Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Move, Bitch, Get Out the Way

It is difficult to quantify just how important  Broadway can be to a show's ultimate success.  Although a Broadway mounting is expensive and risky, it generates publicity that exponentially increases awareness of the show and the chances that it will be produced in the future (and therefore be seen by more people and make its creators some money). 

Now, before all of you avante garde artists who can't stand how commercial Broadway has become start complaining, take a couple of deep breaths.  I am not saying that Broadway is the only way a show can gain notoriety.  For plays especially, a well-received Off-Broadway or regional production can be a show needs to get noticed, and if said show happens to win a Pulitzer, it will forever be on a shortlist of scripts producers will take a look at.  But for musicals especially, they almost *need* a Broadway production to have any kind of widespread regional life.  Broadway brings the show a level of attention and legitimacy that even an acclaimed run elsewhere won't get it, and is invaluable to licensing companies attempting to sell the show's rights to regional and amatuer theatre companies.

However, one of the big hurdles on the way to a Broadway mounting is finding a theatre.  There are only 40 to choose from, and they are by no means interchangable.  Some are inimate houses better suited for plays and small-scale musicals, and some are absolutely cavernous and practically demand a big-budget musical to fill them.  Wicked would not be Wicked if someone had scaled it down to squeeze it into the Booth Theatre, and a two-character drama like The Mountaintop would be positively ridiculous in a theatre like the 1,800 seat Gershwin.

Since I value new work and am in favor of as many shows getting the kind of exposure Broadway can offer, I personally feel that the ludicrously long runs being enjoyed by certain shows need to end.  Yesterday.  By selfishly remaining in the same theatre for years, these theatrical dinosaurs are keeping new works from getting well-desrved Broadway premieres, with all the attendant publicity and notoriety that entails.  Which brings me to an "honor" I plan on bestowing from time to time: the Needs to Close Award.

This award will be given to shows that I feel have worn out their welcome, and need to close in order to make room for new, better things.  While winning this award does not necessarily mean the show is bad, the worse the show, the harder it is to justify its hogging of prime Broadway real estate.  And the winner of the inaugral Needs to Close Award is.......


Congratulations!  You have successful milked a scaled-down concert version of a 1970s musical classic into a 15-year run, making you the 4th longest running show in Broadway history.  But your time is up.

Why, you ask?

For one thing, you're a freakin' revival!  So not only are you preventing new work from being seen, you weren't even new yourself when you premeired!!!  Granted, your original production had the misfortune of opening the same season as A Chorus Line, leaving you completely shut out on Tony night.  And your satiric take of fame and celebrity may have been ahead of its time and not fully appreciated in 1975.  I also do not deny the quality of your writing, which I genuinely like and admire. 

But after years of ridiculous celebrity stunt casting, featuring hoardes of semi-famous people who weren't anywhere near Broadway calibre, it's throw in the towel.  So get lost, and take solace in all you have acheived.  You have brought newfound life to an aging theatrical property, making it a staple of regional, summer stock, and educational theatres.  Your success finally resulted in a long-awaited film adaptation that made the movie musical relevant again, and won that nice lady with the funny accent and extremely old husband an Oscar.  You have made Barry and Fran Weissler disgustingly rich and two of the most influential producers in the business.  Now please go away before we have to hear one more celebrity who's probably too young to be playing Roxie butcher "Funny Honey."

Jared Wietbrock

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