Saturday, November 5, 2011

2011 - 2012: The Year of Andrew, George and Ira...and More Steve, Too.


It seems that for well over a year, we've been celebrating Stephen Sondheim's birthday.  Considering how shy and introverted the master is reported to be, I'll bet he's glad that things are winding down.  Of course, looking back on it, sure there was more of Sondheim last year, but really, he's a pretty constant presence on the Broadway scene.  Scratch that.  On the International scene.  It seems like Broadway and the West End (not to mention off-Broadway, Encores!, every major regional theatre, college and high school) are in a constant state of Sondheimania.

This season, though, at least there seems to be a bit more of a balance. Four major composers are or will be represented by two or more shows this season.  Granted, not all of them have achieved the same theatrical stature as Mr. Sondheim, but you can certainly make the case that they are all right up there in terms of career and influence.

Elton John
  • Represented by: Billy Elliot and Disney's The Lion King
  • A few thoughts: The Lion King : 6 Tonys, including Best Musical.  Nearly 6,000 performances makes it the 7th longest-running show in Broadway history.  Since its opening in 1997, it has not been out of the top 5 highest-grossing shows any week of its run.  Billy Elliot: 10 Tonys, including Best Musical.  When it closes in January, it will have plated nearly 1,300 performances.  The show remains an international sensation.
  • Other Broadway Stuff: Lestat, AIDA, Next Fall (producer)

Stephen Schwartz
  • Represented by: Wicked and Godspell
  • A few thoughts: Wicked has been a perennial sell-out since it opened 8 years ago at the Gershwin Theatre, one of Broadway's largest.  The show is cultural touchstone, referenced in TV, film and other media on a nearly daily basis, not unlike its source, The Wizard of Oz.  With over 3,300 performances under its belt, it won't be long when the show, which shows no signs of slowing down, becomes a top ten longest-running Broadway show.  Godspell is enjoying its first-ever revival, and like Wicked and another of his shows,Pippin, it is also a cultural phenomenon.  It has been translated in dozens of languages, there has never been a day when somewhere in the world the show hasn't been playing since its off-Broadway days in the early 1970's, and his song "Day By Day" is one of the world's most recognizable show tunes.
  • Other Broadway Stuff: Pippin, The Magic Show

George and Ira Gershwin
  • Represented by: The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess and Nice Work If You Can Get It
  • A few thoughts: One of the world's most famous songwriting teams, the Gershwins are never really all that far from Broadway.  Most recently, they've been a part of The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm, Oh, Kay!, My One and Only, and the long running Crazy For You.  This season will feature something old - kinda old, anyway - a revised Porgy and Bess and something new - kinda new, anyway - the newly fashioned musical Nice Work If You Can Get It, which uses some of their biggest hits and some songs from their trunk that have rarely, if ever, been heard in public.
  • Other Broadway Stuff: My One and Only, Fascinating Rhythm, Come Fly Away, Crazy For You, and George has a theatre named after him.

Andrew Lloyd Webber
  • Represented by: The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita
  • A few thoughts: He has the longest running show in Broadway history in The Phantom of the Opera, a Tony winner for Best Musical decades ago.  And now he has duelling revivals, both acclaimed international productions.  Just think what a season it would have been for him had Love Never Dies been a hit and opened here.
  • Other Broadway Stuff: Joseph...Dreamcoat, Starlight Express, Cats, By Jeeves, Song and Dance, Aspects of Love

Of course, what would a Broadway season be without a little Sondheim?  This year he's had the brilliant revival of Follies and later this season, a star-studded Encores! re-do of Merrily We Roll Along.

I guess there's one big difference... I don't see crowds lining up for a revival of By Jeeves, Lestat or The Magic Show do you?  But imagine the clamor for tickets when they finally announce a revival of Anyone Can Whistle!

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