Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Broadway Shows to Naysayers: I Ain’t Down Yet

In her memoir of sorts, Just Lucky I Guess, Carol Channing wrote:

“Most every worthwhile project as far as I have seen goes through a period of, ‘It’s not going to work, why did we ever start this?’ The storm has to come.”

According to Carol Channing, Hello, Dolly! was a mess out of town. In her one-woman show, she has said that the producer was going to close it, the show was such a mess.

Shortly thereafter, Hello, Dolly!, of course, became the show to win the most Tony Awards until The Producers came along, was the longest-running show for a short time, and is one of the happiest evenings you could ever have in a theatre.

What changed the course of events? A song. One song.

Okay, it was really Jerry Herman because he wrote the song, but the point is that what the show started out as isn’t what it came to be. Could you imagine the message board posts about the Detroit tryout if it was being produced today?

I saw the show in Detroit. Yeah, whoever gave Carol a show should have their taps permanently revoked. Give her a revival of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Idina should have gotten it. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the show is an unmitigated mess.

I agree. The show had some moments, but it never builds. The title song and “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” worked well, but other than that, there’s no reason for it to exist. I should know; I used to sell drinks at the Plymouth. It’ll close before previews.

I thought the songs were pretty forgettable. I heard them once and can’t hum a single one.

I think it has potential. It’s not perfect, but it is out of town for a reason.

Die, schill, die!

There’s nothing wrong with people posting about shows on message boards or criticizing during previews because, as someone somewhere once said, if people are paying to see the show, they have a right to know how it is. After all, $125 during previews is $125.

But let’s remember that no show is a lost cause until it officially opens. Something as simple as a song can refocus the material (like it did for Hello, Dolly!, Fiddler on the Roof, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum). Five lines of dialogue can provide needed character development or exposition (something like in The Light in the Piazza). Recasting a role can reinterpret a character (like with Thoroughly Modern Millie). Those were very important changes, but in the grand scope of the shows’ creations, they were relatively minor.

Anything Goes, don’t forget, was rewritten in two months. The score for Wonderful Town was rewritten in one month. What matters most are not the names or the experience of the people involved, what the naysayers say, or the quality of the source material. What matters most is the talent of the people involved, the union of the creative team, and the support of the producers.

So, let’s add a new entry to our message board discussion above.

Doesn’t make a bit-a
Difference for you to keep
Saying’ I’m downnn, till
I say to

the Broadway Mouth
April 12, 2008

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