Opinion

Analyzing Deaf West Spring Awakening

Amelia Brooker

My favourite Broadway show, beyond compare, is Spring Awakening. More specifically, the Deaf West revival of Spring Awakening. The original Broadway production was beautifully written and staged, and uncomfortable in the sense that it makes you think about yourself and the world around you. The Deaf West version, however, blew away all my preconceived notions surrounding the musical. It is incredibly moving, outstandingly staged, and brought the beauty of the original to a new caliber.

What exactly did this revival do differently? Before it came to Broadway, the musical was adapted and staged at Deaf West Theatre, a company based out of North Hollywood. This production reimagined the original story, where all of the dialogue and lyrics were mirrored in American Sign Language. Not only this, but multiple of the characters in the show were actually portrayed as Deaf individuals. The hearing characters sign along as they speak and sing, and the deaf characters have ‘shadows’ (another actor that acts as their voice while the character acts and signs their way through the show).

Accessibility in live theatre could be an entirely separate topic, however, the representation of Deaf characters being portrayed by real Deaf individuals is refreshing and exciting to watch. Additionally, the show explored Deaf issues that resonated with the community and opened the eyes of those who had not been exposed to Deaf culture.


[I suppose it goes without saying, but spoiler alert for Spring Awakening]

The first Broadway production of Spring Awakening was revolutionary in itself. With the original play written in Germany in the late 1800s, it explored themes of sexuality and sexual exploration in young people, and the repercussions when there is no education on these subjects. The fact that these themes resonated with audiences in the mid-2000s was enough to warrant a musical adaptation. And nearly ten years later, a new revival blew this show out of the water.

In this version, characters such as Wendla and Moritz are portrayed as being Deaf, while Melchior is hearing, but signs to his peers. The rigid school system that leads Moritz to suicide is heartbreaking. But when Moritz is deaf and is marginalized in a school system that looks to make him conform to his hearing peers, it is all the more devastating, especially knowing that there is a real history of schools that oppressed the deaf. It was around this time that there was an educational policy of denying Deaf children access to American Sign Language on an international scale. We also see Moritz struggle to communicate with his hearing father on a more personal scale, which is a real struggle faced by Deaf children. The issues present in this show are not imagined, but are real experiences for many. In the case of both Martha and Ilse (and eventually Wendla), we see new light and background being brought to their stories. The subject of sexual abuse is especially prevalent in the Deaf community, making their stories all the more poignant.

It was no mistake which of the characters were chosen to be represented as Deaf, either. Wendla and Moritz are uneducated in similar ways, face barriers in communication, and are ultimately taken advantage of by a hearing peer, being Melchior. In fact, the overall theme of the show is brought into question. With a lack of communication from parents and teachers, what will the consequences be? But when there is an actual barrier of language and culture between an adult and an adolescent, how much harder is that barrier to cross?

Not only were plot points enhanced by this new aspect, but the language of the show was given new depth and meaning. As a fan of the show as well as an amateur signer, I’ve rewatched scene after scene, finding new meaning in the ASL translations. As an example of what the translations look like, here is an excerpt from the opening song, “Mama Who Bore Me”, with the English lyrics followed by a rough translation ASL done simultaneously.

“Mama who bore me, mama who gave me / No way to handle things, who made me so sad

Mama who bore me, mama who explained / confusion, difficult to understand my body, influenced sadness”

ASL is a visual language, with a grammar structure closer to Mandarin than to English. So the translations can be tricky to grasp, especially with already such figurative language in the lyrics. ASL focuses more on conveying concepts than structured sentences. This musical was made bilingual through not only its spoken words but through choreography as well. Spencer Liff as choreographer and Michael Arden as director imbedded this physical language into the character’s movement in a way that I have never seen onstage before. The whole show was blocked and staged around the incorporation of the language, instead of it being added as an afterthought. Duets are sung with arms and hands overlapping and crossing each other, creating a beautiful image.

Melchior has a recurring motif in the show, being the line “all will know”. It is repeated in the songs “The Bitch of Living”, “Song of Purple Summer”, and “All That’s Known”. In the first two, it is signed as “everyone will mind open”, matching the ideas of progress and learning that are conveyed in these songs. And in the more emotional “All That’s Known”, it is signed as “everyone will understand”, conveying the idea of ignorance and how it has affected him. It is nuances like these that demonstrate just how incredible and thought out the interpretation of this production was, and what makes it so special.

It is important to note however, that I am not a Deaf individual, and my perspective and opinions of the show should be taken as such. Many Deaf individuals have incredibly important views on the matter. There have been criticisms on the show’s translation, their use of ‘simultaneous communication’ in place of traditional ASL, and the inability of some of the hearing actors to convey the same emotions through sign. It is important to recognize my own identity when giving my perspective, as well as listening to the perspectives of others. Regardless of your position on the show, it is undeniable that the revival of Spring Awakening asks important questions and inspires conversations that need to be had. It sets out to, and succeeds in, inspiring social change and bringing an underrepresented culture into the light.

[A note on the use of capitalized ‘Deaf’: This word should be capitalized when used in reference to being a member of the Deaf community, embracing cultural norms, beliefs and values. The non-capitalized version is used in reference to simply the lack of hearing ability.]

 

Movie Musicals Needing a Remake

Michael Kape
So, Steven Spielberg is wrapping up the shoot for his new filmed version of West Side Story. Like many people, I thought the first movie would have been the last time the material was approached. Why would Spielberg—a director whose work I generally like (okay, let’s forget about 1942 and the Jurassic Park movies)—want to tackle this project?

I know why now. I hadn’t really watched the film since I saw it in the movie house in 1961. I’m sure I must have a DVD around I intended to watch someday. But it popped up on my Netflix feed and I figured I might as well satisfy my curiosity. OMG! It’s a painful movie to watch now. Indeed, I managed to struggle through half before I just had to turn it off. The direction by Robert Wise (Jerome Robbins only staged five musical numbers before he was fired for cost overruns) was very sloppy (as was most of his work, the exception being The Sound of Music). The cast, while being good actors, couldn’t sing the demanding roles and the dubbing was awful. (As an aside, I’m well over Marni Nixon after learning how terrible a mother she was to the late Andrew [“Lonely Boy”, “Thank You for Being a Friend”] Gold, a singer/songwriter I really liked. She was talented but a real bitch to Andrew, though they reconciled before he died.)

Spielberg cast actors who could sing the demanding roles, and he actually is using Latinx actors in the Puerto Rican parts. Hurrah. I’m looking forward to a great director tackling the material the way it should be tackled.


Then another movie popped up on Netflix, one I hadn’t seen since 1972. I was curious. Would it stand the test of 47 years or not? Turns out, it didn’t. The movie in question is Fiddler on the Roof. Now, being a nice Jewish boy who lived through countless bad renditions of Fiddler songs while staying in the Catskills (oy, don’t ask, please!), and having finally seen countless productions of the musical onstage, I was curious about whether the movie was as good as I remember it being when I was 18 years old. So, I watched the whole, tedious, sloppy (again; this time blame director/producer Norman Jewison; he’ll pop up again), three-plus hour film (the show clocks in at 2:30 with intermission, which should tell you something).

I finally understood why Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Jerome Robbins (again) had nothing to do with this film except to cash the checks for the rights. (Additional music for the film was composed by John Williams of Star Wars fame; he couldn’t capture Bock’s sound.) Even then, Topol was looking a little too old to play Tevye—especially when the rest of the cast (except Molly Picon as Yenta) looked decades younger (best performance coming from the late, great Leonard Frey as Motel). The real problem is that the film failed to capture the miracle Robbins performed onstage. The suggestive Boris Aronson sets were more realistic (in sparking our imagination) than the realistic film settings (I know, this is required for any movie). The script sounded right (Joseph Stein did both stage and film versions) but came off hollow and forced when opened up on film.

This story could be told so much better now on film. Jewison worked with what he had (I guess), but his work was uneven, dull, and lifeless. Fiddler on the Roof demands a remake, just like West Side Story.

I was recently talking to some of my fellow ATB bloggers, and it sparked an idea. What other movies were done so badly they demand to be remade? What films cut half the original scores (or nearly all in some cases) when there was no good reason? So, I’ve made a little list. Feel free to agree or disagree or add some of your own. (You might note certain names keep cropping up, like Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly. I am not surprised.)

·         A Chorus Line—Our ATB bloggers’ fearless leader calls this “Cats with people.” Okay, I get it. But there is no excuse in the world for this movie to be as stultifying bad as it is. Richard Attenborough was clearly the wrong director, the plot devices crammed into the movie to make more of the prior romance between Cassie and Zack was ridiculous, and the dancing took a backseat to the fake plot (which is completely counter to the point of the stage version). Whole swaths of the original were gone. Songs cut. The brilliant monologue by Paul? Not in this movie. Indeed, everything making A Chorus Line a landmark Broadway musical was erased from the movie.

·         A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum—Take a brilliantly funny, ribald musical farce with a terrific Stephen Sondheim score and reduce it to utter garbage. Cut half the score (why?) and change the intricate plotting. It just wasn’t funny. It wasn’t funny at all, even with Zero Mostel and Jack Guilford recreating their roles. We need a good movie version of Forum. No question about it. And since Sondheim now sells more than he did in 1966, it makes sense.

·         A Little Night Music—Do I really need to explain why we need a good movie version of this musical? Okay, you twisted my arm. Here goes:

—   Elizabeth Taylor is lovely to look at but painful to hear singing You Must Meet My Wife and Send in the Clowns

—   Director Hal Prince could not find a way to make this movie look good no matter what he tried

—   Fully one-third of the Sondheim score is missing

—   One-quarter of the plot is gone

—   The stage musical is lively and buoyant; the movie is dull and leaden

—   It’s dull, it drags, it’s boring

—   Why the hell is it set in Austria instead of Sweden? (I know, Prince got money from the Austrian government to fund the film. It still makes no sense since it’s about events of a midsummer’s night when “the sun won’t set,” and everyone still has Swedish names.)

·         Anything Goes—No, there’s nothing wrong with the 1936 black and white version except it’s missing most of the amazing Cole Porter score; thank Bing Crosby for that travesty. And the 1956 color version not only threw out most of the Cole Porter score again but also the whole storyline (except both have scenes on an ocean liner). Again, thank Bing Crosby for this travesty. We need an actual movie version of the original Cole Porter musical once and for all. Thank goodness Crosby isn’t around to mess this up a third time. (Not a fan, not at all.)

·         Brigadoon—My favorite score by Lerner and Loewe was truncated, major roles reduced to bit players, and it was produced entirely on a soundstage instead of offering real Scottish locations (or even suitable substitutes). Gene Kelly danced up a storm but never could find the right hook for the character of Tommy, and much of what made Brigadoon so special was lost because 20th Century Fox tried to produce a lush musical on a shoestring budget. A real movie version (and not that insipid television version with Robert Goulet) is demanded.

·         Bye, Bye Birdie—Ugh, I think this movie is awful compared to the original Broadway musical. Half the plot was jettisoned (along with half the score) to build up the role of Kim—played by Ann-Margret. Why? And please don’t cite the painful to watch television version with Jason Alexander as Albert. The less said about that the better (though Tyne Daly as Albert’s mother was the one bright spot).

·         Cabaret—Okay, let’s start by saying Bob Fosse’s movie is brilliant on its own. But let’s also say it isn’t the stage musical Cabaret by any stretch of the imagination. We should demand a movie version of the original.

·         Camelot—We have to be honest here. The stage version as it originally opened on Broadway was a complete mess. Director Moss Hart had been hospitalized during rehearsals, so Alan Jay Lerner limply tried to direct the show. But part of the problem was his book was just all over the place. (My BFF refers to this show as Cram-a-Lot, because they tried to cram so much stuff into it.) A few weeks after opening, Hart returned, cut three songs, trimmed the book, and voilà, the show as we know it now. So, making a movie out of the material already started with two strikes against it (the second strike being hiring AJL to write the screenplay). Dispirited direction from Joshua Logan (who should have known better) and subdued performances (to the point of rigor mortis) by the leads made this movie painful to watch. A remake done right would be expensive, but it would be worth it.

·         Finian’s Rainbow—Why hire a master realistic director like Francis Ford Coppola to direct a fantasy musical like this? His work (to be kind) was awful. Fred Astaire insisted his mostly non-singing role have more songs. The plot was changed. The whimsy was strained out. As a movie, to be honest (and kind), it sucked. A remake is needed.

·         Guys and Dolls—Word is a new movie remake is in the works (though others have been announced in the past and never come to pass). Good. Of the four leads, only Vivian Blaine recreated her Broadway role in the film. Jean Simmons was passable as Sarah Brown. Then we have the two male leads—Frank Sinatra as Nathan and (gasp) Marlon Brando as Sky. Why? Whose bright idea was this casting? (Answer: Samuel Goldwyn and Joseph L. Mankiewicz.) Sinatra is again miscast as the lead (he actually wanted to play Sky) and Brando couldn’t sing or act the role (he managed to look extremely uncomfortable throughout the movie). Five Frank Loesser songs were tossed out (three lesser Loesser songs were written for the film). It’s time for a remake—please make it happen this time.

·         Grease—I know some people might consider this heresy, but I think the movie version of Grease is an affront. The original Grease was a raunchy, raucous good time at the theatre. Then someone decided it should be more family friendly (why?). So, half the score was replaced by mediocre Bee Gees songs (and really, by comparison, they are mediocre). Sandy was made Australian to accommodate Olivia Newton John. All the fun and the life were sucked out of the original. I hated it in 1978. I hated the godawful live television version (directed by an old friend of mine; I always said he had no business directing musicals and I still believe it). Here’s a clue: Grease is NOT family friendly. Get it? Good.

·         Gypsy—It should have been Merman. It was Rosalind Russell. It should have been someone who could sing Louise. It was Natalie Wood. It should have been great. It wasn’t. We need a definitive version (though we have a few video ones passing muster).

·         Hairspray—John Travolta as Edna? Really? No. Do it right. It should have been Harvey. And everyone knows it, too.

·         Hello, Dolly!—Before all the Barbra Streisand fans chew my head off, this is not about her being way too young and too Brooklyn to play Dolly Gallagher Levi. It’s about the overblown direction by Gene Kelly, who managed to not just open up the Michael Stewart/Jerry Herman original, but blew it up into a huge, monstrous, unholy mess. Most of Hello, Dolly! Is surprisingly small and intimate on stage, with a few big production numbers thrown into the mix. The Thornton Wilder whimsy is completely gone. The movie goes way beyond Gower Champion’s wildest wet dreams. I’d love to see the movie done right, cast right, and directed/choreographed right. As a movie director, subtlety was never Gene Kelly’s strong suit.

·         Jersey Boys—Right material, wrong director. Clint Eastwood? What were they thinking? Those must have been some powerful drugs they were taking when the producers put him at the helm.

·         Jesus Christ Superstar—Norman Jewison strikes again! The director who bungled Fiddler started working on JC Superstar while filming it. He cast the movie mostly with actors who had never been in a film before (though the leads had done the show on Broadway; let’s not talk about what an unholy mess the Tom O’Horgan production was). Instead of a straightforward retelling of the rock opera, it became a story about a busload of traveling players staging a musical passion play. New songs were added, and some original songs were trimmed beyond recognition. This is yet another case of Jewison not really trusting the material enough. He should have stuck with dramas where he excelled.

·         Little Shop of Horrors—Really, this movie shouldn’t be on this list, but yet it’s here? Why? Because the producers tacked on a happy ending which did not belong there. Put it back, the way it was. Period. End of discussion. (Rumor is this is going to happen in a new filmed version, but I’ll believe it when I see it.)

·         Mame—Everybody loved Lucy, that is, until she bought the film rights to Mame and cast herself as the title character. In truth, aside from her voice being wrong for the role and her being 30 years too old to pull it off effectively, she wasn’t that bad. No, the problem with Mame is Gene Saks wasn’t a good movie director. He had brilliantly directed the Broadway version, but he couldn’t find a way to make it work on film. He even made his wife, Bea Arthur, look forlorn and bored on screen. Indeed, the look of the movie is all wrong (the Morton de Costa film of Auntie Mame got it right). And no amount of mayonnaise on the camera lens could make Lucille Ball look like Mame. A movie remake is demanded (or at least a live television version).

·         Man of La Mancha—Okay, let’s take a small musical, ostensibly a one-set show performed in a dungeon, and then open it up with realistic Italian scenery subbing for the plains of Spain. Let’s go through three directors and writing teams (only go back to the original book writer of the stage musical). Let’s cast three well-known actors (Peter O’Toole, Sophia Loren, James Coco) who can’t sing a note and then dub them badly (because you pissed off the actors from the original stage version who had been promised they could recreate their roles in the movie). Let’s cut some of the musical’s better numbers while we’re at it (indeed, if O’Toole had gotten his way, all the songs would have been excised). Man of La Mancha demands a remake. It has angered theatre fans since 1972; it’s time to put them out of their misery with a good movie.

·         Oliver—I know, I know, it won the Oscar for Best Picture. It still sucks. It’s painful to watch. When every song turns into an overblown production number (even the quiet, wistful Where Is Love?), then you know something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.

·         On the Town—The original Broadway show, based on Jerome Robbins’ (again) ballet Fancy Free about three sailors on a 24-hour shore leave in New York City, was a brilliant piece with an incredible score with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Comden and Green. Not one bad song in the entire piece. (Odd side note: Bernstein also wrote the lyrics to I Can Cook Too, which led him to first tackle all the lyrics to West Side Story. He couldn’t according to his daughter, and Stephen Sondheim came to the rescue.) Successful on Broadway so it had to be made into a movie, right? Well, um, uh, sure. But the producers miscast Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly as two of the sailors and jettisoned most of the Bernstein score for mediocre work by Roger Edens (who thought Bernstein sounded “too operatic”). This movie needs to be remade. Not updated (there’s no more Miss Subways, after all). Cast it with people who can sing and dance and actually play the characters as written (sorry, Sinatra and Kelly didn’t cut it so far as I’m concerned).

·         Pal Joey—Sinatra again miscast as the title character, a heel who preys on women until one woman preys on him. The biting Lorenz Hart lyrics were tamed by Hollywood, and it became a mess of a movie. At least Sinatra sang his own songs; Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak were dubbed. The movie has a happy ending; the musical doesn’t. In the movie, Joey is a nice guy; in the musical, he’s a major louse. It’s a crying shame movie for many reasons. The changes to the Rodgers and Hart show were just plain dumb. Worse, Pal Joey on stage made a star of Gene Kelly, and he could have easily recreated his star turn. Sinatra didn’t think bad boy Joey fit his image, so the whole thing was Bowdlerized beyond recognition. It demands to be made—this time using the original score and storyline. In the #MeToo age, it is especially relevant.

·         Porgy and Bess—This movie is so laughingly bad, so deliciously lousy. It’s an affront to the original Gershwin work on every level. Is it any wonder the Gershwin estate wouldn’t allow it to ever come out on DVD? Let’s do it right this time.

·         Show Boat—There are two movie versions of this landmark American musical (actually there was a third, part-talkie one made in 1929). The first complete one from 1936, shot in black and white, is the superior one, sticking closely to the stage version and features (be still my heart) Hattie McDaniel, Paul Robeson, and Helen Morgan. So, of course, MGM couldn’t leave well enough alone and remade it in color (sometimes I still wonder what Arthur Freed was thinking in his choices). Hammerstein’s original book is mostly gone. The social commentary propelling Show Boat is reduced to a few lines. Ava Gardner’s character is beefed up (she being a big MGM star at the time). It’s a friggin’ nightmare to watch now. It’s MGM lush and MGM lousy at the same time.

·         South Pacific—Just get rid of the tangerine skies and the movie would automatically be 100% better.

·         The Fantasticks—What? You never saw this movie? Consider yourself extremely lucky. Still, try to remember authors Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt were themselves the ones who adapted their work for the movies. Badly. Very badly. So incredibly badly even MGM wouldn’t release it for five years after director Michael Ritchie filmed it—and under duress because of contractual obligations and in only four theatres. Francis Ford Coppola (see Finian’s Rainbow) was brought in to trim it from 109 minutes to a scant 86 minutes. What went wrong? First, the authors opened the tiny show up. Onstage, the musical is performed on a small stage with a platform and a trunk. Total orchestra? Two (a piano and a harp). On that small stage, the audience is transported around the world and in two backyards. Full orchestrations were created. The film tries to emulate the big, splashy 1950s movie musicals, setting the story in the Arizona prairie, yet reducing the whole world to a traveling carnival (don’t ask). While the show opens and closes with Try to Remember, the movie cuts this famous song down to a couple of choruses at the end (huh?). The tiny story is lost in all the extraneous scenery. Hallmark Hall of Fame attempted to do a truncated television version in 1964, but it wasn’t good at all. The Fantasticks is the world’s longest running musical. It’s simple, sweet, and makes you cry at the end. If ever a property is demanding a great movie version, this is it.

Some (dis)honorable mentions not worth remaking: Annie, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, The Wiz, On Your Toes, Rose Marie, Good News, and Evita (I say this reluctantly because I sort of enjoyed it).

There you have it. Movie musicals derived from Broadway shows demanding to be remade as soon as possible. Entirely my opinion, of course, but I don’t think there’s one movie cited anyone could disagree about the need for a better version.

(Michael Kape a/k/a Grumpy Olde Guy® grew up watching movie musicals when he couldn’t see live performances. Even as a kid he knew a bad movie musical when he saw one. Now he cringes when watching them.)

Me, Myself, and Musicals

Chris Lynn
Have you ever been asked, “What is your favorite musical?”  Have you ever been asked to list your top 10 musicals? For me this is a daunting and impossible task.  If you are like me, your favorites change depending on mood and situation. In the past year I tried to dig deeper and identify a common theme shared by some of my favorites which will undoubtedly change even while writing this blog!  What are your favorites? More importantly, what connection or common strand places these musicals at the top of your list? Please share and discuss in the comments below.

