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Tuesday, May 16, 2006


This morning, Phylicia Rashad, Natasha Richardson and Liev Schreiber announced the nominees for The 60th Annual Tony Awards. To say I was underwhelmed following the announcement of the musical nominations was a definite understaement however that is probably due in part to my feeling of the entire past Broadway season -- weak. On the positive side, at least the genre isn't virtually non-existant as in the case with previous years.

There are some years when Broadway is hot -- several great shows by talented composers performed by equally talented performers. There are also years when the musical variety on Broadway is slim pickins as it was in 1995. Sunset Blvd. was one of two shows nominated for the "Best Musical" category during the 1995 awards (and won). That's it, two shows. One by The Phantom of the Opera himself, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and the other, a Leiber & Stoller musical revue -- Smokey Joe's Cafe. It would have been difficult for me to respect the Tony committee had Sunset Blvd. lost to it's competitor. In my book, Smokey Joe's Cafe was one of the shows that kicked off the whole "jukebox musical" phenomena and anyone who reads this blog knows that I'm not a huge fan of that type of musical experience. Luckily, I didn't have to repeatedly hit myself upside the head in frustration.

Last year I felt was a great year for Broadway, there were amazing new shows like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Light in the Piazza, Monty Python's Spamalot and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Each of these shows were unique, creative musicals that contributed something positive to the genre (all of which I might add are still running on Broadway). Dirty Rotten Scoundrels maintained the humor and wit of the film while creating an entirely unique take and perspective on the characters and story through music; The Light in the Piazza, based on the novella by Elizabeth Spencer was a beautiful and touching story about a mother and her mentally challenged daughter on vacation in Italy in 1953, the daughter's romance with a handsome, high-spirited Florentine, and the mother's determined efforts to keep the two apart with sweeping melodies reminiscent of music from the Golden Age of Broadway; Monty Python's Spamalot is a hilarious musical based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail with an original score by Python creator Eric Idle and John DuPrez; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a comedic portrayal of young overachievers experiencing a hilarious tale of overachievers' angst while chronicling the experience of six adolescent outsiders vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime. All four shows nominated for the 2004-05 season were distinctly unique, entertaining and special. As a side note, I was excited about all of these shows last season before seeing any of them. My problem last season was what to see (there were almost too many). I'm really not always as closed minded to new musicals as it will soon sound.

This year however, I was positively underwhelmed by the selection of new musicals gracing the Great White Way: The Drowsy Chaperone, Jersey Boys, The Wedding Singer and The Color Purple. The Drowsy Chaperone had the potential to be amazing, but it just wasn't. I was disappointed that I disliked it as much as I did (read my pan here). I adore Sutton Foster but I just didn't like The Drowsy Chaperone one bit. I wasn't surprised that the show swept the Tony nominations this year as it was one of the most anticipated shows of the season, but for me, it was one of the worst, boring pathetic attempts at a musical comedy. Call me a theatre snob, but I just can't bring myself to see Jersey Boys. I've heard its good and unlike the typical "jukebox musicals" out there, but if I'm going to see a musical, I'd rather spend my $100 at an original show that teaches, inspires and entertains. Is that too much to ask for? Probably. My thoughts on The Wedding Singer are a little bit different and I don't think I'm as stubborn where this one is concerned -- I'm on the fence when it comes to my pre-conceived idea of this show. The Wedding Singer is based on the film with an original score but I can't help but wonder why make this show into a musical? Was this a potentially easy sell because of its popularity on the silver screen? Is the music that great? The story that entertaining? I can't say for sure as I have yet to see it. Am I interested? No. I am more skeptical of The Wedding Singer than I was with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Why? Give me a good concrete reason to be interested in The Wedding Singer and then maybe I'll give it a chance. I listened to the music online and it wasn't nearly as smart, catchy or witty as David Yazbek's music for other movie turned musicals: The Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

The only new musical of the 2005-06 Broadway season that I have heard and will give (a little more than) half a chance to is The Color Purple. My open-mindedness has nothing to do with the well-known producer of The Color Purple either. Though this musical is based on yet another film, its transformation from heavy drama into musical format is (from what I've heard so far) decent. It is more reminiscent of the old-school musical format than other new shows of the current season. It has music that tells a story and explains emotion that words alone cannot. This might be a very simplistic way of defining a good musical (for me) but it is one of the elements I observe when I see a good musical. So the music might not be written technically as ingenious as Sondheim or as ground breaking as Rogers & Hammerstein (back-in-the-day) but The Color Purple has heart and so far, seems to be the best new musical of the new season.

Ask me my opinion of the best revival musicals of the 2005-06 season or the recipient of the lifetime achievement award...and I will tell you that is a post for another day. I have thoughts...many thoughts...


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