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BWW Blog: Is there a Lack of Originality on Broadway?

BWW Blog: Is there a Lack of Originality on Broadway?

The 2018-2019 Broadway season is well underway. New shows have opened this fall while others will find their new home in the spring. Out of the revivals and works based on something already existing, where does original work stand? Most shows coming to Broadway are jukebox shows, revivals, or based on a movie, a novel etc. I was thinking of why I felt overwhelmed by the lack of originality I see.

One current standout show is The Prom. I have tickets for it and I'm very exciting to see it. The Prom features a book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, music by Matthew Sklar, and lyrics by Chad Beguelin. It's original. It's not based on a movie or a true story. It's completely original and it's a hit right now. It features a stellar cast and nearly half of them are making their Broadway debuts.

This brings me to something else I was wondering. What are the reasons behind these shows with source material? I was thinking about how commercial theatre works. No matter how much we love shows and how we feel they're necessary, it's still a business. Some shows don't make money or there are other circumstances that are out of their control.

Do shows have to be recognizable to audiences in order to bring them in? I say yes and no. Some shows are able to create a buzz even if they're original and have no source material. Broadway shows that have some sort of recognition behind it tend to fill seats early on, but not always in the long run. Sometimes I feel that original work has a shorter lifespan on Broadway. I always think of Bandstand. I loved the show, saw its growth from Paper Mill Playhouse to Broadway, and hoped its story would resonate with audiences. It lasted for about six months before closing. I wish it had made it through the year. However, a pro-shot was made and it was shown in movie theatres. Even though it closed, the pro-shot is available to enjoy.

I don't think that it's required that Broadway ticket-buyers should be given something new for their theater dollar. What is required is that they are presented with talent, professionalism, and quality, and if they choose to see something that's already been presented before, that's their right. There is also little risk and nothing unexpected when doing work with source material, which is unfortunate. Theater is supposed to take risks and give the audience something they didn't expect. It is supposed to give them new ideas and even make them a little bit uncomfortable. Sometimes, however, the commercialism doesn't allow new work to flourish. Some of these current productions are fantastic and I hope audiences have a chance to see them, but I also yearn for some truly original tales to come to life on the Broadway stage.

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