Big Broadway Musicals Being Restaged Smaller

ARTc3
Broadway Star
joined:8/5/13
Perhaps this should be a post in the current, Color Purple thread, as it was inspired by that discussion. I chose to give it it's own space, because its my hope that this thread will start a debate on the state of the "big musical" - spectacle - versus the revision of these epic shows as much smaller, more affordable - perhaps more intimate - re-stagings.

My person bias... I love stage craft and although this doesn't always translate to big budget shows with lots of elaborate designs (sets, costumes, lights, sound, effects, etc.) it often does.

I admire Mr. Doyle and the work he has done, but I fear that his pared down "smaller" versions of some of Broadways more epic shows might hurt - or at least devalue - the art and magic of the spectacle.

Add to the mix the safety issues that shows like Spider-man has incurred and one wonders if the trend will be towards smaller less technically elaborate shows - a Producer's dream, but at what "cost"?

Which brings up the financial component: I am sure that Mr. Doyle's version of The Color Purple was far less expensive than Gary Griffin's.

Thoughts?

ARTc3 formerly ARTc. Actually been a poster since 2004. My name isn't Art. Drop the "3" and say the signature and you'll understand.
Updated On: 8/18/13 at 05:43 PM
best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
Economy = new vision.

Funny how it only seems to work one way. "Less than."
"Jaws is the Citizen Kane of movies."
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TheatreFan4
Broadway Legend
joined:8/12/09
If the show can handle. The Color Purple can, Spider-Man cannot. Priscilla cannot. Spectacle is built into those shows and wouldn't stand without it.
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ARTc3
Broadway Star
joined:8/5/13
Not sure I agree... I wonder if people thought spectacle was built into Sweeney Todd, and we know that it had a very successful Doyle pared down version run.

Perhaps, because of the film, the costumes are "a part" of Priscilla, but I could see it being staged on a much smaller scale. Even Spider-man could eliminate a lot of the visual, although without the special effect, it might be a rather dull evening.
ARTc3 formerly ARTc. Actually been a poster since 2004. My name isn't Art. Drop the "3" and say the signature and you'll understand.
TheatreFan4
Broadway Legend
joined:8/12/09
Sweeney was done smaller decades before Doyle. His thing was the overall staging, not the size of it.
"Hi there, we represent The Broadway Better Business Players for a Better Tomorrow. We're trying to start a petition to get second rate shows taken off the marquee and with your help we can stop Mamma Mia from ever playing again." -Brad Jones in Suburban Knights

"Is it true you have Ralph Jr at the bottom of your purse in a jar of formaldehyde?" - Felicia
"No, but I wish I did so I could shove it down your throat!" - Bernadette

"This play is sh*t! This play is sh*t! F*CK YOU TERRENCE MCNALLY!!"- Patti LuPone as an angry theatre goer at 'Master Class'

"Being normal is VASTLY overrated..."
- Aggie Cromwell
Phantom of London
Broadway Legend
joined:3/26/08
its like when some shows work in a bigger theater than a smaller theater and definitely vice versa.
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Dollypop
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/03
The Goodspeed Opera House's current attraction of HELLO, DOLLY! has been downsized to a cast of 22--the original Bwy production had double that amount. Still, what's on the Goodspeed stage is a marvel of creativity. It also maintains the spirit of Gower Champion's ingenious staging.
"Long live God!" (GODSPELL)
ARTc3
Broadway Star
joined:8/5/13
22 is a huge cast for Goodspeed. Their stage is a fraction of the size of the St. James.
ARTc3 formerly ARTc. Actually been a poster since 2004. My name isn't Art. Drop the "3" and say the signature and you'll understand.
OperaBwayLover
Broadway Star
joined:5/17/07
I'm wondering how the recent staging of Sunset Boulevard (in London) worked on a smaller scale. It just seems like a show that needs a big staging.
PalJoey
Broadway Legend
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I like when I am given the old razzle-dazzle.

