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Student Blog: Broadway Success ≠ Quality of Work


A Broadway show is a magical experience. But what about the more unconventional shows?

Student Blog: Broadway Success ≠ Quality of Work Broadway is officially back, to the joy of all theatre-makers and theatre-lovers. However, this isn't the world in which Broadway existed before its intermission. In the past eighteen months, more and more people have come to realize that Broadway is not the be-all, end-all of theatre, and they're recognizing that Broadway success does not automatically determine the quality of any work.

In fact, Broadway isn't exactly the place for new, non-traditional ideas. Take a look at Dave Malloy's Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, for example. While it is one of the most brilliant musicals ever written, it clearly was not meant for a typical Broadway stage. Malloy's other works, including Ghost Quartet (a four-person song cycle complete with booze and befuddlement), Octet (an a cappella chamber-choir musical taking place at a support group for eight technology/internet addicts), Clown Bible (Genesis to Revelation told through clowns), and Black Wizard/Blue Wizard (two extraplanetary stoner wizards battling mediocrity), are all of similar brilliant yet unconventional caliber.

These shows are musically erratic, audience-interactive, and designed for spaces that are much different from a proscenium stage. They all have done well in off-Broadway spaces, but this is because off-Broadway spaces are smaller and more geared towards these unconventional kinds of shows. Audience members who are "theatre people"- that is, people who are intrigued by all different kinds of theatre-making- are the kinds of people who are willing to see these shows. Broadway itself is meant to bring in a wider audience, such as tourists, families, and those who may not necessarily be into theatre. And while it's nice to see brilliant and unconventional shows like this be available to a larger audience, these shows sadly will not make enough money to last.

This is why the idea of Broadway being the ultimate Mount Everest of theatre is wrong. As live theatres slowly started to reopen, all people were eager to see any kind of show they could, and this started an appreciation for all kinds of live theatre among the general public. Now that Broadway is back, this is something to keep in mind. If a writer writes a thousand shows that never reach the TONY awards, that doesn't make them a "bad" writer. If an actor does a billion tours and regional shows but never books Broadway, that doesn't reflect negatively on their acting skills. See it this way: ice cream is great.

Not everyone likes every kind of ice cream, but that doesn't mean any flavor is factually superior to the others just because it sells more. Theatre is great, too. Not everyone likes every style of theatre, but that doesn't mean Broadway is factually superior because it makes the most money. Broadway is a business first, and while a Broadway show will always be a magical experience, any off- or off-off-Broadway show (or any show in any part of the world) deserves the same level of respect and appreciation. After all, making theatre is more than just making art- it's making magic.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Meredith Muirhead