The Playgoer: The New Musicals

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

The New Musicals

"I think it's exciting when musicals sound more like the culture that produced them and less like other musicals...Theater is a magpie art: It steals from what's going on around it. For Duncan Sheik to steal from indie rock and Lin-Manuel to steal from hip-hop and salsa, and to see young audiences respond to that, can only be good for Broadway's health."

-Jeremy McCarter

"What links these shows is that they're not being drawn from an already-proved formula...They're original visions. And what's important is that they all began Off Broadway, where there's less tinkering from producers in the artistic process....[But] All you need is a few experimental shows to flop, and people will get cold feet again."

-Charles Isherwood

The two critics are among those quoted in a nice Variety piece this week putting in context the success of Spring Awakening and its recent "children" Passing Strange, In The Heights, and even Adding Machine.

Obviously these shows bear no direct debt to Spring Awakening. But does their reception and success? And the fact they're even being commercially produced at all?


Anonymous said...

No, I don't think that there's any connection at all, and to suggest that there is one is an insult to the shows' own merits.

Anonymous said...

I think there's a feeling that the "traditional" Broadway musical is in some way staid. But a show like "In the Heights" is an incredibly traditional Broadway musical in sensibility and structure--it's just added something to the formula. I think the addition is great, but it's a big Broadway show at heart, and no mistaking it. Something like "Passing Strange" is, for me, really further out of the Broadway formula, not because of the sound (since when is there one cohesive Broadway sound?) but because of the demolishing of the fourth wall and the metanarrative it plays with--but I don't think "Passing Strange" and "Spring Awakening" do the same thing at all; they deal with the standards and constraints of their medium in very different ways. In short, I think Variety is simplifying the issue.

Anonymous said...

Having just seen ADDING MACHINE and SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE back to back, and headed to A CATERED AFFAIR this weekend, I am incredibly heartened about the state of the American musical (despite the fact that none of them is likely to turn a profit and one of the is twenty-three years old). These strike me as the kinds of work that stretch the definition of the musical.