All of my favorite musicals in the list below involve rational selfishness.  I enjoy strong characters that think and act for themselves and create opportunities that were previously not within their grasp.  Wait! Did this blogger really say that his favorite shows include “selfish” characters?... Yes, he did. However, please note that I specified characters that display the moral value of “rational selfishness.”  By rational selfishness, I mean to say that these characters earn happiness through hard work, determination, and radical individualism. Typically, people who attempt to make gains at the cost, detriment, or harm of another fall short eventually and never truly find happiness.  Some call it karma,but I don’t believe in mysticism. I call it what most people think when they hear the word selfish: “irrational selfishness.” Bear with me folks, I must differentiate between rational and irrational selfishness. I will wrap this back to musicals. I promise!  

One of the most famous irrationally selfish people was ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff.  Prosecutors estimated the Madolf’s fraud amounted to $64.8 billion with his 4,800 clients.  Madoff’s irrational selfishness landed him in prison in 2008 where he remains as an 81 year old man.  Aftermath of the exposure to his fraud included Madoff’s brother imprisoned for 10 years, the suicide of one of his two sons that turned him into authorities, as well as an attempted suicide by both Madoff himself and his wife.  As irony would have it, Madoff admits that he is happier now in prison despite overwhelming guilt and nightmares for destroying his family and the countless lives of others. In his free life, Madoff could never enjoy his exuberant wealth.  Madoff said he realized that his scam would eventually be exposed and he lived his once free life imprisoned by fear and constant cover up.  

On the flipside, typically, people who practice in “rational selfishness”, where others are not preyed upon, end up helping others, intentionally and incidentally, in return. These characters are the focus of my favorite musicals.  As we have all learned from Avenue Q:

“When you help others,

You can’t help helping yourself!

Every time you 

Do good deeds

You’re also serving

Your own needs.”



My Top 10

10. Mame

Jerry Herman, known for his exuberantly happy and joyful shows, brought the character of Mame Dennis to life in song.  Nothing describes Mame’s zeal for life and her own happiness better than the line, 

“Live, Live, Live!  Life is a banquet and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death!”  

As a socialite in the roaring 20s, Mame only wanted the best happiness for herself as well as those around her.  She imparts this intellectual freewheeling lifestyle philosophy to her 10 year old nephew, Patrick, who has been entrusted to her care after the death of her brother.  Even during the low times in her life when Mame loses her fortunes in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, she still retains her unyielding Herman-esque optimism:

Mame: “Well, once I taught you all to live each living day.

Fill up the stocking,”

Young Patrick: “But Auntie Man, it's one week from Thanksgiving Day now.

Mame: “But we need a little Christmas

Right this very minute,

Candles in the window,

Carols at the spinet.

Yes, we need a little Christmas now!”

While, Mame later regains fortune as well as love when she marries Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, a Southern aristocrat, she does not allow Beauregard’s later untimely death to dampen her spirits.  Mame returns home to impart the joy of individualism and happiness to a new generation: her great nephew (Peter), Patrick’s son.  

We all could learn from the “Mame’s” of the world to live our lives as if “It’s Today” and to

“Open a new window,

Open a new door,

Travel a new highway,

That's never been tried before”...

“Whenever they say you're slightly unconventional,

Just put your thumb up to your nose.

And show 'em how to dance to a new rhythm.”

Dear Auntie Mame, as we “grow a little older, grow a little colder” you remind us that 

“There's a ‘thank you’ you can give life,

If you live life all the way.

Pull the stops out,

Hold the roof down,

Fellows watch out,

It's today.”

9. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Just because you might be at the bottom rung of a ladder, doesn’t mean you cannot “move upwards and onwards.”  Just ask the young, ambitious window washer, J. Pierrepont Finch.  In How to Succeed..., Finch rises from window washer to the mailroom to chairman of the board of the World Wide Wicket Company.  Just don’t ask me or anyone else in the company, “what is a wicket?”

I will have to note that this musical, falls more into the category of “irrational selfishness” as Finch uses deception, trickery, and downright sabotage of fellow employees to rise to the top.  Thus, “How to Succeed...” is near the bottom of my top 10. I just cannot resist Finch’s devilish grin and charm as he dupes Mr. Biggley's lazy, arrogant, moocher of a nephew, Bud Frump, who only remains in the company due to nepotism.  If How to Succeed..., were a bit more realistic, we would see the chips eventually fall and Finch’s irrational selfishness would catch up with him.  However, the show is satire at its finest and great escapism. If anything else, Finch is admirable for his drive to ignore Mr. Twimble’s advice to remain status quo in the mailroom near the bottom of the success ladder: 

Finch: “Your brain is a company brain.”

Mr. Twimble: “The company washed it, 

Now I can't complain.”

Finch: “You'll never rise up to the top”

Mr. Twimble:“But there's one thing clear,

Whoever the company fires 

I will still be here!”

Finch “Oh, how can you get anywhere?”

Mr. Twimble: “Junior have no fear. 

Whoever the company fires

I will still be here.

Year, after year, after fiscal,

Never take a risko year!”

I also love Finch’s unwavering ego and laser focus that proves to serve him well with the love song to himself:

“I believe in you

And when my faith in my fellow man

Oh but falls apart,

I've but to feel your hand grasping mine

And I take heart,

I take heart.

To see the cool clear

Eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth,

Yet with the slam, bang, tang

Reminiscent of gin and vermouth.

Oh, I believe in you,”

We could all use a healthy dose of rational egoism like Finch’s by believing in ourselves.  While How to Succeed... is a delicious satire of corporate office culture and sexism, I cannot help myself to imagine how fun it would be to mount a production where the tables were turned.  Imagine, if the roles of the men and women were reversed with the story set in an alternate universe. Imagine the women gawking and treating the male secretaries as toys (“A Secretary is Not a Toy”) or even a dumb hunky jock in the role of Hedy LaRue.  I imagine seeing the women applying lipstick and makeup as they plot to stop Finch, stiletto heels and all, in the executive boardroom. I know, one would need to obtain permission, nonetheless it is fun to imagine and dream.

8. Book of Mormon

What do you get when you juxtapose atheists and agnostic writers and a satirical musical about faith? You get The Book of Mormon of course!  Matt Stone once said the “Book of Mormon” is

 “an atheist’s love letter to religion... Now, I don’t think that every Mormon will necessarily like what this love letter says, but it’s our version of, ‘Hey, we think religion is really cool, here’s what we think about it.’ And it’s a musical, so it’s gotta have a feel-good end, and it’s gotta have a big heart, a big story. And that’s the only way to really tackle talking about religion in narratives, is treat the people in them like really good people who are trying to do the right thing.”

The Book of Mormon includes a selfish character, not unlike any of us theatre folk that crave the spotlight.  While well intentioned and an overall good guy, Elder Kevin Price desires fame and is only willing to give his sidekick Elder Arnold Cunningham credit in the form of table scraps in the song “You and Me” (But Mostly Me):

“And now we’re seeing eye to eye,

It’s so great we can agree!

That Heavenly Father has chosen

You and me

Just mostly me!

Something incredible…

I’ll do something incredible!

I want to be the Mormon..

That changed all of mankind…

I’m something I’ve forseen...

Now that I’m nineteen,

I’ll do something incredible,

That blows Gods freaking mind!”

By the finale both Elder Price and Elder Cunnigham have learned through their journey, that they both have value and strive for one another’s happiness just a day at a time:

“What happens when we're dead?

We shouldn't think that far ahead

The only latter day that matters is tomorrow.

The skies are clearing and the sun's coming out.

It's a latter day tomorrow.

Put your worries and your sorrows and your cares away

and focus on a latter day.

Tomorrow is a latter day!”

7.  “Fiddler On The Roof”

The beloved Tevye is selfish?  Well, yes. Not in a Bernie Madoff way, but in a good way.  What is it that Tevye selfishly wants more than anything? Does he want to be a rich man?  Does he want social status?

“The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!

They would ask me to advise them,

Like a Solomon the Wise.

If you please, Reb Tevye..

Pardon me, Reb Tevye...

Posing problems that would cross a rabbi's eyes!

And it won't make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.

When you're rich, they think you really know!”

Does Tevye want to have a deeper understanding and relationship with God whom he speaks to throughout the musical?

“If I were rich, I'd have the time that I lack

To sit in the synagogue and pray.

And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.

And I'd discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day.

That would be the sweetest thing of all.”

Or does Tevye desire one thing above all others?  Above riches, he gives Tzeitel and Motel his blessing for their marriage.  Tevye chooses to renege on his arranged marriage agreement with the wealthy Lazar Wolf and his daughter.  Tevye does not “sacrifice” riches. That would imply material wealth is more valuable that his daughter’s happiness, which in turn brings him happiness.  Sacrifice? Absolutely not, his love and desire for his daughter’s happiness is just that much greater of a value than Lazar Wolf’s money.

Motel:

“I have wanted to ask you for some time, 

Reb Tevye, but first I wanted to save up for my own sewing machine.”

Tevye : 

“Stop talking nonsense. You're just a poor tailor.”

Motel: 

“That's true, Reb Tevey, but even a poor tailor is entitled to some happiness. 

I promise you, Reb Tevye , your daughter will not starve.”

Tevye: 

“He's beginning to talk like a man. 

But what kind of match would that be, with a poor tailor? 

On the other hand, he's an honest, hard worker. 

On the other hand, he has absolutely nothing. On the other hand,

Things could never get worse for him, they could only get better. 

They gave each other a pledge-unheard of, absurd. 

They gave each other a pledge-unthinkable. 

But look at my daughter's face-she loves him, 

She wants him-and look at my daughters’ eyes, so hopeful.”

Tevye continues to place his daughters’ happiness above other values including his Jewish faith and traditions when he says goodbye to Hodel who leaves to join Perchik in Siberia.  Tevye tries to “maintain balance” with his daughter, Chava. After accepting the marriages of two of his daughters, marriage outside the Jewish faith is a line Tevye will not cross… or so we are led to believe.  Toward the end of the musical, Tevye’s defenses are down as his family must leave Anatevka and say their farewells. While he earlier disowned his daughter, Chava, and even said “She is dead to me,” seeing that he has the power to bring happiness to his daughter changes everything.  He gives a stage whisper to Tzeitel as she repeats to Chava, “God be with you.”

The irony of “Fiddler on the Roof” lies in the last words of the opening number: 

“Tradition. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as ... as a fiddler on the roof!”

For Tevye, at least, his rational selfishness to abandon his traditions in order to ensure his daughters’ happiness built a stronger foundation and bond than faith could have ever secured. 

6. Big River

In the musical Big River, once again, we see a character (Huckleberry Finn) not so much sacrifice a value, but rather trade a lesser value (Going on more adventures) for a greater value (setting his friend and slave, Jim, free):

“All right, I'll go to hell! 

And I'll take up wickedness again, which is my line, bein' brought up to it. For a starter, I'll steal Jim out of slavery again. And, If I can think of somethin' worse, I'll do that too! Cuz as long as I'm in, and in for good, I might as well go whole hog!”

Jim and Huckleberry sing about their shared value of one another in the unlikeliest of companionships of those times:

“I see the friendship in you eyes

That you see in mine

But we're worlds apart, worlds apart

Together, but worlds apart”

Yes, Huckleberry Finn is delightfully egotistical when he sings about himself.  However, what was unconventional during Huck’s time (the abolition of slavery) is now conventional.  Despite threats of going to hell, Huckleberry bucked the system and announced all that would hear his selfish anthem:

“I, Huckleberry, me

Hereby declare myself to be

Nothin' ever other than

Exactly what I am”

5.  Pippin

Wow! Read the lyrics below and observe what an incredible selfish person Pippin is!

“So many men seem destined 

To settle for something small

But I won't rest until I know I'll have it all”....

I've got to be where my spirit can run free

Got to find my corner of the sky”

Much like Princeton in Avenue Q who searches for his purpose, so does Pippin!  He tries everything! He joins his father’s Army by going into battle.. Then with the advice of his grandmother, Bertha, he frolics and frocks and frolics with woman after woman!  Pippin soon discovers that even the meaningless and countless sexual encounters leave him as unfulfilled as slaughtering the Visigoths for his father, King Charlemange. Pippin turns back to serious pursuits once again by becoming a revolutionary, a politician, and even king.  Again, Pippin is disappointed by disillusion. He even compromises his high aspirations and tries to settle down and live a humble life with a woman (Catherine) and her child (Theo). With all hope lost, Pippin is tempted by the Leading players and the troupe to make his mark in a burst of flames and glory by committing suicide. Pippin realizes that he has given up his extraordinary purpose for the simplest and most ordinary life of all, and he is finally a happy man. Did Pippin sacrifice for a more humble modest life?  Of course not! All of those previous ambitions and attempts proved to be of lesser value as the one thing with the greatest value that was there all along!

“I'm not a river or a giant bird 

That soars to the sea

And if I'm never tied to anything

I'll never be free

I wanted magic shows and miracles

Mirages to touch

I wanted such a little thing from life

I wanted so much

I never came close, my love

We never came near

It never was there

I think it was here”


4. Sunday In the Park With George

George is a selfish character.  He is actually selfish to the point of cruelty.  Dot knows all of this about George and his quest for self fulfillment with his painting should come as no surprise as she decides to move on and leave him:

“What I feel?

You know exactly how I feel.

Why do you insist

You must hear the words,

When you know I cannot give you words?

Not the ones you need.

There's nothing to say.

I cannot be what you want....

You will not accept who I am.

I am what I do-

Which you knew,

Which you always knew,

Which I thought you were a part of!”

Later in Act 2, a modern day artist struggling to come to terms with his artistic decisions has a vision of his great grandmother, Dot.  She advises him to stop agonizing, just make a decision, and to move on:

“I chose, and my world was shaken-

So what?

The choice may have been mistaken,

The choosing was not

You have to move on”

As the actors from the painting tableau leave, the stage resembles a blank canvas, George in present time reads:

 "White: a blank page or canvas. His favorite – so many possibilities."

The most creative and selfish people in the world, George Suerat, Charles Borlung, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, arrogantly took the risk of making choices, moving on, and creating a more beautiful world.  Inevitably, many of these choices were made in favor of lesser values, in their eyes, of sometimes human relationships. Sunday in the Park is not only the story of an obsessed artist’s life, but also that of an entrepreneur, a mover, a relentless innovator.

3. Into the Woods

What do you wish? What do you want, “more than 

anything in the world?”

In her infinite wisdom and striking irony, the witch reminds us that we are all selfish, yet she is the only one that will honestly admit it.  Into the Woods is a cautionary tale which teaches us that having a wish is not nearly as important as reflecting on if that wish is what we truly want and how we go about getting our wish.  For me, the witch, rather than the narrator, is the true storyteller and teacher in the musical Into the Woods.  Even if some of the lyrics and dialogue are not hers, it is “her story” to tell: 

Cinderella's Mother: Do you know what you wish?

Are you certain what you wish 

Is what you want?

Sadly, the baker’s wife, in my opinion is the antithesis of the witch.  I find the witch to be the most rational and thus most moral character. Whereas the baker’s wife is the most irrational and immoral character.  She tells an opposing view from the witch. Actions are justified as long as you get your wish. According to the baker’s wife:

“What matters is that

Everyone tells tiny lies.

What's important, really is, the size.

Only three more tries and we'll have our prize.

When the end's in sight,

You'll realize:

If the en is right,

It justifies

The beans

If you have seen Into the Woods, you will realize that the consequence for irrationality that befell the Baker’s Wife (SPLAT!) The witch culminates her story with the moral that our decisions indeed have consequences that are far reaching even beyond our own lives.  

“Careful the wish you make 

Wishes are children

Careful the path they take

Wishes come true, not free

Careful the spell you cast

Not just on children

Sometimes the spell may last

Past what you can see

And turn against you

Careful the tale you tell

That is the spell

Children will listen”

Blindly stealing, lying, and betrayal in order to get your wish is irrational.  On the other hand, if you are rationally selfish in life, you CAN successfully “go into the woods:

“To mind

To heed

To find

To think

To teach

To join

To go to the Festival!”

2. Children of Eden

Children of Eden is my favorite musical that people have some familiarity.  Much like Into the Woods, we are reminded that a huge part of rational selfishness is to not only the importance of being free to make ones’ own decisions and make ones’ own mistakes, but also to pass down that gift to our own children.  Eve is my all time favorite character. She is heroic in that she looked at life, knowledge, and decided to defy her father and take a bite. She recognized, contrary to notions of good and evil, that all knowledge from the tree was good:

“I see a mountain and I want to climb it

I river and I want to leave shore

Where there was nothing let there be something, something made by me

There's things waiting for me to invent them 

There's things waiting for me to explore

I am an echo of the eternal cry of

Let there be!

The spark of creation, burning bright within me

The spark of creation, won't let me rest at all

Until I discover or build or uncover

A thing that I can call, my celebration

Of the spark creation”

Sometimes forging out on our own as young adults, away from paradise, or even our parents’ basement, is scary.  However good we might have it, doing, achieving, and producing on ones’ own is much better than the dependency offered by a “paradise” before:

ADAM

“And I remember, in someone else's garden long ago

We had all we could eat”

EVE

“But it seems the fruit our own hands grow

Somehow tastes twice as sweet”

Now that I am a parent of two teenagers, one who will be moving to University in a few weeks, I am experiencing a fear from a different perspective.  My daughter has some chronic health issues, and I worry about her getting sick, taking medications, and becoming hospitalized while no longer under our wings.  Below are lyrics about letting go despite my fears. The song is sung by two fathers: God, to his son Noah and Noah, to his son Japeth:

“Oh this son of mine I love so well

And all the toil it takes

I'd give to him a garden and keep clear of snakes

But the one thing he most treasures is to make his own mistakes ohhh

He goes charging on the cliffs of life

A reckless mountaineer

I could help him not to stumble

I could warn him what to fear

I could shout until I'm breathless

And he'd still refuse to hear ohhh

But you cannot close the acorn

Once the oak begins to grow

And you cannot close your heart

To what it fears and needs to know

That the hardest part of love

Is the letting go.”

If we are not careful, our refusal to let go and using guilt will drive our children away. This musical hits “Close To Home” as both my brother and me have been estranged from our own parents.  Teach your children to selfishly pursue their goals. Then stand back and allow then the beauty of experience being their teacher and learning from their own mistakes:

“Fare thee well 

My precious children

In your hands

I place a key

To this prison

Made of gratitude

That has held you close to me

Now I know I cannot hold you

Till at last

I let you be!”


1. Three Questions: A Philosophical Oratorio

My all time favorite musical is one that no one has heard.  Well, I am sure there are some that have heard of it and even love it as much as I do.  If so, we must chat! Three Questions: A Philosophical Oratorio (later retitled Reason in Rhyme: A Philosophical Primer) is a song cycle based on philosophy and self.  Written by pianist and performer Robin Field, the musical is a one man show with a piano, an easel, chart paper, and a few Sharpie markers.  Below is a review of the show from 1979:

“‘What is so? How do you know? So, what should you do?’

These lyrics are from an oratorio, “Three Questions,” written by Robin Field. [...]

Trying to fit the names of Heraclitus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, Kant, Whitehead and Ayn Rand—yes, these names and more, too, mind you—plus their thoughts, into a 45-minute concert of light music … well … Robin actually did the unthinkable. He successfully married classical philosophy to musical comedy. He succeeded in writing beguiling, catchy music (of definite commercial quality) and he married it beautifully with lyrics of intellectual weight …

Robin did it with wit and intelligence. He managed to synthesize complex philosophical thoughts into easily understood fundamentals, wedding them happily with his bouncy, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, music. What’s more, I was delighted to find that Robin is a superb entertainer, accompanying himself on the piano.’

—Richard Buffum, April 19th, 1979, Los Angeles Times

Reading about Robin Field, you will learn that the philsophy of rational egostism or selfishness actually saved his life after a failed suicide attempt as a teenager.  Mr. Field reminds us unabashedly who and what is most important:

“The most important thing to me…. Is me. …

That much is true 

And so, I guess, the most important thing to you is you.”

Toward the end of the show, Field decides to have fun by playing and singing a medley that pokes fun at conventional wisdom found in popular songs that are counter to the philosophy he esouses.  Much of it is clichéd thinking of our age: that love is the answer; that others’ happiness is our responsibility; that passivity is good; that the man-made and the commercial are inferior to the natural; that it is a sin to be rich; that fatalism is sophisticated; that self-pity is acceptable; that confusion and defeat are man’s lot; that you should pretend to be happy if you are not; that everything will be OK as long as you did it “your way.”  His renditions are a tip of the hat to vaudeville, complete with impersonations to gain applause by “milking it” for laughs.

Well, that is all folks!  As I said in the beginning, my favorites can and do change.  Below are a few more “honorable mention” shows and quotes that promote rational selfishness.  One show that I have not seen, that follows this theme is “Shenendoah.” If you have seen “Shenendoah”, give me a shout out as well!

Honorable Mentions

1. Chicago

“I play in a game

Where I make the rules

And rule number one

From here to the end

Is 'I am my own best friend'

Three Musketeers

Who never say die

Are standing here this minute

Me, myself and I”

2. Be More Chill

“There are voices in my head

Of the voices in my head

The loudest one is mine!”

3. La Cage Aux Folles

“I deal my own deck

Sometimes the ace, sometimes the deuces.

There's one life, and there's no return and no deposit;

One life, so it's time to open up your closet.

Life's not worth a damn 'til you can say,

"Hey world, I am what I am!"

4. Avenue Q

(see the “Money Song” lyrics quoted at the beginning of this blog)

Farewell, friends.  

YOLO - You Only live life Once.  Live life abundantly!



A Blind Viewing of Hamilton

Kelly Ostazeski
I've been blind-sided, blown away. Until June 29, 2019, sitting in the theatre, I had never heard the score of Hamilton. Okay, before everyone goes and judges me for calling myself a theatre fan and Broadway enthusiast but not listening to Hamilton, perhaps let me explain myself and my unique perspective. What is it like to go see the most-hyped show, possibly ever on Broadway...knowing nothing?

 As someone who likes more traditional musicals and typically dislikes modern popular music (especially rap and hip hop), hearing about Hamilton and its rave reviews, obsessive audience, and the cultural phenomenon surrounding it, I was skeptical. When I hear that non-Broadway fans and those who usually don't seek out musical theatre suddenly have an interest in one musical – in this case Hamilton – I start to wonder what the big deal is. Nothing can be as good as the hype. Especially when these people usually know next to nothing about musical theatre as a genre. (Which is fine, we all start somewhere!) And then there are the Broadway fans who think that Lin-Manuel Miranda is the be all, end all of modern musical theatre. I certainly admire the man's work as a composer, lyricist, librettist, actor, and director – he does it all! But skeptical doesn't even cover it, to be honest. I admit this is one of those situations where I avoided something just because of its overwhelming popularity, unable to believe that something could be as good as they say.

