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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo

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David10086
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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#1
Posted: 8/5/17 at 10:47pm

Does anyone know the history of Rosie O'Donnell, Boy George and the Broadway musical 'Taboo' from 2003? I know she invested $10M in the production and lost it all, as the musical only lasted a few months due to horrible reviews. In interviews (and I believe even her book) she kind of put a lot of blame on Boy George for its' failure and her $10M loss (IIRC, I think he was supposed to go in half with her and never gave her his half of the investment). 

Does anyone have any memories from this show or any more info on it's short life and early box-office death? Does anyone think this would ever be revived for the Broadway stage again? 

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CurtainPullDowner
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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#2
Posted: 8/5/17 at 11:04pm

Rosie saw an off-West End Musical in a church and said "I Love It! Let's produce it on Broadway!"

So she had Charles Busch completely rewrite it, changed or cut music till it looked and/or felt nothing like what she "Loved" in London.

And then she had Diva/Actor problems. 

There were good performances but it was a mess.

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#3
Posted: 8/5/17 at 11:40pm

Did Boy George have anything to do with it off-West End? I LOVE the show. I love the music, etc, but I still have zero idea what the actual story of the show is. I'd love to see it at like Encores or something - though I doubt it ever would be there - just to see someone else try and make it work.

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#4
Posted: 8/6/17 at 5:32am

I saw it multiple times. I thought it was excellent and "worked" beautifully. The performances and music were great. I believe, the backstage drama including Riedel's war with Rosie, made it impossible to overcome it's less than mainstream subject matter.

 

-

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.
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Wick3
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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#5
Posted: 8/6/17 at 8:11am

Love love love Liz McCartney on Taboo! 

 

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#6
Posted: 8/6/17 at 8:30am

I could be wrong, but I feel like it was originally a story that was inspired by the Taboo years in London, with Boy George et. al as characters within that universe, but Rosie and Busch had it rewritten to be more like a "life story" of his rise to fame

theatremom2
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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#7
Posted: 8/6/17 at 10:00am

Loved it. Amazing talent. BG may bare some responsiiblity,  he promoted it- oddly. But politics killed it. I have both the B'way and London versions and play them often. Didn't like the physical production tho

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#8
Posted: 8/6/17 at 12:05pm

I saw it in London in some basement on a matinee in 2003, and even though the book was a little soapy, the score, the costumes, the cast and Euan Morton as George were just phenomenal. A couple of years later, it came to Broadway, still had a great cast, Euan, the costumes, and that score, one of the strongest of the decade. But it was saddled with another underwhelming book, a concept that wasn't a right fit for Broadway at the time, and marketing that confused people. I saw the show ten times on Broadway - would've seen it more if they did a better job at discounting ticket prices - and there was still a whole lot on that stage that was just so good. But mixed reviews, along with opening in the fall, didn't help.

 

And I think Rosie's massive image problem at the time was a big factor. The "queen of nice" or whatever her personality was during the talk show days, was replaced with a much more assertive, artsy, weird and yes, lesbian, and had a big part with turning off her built-in hausfrau crowd. And don't forget aside from the show, she had that very public lawsuit with her magazine that dragged her through the mud with some really troubling allegations. Anytime you heard Taboo, you heard Rosie, and you heard the lawsuit, and you heard about her $10 million personal investment. By that point, the show content itself, became lost in the rest of it.



"Hey little girls, look at all the men in shiny shirts and no wives!" - Jackie Hoffman, Xanadu, 19 Feb 2008
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temms
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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#9
Posted: 8/6/17 at 12:14pm

It had a terrible marketing campaign, too. There was a huge billboard over the West Side Highway that was the title of the show and a bunch of men peeing at urinals. Very offputting. 

Boy George was in it but playing a different character (sort of like how the real Todd Bridges played Todd Bridges' drug dealer in the "Diff'rent Strokes" behind-the-scenes TV movie) and couldn't act. Reportedly they had a better book but he couldn't play it so it kept getting whittled down to what it ended up being. 

Great score, though. Beautifully played/sung in the theatre. And I truly don't get the antagonism toward Rosie - how many other people love Broadway so much they'll personally bankroll a huge show just because they want it to be seen? It was in no way a vanity project. There were some not great decisions made but the show in London definitely needed rejiggering for Broadway (there's an official video of it.) I think it's due another hearing. 

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#10
Posted: 8/6/17 at 12:26pm

I wish it could get retooled at least. It never even had a life regionally. 

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#11
Posted: 8/6/17 at 1:02pm

The show certainly had its faults (an overstuffed book with too many characters, an Act II that was sad ballad after sad ballad, and a lead in Boy George who was very charismatic when singing but wooden when not). It also had some remarkable strengths (a gorgeous and varied score, a breakout performance by Euan Morton among a great cast, incredible costume design).

What others have said above is true. It scared some people away by seeming too edgy and with Rosie's PR problems involving the lawsuit.

And to my knowledge, the rights are not available, which is why is hasn't been done regionally. Shame because there's a lot to admire there and I happen to think Busch's book is superior to the London version and may have worked with an out-of-town tryout.

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#12
Posted: 8/6/17 at 1:27pm

Did Boy George have anything to do with it off-West End?

Of course he did - he wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the music for TABOO - West End and Broadway.  Also, his life story is part of TABOO's plot.

