Someone producers finally realized that if the Metropolitan Opera can have subtitles at your seats, why can't the "legit" biz? But the West End figured it out first.
The Shaftesbury Theatre in London is the first to offer the AirScript handsets. Audiences pay £6 to hire the device during a performance of its current production, Hairspray.You get the genius of it? A) Theatre has dwindling audiences. B) Strongest sector of the commercial theatre audience is tourists, many of whom don't speak English.
The script appears in real time in a choice of English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Japanese or Chinese. The translations have been made by translators rather than translation software.
Therefore, it surely follows: C) Rather than shut out a huge portion of the tourist market, give them theatre in their own language!
Foreign language speakers have not stayed away from either Broadway or the West End--but just have limited themselves to language-free spectacles. Like, oh, Phantom. (Or, in that case, shows they already know from home.) But these devices represent the inevitable next step in luring the tourist market--who knows, perhaps even to non-singing plays!
So expect to see it here on Broadway soon. Just don't yell at the poor foreigners for texting!