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Dollypop
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/03
Yes, 22 is a large number for a Goodspeed show, but the use of a two-tiered set allows for a few more people on stage and creates the illusion of a crowd for the parade.

It's all very effectively done.
"Long live God!" (GODSPELL)
roadmixer
Leading Actor
joined:7/28/07
I think that each show is a unique situation and certainly adding a whole lot of extra flash and trash to a show for no particular reason is never a good idea. On the other hand, Broadway ticket prices are at an all time high and the trend toward slimmer production budgets has more to do with greed than it does what is best for theatre-goers. If the use of complex staging, which costs bigger money, doesn't happen on Broadway then where will it? Is there enough value in a ticket to a show in New York where the scenery looks like it could go straight on tour with no revisions?
Mr Roxy
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
Kiss of the Spiderwoman
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PTOPhan
Featured Actor
joined:6/5/12
I never saw Miss Saigon but I, like everyone who doesn't live under a rock knows about the helicopter. The Signature Theater, in Arlington, VA is staging a professional production in their small space, sans helicopter. It sounds fantastic, but some people who saw the original may feel cheated.

Les Mis is famous for its sets, but its newest productions have toned everything down. I skipped a recent revival because I wondered how it would look without the revolving stage.

Which brings me to the biggie: Phantom of the Opera. I can see reducing the cast numbers and eliminating the staircase in "Masquerade." I can see eliminating the suspended "angel." I can't however, figure out how the new U.S. tour will manage the title sequence without the moving catwalk. And of course, there's the chandelier. I can see reducing the effect by having the chandelier hanging over the stage and just dropping it, but eliminating the crash entirely, in favor of sparks? Isn't that like going to the Louvre and missing the Mona Lisa?
You alone can make my song take flight.
TheOldRedHillsOfHome
Chorus Member
joined:12/29/07
While I understand where you are coming from in thinking one would 'miss out' if a famous staging is done differently, in my opinion, if the only important thing in a theatre production is a set-piece then that doesn't say much for the musical.
goodoneinlou2
Stand-by
joined:5/29/09
I expect if you ask 100 people how much staging/scenery affects their reaction to a show, you'll get just as many varying responses. Some people concentrate on the performances, some the book. Some concentrate on the orchestrations, others the costumes etc. Some concentrate on all aspects.

I'm a visual person. The stagecraft, lighting, effects etc all play a VERY important part (along with, of course, the acting/music/staging) in my enjoyment of a show. My tastes tend to ascew towards dimensional ever-changing scenery, the more elaborate the better! (Provided it's not masking flaws in the show itself.) Some of my favorite shows have been heavy on visuals, and some of my least favorite shows have been those with static - or no set. Again, I'm a visual person.

That having been said... it's very difficult for me to make a transition from having seen a large production of a show to a scaled back or much smaller production. I always feel as though I (and the audience) am being cheated when compared to what has been seen before.

Most often, those that have not seen the elaborate productions prior, still find a great sense of enjoyment. But I do think that I'd fall into the majority of average theatre-goers that miss things when they are scaled back or removed from a show seen prior. It's only natural to make comparisons to larger versions if you've seen them.

Sadly, there's currently a trend among Broadway productions to simplify even what we see on Bway, no doubt because the Producers aim to be able to tour the shows as quickly, simply and cheaply as posible. Shows are noticibly smaller scale on Bway these days (IMO), using less traps and less complicated machinery as they once did.

Most notably LED/LCD panels are being used more and more frequently - much to my chagrin. There's an art form being compromised, and ultimately I think it makes shows look cheap no matter if I've seen them before or not. The future of set design is, as silly as this sounds, of concern to me.

