Thursday, June 28, 2012

...Another New Trend Gets Started: Adorable Urchins


As I wrote earlier, Broadway appears to be riding a couple of trends that are just getting started, but by this time in the next two years or so, the New York theatre scene should be teeming with high school teen angst and enough street urchins to make Fagin want to split and run screaming for the hills.  They are closely related, at least demographically, and may even morph into to one "Super Trend," but for now I'll separate the two.  The other day, I talked about 3 musicals dealing with the growing pains of high school. (Click HERE for that blog, and HERE for a blog about the waning trend of religion on Broadway.) Today, let's look at shows that deal with those adorable urchins.


Urchins Change the World: Disney's Newsies

  • Fits the Mold: They sing.  They dance (boy, do they!). And they are parent-less boys trying to make a living on the mean streets of 1899 New York City.
  • Their Endearing Qualities: They are sexy 20-somethings playing teenage kids. They are charming, street-wise kids who will stop at nothing to sell the public a "pape" or two.  When you throw in the alternatives: starvation or being sent off to a workhouse to abused, even the less cute ones become cuddly.
  • Fighting the Good Fight: These guys are up "the Man" aka Joseph Pulitzer, who tries to screw them in the name of profits.  The boys try to play fair, then organize a union, and Pulitzer still tries to screw them.  They sill manage to overcome by doing the right thing.  You gotta love a street urchin who can do that, right?
  • Trend Setter: Themes common with today (a flagging economy, big business, Wall Street and the government screwing us) makes us all Newsies in a way.  Come November, we better get our stuff together and "Seize the Day" or we are in for a rougher time, I bet.


Urchins Change the World: Annie

  • Fits the Mold: The curly-haired kid with the red dress and the mangy mutt doesn't just fit the mold, she and Oliver Twist created it decades ago.  This little orphan and her legion of cloying, too cute for their own good bratty orphan friends are back.  Again.  To remind us that tomorrow, is indeed, only a day away.
  • Their Endearing Qualities: Well, Annie herself is so damned cute and charming, she melts the heart of an iceberg millionaire.  Her orphan co-conspirators - with cute names like Pepper - are adorable even if they over do it with cheesy smiles and faux battle ready moves.  Of course, they get to battle one of Broadway's favorite villains while doing it - the pickled Miss Hannigan.
  • Fighting the Good Fight: Annie is an orphan.  Check.  Along the way, the plight of the homeless and disenfranchised is brought up.  Check.  And dropped like a campaign promise.  Check.  And a rich guy gets his away. Again. Check.
  • Trend Setter: Another timely show - the economy sucks, the good guys are being beaten down by big business, the headlines are full of child abuse cases.  Nothing screams Broadway musical like poverty and neglect, right?  But bring in some 13 year-olds who look 8 years old and a dog, and you have acceptable mismanagement of a public orphanage, the glorification of alcoholism and a rude stereotype of a Middle Eastern male a family-friendly musical to bring your little girls to!


Urchins Change the World: Matilda

  • Fits the Mold: On the surface of it, this show sounds like the British version of Annie: its central character is an endearing, down-on-her-luck child, who wins over the good guys with her pluck and determination.  But leave it to the late, great children's author, Roald Dahl, to make this young lady so much more.
  • Their Endearing Qualities: Matilda is despised by her parents, who wanted a boy, anyway.  She is despised by the evil school headmistress for being too smart and too creative, and her classmates hate her for that and more.  But her teacher recognizes her smarts and beauty and adores the child.
  • Fighting the Good Fight: Matilda is a neglected child.  She escapes from her existence by exploiting her gifts: smarts and imagination.  She does it all by... READING!
  • Trend Setter: Dahl specialized in neglected children with vivid imaginations who do extraordinary things in every day circumstances (he also wrote, among other things, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Danny: Champion of the World  and James and the Giant Peach, and Matildacertainly joins those ranks.  It has also won more Olivier Awards than any other show in London Theatre history - including Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and Miss Saigon.  There is the added bonus that this show should delight audiences of children AND the adults that take them to see it.

Coming soon:  a third trend coming to the New York TheatreScene this season and next: fairy tales.

@jkstheatrescene (Twitter); (email), Comment below (Blogger)

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