Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The 2010 Best Musical Race Heats Up!

With the recent bad news for Finian's Rainbow and Ragtime, it is nice to be able to talk about some good show news at the start of 2010. It is better than nice. It is down right exciting. As you have probably heard, this week two major musical productions were officiallyannounced for this spring, adding almost a third to the list of contenders for the best musical prizes to be given out this season.

First came the announcement that Twyla Tharp's latest dance-theatre-musical piece, Come Fly Away would be taking up the prime real estate of the Marquis Theatre. A piece in the same vein as her previous two outings, Movin' Out and The Times They Are A-Changin', though, I am sure, as vastly different from the first two was they were from each other. Featuring the sings of Frank Sinatra, and, apparently, his vocals, but with a live orchestra, the show centers around friends and strangers at a nightcub, exploring the possibilities or romance and seduction. Aside from the great Ms. Tharp, another common thread is John Selya, who figured prominently in both of her previos outings. Think Selya is to Tharp as Verdon was to Fosse.

Then yesterday, the notice we've all been waiting for: Green Day's American Idiot will be premiering on Broadway this March, taking up the St. James Theatre, soon to be vacated by Finian's Rainbow. No casting has been announced as of yet, but I'd be shocked if most if not all of the Berkley Rep cast moved on with it. There, roles were played by Tony winner John Gallagher, Jr., Mary Faber, Matt Caplan and Tony Vincent, among others. The show, should Gallagher, Jr. remain in the cast, will reunite him with Spring Awakening director Michael Mayer. Among the collaborators is Tony winner Tom Kitt, who here provides orchestrations and musical arrangements.

With this announcement, the possibilities for Best Musical are now 7: Memphis, Fela!, Million Dollar Quartet, The Addams Family, Sondheim on Sondheim, American Idiot and Come Fly Away. There could, of course, be an 8th should Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark actually make it in this season. (Remember, their end if 2009 announcement only said that the show was on track to open in 2010, not necessarily the 2009-2010 season.) And just this week, stock holders approved the acquisition of Marvel by Disney. I smell a major announcement soon...

Also, the addition of the two new titles represents, I think, a serious development in the bringing Broadway up-to-date saga. Sinatra tunes certainly lean toward old-school, while Green Day literally brings the Broadway musical into the 21st Century mentality once and for all. It owes a huge debt of gratitude to shows that helped inch Broadway to the almost modern: Spring Awakening, In the Heights, next to normal are just recent examples. And one can't forget the influence of jukebox musicals which have proven that popular music can fit a Broadway musical just as much as Broadway musicals used influence popular music. Ironically, Tharp's Movin' Out in particular probably paved the way (like Mamma Mia and Jersey Boys) for artists and producers to even think a Green Day/Broadway connection could work. Audiences are primed for just this kind of advancement. I just hope that producers of American Idiot don't forget that their target audience - college age and younger teens - are not going to be able to fork out $136 a ticket, and getting mom and dad to see the show could prove tricky, too. I can't wait to see how they market this one!

And just last week, I was lamenting to friends that this season was turning out to be the antithesis of last season.

What do you think? I'd really love to hear from you on this topic!

Comments? Leave one here or email me at

(Photos: Tharp: Getty Images; Come Fly Away by Greg Mooney; Green Day: Phil Mucci; and American Idiot by


  1. Great summary of the new shows and it is great to see all these new shows hitting Broadway. (I am saddened at Ragtime's early demise as I thought it was an excellent rerun). After reading your blog, I think the best new musical will come down to Memphis (which I have seen and loved) and The Addams Family (how can you not see - and love - a show with Bebe Newirth and Nathan Lane). I sincerely hope Memphis is a strong contender in spite of the mediocre reviews it received from some. I suggested that a friend see Wicked, South Pacific and Memphis on a recent trip to NYC. I asked if he would rank them in that order. He said, no, just the reverse. I just loved Memphis. I can't remember a show where the audience stands and cheers at the end - not just a standing ovation, but cheers. Memphis has soul. It is original. It is fun. It is appropriately intense at times. And the cast pours their hearts into the show. Looking forward to the Tony race.

  2. Hey Ron!

    Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to write. And thanks for the compliment!

    I see that you and I feel the same way about Memphis (did you read my review?)... I try to bring it up often so people remain aware of it. I also feel much the same way about The Addams Family. The whole cast intrigues me, really.

    Of course, we both know that there is a whole lot of season left. I couldn't even guess about what might the final fight might be between, but you do make a good case with Memphis and The Addams Family. And I, too, would have suggested those shows in that order!

    Please keep reading, and feel free to drop me a line at the email address above!

  3. I really enjoyed Memphis, too.

    I'm on the fence about American Idiot and Come Fly Away. I'm afraid American Idiot will be ear-splitting loud and Come Fly Away will be 2 1/2 hours of dancing. I don't think either one has much in the way of a plot.

    But I am looking forward to The Addams Family, Sondheim on Sondheim and Spider-Man.

  4. Welcome to the Memphis bandwagon, Esther!

    And thanks for writing... I suspect you may be right about Come Fly Away, as Twyla took a lot of heat for "over-plotting" The Times They Are A-Changin', but you never know, it could be like Movin' Out. I have to admit, I'm going to buy the American Idiot album to see what I have to look forward to. None of their songs that are played on the radio are any louder than any of the songs in say, Spring Awakening. I'm picturing decible levels equal to Spring Awakening and Rock of Ages, neither of which bothered me... I have a friend, though, that thinks Mamma Mia is too loud and she brought ear plugs, and was totally happy!

    And sign me up, too, for the same three you are looking forward to!

    Let me know what you see!


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