Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy 2008

Have I ever talked on this blog about how big a supporter I am of Striking 12? I so am. Really. I would tell you all to go see it except it's already closed. Alas. As we Jews say, "Next year in Jerusalem," or in this case maybe, "Next year at some off-Broadway space."

Anyway, people who know me know that I would be happy if every show on Broadway was a success. Seriously. Whether I like the particular show or not. As far as I'm concerned, the more success there is on Broadway, the better chance we have of getting people to really care about theater again. No, I don't think the random success of certain shows is what will do it (as the last two posts have made clear), but if we had like 20 hits, that might lead to something. Possibly. Maybe. But, plus, I know a lot of producers who I want them to stay producers and not go bankrupt. And I know a lot of actors and I want them to have jobs. So, yeah, I in some ways support everything. So, people associated with some of the below shows, know that even though I may be mean occasionally, I wish you luck. Truly.

And now onto the next five biggest stories of the year in my mind. I have to say, I actually struggled to come up with this Top 10 list. The strike so dwarfed everything else. But I came up with them. Did I mention they were in no particular order?

6. There Possibly Are No Worse Things Things You Could Do

It depends how you look at it whether the whole reality show thing worked. On one hand, it offered tons of free publicity and Grease sold tons of tickets. On the other hand, Broadway ended up with two crappy leads (one simply mediocre, one completely miscast, totals two crappy in my mind). But what to me was more shocking about this revival is how those leads weren't the worst part of it. Grease is a story to me because it represents a huge failure of Broadway professionals I respect. I mean, I'm a big Kathleen Marshall fan. I was extremely upset when Wonderful Town lost the Tony. But, this, everything was wrong with it--it had no redeeming features. Usually when a show has no redeeming features you can blame some novice behind-the-scenes. Sadly not so much here. People tried to lay it on those kids, but, I'm telling you, even with good leads, the production would still suck. OK, you can argue that everything had to be changed because of what Kathleen Marshall was dealing with in terms of leads, but, I don't buy that. You can't blame Rizzo being dressed like she's in the Hot For Teacher video because Laura Osnes is a Broadway newcomer.

7. Miss Celie's Pants are Filled with Joy
If you had told me when it opened, that The Color Purple would still be running, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. Truly. But the marketing of The Color Purple is so genius it matches Disney in terms of genius. It's not all Oprah either--it's everything. Fantasia. The coverage of the church groups. You know, I'm always telling producers they need to target their audience better. Like, my grandmother's Hadassah group should have known about 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother. Yet is so rarely happens that word gets out to enough of the right people at the appropriate time. But its all worked in The Color Purple's favor. You have to be impressed by that. This year I was sort of in awe of it.

8. Legally Blonde: I'm Serious
I know some of you are out there thinking (if you think in Cara-speak): "Legally Blonde is such a non-story. There has hardly ever been more of a non-story. It's there, it's running, whatever. Is it the MTV thing you're talking about? Because, ok, I'll give you that." Yeah, no. The MTV thing happened and it didn't revolutionize the theater, so, that is not why I write about Elle. I write about the pink lady because I've hardly ever seen an out-of-town tryout help and yet possibly hurt a show so much. So everyone thinks it is going to be mediocre (except I had high hopes because I honestly love the songwriting team) and then it goes to San Francisco, which had been a show killer, and gets good reviews. So people are psyched up. They read about the reviews in the NY Post--they buy tickets. Theater people like me--who read the reviews--tell their friends, "Well, it's actually supposed to be really good." And then, once the NYC theater people see it, they sit there confused. They ask themselves things like: "Why does this have better buzz than The Wedding Singer had?" And people just leave the theater puzzled. Bothered. Bewildered. Not so much bewitched. This confused reaction is the result of the good buzz not matching the product. Whereas, without that hype, the theater folks (and I'm not talking about the teen fans--I'm talking about the critics and such) still would not have liked it, but they would have stared slightly less blankly during it. Instead of being just another candy-colored confection, Blonde became a disappointment post-San Francisco. Does that really matter? Did those reviews really end up altering these reviews? I don't know, maybe not, but I wonder.

9. The Death of Coram Boy
I almost forgot Coram Boy existed. Seriously, I didn't remember until I saw the picture of the girl/boy on this morning. And it's shocking to me that I forgot because when Coram Boy was going on I considered it a huge story. Here is a show that had a 99% chance of losing money, no matter what the reviews were. I mean, it was a straight play with a choir. The paid for a full choir. And oddly they sort of didn't have to--it's not like the choir did that much... They were really something to see, but... OK, I'm getting off track. So the 1st interesting part of the story is that it happened on Broadway intact. No one tried to cheap out. There were 40 people in that cast, way more than a musical these days. Let's take a moment to seriously applaud that before moving on. Moment. Ok. The 2nd interesting part of the story is that Coram Boy was such a miscalculation. I actually liked it--as long as I am sitting through a long straight play, I want it to be interesting to look at and this was that. It was really something to experience. But, that being said, that product was never going to attract a Broadway audience. I guess there was no way to tell that the critics would work against them--it was pretentious and they often like that sort of thing. But what made it so perplexing to me is they were basing the whole thing on the critics. Once they didn't get them, they had absolutely nothing else. There was sort of no giving it the old college try. And in a way I'm all for people admitting defeat--especially when, as in this case, even success probably wouldn't have meant monetary success--but I also admire a Plan B.

10. In the Heights/37 Arts
If I was in a room with two other theater journalists (and of course there are only like seven others) we could totally play "You know your theater complex is in trouble when..." with 37 Arts and be there for a good 20 minutes. You can imagine everything we'd say and so there is no need for me to write it all out. But what remains to be seen is whether the In The Heights move would really rightfully be part of the list. In some ways it has to be: "You know your theater complex is in trouble when you don't have enough faith in it to leave your own show there." In other ways not so much. If the show is a huge hit on the Great White Way, you can say the fact that it was off-Broadway, or more specifically at 37 Arts, was the reason it wasn't sold out previously. If the show doesn't do so well on Broadway, then whatever it was or was not had little to do with 37 Arts. I think that makes sense.


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