 My first exposure to Hamilton was back in 2016. I knew nothing of the hype, only that I wanted rush tickets to Finding Neverland. The guy at the box office told me to enter the Hamilton lottery, and if I lose, come back and they'd give me a discounted ticket to Finding Neverland. That made absolutely no sense to me. I said, “I don't want to enter a lottery for a show I don't want to see. What if I win?” Foolish.

 I did enter the Hamilton lottery once, and I lost. Just to say I'd tried once.


 I knew of Lin-Manuel Miranda's groundbreaking In the Heights, but never saw it or listened to it. I heard it was great, and my dad saw the tour and said it was great. (I was away at college and couldn't make it to the show.) But really my first exposure to Miranda's music was the Disney animated film Moana, which I thought was uniquely brilliant and beautiful. Then he really got my attention as the charming lamplighter Jack in Disney's Mary Poppins Returns, opposite Emily Blunt.

 Meanwhile, loads of friends raved about the musical, proclaiming Hamilton “amazing” and a “work of genius”. We played the cast recording in the background once while sewing a cosplay for a convention, but I didn't pay attention. I remember not hating it but not feeling particularly impressed. At a party, friends played it and sang along and again, I was not impressed.

 My dad and I are season subscribers to the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore and have been for over ten years. Subscribers had first dibs on Hamilton's tickets, and I insisted that whether or not my dad wanted to go (he didn't), I wasn't going to miss out on my only chance – skeptical as I was – to see this show. So, we got the tickets and the show was the last of the 2018-2019 season, capping off an excellent year with the most anticipated event the Hippodrome probably has ever seen.

 I decided to take a friend who had wanted to see it for years and knew the music well, but never thought she'd have the chance to see it live. And then there was me – a regular Broadway theatre-goer. I knew all the inside jokes, from “I'm in the room where it happens!” and “I'm not throwing away my shot” to “young, scrappy, and hungry” and “work, work!”. I knew of the iconic Schuyler sisters’ pose. I didn't know the story or any of the songs – only song titles.

 I went in blind and I was blind-sided. The energy in the Saturday matinee audience was electric. They knew it all too. The cast carried themselves like they know they're involved with something special. I sat back and let Hamilton happen to me.

 I listened to each line, each rhyme, then suddenly found myself enjoying the rap, the rhythms, the internal rhymes that stayed true to the history of America, but made it modern and accessible to a current, young audience. I watched a group of incredibly talented people of color play the [old, white] men who founded our country and found that it told the story in a fresh way. But isn't that the idea? To make history more interesting, make it seem more impactful to modern, diverse audiences. This is what our population looks like now, with people of color and immigrants able to make history as much as the old white men in the history books.

 This isn't just about rap music and history. There's a story here about a man who overcame the odds and the people he impacted, a heart-wrenching look at American history from a different perspective, while looking to the future with the new diverse generation that will lead us. The story wouldn't be told like this and wouldn't be as interesting and accessible without the modern score, without diverse casting. A traditional/classical-style musical about Alexander Hamilton sounds incredibly boring. It had to be done like this.

  What I was worried about most was enjoying the music. Outside of the show, I knew I wasn't interested in just the score, and I needed to see it in context with the characters and the story to get the genius in the words and to get the emotional impact.  It wasn't all rap. There are more traditional musical theatre songs there too, woven in. But whether the cast rapped or sang, the lyrics were good. The music was good. I didn't expect to be so moved by the life of a Founding Father, but it was probably the music and the way the story was told, and this beautiful, passionate cast. 

 I have revisited the music since seeing the show and it's still good, and I'm also glad I went in blind. Going in knowing nothing I think helped me enjoy it more. I honestly thought I wouldn't like the show, but I was told once that even if it's not my cup of tea, it's kind of hard to hate it.  It's kind of hard not to be blown out of the water. My friends were right, it's not my all-time favorite musical, but it's also pretty incredible.

 I don't think it's worth the resell value of the tickets, but I also can't imagine spending $200-$600 or however much tickets are going for these days. I also believe that fans who discover musical theatre through Hamilton should listen to more musicals and learn more about this genre.

 So yes, Hamilton lives up to the hype. I may be the last, but I get it now.

A follow-up comment, several weeks later:

In listening to the Original Broadway Cast Recording, I find I like the rap music a little less out of context of the story and the visuals. Some of the songs absolutely are wonderful, obviously. In fact, I honestly believe that every track that is traditionally sung is written better, sounds better, and is much more complex. The beauty of the show is in the complexity and blending of genres, not in the rap – I feel like the show is stronger there. Perhaps I will get used to the whole score, but right now I find myself listening to a few tracks on repeat: “Alexander Hamilton”, “The Schuyler Sisters”, “Helpless”, “Burn”, “It's Quiet Uptown”, and “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”. I know that I wouldn't have fallen for the show if I had just previously listened to the whole thing straight through. You need the visuals, the story, not just the music, not just music I find hard to follow and listen to out of context. Maybe this will change in time.

 I still would 100% want to go see the show again and still recommend it. I just think I may be going in blind for more musicals, such as other hyped shows I have tickets to see soon, like Dear Evan Hansen and Hadestown.

How Broadway Changed LGBTQ+ Stories

Amelia Brooker
For decades, kids in high school theatre have been labelled as “gay”. Male singers and dancers have faced the same labels for their often-feminine expression, and musical theatre as a whole is stereotyped as a place for queer people. But this connection between the queer community and musical theatre is more than just a stereotype. It is clear that both of these communities are well integrated. Musical theatre is a cultural staple of the queer community, and vice versa. This begs the question; how has musical theatre revolutionized the LGBTQ+ experience?

People in the LGBTQ+ community are constantly searching for spaces in which they are represented. As a queer woman, I understand this search. Growing up, movies and TV shows rarely, if ever, showed same-sex couples - much less individuals of varying gender identities. Like many others, I never saw myself represented in media as I was (and still continue to be) growing up. Had I known from a younger age that my feelings were not only valid, but shared within a community, I would hold a stronger sense of identity today.

While many young adult TV shows and movies in the last few years have featured queer stories, they are not free of issues. These storylines can feel ingenuine, the product of a marketing team trying to make more money. Queer characters are flat and used as stereotypes, almost never with a happy ending. And most notably, the biggest blockbuster movies that dare to feature an LGBTQ+ character almost always receive backlash. Musical theatre however, exists as a safe space for LGBTQ+ actors and patrons alike. Discrimination definitely still exists in our corner of the world, but the Broadway community shares such a great sense of acceptance and pride that I have yet to find anywhere else. From La Cage Aux Folles to Kinky Boots, from The Color Purple to The Prom, from Angels in America to Falsettos, Broadway shows have a long history of representing people from all across the spectrum.

The difference I see between representation on screen versus the stage is that TV and movies usually treat their queer characters as one-dimensional stereotypes to support the straight characters. Whereas plays and musicals feature imperfect gay characters. LGBTQ+ people with ambitions and flaws that exist outside of their sexuality. People whose stories deserve to be told in a realistic and inspiring way. I believe it is this nature that pulls many members of the queer community into the world of musical theatre. Such an accepting world also allows writers and directors to feel comfortable sharing their stories and bringing their experiences to an audience.


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Broadway not only illustrates queer characters through its shows, but it also recognizes and supports its community of queer actors as well. In June alone, three openly transgender actors made it to Broadway stages. Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS has raised more than three hundred million dollars for people with HIV/AIDS since its inception in 1988. And at its simplest state, kids in high school have a place where their gender and sexual identity is accepted. Down to its core, musical theatre is a place not only welcoming for all, but one that is willing to tell the stories of its community members. The stories that matter, and that represent what the Broadway community stands for; love, acceptance, and pride.

 

 

This Is Our Story: The Character Development of Shrek

Darren Wildeman
When one thinks about musicals with good character arcs there are probably a few that immediately come to mind for you. However, one musical in particular stands out in particular for me. Shrek. Now I realize opinions on Shrek are semi-polarizing. I understand it. I think Shrek is far from a perfect musical, it certainly has a campy vibe to it, and it definitely has holes in the writing where things don’t mesh. However, one thing it does have is fantastic individual characters with incredible development.

Shrekcovernew.jpg


We’re not even going to start with the main characters. We’re going to start with Shrek’s parents who we see for all of half a song. However, in this limited stage time we see the type of environment Shrek has grown up in. They’ve grown up with this fear, with this idea that ogres have to be reclusive. They basically tell Shrek he needs to live on his own, and if anyone comes near him to scare them away because they’ll kill him if they get the chance and nothing good in the world is for him. This helps serve to establish Shrek’s personality, which we see in what I think is a brilliant introduction of a main character and overall one of the best opening songs in musical theatre.

Over the course of his life Shrek has seen what his parents have told him is true and this has given him a no-nonsense attitude. In out of town tryouts there was actually a scene that showed this even more where young Shrek got mocked and tried to join other people but was always chased away. In pure staying true to the movies Shrek form we see Shrek bursting forth from the outhouse and telling us how life has shaped him. Shrek makes it clear immediately he’s a loner and has followed his parents advice the lyrics “Doing what I can with a one man conga line” shows us he’s quite happy how things are, and “sure I’m fated to be lonely and destined to be hated” tells us he’s accepted this as the soul reason for his existence. He’s accepted that he doesn’t fit in anywhere, and has essentially become what people want him to be. In this sense these themes will tie in nicely to “Build a Wall” where Shrek says he’ll be what people want after he gets burned and that he should have listened. However, that is getting way ahead of the story. For now, Shrek is living the life his parents warned him about and rejects anything that is considered “fun” by others or that even involves other people. He’s not only accepted his fate as a social outcast but has full on embraced as he wants people to “take your fluffy fun and shove it where the sun don’t shine.” I think through all these lyrics, and circumstances it’s safe to say Shrek’s character at the start of this show is very well established, not to mention that the entire song is an absolute bop.

For the sake of writing space, I won’t be focussing too much on the secondary characters of this musical (i.e. Pinocchio and his gang). But I will say this, they’re interesting characters. Sometimes in a musical secondary character can be a bit flat, but book writer David Lindsay-Abaire does a good job of making sure they still serve a purpose. While they don’t even have that much main stage time, their progression from complaining, unhappy fairy tale characters to being proud of who they are is a nice secondary plot that works well with the main story in Shrek and how mean Shrek is initially vs. when he’s more accepting at the end also allows them to serve as a nice device for the main plot. But we have a ways to go before we see that version of Shrek.

After Shrek wanders through the menagerie of fairy tale creatures we now come to meet one of the other main players of this story, and a character that will really show us more of Shrek’s personality. Remember the opening song established that he’s not only accepted who he is, but fully embraced it. What better way to bring this out then to bring out a character who is almost exactly Shrek’s polar opposite- emphasis on almost- Donkey ends up escaping the fairy tale mob and thinks he can tag a long with Shrek to escape being captured and sees Shrek as his salvation. And Donkey is an absolute pain in Shrek’s butt. Shrek has already established he embraces the solitude. He’s embraced the image that no one wants anything to do with him. So not only does Donkey catch Shrek off guard by WANTING to hang out with Shrek, and in “Don’t Let Me Go” thinks they can be best friends, but he does it in the most annoying way possible by never shutting up and even worse, breaking out into random song. Donkey in almost every way possible- despite a similarity that neither of them know about yet- is the perfect foil for Shrek, and despite Shrek’s protests he forces himself into a begrudging “friendship” of sorts.

If the dialogue wasn’t indicative enough of what Shrek thinks of Donkey, it becomes even more clear in “Travel Song” including the brilliant lyric “this ass of mine is asinine.” Throughout this whole song Shrek makes his feelings of Donkey abundantly clear and is already sick of him.

Now we come to the final character introduction of Fiona. She’s the stuck princess who needs rescuing and is waiting for her Prince Charming. She envisions the perfect life where she gets rescued and lives happily ever after. However, it comes into question if this is what she truly wants or if this is just how she thinks it should be. In her introduction song “I Know Its Today”, Fiona says “I know he’ll appear because there are rules and there are strictures.” This brings up the question, does she really want her Prince Charming? Or does she want him because that’s supposed to happen according to her fairy-tale stories. Needless to say, she’s quite shocked when she meets Shrek, and is reluctant to go with him despite his promises of a prince. Not just because Shrek is an ogre, but because as we all know, she’s been cursed to become an ogre at night.  This is why she asks the crew to stop and make camp. She doesn’t want to be seen, and she very likely doesn’t want people to react to her like she reacted when she saw Shrek. Fiona now goes to sleep for the night leaving Shrek and Donkey alone.

Earlier Shrek had insisted to Donkey that there is absolutely nothing else he’d rather be or rather be doing in his life. Remember, we already established in the opening that Shrek has not only accepted who he is, but has full on embraced it. Based on what we know about him so far there really isn’t much reason to question it. However, call it intuition, call it perseverance, or maybe it was because Shrek did imply earlier that he has layers and there might be more under the surface but Donkey now asks Shrek one more time if there is truly nothing else that he’d rather be. This becomes what is man people’s favourite moment and song of the entire show.

Shrek opens “Who I’d Be” by finally revealing that maybe he isn’t as hardened as he’d have us believe. It’s not that he doesn’t wish he could be something else, it’s that he believes doing any of these things is so impossible that he’s better off repressing them and becoming who people want him to be and just embracing that side of him. “Shut out the dreams, don’t give them any airtime in your brain because they’ll never happen” is basically what his life has been. And he expresses as much to Donkey “I’d have a hero’s ending, a perfect happy ending, that’s how it would be, a big bright beautiful world; but not for me” This is a very clever throwback to the very opening song and what Shrek’s parents told him. Nothing in the world is right for him. In the opening song his parents told him “a big bright beautiful world, but not for you.” And told him no one would want anything to do with him. By having Shrek reprise this line we really see how much that message has stuck with him and that he truly believes and has seen the world that nothing is for him, and this is why he hasn’t bothered dreaming about it.

At this point Fiona chimes in from where she’s sleeping also talking about how an ogre has to hide, this blends really nicely with what Shrek has said about how nothing can be for him. Fiona knows that if she is ever found out she’ll be the same way and knows that she’ll have to stay “in the dark and all alone.” Donkey’s part in this song isn’t much but here he says “You’re all alone” I think this whole time Donkey thought Shrek was exaggerating about how much he wants to be alone and how much he hates others. Remember how we said despite how much their personalities clashed there was one thing they had in common? That was being alone. Both of them had been rejected, and neither had any friends. But they both showed that in very different ways and made them appear as polar opposites when they had one thing in common. But now when Shrek finally paints a picture of how far his loneliness stretches and he basically tells Donkey that “yes, I’ve had dreams, but I stopped bothering to think of or wish for them because there is no way I can have them” I think now Donkey finally sees the picture that Shrek is painting. And for the first time he truly and 100% realizes that yes Shrek is all alone, for real. Almost as if to drive home the point even harder for donkey Shrek sings his chorus one more time. Now Fiona jumps in and as a throwback to her introduction song she reiterates the rules and strictures she has from her books. Again, this makes you question, does Fiona in her heart of hearts truly want Prince Charming? Or does she just want him because that’s what her stories have told her should happen? It’s almost as if she’s reconvincing herself that this plan is the right one. Whatever thoughts she might be having about Shrek already aren’t correct because as she already stated earlier ogres are hidden away never to be seen. She has to tell herself again that she can’t even think about Shrek like that because the plan her stories have given her is the correct and only plan. After this Donkey jumps back in once more. He’s digested what Shrek has told him and essentially vows that he is going to be that friend Shrek needs. This is a huge thing for Shrek as he’s never dared to even dream, he could have someone like that. Despite all the characters’ thoughts and ideas that they’re considering they all agree one thing “A perfect happy ending that’s how it should be!”

In the second act is where we really see Fiona and Shrek falling for each other. They sing “I Think I Got You Beat” as a competition as who had a rougher life, but then they end up bonding when they realize they had both been abandoned at a young age and have a competition about bodily functions. They both realize something is happening but neither one can fully admit it or bring themselves. Donkey finally convinces Shrek he needs to “Make a Move” and Shrek finally works up the courage.

Shrek begins rehearsing what he will say “When Words Fail” and here again we see just how ingrained his parents’ messages are to him. He keeps trying to think of what he will say to Fiona and he keeps getting stuck. He even goes as far as to ask himself “when words fail do I fail too?” Even now, part of him is still convinced that the big bright beautiful world, is not for him. He’s partially convinced he is going to fail. In the meantime, Donkey has discovered Fiona’s curse and she says that no one could love such an ugly beast which is why she needs Lord Farquaad. Unfortunately, Shrek only hears part of this and assumes she’s referring to him and shatters any hope he had. Shrek believes now that his parents were right all a long, he was stupid to try and veer off of being anything else and that he needs to just go back to what he was because that’s all he can have in this world.

As stated earlier, “Build a Wall” is a re-emphasis on what he was told as a child. Shrek has been burned, and he truly believes that even people he thought were his friends just see him as an ugly ogre. This is his re-commitment to what his parents always told him, and it’s burning even stronger. “You’re looking for a monster and today’s your lucky day” shows that he’s going to be as nasty as he possibly can. And remember Fiona’s fairy tale stories from earlier? Shrek is well aware of these and is well aware of what they say about him he sings “She wanted Prince Charming, I wanted my home back…” He is well aware that he is not supposed to end up with Fiona but he had that hope anyways. Build a Wall is about that hope being crushed, Shrek thinking the world is right about him, and now he’s going to be as mean and nasty as possible because that’s all can be expected of him.

Remember, how when Donkey was first introduced, he was the most annoying thing that Shrek hated? Well now while Shrek may still be upset with him and still might find the ass to be a pain in the ass, the persistence Donkey has is the best possible thing. Shrek wants Donkey to go away but Donkey flat out refuses. Because despite whatever Shrek is telling him, Donkey truly meant it when he said he’s going to be the friend Shrek needs. No matter how Shrek has treated him, no matter what Shrek has said. Donkey has seen underneath all of Shrek’s oniony layers and he’s going to stick by him because that’s what friends do, even if Shrek doesn’t realize that’s what he needs or deserves. Even more, Donkey knows the truth about Fiona.

While Donkey can’t explicitly tell Shrek who Fiona was talking about, Donkey convinces Shrek, despite Shrek thinking nobody wants him that he needs to go get Fiona. I think we all know the ending, so I won’t spend too much time here. However, one brilliant thing about these final scenes is the “Big Bright Beautiful World” reprise. Remember how we’ve seen multiple times that Shrek is well aware of what the fairy tales say about him? He flat out tells Fiona “You’ve never read a book like this and fairy tales should really be updated” Shrek knows the story, but because of Donkey and Fiona he’s finally discovered that stories don’t need to prove reality true. He’s discovering he can find a happy ending and that he can break the stereotypes. Same for Fiona.

It’s already been stated a couple times that Fiona wanted Prince Charming. However, it always seemed like this might be what she wanted because it’s what she’s supposed to want. As we saw with Shrek realizing that fairy-tale story types don’t necessarily need to be true, Fiona is realizing that maybe she can be happy with an alternate ending. That maybe fairy tale stories are just that and don’t reflect a projection onto reality. This point is further driven home when Farquaad revealed he just wants to be married to be king. Not only is Fiona falling for someone who is not her Prince Charming, but her Prince Charming turned out to be the furthest possible thing from charming.

And finally, Shrek and Fiona live in their own happily ever after with Donkey sticking around because he was the friend Shrek didn’t know he needed. We see Shrek go from angry at the world to thinking nothing is for him, to hopeful, back to jaded and reinforcing his views, to finally being able to break through. Fiona wanted a perfect fairy tale ending, but she learned she could have this as an ogre while loving someone who is furthest from the Prince Charming she envisioned; both of the main characters learned to break stereotypes in very different ways. Finally, while Donkey is the one with the least character change, he and Shrek both finally learned what it means to have a true friend. Really all three characters were isolated and alone in their own unique way, and while they had very different paths to getting there, they all learned that a “Big Bright Beautiful World” can be for them- they sing as much in the reprise, and that it is possible to find someone out there for you. It just won’t happen the way it does in fairy tales, because fairy tales show a perfect life and a perfect way to achieve that. The final song, “This is Our Story” illustrates all this as well that everyone’s tale is unique. When really everyone’s path will be bumpy, and even a “happy ending” will have its darker moments. But what truly matters is not that everything is perfect, but that someone can be there with you always both through the fairy tale moments and the darkness.

Come to My Garden: A Look at Broadway's Little Known Masterpiece

Taylor Lockhart
I recently got the chance to be in a local community theatre production of The Secret Garden and aside from being an overall fantastic experience it opened my eyes to a musical that I probably wouldn’t have listened to at least not for quite a few years otherwise. I’ve mentioned the show quite a few times in the past, especially when talking about my least favorite year for the Tony Awards, 1991, as opposed to my favorite year, 1954. Not the best year, not the year that had the most success but my favorite year... but then again the biggest show that year was Kismet so what's really all that great about it. Oops, my bad. I just offended the one diehard Kismet fan out there. Anyways in 1991, several really stellar shows opened on Broadway such as Miss Saigon, Once On This Island, The Will Rogers Follies, Children Of Eden (Not Broadway but it did open on the West End that year), and The Secret Garden which is obviously the show were going to be talking about.


