President Obama’s trip to Broadway to see August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is reported to have cost the American taxpayer some $24,000, a statistic that did not escape the watchful eye of his political enemies. Says Gail Gitcho, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee: “If President Obama wants to go to the theater, isn’t the presidential box at the Kennedy Center good enough?”
Speaking as the Wall Street Journal drama critic who declared Joe Turner to be “a show you must see,” I’m delighted that the first couple took my advice. Speaking as the Wall Street Journal drama critic who believes that the best American regional theater is directly comparable in quality to anything on or off Broadway, I can’t help but wish that the Obamas had chosen instead to boost the local product by seeing Arcadia, Giant, or any of the other first-rate shows that have been playing in and around Washington, D.C., in recent weeks.
Everyone in Washington knows about Broadway, but comparatively few New Yorkers (and surprisingly few Washingtonians) are aware that the nation’s capital also happens to be one of the best theater towns in America. I hope that the president and his wife will help to publicize that happy fact the next time they feel like spending a night on the town.
UPDATE: A friend writes:
But isn’t it great that he supported a classic by an American playwright who wrote about American history? Well, I think so.
And so do I–but all things being equal, I also think that regional theater is more deserving of presidential patronage than theater on Broadway. In any case, politicians are in the business of balancing competing goods!