Saturday, November 12, 2011

How was the Show? (Part 2)

Continuing a blog post from earlier this week (and my attempt to get at least mini-reviews of every Broadway show I've seen up on this blog), here are my completely biased and at times unsubstantiated opinions on some more currently running Broadway shows.

Godspell - I haven't gotten around to seeing this one yet, but it did not get the best reviews.  Most disappointing for me is the general consensus that the show is an almost juvenile, hyperactive take on the material, which just sounds so grating and obnoxious that it may keep me away from this revival alltogether.  I will say that my general opinion of Stephen Schwatz's work is that no matter what your opinion of the music, his shows tend to have problematic books that require a cast and director capable of disguising the flaws.  It sounds like this Godspell didn't have a cast quite up to the task.

How to Succeed - I really enjoyed this show, and I saw it during the second or third preview.  I can only imagine how much it's improved since then, and if you're looking for a good old-fashioned musical comedy, this is the show for you.  Daniel Radcliffe makes a surprisingly adept musical debut, and he is ably supported by the rest of the cast and what I would argue is one of the stronger Golden Age musical books and scores.  The look of the show is 60s-tastic in the best possible sense, and unlike the garbage Rob Ashford created for Promises, Promises, his choreography here is quite inspired.  The show is a tad long and I personally didn't care for the actor playing Bud Frump, but I would argue this production is every bit as good as last season's other musical revival, Anything Goes.

Jersey Boys - In one of the umpteen million iterations of Forbidden Broadway, there is a spoof of Jersey Boys in which the characters claim they have replaced scenes with dramatic monologues so that they have more time to sing classic songs with snappy choreography.  Which *perfectly* describes Jersey Boys, and is why I find it to be one of the most overrated shows of the past decade.  They tell you what is going on rather than showing you, which is both dramatically unfulfilling and vaguely insulting.  Plus, do you really want to fight your way through the crowds of New Jersey housewives just to find your seat?

Mamma Mia! - I can't speak to this show's quality, as I've never seen it and never will unless I happen across some free tickets.  At this point my objection is more philosophical than anything else, as Mamma Mia! started the entire jukebox musical craze which was an utter detriment to the musical theatre community.  After Mamma Mia!'s success, producers took jobs away from aspiring theatre composers by using pop hits with pre-established name recognition for their musicals.  Not only did this put good artists out of work, but it also led to the creation of a series of dramtically inert shows struggling to build a story around pop tunes that lacked dramatic intent and forward momentum, two requirements of any good theatre song.  Which I find unforgivable, and will in no way support.

Mary Poppins - Another tourist-centric show I haven't seen.  My friends who have been actually have nice things to say about it, so if you're looking for something to take your out-of-town relatives to, this could well be it.

Memphis - No, this show isn't a great piece of musical theatre writing.  But it is a thoroughly entertaining evening in the theatre that has a little bit of everything.  There's comedy, drama, lots of singing and dancing, and just enough of emotional depth that you don't feel like you're watching a piece of fluff.  I personally wish the show had focused more on how being in an interacial relationship negatively affected the white male, as that is something that hasn't been explored nearly as often as the well-worn oppressed-black-woman-in-the-South angle the show's second act favors.  But the cast is talented and the singing and dancing is generally stellar.  Definitely worth a look.

Other Desert Cities - I really want to see this show, and its actually at the top of my list of shows to go see in the next few weeks, so look for a full report soon!

Well, that's enough for today.  Check back soon for more mini-reviews, and feel free to challenge my opinions in the comments (but be warned, I bite).

-Jared W

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