The Playgoer: Whither Musical Theatre

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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Whither Musical Theatre

There was recently here in NYC the 2nd now-annual "Musical Theatre Festival" whose goal is to nurture and give exposure to a new crop of more adventerous musical theatre. I myself missed it this year, and if you saw something notable, please write in. But otherwise, I'm fascinated by the desperation with which some artists and producers desperately cling to the survival of the genre at all costs. The latest symptom is a crop of smaller Off-Broadway musicals which I call: Spawn of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change--a show which has managed to run for years on the basis of no theatrical merit whatsoever, but rather an intangible appeal to just the right demographic of out-of-town theatregoers who will see anything that makes them feel good. (Mostly grandmothers, I find.)
Take a look at these four press releases I recently received as a group in my inbox, and see if you can fathom what possibly propels their promoters' hopes that these will catch on as the next big thing. I can't say I'm angered or offended. Just perplexed. Perplexed why anyone deemed these good investments.

A WOMAN OF WILL is an exuberant new American musical about the rites of passage in a woman's life, written by and starring Golden Globe winner Amanda McBroom (The Rose) with an unforgettable original score by Joel Silberman. While working out of town on a Broadway-bound musical, Kate faces an unrelenting deadline while struggling to choose between her marriage and her secret, younger lover. Gloria Steinem raved, "A Woman of Will makes history sing, connects women across centuries, and sends you out with ideas in your head and music in your heart. Howss that for a one-woman musical?!" Don't miss this funny, exuberant, powerful celebration!
[For more, if you dare, goto rd=hcmcp?p=04992U04992A510ZLt012000mID90Inb]

Five dates. Five restaurants. Endless sidesplitting laughs. That's the delectable comic fare on the menu in the new musical FIVE COURSE LOVE, which
after a sold-out run at Geva Theatre Center now makes its New York premiere.The
endearing and often elusive search for love was never played out more colorfully than in this high-energy screwball comedy. With a breathtaking range of musical styles, it follows the love lives of fifteen unique characters, performed by three amazingly versatile actors. A slice of musical comedy heaven, FIVE COURSE LOVE is a delicious look at the chance for romance.
[ p=04992Q04992A510ZLt012000mID90Inb]

THE ARK is a rockin' new musical that's a tidal wave of fun. A contemporary
take on a familiar tale, it's the story of how one family learns to brave life's rough waters by sticking together. Michael McLean, renowned composer of more than 20 best-selling albums, gives us an incredibly uplifting score, ranging in style from pop to gospel. With a powerhouse cast, songs that'll have you dancing in the aisles, and one of the most adventurous stories ever told, THE ARK proves that, just like the waters, the depth of human emotion knows no bounds. Hurry, offer available for 40 days and 40 nights only!
[If you're starting to doubt whether these shows are for real, see]

BINGO is the splashy, zippy, fun new musical comedy from the Grammy-nominated songwriters of Swing and the Musical Director of Mamma Mia. On this very important night, die-hard bingo pals Vern, Honey, and Patsy brave a terrible storm in the name of their weekly obsession. An evening of great numbers and number calling, where love blossoms and long lost friends reunite. BINGO is an outrageously hilarious musical that leaves audiences' sides in stitches B4 they know what hit 'em. Call the lucky number below, and be the very first to shout BINGO! []

Why dwell on such easy targets? I dunno. And, hey, if any is a hit I'll eat my virtual hat. But it just strikes me as so sad. All these dreams invested in something so bankrupt. The great (and I mean great) tradition of American Musical Theatre has come to this? Yet it's perfectly symptomatic of the life-support required to try to sustain it under the changing economic & demographic seismic shifts threatening all theatre. This is contemporary theatre as entertainment sideshow. And those that seek to save the commercial theatre first are only encouraging, odd ventures. (And you thought the Wooster Group was weird!)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are right Playgoer. Who'd want to see this crap?