Monday, June 25, 2012

... a New Trend Gets Started: High School Musicals


The other day, I blogged about a Broadway trend that appears to be on the wane, religious-themed musicals.  Even if the Kathie Lee Gifford tuner Saving Aimee does make it to the Main Stem soon, I stand by my blog.  Sorry, Ms. Semple, that boat has sailed.

But, like the rest of American pop culture, 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.  Today, let's look at shows that tackle the American high school experience.


High School Angst: Carrie 
(Off-Broadway, Winter/Spring 2012)

  • Fits the Mold:  Well, it is pretty obvious, since the show takes place, primarily in an American high school in Maine.  The main characters include: bitchy teens, do-gooder teens, and, naturally (or in this case, supernaturally) the teen outsider of all time.  And there are the disapproving parent (who really sent a bad message about God) and the nurturing teachers.
  • Angst-filled Themes: The hot topic of the decade was front and center in this much-improved re-do of the flop musical of the 80's: bullying.  And, what high school musical would be complete without the cool kids vs the nice nerdy kids?
  • Yearbook Memories: This one has the Senior Prom, albeit a charcoal colored one.  I'm guessing, too, that while it fits as a rite of passage, getting your period in the gym showers probably wouldn't get you elected Prom Queen.  Well, unless you are Carrie White.
  • Trend Setter: This gem - and it really was pretty good - took us from High School Musical to real-life (sort of) in one nasty fell swoop.  What a way to get things started!


High School Angst: Bring It On: The Musical 
(Broadway Summer2012)

  • Fits the Mold: Is there anything more all-American than the high school experience of cheer leading?  Make it the high stakes world of COMPETITIVE high school cheer leading, and you have the next entrant in our "relive high school through Broadway" trend.
  • Angst-filled Themes: How about cultural respect?  Self respect? Body issues and perceived sexual stereotypes?  Throw in some good old fashioned cheating, and you've nailed the 21st century teenager.
  • Yearbook Memories: A popular cheer leading squad and an underdog squad from a disadvantaged background fight it out up the ranks to a national title.  And they learn a lot about life's more difficult lessons long the way.
  • Trend Setter:  Mean girls, sexually questionable guys and school rivalries are the very blood of this trend.  Dress it up as a competitive sport and the audience can relive some fond and painful memories, and their kids can get another glimpse of the dream and nightmare of the high school experience.


High School Angst: Bare 
(Off-Broadway, Fall 2012)

  • Fits the Mold:  Like Carrie, the other Stafford Arima-helmed high school musical, Bare takes place in an American high school.  This time it is an exclusive boarding school, which affords some of us a certain distance to take a small amount of pleasure in the fact that rich kids  think they are special, but really have the exact same issues as the poor kids in public schools.  For the rich folks in the premium seats, a chance to remain in denial.
  • Angst-filled Themes: From what I understand, this revised version of the show will feature that timely stand by, bullying, as a central conflict, along with drug abuse, alcoholism, and homosexuality.  In other words, your typical high school issues (and I mean that sincerely, with not a trace of irony or snark).
  • Yearbook Memories: The sports star loves his nerdy roommate.  They are outed, and the school play goes off almost without a hitch.  Almost.  Death, destruction, and a painful lesson learned.
  • Trend Setter: An edgy pop-rock score, hot boys kissing, and a guaranteed cry fest make this one a no-brainer.  More high school as it is, rather than what we pretend it is, Bare is the reality check of the genre.  I hope.

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