The 68th Annual Tony® nominations were revealed last Wednesday and the only major surprises were the fact that some well known Hollywood thespians were snubbed in their respective categories. Not only were frontrunners for Best Actor in a play Denzel Washington, Daniel Radcliffe, and James Franco snubbed but other celebs such as Michelle Williams and Zach Braff were also left off of the Tony’s® nomination list in their own respective categories as well. All of this fun round of award show roulette got me thinking of the current state of Broadway.
It seems to me that Great White Way could use a little injection of creativity. I say this because this season alone there seems to be a void of original ideas for new musicals that have not been based on previously produced motion pictures. This season alone saw the debuts of Bullets Over Broadway, Aladdin, Rocky: The Musical, and The Bridges of Madison County all of which heard their names cited on Wednesday morning for a nomination or two. of the four musical nominated for Best Musical: the musical revue After Midnight, Disney produced Aladdin, Carole King biography revue Beautiful, and the favorite going into June 8th’s ceremony A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.
I found out from another well written article analyzing Broadway’s obsession with Hollywood that Gentleman’s Guide is also based on a motion picture albeit one from 1949, Kind Hearts and Coronets starring Alec Guinness. Even shows that didn’t get that much critical acclaim such as If/Then are also loosely based on Hollywood product, ever heard of Sliding Doors? Yep it’s the same premise with songs! This year’s revivals are also tinged with Hollywood razzle dazzle. Although Hedwig and the angry Inch starring Neil Patrick Harris started as a musical off Broadway. John Cameron Mitchell’s successful independent movie of the same title and premise in 2001 surely helped get this musical back on Broadway where more people could enjoy this unique rock opera. This year also saw Big Fish: The Musical come and go earlier this year.
This is not the first year Broadway was overrun with musicals from the silver screen. Most recently we’ve seem shows based on Kinky Boots, Matilda, Once, Newsies, and Thoroughly Modern Millie , many of which were so acclaimed they went on to win Best Musical of the Year. In hindsight one has to give credit to producers of the Tony® winning musicals such as Spring Awakening, Memphis and The Book of Mormon some credit for at least thinking outside the box when conjuring up their “new” idea for the big stage.
My point is that why isn’t Broadway coming up with amazing character filled storylines on their own? Why do they keep having to go back to the well of tried and true with Broadway songs and staging? Look I’m all for the razzle dazzle of a show thinking outside the box in adapting it’s source material such a Rocky incorporating the audience in it’s final pivotal fight scene and the musical Aladdin broadening its previously staged show from Disney’s California Adventure theme park to a more accessible and knowledgeable theatrical audience. I’m just wondering why every Hollywood script that’s even moderately well reviewed needs to be turned into a Broadway musical.
Rumors persist that producers are working on everything from The Princess Bride to Twenty Feet From Stardom. Gee I cannot wait for Pretty Woman: The Musical to be fully realized. Please tell me they are joking with that one. The problem with all of these films being adapted for the stage is the surprise the newness that is supposed to accompany a Broadway show full of songs lights and pizzazz is all but gone. Since these are such beloved titles we all know where the script is headed and how these characters came to be. What is unique is that songs are now accompanying these titles but that’s not necessarily a good thing as humor comes to mind once Rocky and Adrian Balboa busting into a final chorus at the end of Rocky: The Musical. Gonna Fly Know indeed right out of the theatre that is. I just the creative people behind some of Broadway’s most successful productions to look in the mirror and analyze what’s around the corner. How about adapting a great novel like Wicked did back in the day? Or how about basing a show on another famous production or historical event like Rent did in the 1990s or 1776 did back in the 1970s? Is it too much to ask for Broadway to start trying harder?
Hey if I’m investing close to one hundred dollars per ticket at the TKTS ticket stand then I would like to think that Broadway is doing its part to invest in its future. Is that too much to ask?