Adrian Bradbury went to see a stage performance of The Wizard Of Oz recently, expecting to see a "magical family musical", as advertised.
Instead of a "magical family musical", though, he got glorified karoaoke, performed to pre-recorded backing tracks.
So he sued.
According to a Times article:
All the songs and dance routines were performed to pre-recorded backing tracks. Mr Bradbury felt that if you had paid to see what was billed as a “magical family musical” you were entitled to expect live musicians. So he sued under the Trade Descriptions Act. And, astonishingly, he won. The Lowry argued that “133,000 theatregoers have enjoyed The Wizard of Oz at the Lowry and Mr Bradbury was the only person who expressed any concern with the lack of live music”. But the judge, in effect, said “so what?”. He ruled that Mr Bradbury’s personal expectation of hearing real musicians was genuine and reasonable. So the Lowry must now refund the £134.50 that he spent on tickets.
The issue of using a live orchestra, vs using synths or a pre-recorded backing track has been a thorny one for years. Musician unions have maneuvered to keep synthesizers from replacing their members in shows; performers like Milli Vanilli have been disgraced over their lip-syncing; and countless mishaps have exposed musicians that rely on backing tracks.
There's no easy answer on the use of live musicians versus backing tracks, though.
Live music adds another level of excitement to musicals, because the music can shape the performances and vice versa. On the other hand, using pre-recorded tracks lets companies put on shows that might not otherwise be performed, in venues that might not be able to support the extra cost of live orchestra.
Have you ever felt ripped off over the use of pre-recorded tracks like this?
Image: Wikipedia Commons