This past Broadway season felt off. The plays were quite good but the musicals were pretty disappointing, and the Tony Awards ceremony, which culminates the year and celebrates the successes, felt artificial and forced. The 2010-’11 season seems on track to give us much of the same: a clusterf*ck by way of extra-flashy productions and celebrity assignment. But it’s not all that dire. In fact there are a few shows that sound downright ideal.
It’s certainly business savvy to take a pre-existing, well-known story, or character, or cartoon, or persona, and adapt it for the Broadway stage. Apparently tourists (and locals, for that matter) are more comfortable seeing a familiar show rather than exploring the depths that the theatre world can offer in the way of artistry and entertainment.
I get it — the theatre-going crowd is often overwhelmed by the sleepless city itself. Or they’re too full of Olive Garden Times Square breadsticks. Or language barriers make Stoppard inaccessible. Fine. Point taken, Broadway producers. You have a product to sell.
Here are some of the new productions you can expect to be priced out of in the coming months. Prejudge for yourself.
THE PEE-WEE HERMAN SHOW
With a limited engagement this fall, and enough chutzpah to actually go through with it, Pee-Wee Herman will make his Broadway debut. They wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t going to be awesome, would they?
UNCHAIN MY HEART: THE RAY CHARLES MUSICAL
Why should there be a Ray Charles musical? Why shouldn’t there be?! The movie Ray was a smashing success, and the musician’s tunes are proven crowd-pleasers. Plus, there is a built-in audience of already adoring fans. Broadway Producing 101.
The delightfully quirky 2003 Will Ferrell Christmas movie of the same name comes to Broadway as a family-friendly holiday musical. I very much want this to not suck. And even if it does, the run is so short (November through January) it shouldn’t hurt ticket sales. No word yet on casting.
A LIFE IN THE THEATRE
As long as it’s not really a self-aggrandizing ”theatre” play, this new David Mamet brawl should be fun, if only because it stars Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight, and who doesn’t want to experience a war of words between Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Dr. George O’Malley?
DRIVING MISS DAISY
The classic play is revived with James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave for a limited engagement this fall. Unless you can afford those premium priced tickets, I’m guessing you’ll be missing this one.
THE BOOK OF MORMON
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone team up with Avenue Q’s Jason Moore and Robert Lopez for this satirical new musical. I’m a big fan of the aforementioned shows, so my hopes for this production are astronomically high. I fully intend to be wetting myself at the to-be-determined theater next spring (no other show info has been released at this time).
THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS
This is the show I’m most excited about. Last year’s off-Broadway production of this (final) Kander and Ebb musical at the Vineyard Theatre was glorious and near-perfect. It’s historical, it’s provocative, it’s dark, it’s inspirational. In true K&E fashion, the music is marked but sassy and Susan Stroman’s direction and choreography are pitch-perfect. My pick for the best of the season.
It’ll be another couple of months before these new productions take root in midtown Manhattan. Until then, enjoy a summer filled with downtown theatre festivals (FringeNYC, Undergroundzero, Midtown International Theatre Festival, SPF Festival, just to name a few). Now is also a good time to check out the Broadway shows you missed last season — the older productions frequently have discounted tickets at the TKTS booth or at tdf.org. As always, you can find reviews, discount codes, and other pertinent info at theasy.com.