Naturally, even though I have My Yahoo set up to give me all the headlines, where do I head first? "Dear Abby" and the Broadway section. Yahoo tells me today that the shows opening on Broadway soon (i.e. eligible for the Tonys) are:
1. A musical based on Disney's Tarzan--and starring some guy from "American Idol"
2. A musical based on Anne Rice's Lestat, apparently in trouble
3. A musical based on Johnny Cash's songs--but not an autobiography!
4. A musical based on the movie the Wedding Singer (although "totally different")
5. Pajama Game--a revival with Harry Connick Jr.
6. Threepenny Opera--another revival
7. Hot Feet, a musical using Earth, Wind and Fire's music and based on "The Red Shoes."
and finally, the only new show...
8. "Man in Chair"
Which is the only show that sounds remotely interesting!!! I mean, COME ON!!!! Speaking as someone who has recently seen several new musicals (granted, all of them in need of major re-writes) and who is a HUGE FAN of the musical theatre genre I am MORE THAN A LITTLE UPSET at the fact that Broadway can't be bothered to come up with anything more interesting than back catalogues and recycled movies! Now, I loved "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" as much as anyone, and yes, I paid to go see "We Will Rock You" but this is just ridiculous. I also read in the Guardian recently that people were lining up for three hours to get tickets to "Spamalot" which is opening here--IN OCTOBER. Geez. Most shows are based on some source material (Phantom, anyone?) but come on--the Wedding Singer?!
I don't know what it's going to take to build a new show that is musically interesting, dramatically challenging and yet commercial. Apparently an act of God or something. Maybe I'm just spoiled--maybe there are brilliant little musicals appearing in American I haven't heard about. I doubt any of my loyal readers have heard of "The Ballad of Elizabeth Sulkymouth" which was fabulous. And, speaking of commercial theatre, Andrew Lloyd-Webber's "Woman in White" is closing soon so I'm going to try and go see it tomorrow. (he hasn't responded to my letter yet, which gives me hope that he took it to heart and is really working on not sucking.)
There is a sense that musical theatre is "popular culture" which is true. But because it falls under that genre it needs to appeal to non-theatre people. Also--musicals are usually more expensive and so need to bring in more punters, which means non-theatre people. But why do people write musicals for non-theatre people? What's wrong with writing something for those of us who ARE theatre people and who DO love musicals? Is it possible to do something that is dramatically astounding because it simply IS and is also a musical? I think of the Tonys: the musicals get to perform a song or something from the show, the more "serious" shows--straight plays--get a nod or maybe a montage of lines from an actual production. Too dignified--or would that simply not appeal to middle-class America who is paying for the commercials? Perhaps we should just say to hell with the categories and have "BEST SHOW PERIOD." It brings to mind when Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" was nominated for Best Picture--it didn't win, and then the Academy felt a need to create an animation category. Who cares what the genre is? I just want to go see good shows. damnit.