Curtainup Founder & Editor Elyse Sommer's Epilogue -- I've passed the torch for reviewing and editing new theater productions on and off-Broadway and elsewhere. However, I'll continue to sound off here with my take on Live and Onscreen Entertainment. As for Curtainup's extensive content since 1996-- it's all sill available at

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Types Of Shows That Keep Theater Alive

 Types of Shows That Keep Theater Alive

   --  By Elyse Sommer

Putting on a play or musical on Broadway, as well as elsewhere, has always been a high-risk cultural  enterprise. And yet, each season an array of old and new works are mounted in hopes of keeping the  fabulous invalid alive. 
Though the name that immediately springs to mind when considering a creative work's immortality is William Shakespeare, the sixteen plays that made him immortal were actually borrowed from other  sources like The Holinshed Chronicles, as he was acting as well as producing and writing. That said, to  this day some newly formatted or interpreted versions of one of those plays is on a stage or screen somewhere. What's more, his words are often quoted in nontheatrical settings.

While Shakespeare's works are the epitome of immortal storytelling, plenty of others can lay claim to  this sort of always rebootable afterlife. Chekhov and Ibsen created an even smaller oeuvre than the  Bard, but new presentations of their plays appear on some stage or screen often enough to support their  standing as part of the immortal canon -- such as the minimalist A Doll's House currently on Broadway.

But for super-adaptable, page-to-stage leaps, nobody beats novelist Jane Austen. This season, even her  unfinished last novel, Sanditon, has proved to be a perfect fit as a PBS costume drama spun out in  serial format. 

There are also some shows that gain immortality by virtue of their long life on Broadway. which made  them events for New York visitors, like a trip to the Statue of Liberty. Sadly, rising costs and the fallout of the pandemic have finally shuttered Phantom of the Opera; ditto for Stomp, a seemingly forever  tenant of the downtown Orpheum Theater.

Contributing to the theater's being dubbed an invalid but a fabulous one is its diversity in terms of   subjects and styles tackled each season. That means a new production of a favorite from the golden era  of musical theater is sure to show up. Working its ticket-selling magic this year was The Music Man,  starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster.  Unsurprisingly, Stephen Sondheim, the recently deceased  bard of contemporary musical theater, began his surefire long afterlife with a stellar revival of  Sweeney Todd starring Josh Groban as the demon barber. Since playwrights also had their golden era. an Arthur Miller play was likely to have another turn on Broadway. And, sure enough, a new production of Miller's iconic Death of a Salesman just ended its run in January.

Some musicals -- like Parade, which had only a brief run in its Broadway debut but sadly became  more relevant with the rise of anti-semitism -- have been given fresh Broadway runs, although the long afterlife of the immortals may still elude them.

Finally, the season has also allowed several new shows to knock on opportunity's door, not necessarily  for immortality, but for long enough to make a splash. Perhaps pandemic and bad news fatigue have  made Shucked, a musical that once might have been on the dinner show circuit, the musical that had  critics as well as audiences holding their bellies while laughing at the literally corny jokes. Seasoned  director Jack O'Brien's smart direction, a great cast and tuneful score, savvy marketing, and a theme of  tolerance made it all happen

 A more modest hit is a new solo show, Prima Facie. However, it was mostly praised for the  performance of soloist Jodie Comer rather than its content. Thus, the more name-brand fellow Tony nominees for best solo performance are likely to make Prima Facie's inclusion more honor than fact.  

Since this post has mentioned just a few of the varied menu of shows in the finally reopened theaters,  and the Tonys won't announce the winners until June, here's a list of award nominees:

Post script: My most delightful recent onscreen experience was Amazon Prime's bio-documentary   Judy Blume Forever. While I'm too old to have read her many children's and young adult books, I  found the 83-year-old Blume, who narrates, most endearing. I'm also reading, and enjoying In the  Unlikely Event, her most recent adult novel.

No comments:

Post a Comment