Sunday, March 31, 2013

Keep on Truckin

If I were still writing my Bulletin's Over Broadway Blob,here's what I would have written.  Passover plus, which I am writing tomorrow will be our 999th blob. Almost 1000.
Sometimes the unexpected happens, unexpectedly.  For example, the “Wild Party” was a musical with a book by George C Wolfe and music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa. It was based on the 1928 Joseph Moncure March narrative poem of the same name. Oh wait.  “The Wild Party,”was a musical with book, lyrics, and music by Andrew Lippa. It too was based on Joseph Moncure March's 1928 narrative poem of the same name. They both debuted during the same theatre season (1999–2000). While one was well funded and peopled with popular stars and a well-known creative team, the other emerged as the “Wild Party” of hip choice.

Two years ago, “Slow Dance with a Hot Pick-up” (having been work-shopped previously at Indiana University’s Premiere Musicals Lab, selected for development at the New Harmony Project by Tony Award Winner, Anna D. Shapiro, further developed at the Florida Studio Theatre and the legendary Barnstormers Theatre in New Hampshire where it won the New Hampshire Theatre Award for Best New Musical and then selected to be presented in Montreal at the 2009 Next Wave Festival of New Musicals), had its World Premiere in Boulder, Colorado at the famous Boulder Dinner Theatre.  A few months later “Hands on a Hard Body,” (based on the documentary of the same name), with the exact theme and similar story, was work-shopped in California, prior to its Broadway debut this month.

“Hot Pick-up” which was inspired by these same Hands On contests that came about during the 1980’s was researched and written by John Pielmeier (Agnes of God,  Pillars of the Earth , and many screenplays). Music and lyrics for “Hot Pickup” were penned by Emmy awarded winning composer Matty Selman (“Goddess Wheel”, and “Uncle Philip’s Coat”).  John and Matty’s story, about a grueling marathon contest, where the prize (a pick-up) was awarded to the last person still able to hold  on to the truck, was not based on the documentary.

“Hands on a Hardbody”, has a book by Pulitzer Prize winning Doug Wright (I am My Own Wife)  with music and lyrics by singer song writer, Amanda Green (Bring it On) and Trey Anastasio (Phish).  Both these shows, have notable creative teams and a “real American” tale to tell.  Both revolve around dignity, dreams, and frustrated aspirations to succeed in lives where they have had only disappointed expectations. Both are musicals.  Both are passionate and musically appealing.  But only one was able to be a Broadway show. Because only one had the financial backing to stay alive long enough to find out if the public is interested in watching what they have produced. It appears they aren’t.

Like “The Wild Party,” there seemed to be room for both productions. And like the Wild Party, one went to Broadway, while the other remained Off Broadway.  Broadway loves new visions for an old story (revivals) and themes that are universal, (love, hate, struggle).  But Broadway has room for only one production of the same story and that production has to be, if nothing else, well funded.

There is a kind of sadness in this theater reality. It doesn’t matter who was first or which show has the most merit. It’s not about talent since both of these productions are notable.  But it is incredibly expensive to produce a Broadway show, so the only thing that is for sure is, that if you have access to the money,  (are Phish, have parents who are legends, or have won a Pulitzer Prize), you will have the funding necessary to support an artistic effort.  And, if you fail, it will be considered a successful failure, because you raised millions of dollars, and you will not have to worry about being able to buy your own lunch.  It will be interesting to see what happens to both productions in the next few years.  Once a show is produced, whether it’s on Broadway, off, or off off off, it has a life of it’s own.  It can tour, or be licensed by almost anyone. If the show has a compelling story, memorable music, and interesting characters, it can play somewhere forever, as long as it costs a lot less than a million dollars. We're Just Sayin...... Iris

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