Yeah, that's the reason that they're really lousy. Unless they're the only thing on (which, i'll admit, is a cool effect for some dance pieces, but maybe throw in some amber ground-skimming shinbusters and heads at 20 or 30 percent), they don't read at all.
Again, Look at my original post of the statement that " spotlights are archaic." The use of spotlights in a musical purely because it''s a musical, is archaic IMHO. Spots are fantastic for concerts for stylized pieces like 42nd street, Chicago,Urinetown,Rent. These shows are a lot more Presentational. They are much more like a rock concert than a musical so to speak. Now compare those some "traditional" musicals. Let's say you're doing The Music Man, or West Side Story, or Guys and Dolls. Traditionally these would use follow spots to light Leads during solos etc. Which is the point at which I say "Yuch Archaic. ".I completely disagree with the comment of spotlights being archaic...if used properly they are fantastic. we own 4 altman spots but never use them because they are archaic...as you said, intead we rig up some ellipsodials as spots with irsis and handles, and shoot out spots from the cats. these work great because you dont get that defined circle around the actors...unless you want it, and you can throw some gobos and gel them and they look great. dont have as good as a throw distance but our cats are pretty close to the stage