The Synopsis

The show begins with a solo from Lily who is Archibald’s dead wife but you don’t know that yet so for now she’s just some angelic voice singing about flowers. The show really begins with Mary having a nightmare in her home in India as various people around her sing a version of the nursery rhyme “Mistress Mary” and then die horribly. Once everyone is dead she wakes up to find that the nightmare was real and everyone is actually dead and she as well one black snake are the only living things remaining in her village. She is put in the care of one of her father's fellow british army men who gives her a home until she is adopted by her uncle Archibald. Her uncle’s assistant Mrs. Medlock travels to pick her up and take her to the Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire, England. They travel through the moor, miles and miles of wild land that nothing grows on but heather and gorse, and broom, and nothing lives on but wild ponies and sheep and Dickon because he’s the Johnny Appleseed of Yorkshire. There’s also a terrible whistling that sounds like howling wolves. Truly home sweet home indeed. They arrive and Archibald refuses to see Mary because doesn’t know what to say to hey. Mary is shuffled up to her room where she hears someone crying and wonders along the endless hallways to find them. This will come into play later. In the morning we meet Martha Sowerby a cheerful yorkshire maid who is terrible at everything but they keep on because she sings very nicely. Go listen to “Hold On” and tell me if you’d kick someone who could sing that out. Mary finds herself traveling about Misselwaithe’s many areas of garden. These gardens are not secret. I feel that it's very necessary to make that clear. Mary meets Ben Weatherstaff the gardener who introduces her to her first friend, The Robin. In the distance Dickon is singing about how spring is about to begin and also about how Mary has arrived at Misselwaithe. It’s a metaphor and there will be a lot of those in this show. Mary meets Dickon who immediately is mysterious and hands her a penny's worth of seeds for her garden that she doesn’t have but she could. He’s so mysterious. He then teaches her how to speak to the robins and that she needs to use Yorkshire to talk to them. Mary believes him and Dickon conveniently places the key on the tree for mary to find when she goes to grab her skipping rope and leave...or in some productions, it’s just there in the tree for some reason. It doesn’t really matter but I like the former more. Mary proceeds to return into the manor where she asks her uncle for a bit of earth and he has a full on mental breakdown because Mary wants a garden and Lily loved gardens and Dr. Craven sees that Mary being in the house is making Archibald’s condition worse and they sing the best song in the show about how they both love and miss Lily. Later Mary hears someone crying again and travels to find Archibald’s ill son, Colin who has been crippled his entire life due to a disease that could kill him if he used his heart too much. Colin is a spoiled brat like Mary was in the beginning before meeting The Robin and Yorkshire’s Mysterious Johnny Applessed and Mary has a lovely chat with him before she is reprimanded by Mrs. Medlock and Dr. Craven who tells her she can never see Colin again. She ends up running outside to the gardens where the ghosts of people she knew in the past attempt to traumatize her for life by reenacting their deaths and attempting to grab her like zombies. In the midst of it all Mary’s father runs to her and shows her the way to Lily who shows her the door to the garden which as the act ends she opens up with the key. Act Two opens up with Mary in a dream where she’s having a birthday party with everyone she’s met and learned to love from India and Yorkshire. The party is cut short though when Colin dies and Mary wakes up. Poor kid just really can’t catch a break. Archibald is in torment and decides to run away to Paris to try and free his mind. Before he leaves he visits his boy as he’s done most nights while he sleeps and reads a bedtime story showing us that Archibald isn’t completely a neglectful father.Though he is still pretty neglectful. Mary returns to Dickon with terrible news that the garden is dead and Dickon lets her know “that it’s not dead, it’s just wick!” and they sing a song about it. Mary meets back up with Colin and promises to take him out to the garden. Later at night, Martha and Dickon wheel Colin out to the garden where they perform spells and chant to “Come Spirt and Come Charm” to make him get well. The spirits do show up but no one sees them and they perform indian chants that are cut in most productions because the song is way too long. Colin musters the ability to stand for the first time and they are caught by Ben Weatherstaff who joins in their secret club and reveals he has been tending after the garden because Lily told him to. Later, Dr. Craven tries to send Mary off to school and she throws a tantrum and invokes the power of witchcraft and the rage of an eleven year old girl to get her to leave. Dr. Craven puts her in time out and scolds Mary who after being told she can’t see Colin anymore again tells him what the audience has been thinking, “You don’t want to see Colin get well. You want him to die so you can have this house for yourself.” Dr. Craven almost hits the child before sending her away and returning to sulk. Upstairs Mary believes she’s going away for good and Martha tells her to “Hold On” and convinces her to write a letter to her uncle telling him to come home. Archibald in Paris has been haunted by the thoughts of Lily and Colin everyday and after receiving Mary’s letter finally comes to terms with wife’s death in a heart wrenching song and builds up the courage to return home and resume his life as a father. The kids come into the garden once again as spring has sprung and they play as Archibald returns to hear their loud noises and comes to find the Secret Garden open and inhabited by the children. Mary and Colin run to him as Archibald sees that Colin is no longer sick and is standing and running and playing along with the other children. The two embrace and Dr. Craven is left with no words as to how they kept this all from him Archibald pretty much fires him and offers to let his brother use his flat in Paris so he can be free of them once and for all and let go of “The enormous weight he has carried on their behalf”. Which come on, he did basically look after your kid for eleven years despite the pain that it caused him due to his unrequited love of Lily and tried to do what he thought was best for you so maybe the guy deserves just a little bit more than a boot out of the show because I honestly think Dr. Craven was always trying to do the right thing even if it ended up hurting people and maybe deserves just a bit better but that’s just my interpretation. Dr. Craven leaves and after a push from Martha, Archibald realizes he’s forgotten about Mary. He tells her she will have a place in the family and this home for as long as she lives and gives her the Secret Garden as all of the dreamers one by one leave until all that’s left is Lily. She leaves Archibald marking the moment he can finally stop grieving her and move on to the rest of his life safe with his family in her garden.

A Bit Of History

Now that you know a bit more about this show let’s take a look at “a bit of history” which is quite possibly the worst pun in the history of the blog. If someone wants to research that for me go ahead but I wouldn’t recommend it. As we previously mentioned the show opened on Broadway in 1991 with music by Lucy Simon and lyrics and book by Marsha Norman. The original cast featured Daisy Eagan as Mary Lennox who would go on to play in the show again in the concert production as Martha. It also featured Mandy Patikin as Archibald Craven, Rebecca Luker, Robert Westenberg and John Cameron Mitchell who went on to write Hedwig And The Angry Inch. So yeah the cast was pretty star studded and is more so now. A version would later open on the West End which changed a lot that nobody needed changed and wasn’t very good so it’s not the one Samuel French sells. Oh, yeah Samuel French owns this show. Why? I have no idea. They own like 15 really good musicals and musicals like Side Show and Heathers I can understand why MTI didn’t buy that, but The Secret Garden is technically a kids show. I mean it’s extremely metal and it’s kinda like if Dr. Suess wrote a musical on existential dread but when I bought the book from some Books A Million it was in the kids section so you’d think MTI (known for its wealth of family friendly musicals) would’ve eaten it up but if they did I wouldn’t be able to keep my script I wrote all my Yorkshire translations in so I guess it’s a good thing in the end. Anyways we got way off topic and I almost missed the best piece of history of all. Let’s talk once again about the worst Tony Awards of all time. Bug off Great Comet fans I don’t care about your tears. In 1991, The Secret Garden was up for pretty much everything alongside Once On This Island, Miss Saigon, and The Will Rogers Follies. It ended up winning nothing except Best Book which could not have been more deserved and we will talk about that in a second. It didn’t win anything else though and Best Musical I can understand and probably in a fair world would’ve just gone to Miss Saigon first instead. I love The Secret Garden but I can say that Miss Saigon was just a bigger and better production overall, but as much as I love Boubil and Schönberg, I mean who doesn’t go ahead and raise your hand because I know you do. Other fans will realize from earlier in the article that I also love Ahrens and Flaherty, and even for how much I dog The Will Rogers Follies, I really love Cy Coleman's work and consider Barnum one of my favorite musicals but The Secret Garden just has a score like I have never heard before and absolutely deserved if nothing else The Best Score win. 

I Heard Someone Crying

It was me. I was the one crying after finishing my first listen through this show. I didn’t cry when I saw Titanic. If dog dies in a movie it’s not fun but it probably won’t get the waterworks going but, this show got me. The only other two shows that has done that are Big Fish and Dear Evan Hansen and I’m convinced the ladder is just because the other two just broke my ability to hold back tears. Big Fish made me cry because of how incredible the story came around in the end and I believe I’ve already talked about that one in the past. I honestly can’t remember. The Secret Garden made me cry in it’s very last song because of how damn gorgeous it is. I already told you to go listen to this musical for yourself but if for some reason you didn’t I mean it, go do it now and then come back and finish this article through your waterfall for eyes. The music itself does it job in always conveying the mood and letting us know how the characters feel but there’s more subtle things in this musical that I don’t notice in any many other musical. For starters, every character has their own different kind of musical style but it all blends together to not be jarring and feel like they come from different musicals. Oliver does a very similar thing but the music doesn’t always fit together. A great example of this is the song “The Letter Song”. The music when Mary sings sounds a little like a xylophone. It’s what one could only describe as childish sounding like children's music and as the music transitions to Archibald’s solos more instruments are added and the music becomes more complex and heavy. It shows us two different characters who feel two different things and have them sing the same song in entirely different ways. Another example is just how different Dickon’s songs sound to everything else in the show. They feature a lot more, what I would describe as country elements and the song feels like it takes place in some sort of nature wonderland. I honestly couldn’t begin to describe how Lucy Simon composed the show. I can only say that every song makes you feel a distinct thing and that's something that's a whole lot harder to describe to if you haven’t listened to the music. It’s honestly nothing short of a masterpiece and I found myself feeling this sense of delight at the simplest things like Simon’s various glissandos that are used in the main motifs. Glissando? Motifs? I’m not a music major. The nice sounding notes at the beginning and end of the show. Yeah, I really like those and the music is very pretty to put it curtly.

It’s A Maze

I would imagine adapting a book like The Secret Garden would be pretty difficult but Marsha Norman does a fantastic job to the point that it does a very rare thing in making an adaptation that in undeniably better than it’s source material. There’s a whole lot of chapters of the book that are mashed together in one scene and so you get some weird lines like Mary just blurting out “Colin, we’re cousins.” The best thing the adaptation does though is bring the characters of Archibald, Lily, and Dr. Craven into the limelight. In the original book the entire story focuses around the kids with the first half of the book being about Mary. The second half of the book being about Colin which is probably why the line “I almost forgot you in all of this” is given to Archibald in the musical because it seems that Burnett completely forgot Mary existed while finishing the book. Oh and I can only assume there was some stipulation that Dickon had to mentioned in every other sentence whether he was in the scene or not because the book is pretty much 90% people just saying how good of a boy Dickon is. I mean he is but it seems kind of unnecessary to the plot. In the musical however, the children are given about half the show and the adults are given the other half. It’s something you never want to see an adaptation without it again. The relationships are so human and the parts with Archibald and Dr. Craven and Archibald and Lily are the most heartbreaking and compelling parts of the show. Another addition are the Dreamers which are ghosts from Mary pasts who aren’t called ghosts for reasons I can’t explain and don’t know. Their character descriptions state they are, “there to follow Mary from her past life until she gets settled in her new one.” which is pretty much right on the money. They show up in most symbolic moments and leave at the end of the show as Archibald welcomes Mary into the family and gives her the garden. There’s also in that part at the end of Act One where they all reenact their incredibly gory and bloody deaths in front of Mary as she wanders around a maze in a thunderstorm. It’s a really great family show make sure to bring the kids. Overall there’s been a whole lot of adaptations of this book. Some that turn Mrs. Medlock and Dr. Craven into Disney villains who just want to kill Colin and inherit the manor but this musical really paints them how I feel they should be as human beings who are selfish and sometimes arrogant but really just are trying to do the best thing even if that varies from character to character. The best example of this Dr. Craven who is sculpted from even less than Archibald and clear love and hatred for Colin combined with his backstory of living his brother's wife, Lily makes him the most fascinating character in the show and one that takes a whole lot of careful thought to do justice. The show ended up winning the Tony Award for Best Book and for how it brings us a new look at previously neglected characters I can say to give that to any other show that year would’ve been absolutely absurd.

The Conclusion

I always get a little carried away in these and maybe lose the point completely along the way but this is honestly a really special show and has been added to a list of my favorites that if it keeps growing the word “favorite” will lose it’s meaning entirely. If you get the chance to see it I absolutely urge you to because most versions of it completely live up to the standard of its music and script with it’s visuals, directing, actor portrayals. Talk of a revival has been ongoing forever and it was confirmed and then subsequently unconfirmed. I have no doubt though that Lucy Simon’s masterpiece will eventually find its way back on Broadway. The show has given me a real appreciation for a hundred plus year old book that I wouldn’t have ever read without it and seriously if you still haven't listened to that soundtrack go do it now. Mandy Patikin, John Cameron Mitchell? What more do I have to say. It’s while maybe not my absolutely favorite one of the best musicals I’ve ever encountered and a 9/10 if not a perfect 10/10. 

Since I talked so much about how great this show is it’s time for you to see it yourself and so it’s time for my favorite ending segment, The Upcoming Productions! Is it called that? It’s honestly been a while since I did an article like this. It might be called, Current Productions or something like that. Who cares!

The Upcoming Productions!

The Secret Garden @ Lake Dillon Theatre Company from 6/30/2020 to 7/26/2020 in Colorado

The Secret Garden @ Missouri State University from 4/2/2020 to 4/5/2020 in Missouri 

The Secret Garden @ The Center For The Arts Inc. from 8/23/2019 to 9/6/2019 in Tennessee

The Secret Garden @ Highland Park Community Theatre from 7/25/2019 to 8/3/2019 in Minnesota

The Secret Garden @ Lake Country Players from 3/20/2020 to 4/6/2020 in Wisconsin

The Secret Garden @ Leon High School from 7/12/2019 to 7/21/2019 in Florida

The Secret Garden @ Santa Clara University from 5/29/2020 to 6/6/2020 in California 

Hey, remember that time I listed a Newsies production from all 50 states. I’m never doing that again! So, you can find all the shows I missed at https://www.samuelfrench.com/p/471/the-secret-garden

Thank you for this article and I encourage you to come back next month because I have what might be my favorite article I’ve done yet cooking up and I’m so excited to put it out there. That’s really all I’ve got. I’ve been Taylor and you’ve been you and I hope you a fantastic rest of your july and I’ll see you sometime in August with that special article. Goodbye.



My Fair Lady's Biggest Problem...Solved

Elizabeth Bergmann

My Fair Lady closed its most recent Broadway revival on July 7. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, the Lerner and Loewe masterpiece first opened on Broadway in 1956 starring Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison, and won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. This most recent revival received critical acclaim and a Tony Award for Costume Design. It has been revived over and over with many stars of the stage and screen portraying these beloved characters all around the world. The movie (for all its casting controversy) is a breathtaking movie-musical that is so true to the original script that one can honestly run lines WITH THE MOVIE.

Outside these professional settings, amateur theatre groups have done the show over and over. My own Midwestern city saw three productions that all performed within two months of each other. Eliza Doolittle is a beloved role for sopranos everywhere (playing her was a dream come true for me). Higgins is a godsend for the sing-talking men of the world, and Freddy Eynsford-Hill’s song has been sung in auditions billions of times. The point is, the world would be a vastly different place without this amazing musical existing.

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That does not mean that the show does not have its problems. By far, the biggest one is the ending, which differs from Shaw’s ending in a big way: Eliza comes back. We can bring up sexism, adding romance where it doesn’t belong, and a million other criticisms. All of these are valid issues to find within this musical, but the ending is definitely a contentious part of the show, especially with the changes this most recent revival added.

Higgins starves Eliza, threatens her with violence, and takes all the credit for her accomplishments. Eliza returns to him after he treats her horribly. I am by no means defending anything Higgins did, or saying Eliza was right to go back to him. So, how do we solve this problem? Simple: It isn’t a problem at all if you dissect these characters as much as I have.

My Fair Lady is based on Shaw’s Pygmalion, as I said. Pygmalion is named for the man with the same name from Greek mythology. Pygmalion was a man who was fed up and uninterested in women, so he sculpted his idea of a perfect woman out of ivory. When he falls in love with the statue, he prays and makes offerings to Aphrodite for a woman identical to his statue. When he returns home and kisses her, she comes to life and they get married. Many versions of the myth include her name as Galatea, and this story has inspired countless stories of an artist’s creation coming to life.

Shaw refused to give Eliza and Higgins an ending like the one in My Fair Lady because he saw it as opposing the point of the narrative. In a letter to Mrs. Patrick Campbell, the first Eliza, he wrote:

“When Eliza emancipates herself – when Galatea comes to life – she must not relapse. She must retain her pride and triumph to the end. When Higgins takes your arm on 'consort battleship' you must instantly throw him off with implacable pride; and this is the note until the final 'Buy them yourself.'”

Higgins rants against women because he believes none of them measure up to men in the way he wants. Rather than realizing his scope is limited, or that certain behaviors are forced upon women from a young age, he just sees them as non-intellectuals who don’t appreciate literature and the arts because they’re too stupid and emotional. As much as Eliza changes, Higgins changes even more. The best performances show his growth from a man-child used to getting what he wants to a man who learns to see the humanity in those that are different from him. The only person Higgins likes at the beginning of the show is Colonel Pickering, who is himself an educated linguist and gentleman. By the end of the show, Higgins has actually grown to care for Eliza, and even goes to his mother, a woman, for help when she disappears. He has created this incredibly strong woman out of the flower girl he found, and she is as perfect as any woman could be in his eyes. He exclaims “I like you this way!” when she defies him. Everyone focuses on Eliza’s change, but if we are to call this a coming-of-age story, a stronger case can be made for it being Higgins’s story.

This only works, however, if we are able to see him grow past his arrogance expressed in “You Did It” about Eliza’s progress. He takes all the credit for her, without seeing the admirable qualities that she already possessed, or that she cultivated in herself along the way. He can only grow to see her as a person, rather than a creation, when she stands up to him. The line he says immediately after “Without You” is so critical: “Five minutes ago, you were a millstone around my neck, and now you're a tower of strength, a consort battleship.” He needs to see her as a new, independent person, rather than just his project or pet. The best actors are able to make him see the error of his ways, without allowing him to apologize through words.

Eliza, meanwhile, comes into her own in the world of the gentry. She grows to a point of emotional maturity where she no longer cries when confronted. She learns how to navigate all parts of society, not just the working or lower classes. She finds value in herself and recognizes her abilities beyond being able to sell flowers. As freed as she can be when people don’t look down on her, however, she does also come to realize that upper class women don’t have as many opportunities as men, either. A very powerful moment comes when she’s faced with the dilemma of where she’ll go after the ball. Higgins’s immediate reaction is that she’s too good to work in a shop as planned, so he declares “You could marry, you know.” Eliza’s response to him saying that all she’s worth is marriage is heartbreaking: “We were above that in Covent Garden. ... I sold flowers, I never sold myself. Now that you’ve made a lady of me, I’m not fit to sell anything else.” The environment she’s in is impossible. So, she decides she will marry Freddy.

Now, Freddy Eynsford-Hill has a far larger role in My Fair Lady than he does in Pymalion. In the original play, he shows up once, is enchanted, and is only ever mentioned when Eliza tells Higgins her plans. His family, while certainly part of the gentility, no longer has the finances they once had, and Higgins tells Eliza that she’ll have to support him since he’s been raised to not work. In My Fair Lady, a lot of effort is put into Freddy’s devotion through “On the Street Where You Live.” He is an impressionable young man, and since many of the Eliza actresses are older, it’s not unreasonable to reach the conclusion that she can exert a certain amount of control over Freddy. She can accomplish a lot more as a respectable married woman than as a single one, and she knows this. While leaving Higgins to marry Freddy may not be financially advantageous, socially, it’s one of her best moves. There’s no reason marrying Freddy would be a terrible idea for her.

If that’s the case, then why am I not bothered by the return in My Fair Lady? Because of that power imbalance with Freddy and Eliza. I can’t think of many people who want a huge imbalance like that in their relationships, and does Eliza really want to spend the rest of her life with a man who says “I spend all my time here. It’s the only place I’m really happy” when she walks out of her house and sees him there? To me, the most important thing in My Fair Lady is the growth of Higgins and Eliza’s relationship. They grow to respect each other, and even to care, and while the script explicitly states there is no romantic attraction, that doesn’t mean that they are incapable of cohabitating. By the time she leaves, Higgins sees her as an equal. He says he doesn’t treat her any differently than he does anyone else, and there is evidence of that (he’s rude to everyone regardless of his relationship to them). In fact, only Eliza seems to remember that he planned for her to move out after the bet was won. Higgins sees no problem with her continuing to live there and go about her life. He even expresses that he’ll miss her companionship in the final song, “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” which he has never expressed about anyone.

Okay, so Higgins wants her to come back. But doesn’t it undermine Eliza’s entire arc for her to come back to him instead of going out on her own and marrying Freddy? Well, that depends on why she comes back. There are plenty of bad reasons for her return. Is she coming back because Higgins has manipulated her into it? No. Is she coming back because it’s what he wants and she’s putting his needs first? No. Is she coming back because she can’t support herself in the world? NO (she has a plan to apprentice herself to Higgins’ rival and make money teaching phonetics). While we can’t pinpoint exactly why she comes back, I have several theories. Maybe she comes back because she’s found a home in 27A Wimpole Street. Perhaps she finds that while she doesn’t need Higgins, he seems contrite enough that if she wants to live with him, they could make it work (this especially works if his “Where the devil are my slippers?” is delivered with a smile to indicate a joke). Maybe she understands that manipulating Freddy into a marriage will just continue a sexist cycle that she’s been trying to break free from. Either way, if these are taken into consideration, Eliza can still come into her own and stay there while returning to the Higgins residence.

“But what about the new feminist ending of the revival?” I’ve not seen the revival (I’m a broke college student in the Midwest). I’ve heard various things, including a slap (which I have mixed feelings about), but from what I can gather, the gist is that Eliza does come back, but then leaves again through the audience when Higgins asks her where his slippers are. One post I read included that there is a blue light to indicate that maybe Higgins is imagining her, which I think would speak volumes to his arc. But if this is the real Eliza, her returning and then leaving again can still fit into her arc. Maybe she did come back expecting things to be different, but sees he refuses to change. She could be giving him one last chance to apologize to her. I’m sure each actress in the role presents it differently, and I’m sure each adds their own nuance. I’m interested to see if future productions keep this new ending, and how different directors and actors tackle it.