Here's an example. I saw the big, overblown Sunset Boulevard in the '90s. In that show I was treated to visuals including a floating mansion, a 3-section folding staircase, 2 apartment sets, 2 office sets, a limo driving across stage, the Paramount Gates, the exterior of a sound stage, the interior of a sound stage, a drug store interior & more, more more! It was HUMONGOUS - and a site to behold. Now many say that the set completely engulfed the show. However I loved every single bit of it. If I could re-wind time to see one show again - that would be the one (out of the 200+ I've seen in my life.) I have avoided seeing any other productions of Sunset, quite frankly, because nothing can top that in my book. I was spoiled by the sheer spectacle.

Am I narrowminded for not embracing a smaller, intimate production? Perhaps.
Am I wrong for feeling that way? No.

A theatrical experience is different for everyone, and always based on each viewers personal subjectivity. Everyone takes something different from every production - small or big.

I just immensely enjoy leaving the theatre wondering things like "How the heck did that Mansion levitate into the air so quietly?" I'm afraid, if the trend continues, I many find myself not being quite as enchanted as I was. And that's a shame for all those future theatre-goers that should be as amazed and inspired as I have been lucky enough to be.
Updated On: 8/18/13 at 10:50 PM
winston89
Broadway Legend
joined:6/18/06
^^^

I agree. I feel that there are some shows that have a large set that are good shows in and of themselves. However, I also feel that there are shows that use a massive set to take away from the fact that the book and score aren't as strong.

For example, I feel that Les Miserables is a show that has an amazing score and one that can stand on it's own as a good show without the turntable etc. I mean,I do understand that people are used to that set aspect because that's what they have seen over the years but you have great material that can make for a great production with or without the original set.

Now, Phantom on the other hand is a different story. Here we have a show that has amazing sets and staging but has a book and score that is not so strong. This is a good example of how the set covers up the weak material.

Considering that new productions of these two shows are floating around the US in some form or another, the new Phantom tour is going out soon and the new production of Les Miserables hits Broadway this spring. Between these two new productions (and I have yet to see either of them) Les Miserables, in my mind has the ability to be the stronger of the two. I say this because it has a strong score but I feel that the new tour of Phantom will only highlight the flaws of the material since the iconic sets aren't there anymore.
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ARTc3
Broadway Star
joined:8/5/13
I am in agreement with both goodoneinlou2 and winston89...

Having years ago, started the thread on set design, I am an avid lover of great design. Of course, I need for the book and score and performances to also be strong, but watching a stage transform itself can be sheer magic to me.

It saddens me when I read a critic - who loved the original larger version - review a new production and rave about it by trashing the earlier production with adjectives like "over bloated" (referring to the original bigger production) "more intimate" (referring to the new slimmer production), etc.

I love the theater; most aspects of it. I want there always to be room for big, small and medium sized shows.
ARTc3 formerly ARTc. Actually been a poster since 2004. My name isn't Art. Drop the "3" and say the signature and you'll understand.
songanddanceman2
Broadway Legend
joined:8/31/06
It's often these enormous sets and spectacle with way too much money thrown at them that cause the shows to flop on Broadway as they are chasing impossible when it comes to recouping. Also often the show did not need such enormous sets in the first place and the actual show gets lost, yes it's fun seeing the epic set of Sunset Blvd, but the tiny UK production from a couple of years back pulled me in to the story and music more. Titanic sunk on Broadway but often they could not get the ship to and that became the story and the actual show seemed to get lost, the recent London production lets the show do the talking.

I think Broadway is sometimes far too guilty of making everything way to big (something the UK used to do in the 80s) but now when these shows come back with intimate productions the quality of the writing etc shine through. Look at Legally Blonde on Broadway, it had a healthy run, good some mixed to decent reviews but could not recoup. IN the UK they cut some set pieces down, pushed the show to the forefront and it was a hit, far funnier, far fresher and won the Olivier Award for best musical.

I am not saying all shows need to be intimate but redesigning shows that got lost amongst the set etc is a great way to watch the actual show.
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tazber
Broadway Legend
joined:5/10/05
I feel like any show can be downsized with the right creative minds
working on it.

....but the world goes 'round