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Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Stage Addiction: Despite The Title, Bruce Springsteen Is Not Coming To Broadway

Today's installment of Stage Addiction continues our early handicapping of the battle for the Tony Awards, which we started last week with the plays. But you don't care about those dull, silly plays, do you? No, you want what everyone on Broadway wants: a little pizazz! A little glitter! A big, fat, honking, gorgeous, singing, dancing musical! So without further ado...

A Catered Affair (Walter Kerr)
Cry-Baby (Marquis)
Glory Days (Circle in the Square)
In The Heights (Richard Rodgers)
The Little Mermaid (Lunt-Fontanne)
Passing Strange (Belasco)
Xanadu (Helen Hayes)
Young Frankenstein (Hilton)

The first question you'll be asking: who or what in tarnation is Glory Days, and where the hell did it come from? Well, here's what we know. It is the late-breaking musical entry that beat out [Title of Show], 13, and other wannabes into Spelling Bee's former haunt at Circle in the Square. It is about "four high school friends who reunite one year after graduation to discover how dramatically their lives have grown apart." (I hear a ballad crewing!) It is by 23-year-old wunderkinds Nick Blamiere and James Gardiner, who as far as I can tell have never done anything of this magnitude before (and judging from their picture, are probably as gay, or gayer, than I am). Listening to some recorded tracks, the show sounds perky, a bit sentimental, and very cute. And one other thing: ModFab regular and occasional contributor Tapeworthy saw it in D.C. last month, and loved it.

Does this mean, as Steve on Broadway is already surmising, that 2008 will be the year of "little musicals with oversized hearts"? Certainly the rave reviews for Passing Strange, In The Heights and Xanadu make it hard to refute that theory, especially with the big musicals -- Mermaid, Frankenstein -- proving disastrous errors in hindsight. (And yes, Chris is revealing the secret that everyone in the industry already knew...Spider-Man is indeed scouting the Hilton Theatre, which is as damning an endictment of Mel Brooks as you're likely to find.)

But. Wait. A. Cotton. Pickin'. Second.

There's a lot wrong with the "indie musical" theory of the upcoming Tony nominations. To wit:

1) No one's seen Glory Days in New York yet. It may be too small, or too rushed. Or worse: it could be bad. (Just because it rocked D.C. doesn't mean it'll be any good here.)

2) Few people outside of the preview audiences in San Diego have seen Cry-Baby or A Catered Affair yet. They are two major spring offerings, funded by big-time producers with sizeable budgets. One is from the creators of Hairspray, the other has the star of Hairspray as an actor AND writer. Don't count either of 'em out yet.

3) Just because Mermaid sucked doesn't mean it won't make a bundle on tour. In fact, it will. (The show's box office receipts are huge...apparently, 4-year-olds don't read Ben Brantley's reviews.) This is important because...

4) ...the Tonys are, first and foremost, a sales tool for national tours. Don't expect Glory Days (too small), Passing Strange (too weird) or Xanadu (too gay) to ever be a big hit in Middle America. But Mermaid, Frankenstein, Cry-Baby, Heights and Affair will most likely be playing in Peoria by the end of the decade. THAT's where the Tony matters, as we all learned with...

4) ...Avenue Q. The story is near-legendary on the Great White Way, a modern morality tale for aspiring producers. If you don't know it: the LAST time the Tony Award went to a little offbeat musical, the producers got burned...the show skipped a national tour entirely to go to Las Vegas, infuriating old hands in the industry. And the show it beat, Wicked, is the most consistent draw on Broadway AND on the road these days. (And lest you tell me that Spring Awakening was also small and offbeat...don't you believe it, even for a second. It's scoping out a lovely little life as the next-generation successor to Rent.)

With so much still in flux (and now three major offerings still to be seen), I think the final four slots for the Tony Award are very much up in the air. But if I had to guesstimate today (and I know you're expecting me to), I'd go this way. Don't hold me to it, though.

Front-Runners: In The Heights, Passing Strange
Dark Horses: A Catered Affair, Cry-Baby, The Little Mermaid, Xanadu
Long Shots: Glory Days, Young Frankenstein

Grease (Brooks Atkinson)
Gypsy (St. James)
South Pacific (Lincoln Center)
Sunday in the Park with George (Studio 54)

Wow. Wasn't that new musical category exciting? So many variables! Sadly, that's not the case here with the revival race, where it's abundantly clear that Grease is the odd man out of the Tony nods. (Not that the tourists filling the Brooks Atkinson will care...Swedish tourists, in particular, seem to love it.) A more interesting question might be: who will acutally win this category?

I've yet to see Gypsy (going on Wednesday) or South Pacific (next week). But word is that Gypsy is fabulous and South Pacific is uneven. And although I (and many critics) loved Sunday in the Park, audiences have been noticeably chillier to the work, detesting its coolness and inside-the-art-form narrative. While I'd love for Sunday to triumph...my guess? At this point, it's Gypsy, all the way.

Front-Runners: Gypsy, South Pacific, Sunday in the Park with George
Long Shots: Grease


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Blogger Eddie said...

I thought Young Frankenstein was a gazillion times more entertaining than Cry Baby. Cry Baby was one of the worst piles of crap that I've ever seen. So boring.

Gypsy deserves the best musical for revival. Fantastic production.

3/25/08, 12:15 AM  
Blogger Vance said...

I do agree though, I loved Glory Days but I really saw it as an Off-Broadway hit. On Broadway, it may seem a little too small in scope to grab Tony's attention from the hungry producers looking for another hit on the road. Your analysis seems pretty exact.

Still, the show has a lot of heart, despite its imperfections (the rush to Broadway worries me because a little re-working could have helped a lot) but as you said, Avenue Q may have burned voters/producers enough to ruin the small show with heart for a few more years.

3/25/08, 8:58 AM  
Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

You may be right. I may be crazy.

3/25/08, 3:29 PM  
Blogger will g said...

Coming at this from a mere viewer's perspective, it would seem shocking to say the least if Young Frankenstein wasn't even nominated, as your long-shot classification would have it. Snubs that glaring are rare, are they not? Examples?

3/25/08, 6:53 PM  
Blogger gabrieloak said...

I actually think Xanadu could do quite well on tour if it went to the right places. I live in Connecticut and people love musicals here and Xanadu would probably appeal to them.

3/25/08, 7:46 PM  
Blogger ModFab said...

STEVE: I don't think you're crazy, my friend. Hopeful, but not crazy. ;-)

MIKE: Upsets happen, but you're right, they're rare. I'm not implying that FRANKENSTEIN has no shot. All I'm saying is A) the show isn't very good; B) Mel Brooks isn't well liked in Tony circles, and C) if there are viable alternatives come May, we might see interesting omissions.

EDDIE: I've heard CRY-BABY is bad, too. I'll be able to judge better when I see it Thursday.

GABRIELOAK: Xanadu is a great show...but I think it will have trouble on the road. It's very inside, very gay, very kitschy. Generally, none of those things sell very well in Nebraska. ;-)

3/25/08, 9:52 PM  
Blogger will g said...

Who's Mike, you two-timer?

3/25/08, 11:37 PM  
Blogger will g said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/27/08, 1:29 AM  

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