Monday, September 1, 2014

2014 Fall Preview: The Musicals

Erin Davie and Emily Padgett are set to reprise their roles as conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton in the Broadway transfer of the acclaimed Kennedy Center production of the cult musical Side Show.


Although I am vehemently opposed to our nation's obsession with pumpkin everything and the attendant rush to have it be fall RIGHT NOW, there's no denying that the summer is coming to a close. The coming months will see a bevy of new Broadway productions begin performances, and since I've already examined the fall's crop of plays it's time to turn our attention to the type of theatre that is most synonymous with the Great White Way: the Broadway musical. While there aren't nearly as many musicals as plays premiering in the coming months, the industry seems to have collectively decided on a quality-over-quantity approach. (Almost) Every single musical, new or revived, sounds like an enticing evening at the theatre, and I am legitimately excited for them. So without further ado, here are the upcoming shows that will hopefully have us singing and dancing in the aisle this coming fall.

On the Town
Previews begin 9/20; Opening Night 10/16

While I'm not convinced the current Broadway economy can really support a big budget, old school song-and-dance fest like On the Town, I'm sure glad some producers have decided to give it a try. The Bernstein-Comden-Green musical perfectly fits my criteria for shows that merit a full scale revival (it's a well-liked musical that was a huge hit during its original run that isn't produced very often anymore), and it will be nice to see another dance musical on the Great White Way now that Newsies has ceased carrying the banner. I'm concerned On the Town has booked Spider-Man's old theatre (the freshly renamed Lyric), because I don't think the musical has the kind of drawing power to consistently sell a house that size, but hopefully the producers keep running costs low so it won't need to be a sell-out hit to survive.

The Last Ship
Previews begin 9/30; Opening Night 10/26

This is the one musical I am not interested in seeing, thanks mostly to the snooze-inducing preview performance on this year's Tony telecast. Multiple Grammy-winner Sting tries his hand at writing showtunes for this semi-autobiographical show about a shipbuilding town in England struggling to stave off financial ruin. As Bono and the Edge proved with their disastrous Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, success and acclaim in the recording industry doesn't always translate to the stage, and quite honestly the entire affair sounds dull and uninteresting. In fairness, The Last Ship received encouraging (but by no means stellar) reviews during its out of town tryout, but it's going to need really strong buzz to convince me I want to sit through 2 1/2 hours of the same type of low-key material showcased on the Tonys.

Side Show
Previews begin 10/28; Opening Night 11/17

It took longer than I initially expected, but the well-reviewed Kennedy Center production of this 1997 cult-musical is officially coming to Broadway, and I couldn't be more excited. While the original production of Side Show only ran for a couple of months, the musical's reputation has only grown since its premature closing thanks to an intriguing premise - it tells the story of real-life conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton - and a fantastic score. The show has been retooled, rethought, and rewritten by original authors Henry Krieger and Bill Russell along with the revival's director, Bill Condon (an Oscar winner who is also responsible for the fantastic film version of Krieger's Dreamgirls). I'm concerned about the show's financial prospects - dark musical dramas are a hard sell these days - but I will certainly be in attendance, and I hope this new production is the beginning of a long and prosperous second life for the ambitious property.

Honeymoon in Vegas
Previews begin 11/18; Opening Night 1/15/15

While I couldn't begin to tell you why a show The New York Times' Ben Brantley practically demanded transfer to Broadway has a two month preview period, the important thing is Honeymoon in Vegas is coming to bless us with another glorious Jason Robert Brown score. While this is the first full-fledged comedy the three-time Tony-winner has written, his previous works are rife with inventive lyrics and fun, uptempo melodies in songs like The Last 5 Year's "Summer in Ohio" or Songs for a New World's "Surabaya-Santa." It also marks the Broadway return of rising star Rob McClure, who will hopefully find a vehicle more worthy of his talents than the misguided Chaplin a few years back. If the show is as good as early buzz suggests, Honeymoon may give Brown his first commercial success, something that should help ease the sting of the criminally chilly reception his brilliant Bridges of Madison County received earlier this year. (Sidenote: both the show and leading lady Kelli O'Hara were *robbed* of Tony Awards this year!)


And there you have it! Those are all 16 productions scheduled to premiere on Broadway this fall. Which shows are you most excited about? Don't be afraid to let me know in the comments!

And in case you missed it, here are the previous two parts of my Fall Preview:

2014 Fall Preview: Play Revivals
2014 Fall Preview: New Plays

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