Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reality Broadway

As I review the season thus far on Broadway, it is easy to point out that only two musicals will have original scores - Memphis and The Addams Family.  And that four musicals - Come Fly Away, Sondheim on Sondheim, American Idiot  and Million Dollar Quartet are all centered around existing catalogues of music (by Sinatra, Sondheim, Green Day and Perkins, Presley, Lewis and Cash, respectively).  And notice how careful everyone is to NOT use that term... "Jukebox Musical"...

But what is really strinking about this season is the sheer number of real-life people are being portrayed in a wide variety of plays and musicals!  And they really run the gamut, too.

  • It has been awhile since I saw this, but I think Perry Como makes a brief appearance in Memphis.

The "Real" Million Dollar Quartet

  • Million Dollar Quartet features Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as Sam Phillips of Sun Records.

  • Sondheim on Sondheim features Stephen Sondheim (as himself), and half of All About Me is about a real person, Micael Feinstein (who also plays himself), and you'd swear Dame Edna was the real thing, though she isn't really, possoms.


  • Fela! has Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, and several people who were influential in his life. 

  • The revival of Ragtime featured Evelyn Nesbit, Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, Harry Houdini, Booker T. Washington, Admiral Peary, J.P. Morgan and others from American history.

"Real Life" Evelyn Nesbit (center) mixes with "Fictional" Younger Brother in Ragtime

And that doesn't even count Jersey Boys (though not from this season) which is a musical full of "real people."


There are also several plays this season that feature people that really lived (or live).

Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller and the Keller Family appear in The Miracle Worker

  • The Miracle Worker features Alison Pill as Anne Sullivan and Abigail Breslin as Helen Keller, while Matthew Modine, Jennifer Morrison and Elizabeth Franz  portray the rest of the Keller clan.

Valerie as Tallulah

  • The just opened Looped stars Valerie Harper as Tallulah Bankhead.

Alfred Molina stars in Red

  • Red  features real-life artist Mark Rothko, played by Alfred Molina.

A Scene from Enron

  • Enron will be full of real folks: Jeffrey Skilling, Andy Fastow and Claudia Roe among others will be portrayed by Norbert Leo Butz, Stephen Kunken and Marin Mazzie, respectively.

All told, there will have been more than 25 actors portraying rael people this season.  Does this mean that Broadway has joined the "Reality" entertainment business, too?  Let's hope not!

(NOTE: In the time between when I wrote this (Sunday, March 14) and it appears (Wednesday, March 17), a similar blog was posted on Playbill Online.  Any "copying" was unintentional.  I guess great minds think alike!  :-) )

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