Monday, December 27, 2010

Broadway News Makers 2010: #4: Shows That Made It and Didn't, Too

Way back at the star of the season - and especially considering how things have turned out -  there were some pretty big hopes pinned on the openings of three big musicals: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Love Never Dies, and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.  As we all know, one happened, one didn't and the third is still trying.  Today, I'll focus on the first two and leave the last for a day all to itself!

Talk about your great expectations!  One show had people licking their lips for a humongous failure.  After all, sequels to plays and musicals don't generally play all that well.  The source material, though a tinge of a joke today, is still the biggest musical in musical theatre history.  It was a complete story, and didn't really beg for a sequel.  And yet, for years Andrew Lloyd Webber hemmed and hawed... Yes, I'll do one... No!  Never!... OK, let's try a song or two out at my festival and see what sticks... all my friends love what I have, so it's a go!... wait!... need a book writer/ lyricist... got one of each... lost one, got one, lost both... it's off, it's on!... everyone is in place...

Then came the huge announcement... ego-driven, some say... that the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies will open on the West End and Broadway at nearly the same time!  Great news for Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karmiloo, who won the roles of Christine and the Phantom, respectively.

Then came the bad news... the show stunk (the Phans call it "Paint Never Dries"), re-writes were demanded, the direction team dismissed (was it ever official), and just this past week or so, the show re-opened in London to similar reviews.

So what of New York?  His majesty Sir Webber put the kibosh on that and challenged an Australian and a Canadian team to makes something of the show.  If either makes it better, perhaps New York will see some version of the show eventually.  Good news for the for direction team: their show, Catch Me If You Can  is set to open this spring at the Neil Simon Theatre.  Just where their Love Never Dies was supposed to be selling out this fall.

Like I said, talk about your great expectations!  Lincoln Center Theater threw its hat into the new musical ring once again - their track record a mix, but even their failures are impressive - with a show that simply could not fail!  Take a beloved hit film set in an exotic location, add a slew of juicy, meaty roles for women of all ages, a crack team of writers who have a proven track record of contemporary sounding show tunes with a flare for location and a zinger of a sense of humor, a director riding high on one of the decade's biggest successes and a triumph in staging to boot, and you have the musical of the century.

But it gets so much better!  Broadway's greatest diva loves the project so much she will take a supporting role, nearly every principal actor has a Tony or a Tony nomination or two or three.  And the chance to see all of these legends together on the same stage in show , not a benefit, is a musical theatre lover's dream.


Then the "fans" got a hold of it and couldn't wait to out bite, out snark and out wit us all with reports of failure on all fronts... the book is a mess, there are places for songs that aren't written yet, and there is unrest back stage as egos are or are not being stroked.  Then the previews were pushed back.  Then they started, but with an apology from the director that the show might need to stop as the technical aspects of the show were still being hammered out.  Then it started a new... the only thing not substantiated was the backstage bickering, which everyone in the company vigorously denies to this day.

OK, so the show opened, it was deemed a mess by a primed for trouble press.  Everyone is sticking with it, through its limited engagement end date of January 23.  Here is maybe the first show killed on a national news scale by Internet theater "fans" most of who still haven't seen the show, but continue to beat the "it's awful" drum.  (I saw the second preview, enjoyed it, flaws and all, and look forward to returning before it closes to see how it really turned out.)  Verge  looked like a sure thing on paper... now, it will go off quietly into the sunset.  Yes, quietly... because another show soon took over the news and Internet... but more on that high-flying guy soon...

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  1. ---About Love Never Dies, there has been publicity about an upcoming Australian production, but I haven't seen ANYthing about Toronto for months. My guess is that what happens next depends on how well/badly the Second Coming of Love Never Dies does in Australia.

  2. A good point! I'll believe it when I see it here. Thanks for reading and writing in!


  3. I enjoyed Women on the Verge too. It wasn't the greatest piece of theatre I'd ever experienced, but it was fun and funny. My mom and I had a good time. It was amazing to see all those phenomenal actors on stage together. The other two you mentioned here, I can live without ever seeing. I'm not a big Phantom fan, and I've never even seen the Spiderman movies. At this point, I just hope no one involved with Spiderman is actually killed.


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