None of this changes the fact, though, that this ending is not what George Bernard Shaw would have wanted for these characters. After a 1914 production changed the play slightly to give a happier ending, he wrote a whole essay, “What Happened Afterwards,” that has since been attached to published versions of the script. To that, I have to say something that might seem obvious, but still needs to be said: My Fair Lady and Pygmalion are different shows. Yes, the scripts are nearly identical, and Shaw probably should be given a writing credit, but the shows are different. The original play didn’t include the pronunciation exercises we hear in “The Rain in Spain,” those came about in 1938’s Pygmalion film. This same film introduced the concept of a ball, rather than a party, being the test, as well as the idea of a Hungarian villain, and the musical really cemented Zoltan Karpathy as a character. If we are to say My Fair Lady must keep Shaw’s ending, then we must say the same of other adaptations that are not 100% faithful to their source material. Pygmalion alone would mean tackling all the film adaptations, as well as She’s All That, the end of Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, and even the short-lived television series Selfie. Adaptations require changes, and if Lerner and Lowe wanted to change things, that is their prerogative. It doesn’t destroy Eliza’s arc. Galatea has still come to life.

Confessions of a Musical Theatre Addict

Chris Lynn

Previously, I wrote a blog about non theatre people who state that they hate musicals.  I gave some advice and suggestions on how to introduce a non theatre person to the wide variety of music and subject matter encompassing musicals via the hater’s personal interests and hobbies. My claim was that there was a musical for everyone and everyone’s interest.

Today’s blog is a similar theme, but instead the focus is on a more insidious hater: the hater within. Before diving in, I have a confession to make. I am a recovering hater.  I loved Be More Chill and hated Rent.  (Oops! I did it again! After reviewing the situation, I think I'd better think it out again!)

Why would a music theatre fanatic expressing hate for a particular show be an insidious act?  Consider the following: (1) Aren’t many of the members on All Things Broadway either very young or very new to the world of music theatre?  (2) Which were the first musicals that swept you into the world of music theatre? Certainly a goal of All Things Broadway as well the goal of many of you readers is to encourage and promote more theatre.  Trashing a specific musical that is the catalyst for a newbie losing their showtune virginity is counterintuitive to this goal. Most of us can remember our firsts! My first loves were Fiddler On the Roof and Phantom of the Opera.  I still have a fondness and reminisce my date with Fiddler.  While I once loved Phantom, I have moved on and feel like Little Red Riding Hood as I have discovered many more musicals: “I know things now, many valuable things, that I hadn't known before” (Stephen Sondheim).  

Maybe we all need to leave trash talkin’ to those that dribble a basketball and NBA fans that heckle the opposing team’s players and referees. Music theatre is not a spectator sport, (we no longer live in the times of Shakespeare) however, it is an art that requires a great deal of collaboration from a multitude of disciplines. When a musical is successful and wins, we all win.  Instead of bashing a musical or someone’s personal taste, rejoice in their newly found passion and support that passion by suggesting similar shows or other shows that may be of interest.  See my previous blog:

https://allthingsbroadway.com/blog/2019/6/17/a-musical-for-everyone-according-to-their-hobby?fbclid=IwAR3a8uMweLN6tVFfOPJiGe_-6y0Zr-b4E8VvZwnKVlDpyNhiQ7BBLWNnrCE 

Certainly, you can criticize, debate, critique, give your opinion, and analyze a show.  However, all of this can be done respectfully while also preserving and promoting the artform. The same applies to trash talking a new Broadway show by openly hoping for its financial demise.  As evidenced in the title of this blog, I loved Be More Chill.  I get the argument that Be More Chill was too small for a larger Broadway stage and more appropriate for a house with smaller audiences.  I also understand that many were annoyed by the obnoxious fanbase. Again, I invite debate and dissenting opinion. However, I will NEVER understand rooting for a show to fail.  I don’t understand it in a cliquey community theatre environment, and I certainly don’t get the motive on a larger national scale. If you truly love music and theatre, you do not hedge bets for music and theatre to fail.

Perhaps some shows are more appropriate for the smaller, more intimate Off-Broadway theatre (100-499 seats).  However, by this logic, these smaller more intimate shows will rarely get the recognition that they deserve. Of course, Off- and Off-Off-Broadway shows have their own recognition awards called the Obie’s. On the other hand, how many of you watch the Obie awards? How many posts on the Obie Awards did you see on All Things Broadway? (I get it.  It is not called All Things Off-Broadway). What kind of national attention do the Obie awards receive? I will debate anyone wishing to compare the quality of Broadway shows to some Off-Broadway shows such as The Adding Machine, Bat Boy, Dogfight, Evil Dead, Floyd Collins, Forever Plaid, The Last Five Years, Murder Ballad, A New Brain, Songs for A New World, and many more that this midwesterner has not been offered exposure priviledges. Thankfully, some of the Off-Broadway shows listed above have enjoyed exposure beyond New York City. Sadly, many more deserving shows have not. Most of them are on the other end of the exposure spectrum than the exceptional granddaddy of them all: The Fantasticks. Again, if the goal is to promote and give exposure to great musical theatre, then why not have some of these shows highlighted on a nationally televised awards show like the Tony Awards?  I would like to see Off-Broadway shows having eligibility to win a Tony or an award with an equivalent media exposure. While I agree that many of the Off-Broadway shows that transfer to Broadway are swallowed whole by cavernous spaces and lose their intimacy and charm, many of them still deserve just as much or more exposure than their razzle dazzle big set design counterparts.  Perhaps the award shows should be split into 2 different shows: one for plays and one for musicals. I know that is probably not the answer, but I certainly would love to see performances of some of these Off-Broadway shows. At the very least, I will be anticipating the Obie Awards with as much enthusiasm, if not more, than the Tony Awards! They have also had some incredible hosts including John Leguizamo, David Pierce Hyde, and Rachel Bloom this past season. Here is a link to the Obie Awards. http://www.obieawards.com/

Julie Bovasso, Shelley Winters and Jason Robards at the 1956 Obie Awards

Julie Bovasso, Shelley Winters and Jason Robards at the 1956 Obie Awards

While I love musicals, I will venture to say that I am probably like many of you. Like you, I have strong opinions and discerning tastes. Some people love every single musical, but I don’t think that applies to most of us. Most of us love many shows, cannot stomach many others, or leave the theatre of some shows indifferent  with an unmemorable impression. Granted there are some shows that you love right from the starting gate. I got a horse right here, his name is Into the Woods or Pippin or Big River. Some shows, unlike one’s personal thoroughbreds, are considered more as icky sticky glue. For me, those shows are Cats, Rent, and  (Sondheim fans around the world take a collective GASP!) Passion. Still, there are many other shows I am willing to give a second chance on a different race track (theatre company), managed by a different trainer (director), with different jockeys (leading players). Recently, in the role of hater, I made a snippy comment about a musical that was not one of my favorites. I stated that Spring Awakening was basically a story about sexually frustrated and repressed teens. Of course I was called out on my ridiculous overgeneralization by a Spring Awakening fan. Luckily, I was able to swallow my pride and admit that she was correct and there was much more to the musical than just that. I promised to give the show another chance and actually found a production from a reputable theatre next Spring. Who knows?  After seeing a different production I may change my mind. Then again, I may not. Generally I have an aversion to biopic musicals, jukebox musical, and recent non-musical movie stagings. BUT BUT BUT!!!! I am willing to give some of these shows a try. I am willing to shed my hater ways and be a little more open minded. Certainly, I have not seen many of the musicals in these genes, so there is a good chance that my opinions of them could change. I will be seeing an equity production of The Full Monty next week. I adored the movie. Watching the musical with fresh unbiased eyes and ears will be difficult, but I promise to try.

I am sure I am not the only one, but I used to avoid listening to a new musical or reading about it until I personally saw a production. This has become increasingly difficult due to 1) the temptations found on social media and streaming music and 2) living in the midwest and the need to always hear or see something new. For my non theatre friends, appreciating a show beforehand by simply listening to a cast recording is a near impossible task. For theatre folk like us it is both a welcoming reprieve and a curse. Every once in awhile, however, one cannot judge a musical merely from a cast recording. 

What if you are giving your honest opinion about a musical while being respectful of others, yet people still get offended? Well, welcome to today’s world where some people are addicted to outrage. I am a fairly Pollyanna kind of guy. I choose to believe most of us are good as well as smart enough to see when a fellow theatre aficionado is doing their part in creating an honest, open, dissenting, and respectful climate for public discourse. Having said that, the very few that do not fit this description, tend to be much louder and obnoxious than the mainstream. The sheer volume of their few voices makes their numbers seem greater than what they actually are.  What do these outrage addicts look like? They make take personal offense to any criticism of a show that is close to their heart. Honestly, if you are not one of the writers, producers, actors, creative team members, or anyone else directly involved in Tootsie or Beetlejuice, then respectfully, take it down a notch. There are members on All Things Broadway that are indeed involved in a Broadway show in one or more of these capacities. Some get offended by the discussions followed by the barrage of threads on the topic of overrated vs. underrated musicals. While some took offense, a small cadre of users laughed it off, and playfully poked fun at the ridiculous notion of meaningless terms such as overrated and underrated!  

The most disgusting display of outrage is when people are accused of being racist, homophobic, sexist, etc, simply for having a less than favorable opinion on a particular show.  I’ve seen this on All Things Broadway as well as in person in Play Selection Committees that I have served as a member. I have been called any number of these names, and then I did the unspeakable!  I confessed that I hated Shakespeare! Agghhhhhhh!!!!!!!!! Blasphemy!

Most of the disrespectful speech or speech that is counterintuitive in promoting and encouraging the artform of music theatre are listed below

Overly Produced Musicals

In tne of the community theatres that I participate, the mere mentioning of Oklahoma! on the play selection committee becomes a running joke.  I think the show has been produced there at least 7 times during its 40+ years of existence.  Other musicals that fall into this category include

  • Anything Goes

  • Bye Bye Birdie

  • The Sound of Music

  • Guys and Dolls

Please keep in mind that even though these shows are older and considered classics, there are still some people left on the planet who have never seen them either live or on a screen. Even newer shows are being produced quite a bit as well. I would encourage your local theatres to keep revivals limited to at least 5 or 6 years between productions. There is a plethora of worthy musicals for your local community theatres and high schools to produce. Give your audiences a smorgasbord of variety.

Outdated/Racist/Sexist Musicals

The criticism of some of these shows has merit, yet some criticism is overblown outrage as discussed above. One such example is Carousel, a musical with arguably some of the most lush music ever written by Richard Rogers. These themes of domestic abuse, however, are difficult for most of us to swallow. Carousel, indeed is a difficult show to watch. How can one reconcile such a beautiful score with a show that seems to not only accept but encourage a man striking a woman? The challenging bit of dialogue in question follows: “It is possible for someone to hit you. Hit you hard and not feel it at all”. Julie responds to her daughter that yes, it is possible to love someone so much and never feel the physical slap at all. Was Oscar Hammerstein trying to make a point about the power of forgiveness? For many of us, myself included, some acts such as domestic violence are unforgivable, or in the very least should not be tolerated. For me the message of Carousel, was a cautionary tale - a tragedy. Carousel is very real, raw, and relevant today with the themes of domestic violence and the choices many women make in those types of complicated relationships. I suspect we have many real life examples of Julie Jordans walking amongst us today. We scratch our heads when we see them continue to return to their abusive homes, husbands, and boyfriends. We hear these modern day Julies eerily echo the sentiments of Julie Jordan: “He only hits me because he loves me.  It is my fault that he hits me”. For me, this makes Carousel a challenging, important, and ultimately a heartbreaking piece that was actually ahead of it time, rather than outdated.

A show that I do consider outdated and thus somewhat offensive is My Fair Lady. I personally find very little admirable qualities in Henry Higgins. Falling in love with a woman he treats like dirt does not redeem him. Many may argue otherwise, but personally, I just don’t care for this show, or Learner and Lowe’s other musical (Camelot). Both are very pretentious/snooty in my opinion.

Other musicals considered outdated due to culturally sensitivity issues include the following.  You decide if there are merits to these arguments:

  • Annie Get Your Gun

  • The King and I 

  • Showboat

  • The Robber’s Bridesgroom

Rabid Fanbase

While a rabid fanbase can be annoying, please try not to judge a show based on the obnoxious behaviors of its adorers. Of course, Be More Chill is the most recent and newsworthy of this category. Judge the show on its own merits. Some of the shows you will like and some you will not. Try not to allow meaningless terms like overrated, underrated, over appreciated, or underappreciated sway your opinion. Who cares what others think anyway? What a boring world it would be if everyone’s favorite musical was Wicked. For fun, see if you can give the nickname for fans of each musical below:

Rabid Fan Quiz

Musical ----------------------------------------> Nickname of the Fans

Wicked

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Newsies

Fun Home

American Idiot

Spring Awakening

Phantom of the Opera

Les Miserables

Matilda

Heathers

Jeckle and Hyde

Something Rotten

Passing Strange

 

*Answers at the end of this blog.

Biopic Musicals

I am personally not a fan of Biopic musicals. I would rather just see a music artist in concert or (if deceased) on youtube or a film. I have no interest in seeing an impersonation on stage.  Sounds too much like Elvis in Vegas. If you love this type of musical, then more power to you and the musical theatre artform. There is certainly enough room for this sub-genre. If the subgenre plays a small role in bringing in new fans via an already established fanbase, then I say Bravo!  I would suggest, giving your biopic musical loving friend additional suggestions of both bio and non biopic musicals that would be of interest:


Jersey Boys  ---> Forever Plaid

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical  or Motown ---> Dreamgirls or Memphis

Bat Out of Hell---> Rocky Horror Picture Show

Million Dollar Quartet ---> Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story

Always...Patsy Cline---. Pump Boys and Dinettes

Personal Favorites

We all have our personal favorite musicals.  If someone else does not like it or hates it, then who cares?  That should not diminish your joy nor the joy of others who love the same show.  No, No, No, they can’t take that away from me. One of my personal favorites is Stephen Schwartz’s Children of Eden.  As the song goes, the show hits very “Close to Home”. I had once suggested this show in a play committee for an outdoor community theatre. One of the members who had great pull, shot it down with the argument that the show was too long and the story dragged. Of course, the show’s typical running time falls within the average of 2 hours and 30 minutes. Oh well, the show was nixed from our list fairly quickly after that exchange. We all have those shows that seem to have been written specifically for us and our own unique situation in life. Another show that resonates with me and my personal philosophy is a complete unknown late 1970s one man show called Reason and Rhyme or 3 Questions: A Musical Oratorio by Robin Field. See Link below. Funny that my two favorite musicals have never played on a Broadway or Off-Broadway stage. This just goes to show, once again, that great musical theatre is not confined to the Broadway stage, regardless if it has a huge cast and set design or a one man show with only a piano on a bare stage. Link to Reason and Rhyme:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIs9xM7Sac8&t=1698s

Guilty Pleasures

Some of the musicals we love DO NOT have the best music or include corny or contrite dialogue. Yet, we still love them and derive great pleasure from them. You don’t have to remind us! So, don’t poo poo on our parade! One of my favorite guilty pleasures is Evil Dead: The Musical. Yes it is campy, but I think that it is intended to be…. well… stupid. Evil Dead does not take itself seriously. I don’t think the musical mega hit Mamma Mia takes itself seriously as well.  The plot is ridiculous and the song lyrics are woven into the story in a tongue and cheek punfest fashion. Mamma Mia is not my kind of musical, but as evidenced by all the community theatres around the world mounting productions, for many it certainly is their kind of entertainment. What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Movie Adaptations

When I mention movie adaptations, I am speaking of non musical big box office hit films that made it to the Broadway stage less than 10 years after its initial movie release.  Again, not my preferred musical brand, but my opinion should not interfere with others who love these shows. I’d rather see a story that is not so fresh in my mind with iconic performances so recently established.  As mentioned earlier, I will still give these shows a chance as I am seeing The Full Monty next week.

Slow Moving Shows

Not all shows are full of razzle dazzle or showstopping numbers. Some musicals play out more like a dramatic play. While the music may or may not be memorable after leaving the theatre, these shows can be appreciated if not loved. Musicals that come to mind include: Fun Home, Grey Gardens, and A Little Night Music. Interestingly, most of the songs from Fun Home and Grey Gardens are personally unmemorable, but their stories and dramatic performances left an indelible mark. Conversely, I know all the songs from A Little Night Music and enjoy listening to them, but the show itself (for me) was slow and pretentious. I love you, Sondheim!  Don’t hunt me down and shoot me one of these weekends in the country. Still, I have immense appreciation and respect for A Little Night Music.

Non linear / Non traditional plots

Some people hate musicals that do not follow a traditional plot. I have directed 6 musical productions. Of those musicals, 3 of them were productions of Godspell. My wife and daughter do not like Godspell.  Ironically, I am an atheist, and Godspell is one of my favorites!  Go figure! Special thanks to Mr. Sondheim for starting the trend and giving us great non linear musicals such as Company and Follies.

Objectionable Plots

Are there some shows that include a plot that are a total turn off? Which shows leave a bitter taste in your vibrato? For me those shows are Rent, Grease, and Passion. Most of the musicals I enjoy include characters with strong traits of individualism and a will to overcome. I love the music in Rent, but I have zero empathy for the cadre of characters that beg us to feel sorry for them. I really wanted to love Grease, another show with great songs.  Why did the writers have to create such a terrible ending where Sandy compromises herself? Did she have to fall prey to peer pressure? In order to fit in, she turns into a slut. No thanks. I totally disagree with the concept of unconditional love as portrayed in Passion. Yes, Fosca was sickly, however, I felt like she was suffocating both the leading man and me the entire show by manipulating both of us with unearned guilt. Love without reason? No thanks.

Jukebox

I think I already covered Jukebox musicals both with its cousin, biopic musicals. Enjoy your show Jukebox fans!

Thank you for reading all. Relax! Let’s all agree to agree and agree to disagree. The most important thing to do is go see a musical…..and don’t forget to bring a friend!  After all, just as we learned in The Book of Mormon.

Happy Musical Theatre Humming all!


*Answers to Rabid Fanbase Quiz:

Rent: “Rentheads”

Wicked: “Wikedites”/”ShizKids”/”Mizzies”

Hedwig and the Angry Inch: “Hed-Heads” 

Newsies: “Fansies”

Fun Home: “Fun Homies”

American Idiot: “idiots”

Spring Awakening: “Guilty Ones”

Phantom of the Opera: “Phans”

Les Miserables: “Les MizFits”

Matilda: “Maggots”

Heathers: “Corn Nuts”

Jeckle and Hyde: “Jekkies”

Something Rotten: “Egg-heads”

Passing Strange: “Scaryotypes”



Fun Home: Why I Had a Not so Fun Experience

Darren Wildeman
For a musical with all the hype and and five Tony Awards I expected to be blown away. I wanted to like it. I was expecting something challenging, and something deep and emotional…I got nothing. I found many songs forgettable and much of the story to fall flat.

I know Alison Bechdel’s story, not inside and out, but I’ve read about her before seeing Fun Home and know who she is and at least had a general idea of her experience. And I thought there was fantastic fodder there for a musical. I was expecting that story to result in something brilliant on stage. And yet I was bored.


One thing that I did enjoy was the transitions between “adult” and “young” Alison. That is a fascinating way to tell a story. However, even this aspect I felt lacked execution. The transitions feel choppy and at times confusing. It’s a fascinating concept, however it doesn’t portray the story very well. I was expecting these to give an emotional punch to the gut, but instead…they don’t. The story continues and even in pivotal moments of the show you know in your head what’s happening is huge to the plot, but it isn’t conveyed. The story telling doesn’t allow for that to happen or for you to fell the significance of what are supposed to be the big, emotional moments about Alison from discovering her sexuality to realizing the death of her father don’t feel like the big emotional moments. It feels like you’re being told the story and not shown it. Sure, an event might have happened on stage but not in a way that makes you feel the full force of it. It feels bland and light, which is not what a musical of this magnitude is supposed to feel. The show seems like it’s trying to make you see what happened, and make absolutely sure you see it, but in making sure you see it, it sacrificed something. I can definitely see what happened, but I didn’t get the storytelling that I’d expect in these big moments for Alison and the major moments of her life. In the moment when the show implies that Alison’s father had a sexual encounter with the much younger boy, the show makes it clear what happened; however, it fails to really stop and acknowledge the significance of it. When her father goes to see a psychiatrist it’s clear that something big should be revealed like this but it feels like the show just told us it’s sunny outside.

While a lot of this hangs on the storytelling the music certainly didn’t do any favours either. There’s a classic saying that you should be able to walk away from the musical being able to hum a song from the show. I don’t believe this saying is totally true, however I should at least be able to know the music from the show. Despite seeing the show and giving the cast albums a couple of listens I can barely even tell you the titles of any of the songs never mind what they sound like. I do talk about some of the better songs later and the score certainly has its moments. I don’t hate the score, but I just don’t think it does the what I find to be bland storytelling any favours. However, as I said the show does have its moments.

That’s not to say the show isn’t totally without emotion. One thing I thought was extremely well done in this show was the last half hour or so. The ending moments of this musical are the heart wrenching, emotional moments that make the type of impact the rest of the show is looking for. First off in the last few scenes we see how strained Alison and her Father’s relationship have been in “Telephone Wire.” It’s the scene where their tense relationship finally comes to a head. From there we see Bruce totally snap. One of my fellow bloggers (thanks David) pointed out what an amazingly well written song “Edge of the World” is. It shows Bruce’s thoughts and his thoughts and psyche totally deteriorating. Almost in a similar style to Javert’s suicide. These ending scenes and the finale of Alison playing Airplane with her father are extremely powerful. Things are shown and not told here and the last third of the show or so is really well told and does give you the emotional punch to the face the rest of the show lacks.

This begs the question, what does the last third of the show do so much better that the majority of the show lacks? I feel like in these last scenes the show finally takes a minute to stop and slow down the action. It isn’t just one scene ending and having the next plot point strolling in before you can swallow it. I said earlier the show doesn’t acknowledge the significance of some of the past events. However, I feel that finally happens here. It’s odd to draw a parallel between Fun Home and Come From Away but the people who I’ve seen that didn’t love Come From Away said the show moves too fast, we don’t get to know the characters extremely well, or feel the emotional impact. That’s what I feel about this show. I feel like the moments earlier on in the show could really do with a longer run time. If the show was longer and had a proper intermission I think chewing on the emotional and impactful moments would go a long way in helping the impactful moments early on in the show.

