Surviving Broadway

By Sharman Yarnell on July 22, 2010

NEW YORK, NY - Although the past few months have seen some closures of those “sure-fire hits,” Broadway is alive, well and high-kicking through the summer and into the fall. However, the Bard’s claim, "the play’s the thing,” should probably read “the revival’s the thing.”

Most of the draws at the box office, except for a couple, are all tried and true productions from the past. Where are the writers, the lyricists, the great librettists of yore? 

A Little Night Music by Stephen Sondhiem saw Catherine Zeta-Jones rising from her seat in apparent shock when her name was called for Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical at the recent Tony Awards. Don’t expect to see the stunning Zeta-Jones in the show now, or Angela Landsbury. Both have been replaced - by Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch until November. True Broadway buffs are paying up to $300 for premium seats. More for the two leads than the production itself; it is presently the highest grossing play on Broadway. 

Another revival that’s pulling them in is La Cage aux Folles. Douglas Hodge walked off with a Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical (he also received the Olivier Award) for his volatile performance as Albin, a drag performer with a heart of gold. Kelsey Grammer plays his partner Georges (yu may have seen the smooch Hodge gave to a somewhat startled Grammer at The Tonys when his name was announced as the winner). ou can’t really go wrong with this show. It’s based on the French film of the same name and tells the story of a gay couple who must pretend to be straight - with one of the men in drag - for one night to dupe a conservative senator. The production numbers are absolutely superb. Now, who doesn’t enjoy a man in drag? Prices for La Cage run up to a mere $140. 

“They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky;” The Adams Family has arrived on Broadway. Yes, it’s a musical. And, yes, the critics don’t like it! But then, most critics have no sense of humour. What a cast: Bebe Neuwirth as the cold and sexy Morticia and Nathan Lane as the mad and impetuous Gomez. There is mention of death and physical suffering (it’s the Adams Family, after all!) and sexual innuendo. The kids will love it. First Lady Michelle Obama brought her two daughters to the show and they haven’t, yet, fallen into the depths of depravity. Despite poor reviews, theatre-goers are flocking in to see this show. Tickets for this run from $50 to $136. 

Sadly, despite high returns at the box office, two of the best productions on Broadway have closed. Both were non-musicals. Fences, a revival with Denzel Washington won Best Revival of a Play at The Tonys, and Red, starring Alfred Molina, lasted less than a year. The latter was a limited engagement but won Best Play at The Tonys this year. Two hangovers from past years are Billy Elliot and Wicked, both musicals. 

The fact that both shows are still hitting up to 100 per cent returns at the box office speaks loudly and clearly about the appeal of the musical to the theatre-going North American. The fact the they and most of the other shows are charging exorbitant prices for tickets is based not only on the greed of producers, but on the size of the casts, the special effects used in most of the productions, and the addition of high-priced stars from Hollywood. 

It would be nice if certain tickets were held back and offered at a discount for those who can’t afford to spend $50 on a play or musical. After all, Shakespeare had The Globe Theatre, where the pit area was reserved for the commoner. The Globe is still standing today. 

Broadway is a business and no longer a creation of the Arts for all to enjoy. But enjoy it I do and always will; Broadway can always count on my business. 


 

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