Musicals with better 2nd acts

Jay94
Stand-by
joined:4/10/11
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 10:58am
Is it just me or are there not many musicals with superior 2nd acts? It seems to be the universal criticism of even the best musicals of all time; 'the first act was better'. Even I think that my favorite musical of all time (Sweeney Todd) has a much better 1st act than 2nd act.

The only one that springs to mind is Grey Gardens.




Updated On: 5/6/13 at 10:58 AM
After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 12:02pm
Coco, perhaps.
bdn223
Broadway Star
joined:6/14/08
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 12:23pm
Chaplin's second act was much better than it's first, but that is still not saying much.

Cinderella's current incarnation

BOM
Chorus Member
joined:8/24/12
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 12:29pm
I personally enjoyed the second act of Book of Mormon better than the first. I've seen it 4 times now. I just feel the better songs are in the second act. Thats not to say the first act wasn't good though.
Wildcard
Broadway Legend
joined:6/21/06
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 12:43pm
I enjoyed the second act of Sunset Blvd more. There was more drama.
Also:
Bring It On (maybe just because the first Act took a while to get interesting)
Titanic (The first Act was all introduction)

willep
Broadway Legend
joined:9/20/08
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 12:48pm
I LOVE Once, but I would say the second act is stronger than the first.
broadway guy
Broadway Legend
joined:8/5/11
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 01:05pm
I have always liked the 2nd act of rent more than the 1st act.
jnb9872
Broadway Legend
joined:11/24/08
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 01:07pm
Wow, someone had the opposite experience of CHAPLIN than I had... I thought the first act was rather promising and enjoyable and the second act where the wheels fell off and an utter disaster.

I agree (to an extent) about ONCE, in that the second act is the better half in terms of the story, but the first act is a more well-paced and entertaining one. I think that one is just so well-balanced and spread, that there aren't really weak stretches in that show at all.

Personally, I'd nominate INTO THE WOODS, where the second act's much deeper emotional core and moral ambiguity really elevate the show to another level for me. The first act may be more enjoyable on the surface, the second where the heart lies.

I think, though, there's a overarching point to be made about this; most musicals use Act I to win over the audience. A great opening number, a show-stopping comic setpiece or the establishing of signature songs from the score will all be best served by being in the first act. The second act is rarely more than tying up the story or paying off the seeds sown in the first act. The rare occasions of superior material in the second act can be cases where the show uses its two-act structure to tell a double-sided story (GARDENS and WOODS, as well as SUNDAY IN THE PARK if anyone thinks that Act II is better, would fit in here.)

Just my two cents.
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givesmevoice
Broadway Legend
joined:12/2/07
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 01:10pm
Act II of Gypsy has much more dramatic tension than Act I, but I'd honestly hesitate to say that it's better because I think it's just the natural flow of the story, not a case of better writing or music. (since Act II has significantly less music than Act I)
When I see the phrase "the ____ estate", I imagine a vast mansion in the country full of monocled men and high-collared women receiving letters about productions across the country and doing spit-takes at whatever they contain. -Kad
ComingUpRoses2
Leading Actor
joined:3/14/11
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 02:11pm
Into the Woods for sure. I love the direction that it goes. Also, my friend found the first act of Gypsy to be quite dull, but she thought act II was brilliant. I love the entire show, but I have to admit that act II is maybe more thrilling than the first.
GilmoreGirlO2
Broadway Star
joined:4/13/05
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 02:18pm
I agree with “Once.” At intermission I was fairly “eh”. Not only did I find Act I to be a bit slow, but I was hoping the songs would have been more integrated with the story (as opposed to just performance numbers) and would have some more musical theatre-style variations to them. I found both of these things to have happened more in Act II and I found myself much more invested in the show.
rorschach37
Broadway Star
joined:4/3/10
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 02:19pm
Two that come immediately to mind are Once and Spider-Man.
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 02:23pm
I tend to think second acts are generally more exciting and quicker than the first, as the plot tends to clip along to the climax. I think Sweeney Todd's second act is a good example of this.
Musical Master
Leading Actor
joined:4/28/13
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 04:02pm
I feel like Sweeney Todd also has a better 2nd act, but the 1st was still very well done.
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 07:09pm
I tend to think second acts are generally more exciting and quicker than the first, as the plot tends to clip along to the climax. I think Sweeney Todd's second act is a good example of this.