Overall, I think Fun Home tries to be an emotional punch in the face. However, the moments early on in the show don’t allow for enough room to breathe or scenes to process the sad moments before it hurriedly moves a long to the next scene. It’s not until the final few scenes where the audience is allowed to take a moment and process what is happening. Make no mistake, these final scenes are well done and impactful, but the rest of the show pales in comparison with them. The majority of show could do with that same amount of space and room to breathe rather than the show moving a long quickly to tell rather than show us what happens in a rather vanilla fashion.

Where Are the Teenagers?

Rachel Hoffman

In the past few years, there has been a surge of new musicals whose stories are centered around teenagers. From shows with serious themes, like Dear Evan Hansen, to shows that are more extravagant and fun, like Mean Girls, to shows that fall into both categories, like The Prom, the teens seem to be taking over Broadway.

But despite the slew of shows set in high schools and with high-school-aged characters, there are very few actors in these shows who are actually the age of the characters they are portraying. While there are some exceptions, it is very difficult to find a professional show about high schoolers with a cast the same age as its characters.

Of course, there are many valid reasons why it is difficult to cast teenagers in Broadway shows. The most obvious reason is that kids under the age of 18 are still considered minors in New York, and are often still attending school. When children and teens are employed as performers in New York, their employers are responsible for ensuring that the child’s work schedule, tutoring schedule, and break time comply with the state’s child labor laws. (For curious minds, these regulations can be found at https://www.labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/wp/LS559.pdf.) And aside from the legalistic side of it, it is true that older actors and actresses are often just better choices for the roles. It is much easier to find a performer in their 20s with several Broadway credits and professional training than a teenager with the same qualifications.


Obviously, there are some shows that require children to be cast. Shows like Matilda, School of Rock, and The Sound of Music, among many others, simply cannot be performed in a convincing way without child performers. It is the characters in their late teens that are most often filled with actors and actresses that are older than their onstage counterparts.

While there have been many recent shows set in high school, the casting of adults in teen roles isn’t a new trend. Musicals about high schoolers have been around for decades. From West Side Story, to Grease, to Bring It On, Broadway musicals set in high school have always had casts full of 20- and 30-year-olds.

But at what point does an actor stop being believable as a teenager? Perhaps the most drastic recent example of casting older actors as teenagers is the current Broadway production of Be More Chill. With a cast made almost entirely of actors in their late 20s and early 30s, much of the cast is almost twice as old as the characters they are playing. Living in the midwest, I haven’t had the luxury of seeing this show- or any recent show, for that matter- on Broadway, so I feel that I can’t make a judgement on whether the actors truly appear to be in high school in the show, or if they appear to be adults portraying high schoolers. But I do wonder, what made the casting directors decide to cast multiple actors in their 30s instead of actors closer to the age of the show’s characters? What must be done to make a 30-year-old believable as a high school student? Does anything have to be done at all? Would they have still cast the same actors if they were 35? 40? (But I digress… perhaps this should be a discussion for a later blog.)

Of course, an obvious exception to this trend is Andrew Barth Feldman, who just made his Broadway debut in January as Evan Hansen at just 16 years old. This was a huge shift from the opening of the show three years ago, in which Ben Platt, at 23, was the youngest member of the original cast. Since Platt, several actors in their 20s have played the role of Evan. But now, for five of the eight performances each week, Evan’s shoes are filled by someone who has been walking the halls of a high school himself for the past few years. (Feldman isn’t playing the demanding role full time in order to allow time for training and to build up his stamina. Michael Lee Brown, an actor in his 20s, plays the role for the remaining three shows each week.)

Recently, a friend of mine took a trip to New York City, and was able to see Feldman as Evan. When I asked her about it, she could not stop raving about how amazing he was, and how wonderful it was to see a teenaged role filled by a teenager. When I searched for reviews online, these same remarks kept popping up. Many of the critics talked about how seeing a teen play this role made the experience all the more real and raw. And just last week, a new review came out in The New York Times, claiming that, “At many moments he [Feldman] surprised me, despite my repeat viewings, with new melismas and spins on lyrics that sharpened the story to a slightly different point.”

This got me wondering, should Broadway be giving teens more of a chance? Of course, there is no shortage of incredibly talented adults searching for work in the theatre world. But I also don’t believe that there is a lack of talented teenagers who are capable of impressing audiences on a Broadway stage. After all, there have also been shows on Broadway that required children to hold very large roles (Tuck Everlasting, Finding Neverland, The Secret Garden). Why, then, should there not be a larger number of teenagers playing teen roles?

Whatever the reason, teen actors and actresses will most likely just have to wait their turn to be in the Broadway spotlight. While seeing a teen play a leading role on Broadway is no doubt inspiring, there is no indication that the age of the actors are correlated to the success of the show. And after all, the goal will always be to sell tickets and fill seats. Teenage actors who wish to wish to attend any of Broadway’s most famous high schools may just have to wait until they’re older to do so.



If Hamilton Never Was: Revisiting the 2016 Tonys

Darren Wildeman

Often dubbed “The HamilTonys”, the 2016 Tony Awards were dominated by Lin Manuel Miranda’s smash hit Hamilton winning 11 Tonys, just one short of tying the record set by The Producers. And it is still one of the hottest shows on Broadway. However, what if there was a universe where Hamilton was too innovative and too different for its time? What if Hamilton didn’t make it past the out-of-town try outs and faded into obscurity? What would the 2016 Tonys season have looked like? In this article I will be breaking down who may have been nominated in a world without Hamilton and who would have won in its place.

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Best Orchestration Nominees

August Eriksmoen, Bright Star

Larry Hochman, She Loves Me

Darryl Walters, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Sara Bareilles, Waitress

In this scenario you are going to see Waitress come up a lot. And I don’t think anyone will argue against the orchestrations of this show. Sara Bareilles wrote a beautiful score and a nomination for Orchestrations is more than deserved.

 

And the winner is: August Eriksmoen, Bright Star

I think people forget just how good the music in Bright Star is. 2016 was an incredibly strong season. Bright Star has a beautiful blue grass feel to it and the orchestrations go flawlessly with its music. Bright Star may have gotten a bit lost in 2016, but I feel like this would be a nice nod towards what the show did and was.

 

Best Choreography Nominees

Savion Glover, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Hofesh Shechter, Fiddler on the Roof

Randy Skinner, Dames at Sea

Sergio Trujillo, On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan

Casey Nicholaw, Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting isn’t remembered for much these days. Unfortunately, its score underwhelmed many and the book wasn’t that highly regarded either. However, one thing it did have is absolutely beautiful choreography. Some people considered it a snub that it wasn’t nominated in the first place, so I think it falls in here pretty naturally.

And the winner is: Casey Nicholaw, Tuck Everlasting

This choreography choice is incredibly intense. But Tuck Everlasting has a style and beauty about it in the actors’ movements. Also, while people don’t like to admit it, politics certainly plays a role in Tony voting and Nicholaw as highly regarded as he is up to this point has never won a Tony for his choreo. So, between choreo being a strength of Tuck and Nicholaw not having won in this category yet, that he becomes the automatic favourite here.

 

Best Direction of a Musical Nominees

Michael Arden, Spring Awakening

John Doyle, The Color Purple

Scott Ells, She Loves Me

George C. Wolfe, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Bartlett Sher, Fiddler on the Roof

 

There were a lot of incredibly well directed shows this season. However, the revival of Fiddler on the Roof breathed new life into a timeless show. If it was possible to make that show anymore stunning Bartlett Sher found a way to do it. I think a nomination here is incredibly well deserved.

 

And the winner is: Michael Arden, Spring Awakening

I think in this scenario Michael Arden winning is a no brainer. A fantastic director who has yet to see his Tony who did a beautiful job with the Deaf West Spring Awakening. A well-deserved Tony for a gorgeous job on what is a very heavy musical.

 

Best Lighting Design of a Musical Nominees

Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Ben Stanton, Spring Awakening

Justin Townsend, American Psycho

Japhy Weiderman, Bright Star

 

There isn’t an obvious choice here for what show would be nominated. However, Bright Star did have some very beautiful lighting effects that gave a really nice setting for the show.

And the winner is: Justin Townsend, American Psycho

American Psycho isn’t remembered for much these days although it did get some love. However, one thing it did do well is incredibly intense lighting design. The visual effects are incredible and are certainly worthy of a Tony.

 

Best Costume Design of a Musical Nominees

Gregg Barnes, Tuck Everlasting

Jeff Mahshie, She Loves Me

Ann Roth, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Ann Hould-Ward, The Color Purple

 

And the winner is: Gregg Barnes, Tuck Everlasting

Again, the visual beauty of Tuck Everlasting. As I said when they won choreography, there isn’t necessarily a lot that gets loved in terms of music or book. However, it is a very visually appealing show.

 

Best Scenic Design of a Musical Nominees

Es Devlin and Finn Ross, American Psycho

Santo Loquasto, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

David Rockwell, She Loves Me

Walt Spangler, Tuck Everlasting

 

Once again, Tuck Everlasting comes through to pick up another design nomination. Not much I can say here that I haven’t said already. This musical is simply stunning to look at.

Since She Loves Me won we will not be changing the winner of this category.

 

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Nominees

Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple

Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me

Jennifer Simard, Disaster!

Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Keala Settle, Waitress

 

And the winner is: Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me

Jane gave a terrific performance in this production of She Loves Me. Everyone else here is amazing but that production was so incredible and Jane played her role so well this is well deserved

 

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Nominees

Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress

Michael Mulheren, Bright Star

Steven Skybell, Fiddler on the Roof

Billy Porter, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

 

And the winner is: Billy Porter, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

This is a very tough category all of a sudden. A lot of fantastic men here. This was incredibly difficult to decide. However, Billy absolutely gave it all in Shuffle Along. And I think his performance really stood out.

 

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Nominees

Laura Benati, She Loves Me

Carmen Cusack, Bright Star

Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple

Jessie Mueller, Waitress

Ana Villafañe, On Your Feet

 

On Your Feet is another musical that had a somewhat lukewarm reception. However, playing Gloria Estefan is not an easy task and Villafañe gives a great performance.

Since Cynthia Erivo won this award that year, we will not be changing the result here.

 

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Nominees

Alex Brightman, School of Rock

Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof

Zachary Levi, She Loves Me

Benjamin Walker, American Psycho

 

Note: For this category we are rolling with four nominees instead of five. All the male nominees from a major show have been nominated and any of the remaining shows did not get enough love from critics or voters in other categories that I feel comfortable adding a fifth nominee.

Benjamin Walker gave a fantastic performance as a serial killer. Some considered it a snub in the first place that he wasn’t nominated so he’s the obvious choice here.

 

And the winner is: Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof

Burstein as Tevye breathed all sorts of new life into the musical. Tevye is not an easy role to play in the first place and Burstein did it flawlessly. In a very tough leading male category, Burstein was the obvious choice here.

 

Best Original Score Nominees

Bright Star, Music by Steve Martin and Eddie Brickell, Lryics by Eddie Brickell

School of Rock, Music by Andrew Lloyd Webver, Lyrics by Glenn Slater

Waitress, Music and Lyrics by Sara Bareilles

American Psycho, Music and Lyrics by Duncan Sheik

 

The now fourth nominee was a tough one. There isn’t an obvious show that should step in. However, Duncan Sheik wrote a fantastic and very unique score that I think in this scenario would grab the attention of the voters.

 

And the winner is: Waitress, Music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles

Bareilles’s score for Waitress is nothing short of gorgeous. She wrote a very catchy score with songs that hit all the right notes. I think she hands down wins best score in this scenario.

 

Best Book of a Musical

Bright Star, Steve Martin

School of Rock, Julian Fellowes

Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, George C. Wolfe

Waitress, Jessie Nelson

 

Waitress being the next big musical of the season that wasn’t nominated I think giving it the nod for book here is a pretty no brainer. However, that being said the book of Waitress is quite a bit weaker than the overall score.

And the winner is: Bright Star, Steve Martin

 

I think Bright Star may have had a chance to win score. However, it also has a very strong book which is something Waitress didn’t have as much. So it makes more sense that Waitress would win where it’s really strong, and Bright Star would win book. And Bright Star definitely deserves this. The story does not have that many flaws in it and is overall a very well put together story

 

Best Musical

Bright Star

School of Rock

Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Waitress

American Psycho

 

I don’t think it’s too insane for American Psycho to be the next show up in this scenario. It already got acknowledged for its unique score and it collected a decent amount of nominations elsewhere. It would only have an outside chance of winning but to be the next show nominated I think is quite reasonable.

 

And the winner is: Waitress

Despite the shortcomings I mentioned earlier, I think Waitress is what would win. It seems like after Hamilton, Waitress was the baby of both fans and critics alike and this would lead to it getting the favour for Best Musical.

 

Well that’s the Tonys without Hamilton. Before I totally wrap this up though I’m going to crunch some numbers and breakdown which shows did well in an absence of Hamilton.

 

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Please note that a couple of shows won awards and were nominated for awards pertaining to Revivals so there are some awards here won not seen in the actual article. As you can see this season becomes very spread out if Hamilton was not a thing.

 

American Psycho, Tuck Everlasting, and Waitress become the big winners. Each one picks up 3 more nominations and each picked up some wins as well. Bright Star also gets its recognition for awards.

 

Let me know what you think of these nominations and awards? Do you agree or do you think some shows should have won more?

Favoritism? Or Just Not Good Enough?

When one looks back at the high school drama experience, one common theme continues to rear its ugly head - favoritism. From TV shows to your local high school, you hear all about how favoritism is rampant… But what if I told you it does and SHOULD take more than talent to get a role at the educational level? Blasphemous, right? What else could possibly go into the process?

 

Show selection:

 For those of you who have had to pick shows for either a high school or other groups (community theatre companies, professional companies, etc.) there has to be a fundamental understanding of the community/talent you have access to. If I live in rural Alabama with 1% of the population being Black/African American, I’m sure as heck not going to be Hairspray or Ragtime (though that does not stop people, smh). If I have a huge amount of men who show up to auditions consistently, I probably wouldn’t do Little Women or 9 to 5. You get the point! You have to have some sort of idea of who you could potentially casting so that your company/school has a successful production. However, I will be clear that this is NOT the same as precasting - just because one is aware of the people who could be auditioning and picks shows that suit those strengths is not the same as handing someone a role regardless of the audition. Picking shows without your school in mind is a mistake.

 

****Your**** audition:

 Now, obviously, auditions can be scary! Nerves can happen, and in some cases, they can be super hard to overcome. Something that I have learned over the time I’ve spent auditioning is that instead of looking outwards and blaming others for me not getting what I would have wanted… Let’s examine how I actually did in the room. How did I sound? Was my song/monologue appropriate? Were my beats/intentions clear? There are SO many things that go into your performance/audition, and while obviously we all try our best in the room, sometimes our talent is not showcased to the best of our abilities. While blaming others is a very comfortable thing to do, without looking at what you could have done better you’re limiting your opportunities to grow.

 

Someone else’s audition:

 Sometimes, regardless of the subjectivity of talent, someone has just a better audition than you. It happens! They came in and had a really good day, they sang a better song, they showed their gifts off better than you did in this instance. There’s nothing to be done in a case like this except do the best you can each time you walk into the room. Hell, there are people who I have seen who are just SUCH great auditioners… And that work then doesn’t translate quite as well when they go to perform. Auditioning well is such a valuable skill, and sometimes someone else just comes in and kills it.

 

 

What the director values/is looking for:

 There are so many interpretations of theatre, which is one of its best qualities. We can agree or disagree, however when it comes to the director's vision at the end of the day that is what will shape the casting process. What if you’re a better singer than actress but the director wants a better actress than singer? Or vice versa? It’s all subjective, but at the end of the day if you don’t fit the director's vision you have to go about changing their mind. That may not happen in 16-32 bars, a cold read, a dance call, and a callback (if you get all of that!). While I did say previously we do need to be introspective about how we do in room, remember that the creative process is still more than just you!

 


High School Drama, the EXTRAcurricular:

 For one, being involved in your school’s shows is not a right but a privilege. Being a student of the school, things like behavior/grades will absolutely be something that is reflected upon. Whether it be in the classroom of the teacher or around the school, being a good citizen absolutely is something that is kept in mind. Being involved with drama (the non-performative sort) or being a disruptive force during the creative process will not bode you well. Regardless of how well you sing or anything of the like, educators don’t reward those (usually) who don’t deserve it. Unreliable students should not, and in many cases do not get what they want in drama departments. While people being a teacher's pet/etc should NOT be the thing that gets people parts, it is absolutely a point in your favor - do your best to be the best you can be… it will more than likely be noticed.

 

How “talented” you are:

 In an attempt to say this as nicely as possible - there are a lot of people in the world who have a slightly (or majorly) inflated sense of self. While someone may think they are the next *insert Broadway star*, the reality of it is that not only is there always someone better… But we may not be good as we think we are (or alternatively, we may not have done as well as we think we did). This is a weird bullet to swallow, but at the end of the day this absolutely can be someone’s Achilles heel.

 All of this to say, there is SO MUCH that goes into the picking of shows/casting/the creative process. While obviously there are PLENTY of schools/instances that really go above and beyond anything I’ve just talked about, we do have to continue to keep in mind the multidimensional aspect of casting and season selection. For those of you who find yourself stuck in either a school or community where you deeply/truly believe that the favoritism is so rampant do not hesitate to find greener pastures or other opportunities. It’s absolutely unfair at times that things like these can ruin an experience, however all I am asking for is for people to be honest with themselves and open about the potential “why” of a situation.

 Next article I’ll hopefully be talking the conversation of creating your own art! As someone who has recently started his own theatre company, I’ve spent the last year developing a nonprofit. If you have any questions you want me address in the next article comment below!

Major Change in Musicals: A Necessary Plot Point to a Successful Musical

Darren Wildeman
This past holiday season I was gifted the book The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows are Built by Jack Viertel. It was a fascinating look at musicals, and I could go on about the fascinating information and behind the scenes looks in this book. However, I will be looking at one thing Mr. Viertel brought up and made very clear early in the book. And it can be considered “a key to success” of sorts for a musical. That’s not to say that as long as a show does this it will be successful, rather it’s just often one component to a successful show. It’s not the only component, however, it’s a pretty darn important one.


Full disclosure: All credit for this idea goes to Mr. Viertel. It’s because of him I’m writing this article. I got the idea from his book, and it is by no means my original idea. However, I’m going to discuss this idea and flush it out. I highly recommend this book and if you want to purchase a copy for yourself you can find it here.

Now I imagine when I said I have a key to success for a musical some of you automatically thought this is some Buzzfeed clickbait BS. Afterall, musicals are such finicky beasts, how can there possibly be a one size fits all perfect solution that a musical must have? And frankly, if I were you, I’d agree with you. Musicals are so different from each other, how can there be something that fits almost every single musical?

Honestly, you’d be surprised how simple the answer is. The answer is change. Again, this isn’t the one stop fix all for a musical, but it is almost essential. Now you might be thinking this is obvious. All musicals have change, that’s the whole point of a plot. I’m not necessarily referring to this. Yes, a changing plot is important, however what I’m referring to and what Mr. Viertel talks about is a far bigger change. A very large number of successful musicals are set either directly in, or against the backdrop of the dawning of a new era, a major change in the world that will greatly affect their life, or the changing times.

Let me first explain this point using two of the examples Mr. Viertel uses in his book and then I’ll expand on it myself. Think of Fiddler on the Roof.  It’s about a simple farmer, in a simple Jewish village which is very set in their ways. However, the future of this village is unsteady as a “fiddler on the roof”. Not only do Tevye’s daughters flip Jewish customs on their head by choosing who to date and eventually marry, but Tevye himself slowly comes around and lets it happen. However, not only are Tevye’s daughters breaking the mold, but the future of the village and their lifestyle is on the edge. Throughout the entire musical we see the Russian presence in this small Jewish village. Police officers and guards who live there are a constant reminder as to how precarious the existence of this village is. And as you all know at the end, Tevye, his family, and the rest of the cast are forced to leave.

What this setting does is it sets up a family, and an entire community stuck in how things have always been. However, both within the community with Tevye’s daughters, and outside of it with the Russians their existence is extremely tumultuous. The audience is on a hook wondering on a personal level what will become of the daughters who want to be independent and go their own way. But also, they are wondering what will become of the town and its people. From a historical perspective we know. But Fiddler on the Roof humanizes this, and makes us feel for them.

Another example of this that Mr. Viertel gives is The Music Man. However, this is a different type of change. In “Rock Island” we see the salesmen discussing and debating credit and the new way to sell products. As you hear many times in the song a lot of the salesmen think cash is the only way to go. What Music Man does here is really interesting. Everyone knows that Harold Hill and his antics are the main piece of this show. However, even before Hill is introduced, we see these men being faced with change. What this does is it shows that these men are struggle with new things, and don’t totally know how to handle them; in turn this makes Hill’s hijinks having a heavier hinderance to the people of this town who already don’t like change and now have to deal with a Music Man.

There are many other shows that fit this template as well. For example, Hamilton. Not only is it set in a constantly shifting political environment but Lin Manuel Miranda also drew parallel’s today’s world and political environment.

The Sound of Music is set against the backdrop of World War II and Miss Saigon is set against the Vietnam War. While the plots of these two musicals are very different from each other the concept is the same. You get to witness the characters stories and the plot in light of turmoil and war which directly affects them and their actions.

Les Misérables is set right in the midst of change. Shortly after the French Revolution and in a very constantly changing landscape in France. Again, everything the characters do, and how a lot of events go down are dependent on what is happening in their world.

Disney’s smash hit Newsies is all about change. The newspaper boys go and cause the change. Once again, almost all of what the characters do is about enacting a massive change in their world and fighting for justice. The only difference is rather than being amidst the change, in this musical the newsies CAUSE the change.

For what I hope is obvious reasons Come from Away also fits this billing. 9/11 is an event that forever changed world history and this musical observes the characters who were directly involved.

This begs the question are there any musicals that aren’t set against a massive change in their world? The answer is definitely. Once, Next to Normal, Waitress, Dear Evan Hansen Sweeney Todd, among many others are all shows where there isn’t a major change in the outside world, or where there is a major change threatening the characters lives as they know it. So, you might be wondering what do these shows do well that they don’t necessarily need that challenge?

