Saturday, February 9, 2008

Broadway 2054

Dear Readers,

While I won’t go into the details because no one will believe me, I have magically acquired a piece of writing from the future, written by my future son about the Broadway of his day. I’m a proud papa knowing, first of all, that I will indeed have at least one child. But most importantly, I’m proud that he becomes a writer. Son, you make me proud!

I post it here because it may be interesting to some people (and for bragging rights).

Atta boy, Dallas!

the Broadway Mouth
February 9, 2008

The New Meaning of Triple Threat

It’s been almost fifty years since Legally Blonde debuted on Broadway. After seeing yet another video game-to-stage adaptation, the days of the Second Golden, which most historians will agree began in 2009 at about the same time my father was making his Broadway writing debut, seem to be moving farther and farther away, an untouchable era of rock-infused scores, master choreographers, and unstoppable talent that is now so long gone and dead, I sometimes fear we may never rival such heights again.

While my father was best known for his original musicals, most of the best-loved shows from that era were the glorious film adaptations that brought audiences to their feet and rightfully padded the pockets of producers. In seeing yet another high school production of The Blair Witch Project, I am reminded how far we have fallen since the glory days of Hairspray, Legally Blonde, Casino Royale: The Musical, Never Been Kissed, Transformers, and Tron!, among others.

Gone are the character-specific rock scores (please! no more snap-quark, I beg) with hip-hop overtones where talents like Sara Gettelfinger, Janine LaManna, Michael Berresse, and Amy Spanger shined bright eight times a week performing the choreography of the greats of the Second Golden Age—Susan Stroman, Kathleen Marshall, Wayne Cilento, and Jerry Mitchell, to name a few.

Just yesterday I was listening to the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Michael John LaChiusa’s classic Jimmy Neutron, and it served best to remind me of the bastardization of the modern musical tradition so bravely developed by folks like my father. Instead of something great like Stephen Schwartz’s Fantasic Four, we get Death Warranty! with its bombastic snap-quark music that removes any and all characterization from Muna Ali’s almost serviceable lyrics (does this woman even know what alliteration is?!?). Instead of hip-hop and step-based choreography, we get mindless, emotionless clips and twists by actors who can hardly dance and sing at the same time (Sutton Foster, to drop a name, could easily have done the gymnastics routine from the ten-thirty number in Death Warranty! and hit the high C eight shows a week, thank you very much). In the old days, the chorus was made up of people who loved the theatre and were true triple threats—they could easily do the singing, dancing, and fight choreography needed for today’s shows instead of needing to hide behind stunt men and body doubles. And while I enjoy seeing Carol Channing still performing at her age, even she can’t breathe life into Death Warranty!’s stale jokes (ha.ha.ha . . . another broken jet-pack joke).

There have been eight Death Warranty! video games in the popular series. . . Do we really need a Broadway musical? Despite the fact that the first two years are sold out, the answer is a resounding no! With shows needing to run for six years just to break even (despite those $8450 premium seats), we’re going to see more garbage like Death Warranty! hitting the boards.

The latest news is that Mars Guettel (grandson of The Light in the Piazza and Life is Beautiful composer/lyricist Adam Guettel) is hard at work adapting the Blood, Breasts, and Body Count video game series.

Oh joy. Another Broadway musical where the talk of the town is how they clean up the blood splattered all over the stage in such a short time.

In 2050, there were 700 amateur productions of A Catered Affair in the United States alone. Will Death Warranty! have that many in fifty years? Maybe, but I doubt it.

Broadway Mouth, Junior
March 19, 2054

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