TABOO is basically a biographical musical telling the story of various real-life people that were part of the London underground club scene in the early 80's using the legendary club Taboo to connect the characters to each other.  Legendary artist/designer Leigh Bowery (who George O'Dowd aka Boy George played in both productions) founded the club Taboo, where Boy George (played by Euan Morton in both productions) would begin his career as a singer and end up founding the band Culture Club, etc.  Several still living people are portrayed in the musical like Steve Strange and Marilyn. 

I was in my early teens when the London club Taboo existed and though I lived in the US, I followed the London music scene religiously so I was aware of these London personalities.  For all the obvious reasons, I was excited to see TABOO when it was announced for Broadway.  As things would have it, I arrived into NYC the Thursday morning of the show's opening night so I passed the theatre as the red carpet was being placed for that night.  As was my tradition back in my pre-New Yorker days, I always bought my tickets the morning of the performance I wanted to see so my plan was to see the show the day after its opening: Friday night. 

I still remember heading to the theatre around 9am and finding it deserted.  Not a single person was waiting outside to buy tickets.  A cleaning lady in the lobby saw me and let me wait inside for the box office to open.  I bought 2 tickets first row Orchestra Center.  10:05am and not a single person ever entered the lobby.  I hadn't read up on the reviews but this told me quite a bit.  

Anyway, what did surprise me was the packed house that evening.  I remember looking back from my first row seat and seeing the house full - mezzanine and balcony included, which baffled me but made me happy to see a full house.  The audience's energy was electric and watching the show was a bit emotional for me.  All the money put in was definitely up on that stage - the set design and especially the costumes were simply incredible.  The recreation of a Leigh Bowery fashion show was hands-down mind-blowing in its detail recreations.  It was indeed lavish.  

Now, did this show belong on Broadway?  Absolutely not.  The subject alone was not suited for the Broadway demographic.  It definitely belonged in a more intimate Off-Broadway house and scaled down to suit that - keeping it true to its original West End production.  Rosie O'Donnell thought way too ambitiously and I think assumed her name alone would bring in everyone regardless of the show's content but things didn't work out that way.  The show closed 3 months later.  

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#13
Posted: 8/6/17 at 2:29pm

For info, a retooled version (endorsed by Boy George) opened in London off-West End 2 or 3 years ago. I believe it encompassed elements from both the original London and Broadway versions and was staged in a real life club, and I really enjoyed it and felt it made sense. Didn't they do a couple of one-off concert versions in NYC recently? I have a feeling they were done by the original Broadway cast with a couple of members of this recent London revival thrown in to play the younger characters.

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#14
Posted: 8/6/17 at 2:49pm

I never saw the original off-West End or Broadway production, but I must have played the Broadway cast recording hundreds of times. I believe it's one of the best Broadway scores I've heard. I would have ranked it either first or second (behind Caroline, or Change) at the Tonys that year.

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#15
Posted: 8/6/17 at 7:26pm

And when you hear Raul Esparza's usually bitter reminiscences (justified or not), you get the sense of a production in free fall with Rosie trying really hard to salvage her labor of love in a rather scattershot manner. It's such a shame. The score is so strong and clearly everyone involved wanted it to work quite badly.

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#16
Posted: 8/6/17 at 8:11pm

Thanks everyone for responding. As I said, I do remember bits and pieces of this on B'way and then Rosie talking about it in person and in her book (and at the time, she and Boy George were no longer on speaking terms), but never knew the whole history of this. I do recall wanting to see it - but by the time I got back to NY (I used to go every four months or so) it had opened and already closed. 

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#17
Posted: 8/7/17 at 12:33am

The life and death of TABOO is covered rather extensively in that documentary that follows four shows aiming for Broadway that season. The others were WICKED, AVENUE Q and CAROLINE OR CHANGE.

I don't get the talk about the "great score". We are talking Boy George/Culture Club-type music, right? Not bad as mid-1980s pop goes, but hardly "great" by Broadway standards. Somebody please save me the download fee and tell me what I am missing...

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#18
Posted: 8/7/17 at 3:15am

Do you have a link to the documentary? I'd love to watch it.

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#19
Posted: 8/7/17 at 9:04am

batboysings said: "Do you have a link to the documentary? I'd love to watch it.

 

"

Me, too. Or the name of this documentary - maybe it's streaming or on DVD? 

 

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#20
Posted: 8/7/17 at 9:08am

I don't think it's streaming anywhere, but it's ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#21
Posted: 8/7/17 at 9:10am

The name of the documentary is ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway and was released in 2007.  It covers the 2003-2004 Broadway season.  

Here is the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmpSwJsnzP8

Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo

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Rosie O'Donnell and Taboo#22
Posted: 8/7/17 at 12:50pm

GavestonPS said: "The life and death of TABOO is covered rather extensively in that documentary that follows four shows aiming for Broadway that season. The others were WICKED, AVENUE Q and CAROLINE OR CHANGE.

I don't get the talk about the "great score". We are talking Boy George/Culture Club-type music, right? Not bad as mid-1980s pop goes, but hardly "great" by Broadway standards. Somebody please save me the download fee and tell me what I am missing...


 

It's truly a beautiful pop score, with great variety and some moving songs. I'd say easily one of the best scores written for Broadway by a pop composer in the last 20 years.