If a show doesn’t have a massive change, or something that threatens a part of the characters existence from the outside, then there needs to be a really good story happening internally. In Next to Normal it’s the death of Gabe and Diana’s mental illness, in Once it’s the relationship of Guy and Girl and the heartbreak. Characters need to be threatened in a musical. A story of any sort, never mind just a musical where the characters are comfortable, really isn’t much of a story. So, by adding a massive challenge like a war, an constantly changing political landscape, or just something that’s threatening day to day life in the characters time gives the author something else for the characters to react to other than the story.

However, in the absence of that challenge an author can choose to make the characters own struggles and character arc the main story. This can work extremely well, however, it is a bit of a risk. If the characters own struggles aren’t interesting enough, or are fairly minor the audience is going to grow bored very quickly. So while it’s definitely possible, adding minimal outside confrontations or challenges is generally there to help aid both the story and the character arcs.

I Choose to Leave

Michael Kape

Dammit, it happened to me again. I was attending a local production of Grand Hotel, a musical I really like. I grant you it’s not an easy show to stage, and it requires some real acting AND singing chops to pull it off right. I’ve seen it twice before, but it was a part of my subscription series at this theatre, so I went. Two other musicals in this season so far were Hairspray and Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

I walked out of all three at intermission

Pul-leez, don’t tell me out of courtesy to the performers I should have stayed for the whole thing. Why? Hell, more than 30 years ago, one of my employees was appearing in a misbegotten production of Oliver. I liked Lance, but the man could not sing nor dance nor act. My BFF and I fled at intermission. (We kind of knew we were in trouble when the program listed every piece of music in the show, including the scene change music. Huh? What?) When I saw him Monday morning, he completely understood.

As I’ve noted before, I spent seven years on the Dark Side as a theatre critic. As such, I could not leave at intermission no matter what (though there were times when I wished I had).

During that time, Miss Saigon came to town. I had seen it once already in New York and left the Broadway theatre screaming internally because I hated it so much (fake emotions, overamplified music, terrible retelling of the Madame Butterfly story). When I was called upon to review it, I figured (wrongly) I must have misjudged it and I’d go in with a completely open mind. (I have since learned if I think something is terrible on the first outing, it’s never going to get better on subsequent ones, the four times I agonized through Cats.) The night I saw Miss Saigon, seated next to me was the artistic management of the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. Yes, that included a future internationally-acclaimed director (for Hunchback) and a future Tony-winning director (for Raisin in the Sun). At intermission, they ALL walked out. I was left by myself in the entire row. I wish I could have joined them. By the time I found my car in the parking lot after the show, I was screaming (out loud) mad. I hadn’t misjudged Miss Saigon; I had suffered through it twice.

Walking out of a really bad production or an awful show is a major luxury for me these days. I don’t savor walking out, but I don’t deny myself that possibility if my ears are ringing from off-key performers screeching in my ear on the last note of a major song (while being overamplified by head microphones). I didn’t deny myself the pleasure of leaving a supposedly hit Broadway comedy if I didn’t laugh once in Act I. I didn’t deny myself the relief coming from leaving a revival of an antiquated British sex comedy, which just seemed plain stupid. I certainly didn’t deny myself the gratification of walking out at intermission of a popular (well, with teenaged girls) musical I found to be shrill and mediocre in its best moments (though I regrettably did sit through the whole thing a second time). I definitely didn’t deny myself giving into the anger I felt watching a star-studded revival of a brilliant drama done badly by every actor in the all-male cast. (Okay, in order: that production of Grand Hotel; Tale of the Allergist’s Wife; Boeing, Boeing; Wicked; and the ill-fated That Championship Season—fortunately, that was a $1.50 ticket from Play-by-Play).

As I noted in my last blog, going to the theatre is a kind of therapy for me. For two or more hours, I am transported out of my own woes (being widowed; now living with Tourette after being poisoned by a medicine I was taking) and into another world. If I’m not enjoying myself (be it a drama, a comedy, a musical, or a piece of performance art), then that night (or afternoon) of theatre has failed me. Why should I suffer through another act?

Producers have gotten wise to people like me; they eliminate the intermission so we can’t leave. How do I know this? Two ways. First, about 10 years ago I got involved in the production of my first Broadway show as an investor. It was a wonderful script called Impressionism and was going to be a great show—or so I thought. Went to the second preview, and it was terrific. Then some negative buzz started appearing online, and unfortunately, the director listened to it. Cut the show to shreds and eliminated the intermission because some people were walking out. The result? On opening night, I didn’t recognize the play at all. It was awful. Terrible. Really bad. It closed quickly and I lost my investment.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago in Los Angeles. In Southern California, no matter how bad a show is, the audience gives it a standing ovation (and you know how I feel about those). Except once. The show was Amélie, and I knew there was trouble ahead when I saw makeshift signs posted in the theatre about there being no intermission (though one was advertised in the program). At the end of this unholy mess, there was a smattering of polite applause, no standing O, and people ran to escape the Ahmanson. I guess too many people had walked at intermission when it first played in San Francisco (where audiences are much less polite).

I’m sure at this point someone might be tempted to snark at me about how if I was a decent person, I would stay out of courtesy to the actors and the effort they’ve put forth. Sure, if I was a decent person. I never said I was (hence how easy to lapse into the critic’s role as well as rightly earning my sobriquet of ATB’s Grumpy Olde Guy®).

Recently, I went to see a local production of a play near and dear to my heart, The Diary of Anne Frank. I was in a production many years ago (typecast as the grumpy olde dentist, of course), and I had taught the play to a class of teenagers when I was in college. However, this production was so badly directed, designed, and acted I couldn’t stay. I was cringing in my seat during the entirety of Act I and I did not want to subject myself to even more torture in the second act. Can you blame me? Wait, maybe some of you can.

I’ve forced myself to sit through badly done Shakespeare (King Lear with Sam Watterson a few years back at the Public) but have walked out of the Scottish Play with a well-known actor (who shall remain nameless because I think he now omits it from his resume). I’ve bitten the bullet and sat through such gems as Censored Scenes From King Kong (which Carrie Fisher never acknowledged she did on Broadway) and America Kicks Up Its Heels by William (Falsettos) Finn starring Patti LuPone. (Years later, my BFF was at a party with her and brought up us having seen her in it at Playwrights Horizon. She categorically denied it. She swore up and down she didn’t do it. She did. We saw her do it.) I even forced myself to sit through all of Love Never Dies, one of the 10 worst musicals ever written (in my opinion) because people on ATB swore Act II was better than Act I. It wasn’t. I suffered in agony through that whole goddamn piece of crap. I couldn’t even laud the actors because they were pretty terrible in it as well—though no one could make such substandard material work. But really, did the Phantom have to do a bad Lon Chaney Jr. impression at the top of the show?

Now it’s your turn. Have you ever walked at intermission? Have you ever been tempted to not return for Act II (only to discover Act II was even worse)? If so, what was the show?

And for those of you unfortunate to have to stay for the entirety of a really bad production because you knew someone in the cast, might I offer you some surefire lines to say after the show? Here are my favorites:

·         “Well, that was interesting.”

·         “You should have been out front.” (Especially good if the actor was really bad.)

·         “I don’t remember seeing anything quite like tonight.”

·         “I know professional actors who couldn’t do the role like you did.”

·         “You certainly had a lot of people talking.”

And if you’ve ever been the recipient of any of these remarks as an actor, thank your lucky stars you have friends not willing to tell you the whole stinking truth (ooh, flash to Bosom Buddies from Mame).

 

(Grumpy Olde Guy® a/k/a Michael Kape has lived too long, some say—him included. He says life’s too short to put up with bad theatre. So, he doesn’t! If you all weren’t so much nicer than him, you wouldn’t either.)

 

Overrated/Underrated

Zachary Harris
A part of being in the All Things Broadway Facebook group is seeing particular topics rehashed at a much higher percentage than others. Need a thread about bootlegs? Oh, we’ve seen plenty. Race/Gender/Inequality? Another hot button topic. Did I say bootlegs? Race? DID WE TALK ABOUT BOOTLEGS? Sarcasm aside, the introduction of new faces and perspectives in a continuously growing group is a blessing. Ranging from industry professionals to people who have just discovered Broadway and want to discuss their newfound love with thousands of people, there are SO many things to be discussed (especially when it comes to an artform we all adore).

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That being said, there is a particular conversation that happens ad nauseum – “What’s your favorite underrated musical?” or “Most overrated show?” This is posted multiple times a week, and while I’ve mentioned above that this sort of active conversation is wonderful… I’m about to sound Grumpyä. This particular conversation absolutely blows my mind, mostly because of the premise that it is based on. The idea of underrated and overrated then denotes or implies that there is some sort of adjudication or rating system involved with the arts. What I mean by this is that, for example, in most competitions there is some sort of grading systems that are palpable. Broadway, Broadway shows, The Tony Awards, and other large regional awards are not subjected to such a standard in judging. This art in whole is absolutely subjective. There are plenty of INCREDIBLE productions/shows that don’t last long on Broadway, that don’t win a ton of Tony Awards, and don’t make the stupefying amounts of money that some of the other shows do. This does not worsen the quality of the work or the performances or adjudicate the art presented to us, the audience. Is Avenue Q not a good show because it beat Broadway megahit Wicked? No. Why did it beat it? Who knows, and while we can all put up some mightily high amounts of conjecture out about why it did or did not deserve such an award, it’s all subjective. At the end of the day, regardless of if you love or hate a show, its success on Broadway does not then adjudicate the work. Even if I love Ragtime so much, I know people who hate it. Heck, it didn’t even win Best Musical that year at the Tony Awards! Does that make Ragtime less beautiful? No. Does that then make the performances any less iconic? No.

 

You could then say that the success of musicals is the “rating system” of the art, but then how does that factor in the terrible productions of beautiful source material? Beautiful productions of shitty source material? Commercialism and supposed greatness of musicals aren’t really correlated. Are some of the longest running shows hypothetically/subjectively the “best” in the history of theatre? I certainly think so. Under what system do we then hold that infallible? Those categories are already very defined entities. If something made $10 and another thing made $5, the thing (or show) that made $10 objectively made more money. If a show ran for 4852703945872 shows, and another closed on opening night… the former objectively had a longer run (and probably made more money while we are at it). If I like score A more than score B… that doesn’t really objectively mean anything. My personal interests in the score can be coming from a lot of experiences, including but not limited to my upbringing, biases towards certain instrumentation, and so much more. How does any of that make one show better than another, in an objective sense? How does that then create a ranking that is the standard? Well, it doesn’t.

 

At the end of the day, the conversation I think that the people are attempting to have is “What musical do you think is underappreciated? Which of these do you enjoy the most?” All of that is absolutely subjective (to a damn point, let’s not try to explain how Hamilton is underappreciated), and no one would blame you for your opinion.

 

 

A Beautiful Dream: Anastasia on Broadway

Kelly Ostazeski
When I was a child, the movie Anastasia was released, and even in the months leading up to seeing the movie, I grew infatuated with the Romanov family and their story. A stage production wasn't even in my thoughts yet, as I had never even been to New York yet. I loved the movie, the score, and the happy ending it imagined for the lost grand duchess, but somehow I longed for more historical accuracy – even as a child.



 I'll never forget years later, when I was in a play production class (technical, business, and marketing aspects of theatre) in high school, we were directed to design a poster for a show to come to Broadway. I took this as an opportunity to imagine what Anastasia would be like on stage. I even started dream-casting people to take the roles from the movie – Bernadette Peters as Sophie and Angela Lansbury as the Dowager Empress, of course reprising their roles from the animated film. The crazy thing was, the poster I designed ended up looking a lot like the original poster for the Broadway production.


 I was overjoyed when it was announced that a stage adaptation was in the works – from the reading in 2012, to the workshop in 2015, and the Hartford premiere in 2016. This was a show I knew I'd have to see. Then they announced the casting for the Broadway production – and this was the first time I saw the name Christy Altomare. Little did I know the impact this show would have on me, and how much of a dream come true it would be, and how perfect Altomare would be as Anya.


 I noticed that they'd removed Rasputin and, I assumed, his song “In the Dark of the Night” from the score. I was actually really excited about that that. I'd always hated the character and his song as a child. I felt like he was unnecessarily gory and too scary for a children's movie. Plus, how would that translate to the stage?


 I was so glad when I found out that Gleb was the new villain, son of the Romanov's executioner, and a Bolshevik leader. They'd taken out the magical aspects and given the show more historical accuracy, just like I'd wanted. Even if recent reports came out and the real Anastasia was found, so it couldn't be completely accurate, I know.


 I got rush tickets one day in November of 2017, and saw the complete original Broadway cast. Altomare was marvelous and captured Anya's strength and sensitivity. Derek Klena was the perfect Broadway leading man. Ramin Karimloo was a perfect mix of alluring and dangerous as Gleb. Caroline O'Connor, whom I've loved since the movie Moulin Rouge!, was absoluely stunning as Countess Lily (Sophie in the movie). John Bolton was hilarious and perfect as Vlad. Mary Beth Peil was a wonderful Dowager and brought so much new depth to her.


 The new songs completely flowed into the story and felt like they'd always been there. When the spirits began to dance around the theatre during “Once Upon a December”, I'll never forget how my friend and I glanced at each other, wide eyed, and then we broke down into tears. The sobs continued to “Journey to the Past”. I never expected this much beauty, and how this show lived up to – and exceeded my expectations.


 Meeting Christy Altomare that first time was incredible. I tried to tell her how much the movie had meant to me and now, seeing it on Broadway was a dream come true. It truly was.


My next experience with this show live was last year at Feinstein’s/54 Below for the “Broadway Princess Party”, where Altomare and the singing voice of Anya in the movie, Liz Callaway, premiered their duet of “Journey to the Past”. It was incredible to hear these two beautiful voices blend, and to witness the shared joy between the two of them. I'm so glad they released the duet as a single.


It took me too long to return to the Broadhurst Theatre, and I don't know why. Somehow, I felt that the show would always be there, and become a staple for Broadway. I thought it would last at least six years or so, and that we'd see many Anyas cycle through the show. But perhaps Altomare was the only Anya meant for Broadway.


 I saw the show next in Baltimore, with the tour cast. It brought back my love for the show and I knew that I'd be seeing the show again soon on Broadway. I finally saw the show in January of 2019, when I was in town for BroadwayCon. Thank goodness Christy Altomare and John Bolton were still in the show, as well as delightful new additions Cody Simpson as Dmitry and Vicki Lewis as Lily.

 

Then they announced closing, and I knew I'd have to be there with the other fans to celebrate this incredible dream of a musical, and to see it one last time.

 

March 31, 2019. It was less than two weeks ago, but the memory still lives in me. The energy and emotions as we approached the theatre, seeing that marquee for the last time. The line was around the block to get in. The audience erupted in cheers and applause during the pre-show announcement. Every single character got entrance applause, usually reserved for “stars”. Standing ovations mid-show are rare, but Altomare earned them for “In My Dreams”, “Once Upon a December”, and “Journey to the Past”, and John Bolton and Vicki Lewis got their own for “The Countess and the Common Man”, which is still probably the funniest song I've ever seen performed. The cast was visibly crying during several moments, especially “Stay I Pray You”, and Altomare cried during “Journey to the Past”. It made it more...real, and more emotional for the audience. I know I cried quite a bit. I can't imagine there was a dry eye in that audience.

 

At the end of the show, the last lines held more weight and more meaning.

 

“The Dowager Empress: As of today, there will be no more Anastasias. The reward for her safe return will be given to charity.
Gleb: There never was an Anastasia. She was a dream.
The Dowager Empress: A beautiful dream.
Gleb:  A dream that only time will fade.
The Dowager Empress: So, no more talk of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov.
Gleb: The new order has no need for fairytales. The case is closed.
The Dowager Empress: Still...

            [Then the entire company joins with one final verse of ‘Once Upon a December.’]

 

Far away, long ago,
Glowing dim as an ember,
Things my heart used to know.
Once upon a December!
 

 

As of that day, there would be no more Anastasias at that theatre for sure, but she was more than a beautiful dream. Once upon a December, there was a beautiful adaptation of a beloved animated film that enchanted the Broadway stage, with an extraordinary cast of inspiring people. There was an actress named Christy Altomare who loved playing this princess and loved her fans and their enthusiasm so much, and touched the hearts of everyone who met her.

 

I couldn't have asked for anything better than this.

Why Your Theatre Should (and Probably Will) Perform Newsies

Taylor Lockhart
Okay it’s been nearly a year since I finished my run with Newsies and nearly two years since it started. I’ve definitely hinted at how much I love this musical in the past and how much my involvement in it meant to me. I now even have an unofficial twitter account promoting regional productions of the show and I look for every chance I get to see it. I’ve really thought hard about writing something about Newsies just about every month since last July but It’s really been hard to find something to write about. The story of the underdog musical that went from Disney flop to cult classic to musical that was only ever made to be licensed and then to of all places Broadway where it became one of Disney’s biggest musical hits is pretty well known at this point and it just doesn’t make sense in 2019 to talk about the history of musical that closed in 2016. I was pretty stumped until I took a look around me at the professional theatres, the community theatres, and the schools in my area many of which have or are going to do a production of Newsies. It came to my attention that this shows story is far from over and there’s a new phenomenon that is sweeping regional theatres all across the nation which I’m going to call Newsies-mania.

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I find it hard to believe at this point that there is absolutely anyone reading this who doesn’t know what Newsies is and/or has seen the show a hundred times. It was on Netflix for over a year and it doesn’t get much more accessible than that, but we here at the All Things Broadway Blog are accommodating to all types of people. So let’s discuss what Newsies is. Newsies is a 1992 movie and a 2012 Broadway musical about seventeen year old Jack Kelly who has dreams of moving out west to Santa Fe, New Mexico with his buddy Crutchie. His dreams are crushed when Joseph Pulitzer raises the price of papers for newsboy forcing them to pay more and sell more to gain any profit. Jack angered by this and inspired by a new boy Davey Jacob’s comments about the trolley strike rallies the newsies to stop selling papers and go on strike. A local upcoming reporter Katherine hears about this and wants to cover the story. The day comes and the Manhattan newsies completely on their own without the help of New York's other newsies teams thinks about calling it off until Davey and Jack inspire the boys to seize the day and go through with the strike. The newsies are successful against Pulitzer’s goons until the cops arrive and arrest crutchie forcing Jack to surrender back to his rooftop where he longs to escape New York and be in Santa Fe. Jack discouraged by the Newsies defeat goes back to raising money for Santa Fe. Meanwhile the newsies receive news from Katherine that their strike made the front page. Jack is confronted by Davey and Katherine who convince him to rejoin the strike and help plan a city wide rally where all the newsies can vote and have their voice heard. Jack takes information of the rally to Pulitzer where he is caught in a trap. He is put under arrest for previous crimes of theft and Katherine is revealed to be Pulitzer's daughter. Pulitzer offers Jack the money to travel to Santa Fe as well as his freedom if he betrays the newsies and speaks out against the strike. Jack is reluctant but agrees fearing if the strike continues that Davey and the other newsies will be arrested just as Crunchie was and they have no hope at all of beating Pulitzer. At the rally Jack speaks out against the strike and is publically handed his cash reward in front of all the other newsies. Jack retreats to his rooftop where Katherine is waiting for him. After confronting him about why he sold out the newsies Jack reveals he did it to protect them from Pulitzer. Katherine reveals her final plan in order to stop her father, a city wide newspaper published by the newsies with one of Pulitzer’s own old printing presses encouraging the children of the city to join in a city wide strike. Jack agrees to help and the two confess their love for each other. Later, In the basement of Pulitzers offices the newsies work together in order to publish and distribute their own newspaper. The children inspired by the paper join in the city wide strike and its success is something Pulitzer cannot ignore. The newsies along with the mayor and the governor of New York, Theodore Roosevelt confront Pulitzer to lower the prices of papers once and for all. In the end Jack and Pulitzer come to a compromise that the prices are slightly lowered but newsies can sell back any paper they don’t sell. The deal is enormous and marks a major historical event in which a bunch of orphaned children were able to force something out of the most powerful man in the world. Jack decides to stay in New York with Katherine instead of moving out west and take a job a new job offer from Pulitzer. The strike over, the newsies return to carrying the banner man to man and soakin every sucker that they can. “Here’s the headline, newsies on a mission, kill the competition, sell the next edition. We’ll be out there carrying the banner, see us out there carrying the banner, always out there carrying the banner. *drum build up* Look at me-”

Um, sorry I got a little carried away there. I just really love this show.

So now if you didn’t already, you know what Newsies is and let me vouch that It’s some of the most fun you'll ever have at the theater. It’s probably soon to become beloved to many other people because as I mentioned previously so many people are putting on this show. The fact is Newsies is kinda a perfect show for regional theatres. That’s not saying Newsies itself is a perfect show. I’ll admit as much as the next guy that the Katherine and Jack relationship is very forced and I personally think that Crutchie is underutilized but neither here nor there. What I actually mean is that Newsies checks off just about everything you could want in choosing a show especially one for high schools. The show has a nice historical background that can teach kids important lessons grounded in actual reality. It has good music that isn’t too easy but also isn’t too challenging to learn and do especially if you have girls to fill in on some of the tenor’s ridiculously high parts. It’s family friendly while also not being directed solely at children and It’s has a good chance of selling tickets. While Newsies isn’t a household name the logo right above its own the “Disney’s”one is. It’s a guarantee to audiences that this show is going to be a nice family friendly show with a happy ending and family friendly shows generally sell better than non family friendly shows. That’s the exact reason if you look up the logo for The Hunchback of Notre Dame musical the Disney logo is notably absent. It’s not really in line with Disney’s brand. The only two things that really keep Newsies from being a perfect fit for high schools and community theatres is the choreography and massive need for boys. However following the shows closing both of those things can be tweaked for regional productions. The newsies are now generally played by both boys and girls with the role of Crutchie now able to be played by either gender. MTI officially lists that the main newsies are supposed to be boys but in most every regional production I’ve seen several of the main newsies, especially Specs have been played by girls. It really seems to be very loose with how genders must be portrayed and that leads to the need for boys not being such a big problem. You could probably have an ensemble ratio of 2-3 girls to 1 boy and no one’s going to think any different. It is even historically accurate that there were girl newsies. The other big problem is choreography. Newsies is incredibly well known for its insane dancers and it’s not possible to do the show without dance, however as I’ve seen more and more productions I’ve found it is possible to reduce how much is acquired and how challenging the dancing needs to be. The Newsies have to move in some way no matter how you do it but whether they need to be doing pierrettes or not is up to whoever’s choreographing the show. For example in the number “Carrying The Banner” I’ve seen most schools have smaller groups take center stage with more complex dance moves while the newsies in the background have their own conversations, tussles, swordfights what be it. The newsies would all come together in pivotal unison moments but they wouldn’t be doing anything near as complex. The two very big songs that require choreography are “Seize The Day” and “King Of New York” The two numbers both have long dance breaks so that’s the place where the show could be troubling. “King Of New York” while typically done as a tap number can also be done as a jazz number so that gives a bit more freedom. It’s not like if you tried to turn a tap number into a jazz number in 42nd Street. I personally think at all chances King Of New Yorkshould be a tap number because it gives a good contrast as the act two opener to Seize The Daywhich takes place right before the act one finale but I personally find tap the hardest thing in the world so if you're low on skilled tap dancers I could totally see the change being fit. It’s not essential to the show. Newsies does allow for some wiggle room in some songs  but is still going to be pretty dance intensive no matter how you do it but, I think it fits into a category where that could be seen by many theaters as a good challenge. I think Newsies is the perfect example of a show that offers a challenge while also being achievable by different levels of experience and skill.

