The Death Of The Broadway Musical As An Art Form
I went to see Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” at the Imperial last week and what a magnificent thing it was. Despite “Carousel” being second tier Rodgers And Hammerstein, the book is a strangely Chekovian piece of myth and the music is glorious, only “You’ll Never Walk Alone” reaches the heights of Richard Rodgers glorious melodicism, but it is all brilliant. The construction of the story is so strange. I am not sure if it isn’t flawed. A young girl falls for a bad boy barker at a fairground, they marry, she gets pregnant, and he tries to commit a robbery and is killed. Fifteen years later he returns from the afterworld to help his daughter. It is oddly unromantic, while the ending is happy it isn’t a happy ending as such, and the ballet that opens the second act is lovely and strangely out of place.
It is better than “Frozen,” “Mean Girls” “Wicked” and Anastasia” combined. You know what, include “The Phantom Of The Opera” there as well. The only exception is “The Lion King” and that is solely because of the staging. It is not an exaggeration to call this a terrible time for Broadway Musicals, there is a level of devolution unheard of in Musicals. From Rodgers & Hammerstein to Stephen Sondheim to Andrew Lloyd Webber to Stephen Schwartz to Lopez and Lopez , the gift for writing musicals has disappeared and now what we are left with is all show and no tell.
Two new musicals, “Mean Girls” and “Frozen” -aimed directly at the “Wicked” audience, aren’t terrible pieces of entertainment, they aren’t mindless, they aren’t jukebox musicals, they will probably turn a profit, but they are terrible because the songs are terrible. They are not even bad bad bad arrangements, playing, singing, but not one song in either musical (and I am including “Let It Go” but make it an exception if you must) is memorable.
The greatest composer of musicals not named Stephen is Adam Guettel (Richard Rodger’s Grandson) but what has he been up to lately? “In July 2009, the Signature Theatre of Arlington, Virginia, commissioned Guettel to write a new musical for their 2011-2012 season, under the auspices of their American Musical Voices Project. Currently in the works, this will be a musical adaptation of the Danny Boyle film Millions. Other current projects include an opera based on the short stories of Washington Irving and a musical of The Invisible Man, which is rumored to be directed by Daniel Kramer. He is also making a musical out of the 1962 film Days of Wine and Roses.” Translation, not a damn thing. The only other great names coming up are Lin-Manuel Miranda and Duncan Sheik. Miranda needs io get to work on his follow-up to “Hamilton” and for Duncun? Apparently “Spring Awakening’ was a fluke.
So now we have teenage girls believing their eyes not their ears as the Great American Broadway Musical dies as an art form.