" to New York City over the weekend. We go at least once a year, usually for my mom's birthday.
We went to see Finian's Rainbow on Broadway Saturday night. It's a revival of a 1940's satirical romance musical with everything from a sweet love story, to ballet, to harmonica solos, to leprechauns, to racial issues. Quite the clash of completely different arts and cultures.
Photo credit: Finian's Rainbow
Anyway, it was an evening performance on Broadway, so I wore a nice winter dress, with high heels and panty hose. My family followed suit with dresses and heels, coats and ties. But I was shocked, SHOCKED and appalled to be walking into the theater next to a kid in duct taped tennis shoes and a man in grey sweat pants and a Rangers jacket.
All around me, people sitting in the plush red velvet seats underneath multi-million dollar chandeliers and flashing lights were wearing jeans with holes in them, sweat shirts, hoodies, band t-shirts and baseball hats.
And we're not talking upper balcony, we're talking people sitting in the fourth, fifth, sixth row orchestra. Rangers jacket and son sat in the third row on the left hand side. Seats that cost $200-$300 a piece! I mean come on! A clean shirt and tie would have killed you?
I understand that the St. James Theatre is not the Russian Tea Room, but it's also not your middle school auditorium. I would have even been more understanding if this were a matinee performance and you managed to get tickets off the street at last minute. But this was an 8 o'clock evening show!
I can't explain why it bugged me so much, but I felt almost insulted. As if these people didn't think going to see a Broadway show was anything special to make an effort for. It sort of killed the ambiance of being transformed into a whole other world of exquisite mystery that theater can so easily do to a person. Also, it's just a matter of looking presentable in a nice place.
My dad will sometimes tell us stories about when he was a kid, you had to wear a coat and tie to travel on an airplane, or to go out to dinner, or go to the movies. The theater meant full, three-piece suits, or even tuxes, for the men, and fur shawls, diamond earrings and full-length evening gowns for the women. I'm not saying we have to completely go back to the fashion days of old, but I don't think having a mandatory dress code of nice shirts, pants, skirts and dresses for evening performances at Broadway theaters is too over the top.
Hell, even D.C.'s bowling alley has a mandatory dress code.