Absolutely true, but first acts have time for comedy and character and color because they aren't sprinting to the finish.

But, jay, there is an old saying that if your second act doesn't work, the problem is usually somewhere in your first act. That's because Act II "unrolls" whatever Act I has wound up.

(I'm surprised to see INTO THE WOODS mentioned. I think most audiences enjoy the fairy tales of Act I and resent the extended analogy of Act II. (That's not my personal view, but an observation of patrons around me in various productions.))
daredevil
Stand-by
joined:8/17/05
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 07:19pm
One that comes to mind immediately for me was Caroline or Change, the Jeannie Tesori, Tony Kushner musical that ran on Broadway in
2004. I found the first act amorphous, not much action, just set up, but the second act was very confrontational. I really liked that, and also it was helped by the introduction of Grandpa ( a wonderful performance by the late Larry Keith), the old socialist.
His vision of life really shook things up. In this case, the second act had much more power than the first.

Updated On: 5/6/13 at 07:19 PM
Nettik
Featured Actor
joined:6/4/10
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 08:48pm
I liked Act II of The Lion King more than Act I musically and emotionally. The first act had the more impressive designs however.
Playbilly
Broadway Legend
joined:3/30/12
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 09:07pm
Just about any Sondheim show. Especially ITW.
"Through The Sacrifice You Made, We Can't Believe The Price You Paid..For Love!"
DMC_Patinkin
Understudy
joined:5/6/13
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 09:19pm
The second acts of both 'Rent' and 'Passion' usually have audiences in tears.
Let me be your star, now wouldn't that be lovely?
Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 09:28pm
I think the second act of Evita is better than the first act. I like "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" and "A New Argentina" but the rest of the songs are just filler.
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
all that jazz
Broadway Legend
joined:4/5/12
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 09:37pm
I love it as a whole, but Jesus Christ Superstar comes to mind, at least dramatically.

I agree with everyone on ITW.

Perhaps Company?
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 09:41pm
The second acts of both 'Rent' and 'Passion' usually have audiences in tears.

When did PASSION get a second act? Am I missing a joke?
boggess
Stand-by
joined:7/5/12
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 09:44pm
Not that it's necessarily better than the first, but I've always liked the second act of Next to Normal more.
michellek45
Leading Actor
joined:5/20/11
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 11:29pm
I completely agree with Into the Woods- I find that the first act drags and is just a prolonged recitation of a bunch of fairy tales. I understand why it's necessary to set up the second act, but I don't find it very dramatically compelling. We know it's going to end with happily ever after, and the characters are spread too thin in their stories for any of them to be truly complex. Act II is vastly superior, in my opinion, though I understand that Act I is needed for Sondheim to make his point. I just think it could either be shorter or have some characters cut out.

I would argue that, while not necessarily "better," Act II of Les Miserables is certainly more exciting.

In general, I'd say that shows where the ending is not particularly obvious from Act I (like Pippin or Caroline or Change) have better second acts, barring any major book mangling (which I believe Parade to be an unfortunate victim of).
CATSNYrevival
Broadway Legend
joined:3/1/04
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 11:33pm
When did PASSION get a second act? Am I missing a joke?

The original London production of Passion had an intermission after "I Wish I Could Forget You." The act ended with Fosca's screams and the second act opened with the soldier's gossip.
That's right! Underscore mother-fu@#ers!
BroadwayBrad2
Swing
joined:5/2/13
Musicals with better 2nd acts
Posted: 5/6/13 at 11:35pm
This was my thought as well when I saw Cinderella last Tuesday night

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