With all this in mind it’s really not hard to see why there are so many theater companies and schools doing Newsies. There’s really only one more question to ask. Should your theater do Newsies? Well, I think without even knowing you or your theater I know they totally could and that is what makes this show so interesting to me. In my time running that Newsies account I mentioned I’ve seen pictures and videos from hundreds of productions with varying ages, genders, choreography and sets. I never touched on the sets but there’s so many different ways things could be built for this shows. I’ve seen shows with no towers, one tower, but often three towers. Sometimes those towers move and sometimes there just a unit set. I even saw one production where there were no towers and just one big ramp. I thought it was really cool the different ways people see and interpret this show. Truth be told I could’ve written entire articles on the new portrayal of genders in this show or the interpretation of different settings in a variety of musicals not just Newsies but, I chose to do more of this blanket topic. I think what makes a show perfect for licensing is that it can be done in a variety of ways, by a variety of people, on a variety of budgets. There’s a reason that Newsies is Number 3 on MTI’s trending musicals. It’s only beaten out by Matilda and Mamma Mia which are both newer releases and both similarly good flexible regional shows.. It’s a good family friendly show that could pose as an interesting but achievable challenge to students, a good show that can be done without spending an arm or a leg by community theatres, and a great sure to sell addition to a professional theatre’s season. Newsies may have had a rough start but was a massive hit on broadway and now that it’s hit the public it doesn’t seem to be letting up. I have no doubt we’ll be seeing many more productions of this show for many years to come. They weren't kidding when they said “Newsies Forever”.

With that, the main article is done. You can leave if you want to or if you’re really busy and I’ve been keeping you. My apologies but thanks for reading. I’ve been Taylor you’ve been you and I’ll see you all next month.

Now I want to talk about the Newsies fanbase. I myself am a registered member. I got a little card and everything, but I find it incredible that the fanbase of this show is still so active and strong after about 7 years. It’s kinda hard to tell now because the Newsies tags on Twitter and Facebook are filled with people advertising for their local shows but once upon a long time ago in 2018 these tags we’re still getting a ton of tweets by the hour from the fansies alone. That’s the name of the fans. It’s better than Whovians if you ask me. I honestly could make a whole article on its own discussing the wild world that is Newsies fanfiction and you can probably guarantee that there will still be Jack x Crutchie stories updating in the year 2029. I only hope Beetlejuice gets this popular because I really want to make an article about Beetle-Mania in a few years maybe even around the same time I’ll get to talk about a Newsies revival. Who knows, only time will tell but if you’re reading from the future after you saw me yell in a post about how I predicted a Newsies revival, comment down below “I’m from the future and we don’t have flying cars yet but we do have Cats 2”.

What’s that? You want to join the Newsies fandom? Well have I got a deal for you because for the first time since that Shrek 2 article we don’t talk about it’s the triumphant return of the end segment, “The Upcoming Productions. Catch it now before it disappears for another 4 articles. To show just how many people are doing Newsies I’m going to give you 50 upcoming productions of Newsies for 50 states. Scroll down and find your state unless you’re from Wyoming or Hawaii. Sorry your states hate fun and those only scratch the surface. Visit https://www.mtishows.com/newsies-0 and scroll down to the upcoming tab to find a show near you. There are literally hundreds.

Alabama

Newsies @ Spark Theatre Company May 29th-June 1st https://www.sparktheatercompany.com/

Alaska

Newsies @ Nikiski Middle/High School April 26th-May 4th

https://www.facebook.com/triumviratetheater/app/190322544333196/

Arizona

Newsies @ Mingus Union High School April 12th-14th https://www.mingusperformingarts.com/

Arkansas

Newsies @ Young Actors Guild July 11th-14th

http://weareyag.com/events

California

Newsies @ Roger’s Rocka’s Dinner Theatre   Present-July 14th

https://rogerrockas.com/shows/categories/roger-rockas/

Colorado

Newsies @ Pittsburg Community Theatre July 18th-21st

http://www.pctinfo.org/

Connecticut

Newsies @ Broad Brook Opera House May 3rd-19th

http://www.operahouseplayers.org/

Delaware

Newsies @ Delaware's Children Theatre January 11th-February 2nd 2020

http://www.dechildrenstheatre.org/

Florida

Newsies @ Osceola Arts July 12th-August 4th

http://osceolaarts.org/2018-19-theatre-season.html

Georgia

Newsies @ St. Mary’s Children Theatre October 18th-27th

https://www.stmaryschildrenstheatre.com/past-productions

Idaho

Newsies @ Music Theatre Of Idaho October 24th-26th

https://www.broadwaynampa.org/copy-of-2018-musicals

Illinois

Newsies @ The Little Theatre On The Square July 7th-18th

http://www.thelittletheatre.org/

Indiana

Newsies @ The Civic Theatre April 26th-May 11th

https://www.civictheatre.org/

Iowa

Newsies @ Des Moines Playhouse July 12th- August 4th

https://www.dmplayhouse.com/events-and-shows

Kansas

Newsies @ Salina Theatre  June 7th-30th

http://salinatheatre.com/project/disneysnewsies-the-musical/

Kentucky

Newsies @ Derby Dinner Playhouse   Present-May 19th

https://derbydinner.com/show/newsies/

Louisiana

Newsies @ Baton Rouge Theatre June 14th-30th

http://theatrebr.org/disneysnewsies.html

Maine

Newsies @ Windham Center Stage Theatre May 24th-June 2nd

https://windhamtheater.org/Shows/newsies.htm

Maryland

Newsies @ Children’s Playhouse Of Maryland May 4th-18th

http://www.cpmarts.org/

Massachusetts

Newsies @ Company Theatre April 18th-28th

https://www.companytheatre.com/

Michigan

Newsies @ Grand Rapids Civic Theatre May 31st-June 23rd

https://www.grct.org/plays-box-office/current-season/

Minnesota

Newsies @ Paradise Center For The Arts September 13th-22nd

https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?ticketing=pcfta

Mississippi

Newsies @ Lynn Meadows Discovery Center July 17th-21st

http://lmdc.org/classes-camps/wings-performing-arts-2/

Missouri

Newsies @ Southeast Missouri June 12th-23rd

https://rivercampus.org/upcoming-events/

Montana

Newsies @ Missoula Children’s Theatre April 25th-May 12th

http://mctinc.org/

Nebraska

Newsies @ Crane River Theater June 25th-August 4th

http://cranerivertheater.org/newsies/

Nevada

Newsies @ Signature Productions April 2nd-27th

http://www.signatureproductions.net/

New Hampshire

Newsies @ Peacock Players May 10th-19th

https://peacockplayers.org/

New Jersey

Newsies @ Algonquin Theatre Arts July 13th-July 28th

https://www.algonquinarts.org/calendar.php?s=5

New Mexico

Newsies @ July 12th-13th

http://waywayoffbroadway.com/box-office/

New York

Newsies @ Plays In The Park July 10th-July 20th

http://www.middlesexcountynj.gov/About/ParksRecreation/Pages/PIP/CurrentSeason.aspx

North Carolina

Newsies @ Yadkin Arts Center July 26th-28th

https://www.yadkinarts.org/events-tickets/?_page=2

North Dakota

Newsies @ Sleepy Hollow Summer Theatre July 9-18th

http://www.shst.org/productions.php

Ohio

Newsies @ La Comedia Dinner Theatre April 18th-June 6th

http://lacomedia.com/

Oklahoma

Newsies @ Lyric Theatre July 9th-14th

https://lyrictheatreokc.com/shows/newsies/

Oregon

Newsies @ Thoroughly Modern Productions August 16th-25th

http://thoroughlymodernprod.com/productions-auditions/

Pennsylvania

Newsies @ Millbrook Playhouse July 12th-21st

http://www.millbrookplayhouse.net/disneys-newsies/

Rhode Island

Newsies @ Theatre By The Sea July 17th-August 10th

https://www.theatrebythesea.com/2019.html

South Carolina

Newsies @ Village Square Theatre May 1st-17th 2020

http://www.villagesquaretheatre.com/season.html

South Dakota

Newsies @ O’gorman High School April 30th-May 4th

https://ogorman.sfcss.org/activities-athletics/performing-arts/theatre-2

Tennessee

Newsies @ Millenium Rep August 2nd-11th

https://www.millenniumrep.org/2019-season

Texas

Newsies @ San Angelo PAC May 10th-12th

https://www.sanangelopac.org/Online/default.asp

Utah

Newsies @ Hale Theatre  Present-April 20th

http://www.haletheater.org/

Vermont

Newsies @ Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School May 10th-11th

Virginia

Newsies @ SPARC July 26th-28th

https://www.sparcrichmond.org/tickets/

Washington

Newsies @ Numerica PAC May 1st-12th

http://www.numericapac.org/

West Virginia

Newsies @ Robert C Byrd High School April 12th-14th

https://www.facebook.com/RCBTheatre/

Wisconsin

Newsies @ Verona Area Community Theater April 25th-28th

https://www.vact.org/upcoming-schedule-1/2019/4/25/newsies

 

 

 






Be More Chill Has Too Much Chill

Darren Wildeman

One of the shows that has been under the most scrutiny since it announced a Broadway run is the musical Be More Chill with music and lyrics by Joe Iconis and a book by Joe Tracz. It has a science fiction theme and has a very rabid fan base. However, it has also faced plenty of scrutiny over if the show is appropriate for Broadway, and people not being sure how it is going to do. Many people hope it succeeds; however, it also has a very large number of detractors. I’m not going to be talking about the plot and music of Be More Chill as much. Rather, I’m going to analyze the opinions surrounding this show, how this show will do, and why or why not it might be fit for Broadway. Instead of exploring the show itself I’m going to explore how polarizing this show is, why that might be, and why in general a lot of people see it as a potential flop when so many others think it deserves Best Musical at the Tony Awards this spring. This article isn’t meant to trash Be More Chill or to burn it to the ground. If it can be successful in some capacity the more power to it, and the people working on it. However, there are some major concerns for this show and its life in my opinion.


The first thing to acknowledge is that Be More Chill does have a large fan base. To deny that there aren’t fans and try to say no one likes it is 100% promoting a false dichotomy. However, part of the issue lies with who this fan base is. Be More Chill’s fan base is largely comprised of teenagers, and younger people all around the country. This is fine, in fact a musical that appeals to the younger fans is kind of neat. However, this is also what is hurting Be More Chill. Unlike Dear Evan Hansen (more on the comparisons between these shows later) or Hamilton, Be More Chill almost only appeals to the younger audience at times. And for the most part, young people aren’t the people who can afford to go to the theatre, and obviously the vast majority of America does not live in or near New York City, so the show is not able to be viewed by the many other fans it does have. That’s the problem with appealing to a somewhat limited demographic. There aren’t as many people. And this limited demographic also appeals to my next point.

For some reason Be More Chill gets constant comparisons to Dear Evan Hansen. However, that is an awful comparison in my opinion. The two shows aren’t even in the same area code. Dear Evan Hansen deals with mental illness, and the impact our words and actions can have. Dear Evan Hansen is a much more maturely written musical. I’m not saying that to crap on Be More Chill but I don’t think it can be argued. It’s teaches lessons, and has very well written adult characters. In short, it has more things that would appeal to a more mature audience. The story is also SO different that I don’t think you can even make a fair comparison to Be More Chill. The reason I bring this up is because people will point to Dear Evan Hansen’s success at both the Tony’s and commercially. But these shows are so far different that this isn’t a fair comparison at all.

If we’re going to compare Be More Chill to anything it would probably be Little Shop of Horrors because of the sci-fi camp vibe. However, Little Shop of Horrors while being campy and cheesy at times has the spectacle that some theatre goers look for, while still having characters and moments that will still resonate with a broader audience. Be More Chill, while it does some things well it just doesn’t have that mass appeal. It’s a niche show that while appeals to some, doesn’t have the writing nor the qualities that the larger audience looks for.

Some would look at the minimalistic staging, some might even call it intimate. They might argue that the minimalistic staging works because shows like Once, and last year’s big Tony winner The Band’s Visit have the same minimal staging properties. However, I don’t think I need to tell you the difference here. Those shows have much more mature writing and the staging works with the story in totally different ways. Minimal staging does not immediately mean it’s a really well-done intimate show.

In fact, in many cases it’s much better for an intimate show to stay Off-Broadway. Shows like Once and The Band’s Visit are exceptions. That’s not to say that every small show with a niche audience appeal should stay Off-Broadway; however, Off-Broadway theatres have the type of atmosphere about them where these types of shows tend to do much better. So many shows that are Off-Broadway have the vibe about them that Be More Chill has; and unless a show has superior writing or a quality about it that puts it over the top a show is generally much better suited to stay Off-Broadway. Honestly going to Broadway can absolutely swallow a show like Be More Chill whole and it will get lost.

Also, if the show flops on Broadway that could kill its chance of coming back and having success in an Off-Broadway theatre. Not a lot of shows make the transition back Off-Broadway if it goes to Broadway.  There is a chance that it could have success as a touring show so it could be more accessible to its younger fan base. However, for a show like this going to Broadway is a huge risk and I don’t really see it paying off. A move like this could literally kill the show outright.

One could even argue that Be More Chill could have gone for some spectacle and been successful. The issue is that would greatly change the vision of the show but again I go back to Little Shop of Horrors. That is not a small stage show, it does have some stripped-down qualities but it also has some spectacle. And spectacle can cover a lot of miscues in writing. I don’t think Wicked is an awful musical; however, it certainly has writing flaws that are covered up by the stage presence of the show. Bringing some of that stage presence could have possibly helped Be More Chill in its move to Broadway.

However, it is obvious that Be More Chill wanted to go with the small musical/intimate vibe. However, it just doesn’t have the audience appeal or extreme high-quality writing or story telling that is going to bring it over the edge like the smaller shows such as Once or The Band’s Visit. All in all, I think Be More Chill has bitten off more than it can chew, and I’d be concerned about the ultimate survival of this show in any capacity once it is done on Broadway.

Top 5 Fox Movies That Should Get a Stage Adaptation

Taylor Lockhart



If you’re living under a rock then you might not have heard that Disney has officially acquired Twentieth Century Fox, an acquisition that means the X-Men and Fantastic Four can now join the Avengers, that Anastasia is now technically a Disney princess and that Jekyll and Hyde The Musical is now apart of Disney Theatricals. Yes, I hear you saying right now, “That’s not how producing companies work at all!” You would be right but the prospect of seeing a Fun Home revival helmed by Disney is so incredible that I’m okay with being wrong. With all this being said I thought it was the perfect time to revisit one of my older articles in which I talked about my “Top 9 Disney Movies that Should Get a Stage Adaptation”. Keep in mind that Disney Theatricals is the same company that made an animated movie specifically so it could be adapted for the stage then let it sit in Germany for like 15 years and then finally brought it over to the United States just to decide after two playhouse runs to do absolutely nothing with it but the adaptation of a movie that flopped so hard it won a Razzie and was only ever intended to be made for licensing ended up becoming one of the biggest broadway hits of the last decade. In short, they are absolutely unpredictable. They may not even use any of their new Fox properties or just immediately go ahead with one of them like The Princess Bride or something right out of the gate. I mean who honestly knows. This is all just for fun so if you disagree feel free to let me know but chances are you won’t have to hear about many of these any time soon. So without any further ado here are the Top 5 Fox movies I would live to see made into stage adaptations. Why not 9 you like last time? Sorry, we’ve had some budget cuts. Anyways, Let’s go!



#5 Home Alone

The Number 5 spot on my list goes to the Home Alone series of movies. I can’t personally imagine what a Home Alone musical would sound like and how it would be brought to life but it’s one of those franchises I can look at and see the serious possibility of it happening. Home Alone is something years later people still know and love and probably watch at least once or twice every christmas. It’s kinda surprising as far as I know no one has ever brought up the idea of a musical adaptation. I’m not saying this should happen and personally it’s not one that I think broadway needs to see but with the success of A Christmas Story, Elf, and others like it it’s not hard to see that Home Alone certainly is one of the most adaptable properties on this list that’s sure to turn a profit. I think it could be fun and it would certainly be interesting to see Kevin Mcallister's crazy traps come to life on stage. I think it would need an update to the story in order to bring it up to a two act show but there’s some material for something magical if done correctly. In any case it’s a well known story that would make an excellent children's musical to tour during winter like some of the other musicals I mentioned currently do.



#4 Mrs. Doubtfire

Come on, do I even have to say why the Robin Williams movie would make a perfect show? We’ve seen crossdressing done tons of times before on Broadway like with Mrs. Trunchbull in Matilda, and Mrs. Doubtfire would bring a new version of that which we haven't seen yet. There’s enough material there to adapt into two acts and room for some incredibly heartfelt songs. Luckily for me, I’m not the only one who thinks this as a Mrs. Doubtfire musical is in the making and may be on Broadway very soon.



#3 Alien

No, no no no no no no no...No! I’m not talking about an Alien musical. Good lord, No, that is the single worst idea I’ve ever heard. Instead, I’m talking about a straight play stage adaptation. If you’re invested into the theatre scene than odds are you have seen the school that recently put on a play adaptation of the Alien film, North Bergen High School. It’s really well done and a friendly reminder that high schools are capable of doing some really cool things and that the arts in schools should be given more money to work with!

(Hey a little pause real quick, I do feel the need to acknowledge, though because many other blogs and news articles haven’t, that unauthorized adaptations are illegal and while in this case the creators were cool enough not to take legal action, that’s not always the case. This is an incredibly cool production and you should celebrate it for all it’s worth but I would be wrong to just ignore the fact that if you now want to stage an adaptation of a movie for yourself and sell tickets for it as apart of your school's season it’s against the law and you shouldn’t do that. Thanks! Now back to the article!)

It’s really blown up and has me rewatching the film and considering the possibility of an adaptation coming to life on stage. We’ve seen just how poorly action musicals work like with Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark but the movie has enough really good scenes to make an incredible suspenseful action play. We’ve already seen from shows like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child that plays can have fantasy settings So why not a sci-fi one? If done right it’s possible to do more imaginative concepts with straight plays like Alien really well. I’ll admit fear nothing more than a million movie adaptations filling Broadway …(well maybe wasps. I’m pretty afraid of wasps) but a somewhat interactive experience reliving the Alien films live could be awesome and successful. Musicals have had the chance to get incredibly creative as we can see this year with shows like Beetlejuice but plays are often stuck in the real world with very few plays experimenting with Imaginative concepts like this one. I think if done right and those are the key words, If done right these high schoolers could be on to a pretty good idea and a new live big budget version of Alien could terrify audiences who have now lost the ability to hide behind a screen.


#2 Deadpool

Deadpool is the musical comedy we absolutely need. Deadpool is such a stretchable character you could do literally anything. Any story, any type of music, anything. A Deadpool musical sounds incredibly stupid and that is why it’s a really good idea because Deadpool works best in the exact places you never thought he could. It would be really nice to have a “go get drunk and then see a funny show” type of musical that doesn’t take itself seriously and Deadpool would be right in his element breaking the fourth wall with the audience. You could even have the character call people out for bootlegging the show, this script practically writes itself. I personally think that Deadpool would be a lot like the Beetlejuice musical is right now with him being a fourth wall breaking narrator figure but even crazier and even funnier. Okay, I’m going to pitch you an idea right now and you tell me if it doesn’t sound like the most amazing experience you could possibly have ever. A revival of Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark except the “Spiderman” part is crossed out and Deadpool is written in and “Turn Off The Dark” is modified to be some sort of sexual pun. I can’t think of one but just imagine with me for a second. It follows the storyline and songs of Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark except narrated by Deadpool who makes fun of the musical while constantly derailing it into directions the entire time. It’s hilarious for broadway fans and the script is written so that anyone out of the loop can still enjoy the hell out deadpools quips. Now that is a show I would pay some good money to see. I’m talking Hamilton money. I would pay Hamilton money to see that show.

#1 The Greatest Showman

It’s really not a question is it. The Greatest Showman was made to be adapted for the stage and is almost certainly going to be at some point. I don’t think I need to spend even a second explaining why it would work so well or if it would be profitable because it would and it has. I think it’s need some adapting to make it work but It’s undeniable that The Greatest Showman would work on Broadway. It would be nice to see a full musical with a story that uses tricks from Cirque du Soleil. Hell, perhaps Cirque du Soleil could be a producer and help make this musical one of the biggest and best broadway has ever seen. Maybe with Hugh Jackman returning to Broadway with The Music Man you could see him once he’s done there reprising his role to do the musical on Broadway. I wouldn’t bet on it but you can certainly bet that The Greatest Showman is coming.

Well, that’s my list. Let me know if I should do another sometime regarding a different studio. At some point I’d like to talk about books that I think should have musical adaptations since those feel so much more original than movie adaptations and while it’s fun to speculate I can say I’d rather more original works appearing on stage in the future. I hope to see you again in about a month but remember that we publish articles every Monday and Thursday. If you didn’t like me then chances are you might like one of the other writers and what they have to say. Thank you for taking your time and reading and I hope you all have wonderful rests of March. I’ve been Taylor and you’ve been you and I’ll see all next month, goodbye.