Older shows vs. how they’re received today

magictodo123
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I was just thinking about this. Well, I was actually thinking about this as it applies to a TV show I love, but this is BroadwayWorld, so Im bringing to theater. Are shows like Carousel, Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady...these shoes caused very strong reactions whenever theyre performed. But are they actually bad shows, or have they just not aged well so people THINK theyre bad?

Updated On: 10/11/19 at 05:10 AM
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I don't think there are many people who think these are bad shows - quite the contrary. What they do have are features that might not line up with contemporary audience expectations. There are some people who critique the shows for this, and others who take offense at any suggestion of "updating" them. Again, though, I don't think many people in either camp question the quality of the shows.

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I respect the intentions of this question, but it’s definitely misguided -

- Classical musicals will never be considered “bad.” They’re not. The issue isn’t if they’re “bad” suddenly, but if their commentary on society has aged well a hundred years later. For shows like Carousel, My Fair Lady, and Kiss Me Kate, no, they haven’t aged well. But they’re still And always will objectively be musicals of extreme quality and renown. When done right (like the recent revivals of My Fair Lady and Oklahoma!), can show that they still have a relevance that makes up for their social faux pas.

- I’d say the best example of “bad show or bad timing” is the 2015-2017 season. “Tuck Everlasting” was simply a terrible show, period, but Groundhog Day, Great Comet, and maybe even Bright Star would’ve succeeded at another time in less crowded seasons.
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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #4
Posted: 10/10/19 at 10:04am

(double post, mobile app)

Updated On: 10/10/19 at 10:04 AM
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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #5
Posted: 10/10/19 at 10:07am

All great works.  While we're at it, so are Merchant of Venice, Taming of the Shrew and Othello. 

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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #6
Posted: 10/10/19 at 10:22am
What do we mean by “bad”? Very few people would take issue with the quality of the writing of shows such as those. What’s at issue is how they express social issues, which is a very different thing than the issue of their quality.
"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."
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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #7
Posted: 10/10/19 at 10:35am

I think VotePeron wrote everything in my head.   They are not bad....and I don't think the majority of theater goers think they are either.

If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #8
Posted: 10/10/19 at 10:49am

magictodo123 said: "I was just thinking about this. Well, I was actually thinking about this as it applies to a TV show I love, but this is BroadwayWorld, so Im bringing to theater. Are shows like Carousel, Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady...these shoes caused very strong reactions whenever theyre performed. But are they actually bad shows, or have they just not aged well so people THINK theyre bad?"

I think all of those shows are great shows, not bad at all. I would say aspects of the show haven't aged well in exactly the way great 19th century novels have aspect that haven't aged well. Our concepts of male-female relationships have changed, so lines like Curley's "quit your crying or I'll spank you" or Julie's "Yes, a person can hit you really hard, and it can feel like a kiss" disturb us, more I think for what we hear when they are spoken then what they mean in their actual context.

Curley is obviously not going to treat Laurey like an infant he is a parent to--in fact, the main plot expresses how exactly equal Laurey and Curly are, how almost identical in their personalities--which is why they keep alienating each other despite being in love with each other. One the pleasures of the show is the Beatrice-Benedict relationship they share. 

And Julie's confession to Carrie about Billy's physical abuse, and her quiet sobbing on Mr. Snow's shoulder, make it very clear that abuse isn't okay--isn't even okay to Julie. Hammerstein isn't great about dealing with this. Spousal abuse wasn't talked about at that time, and the desire to make everything "okay" for an audience of his time, and probably frankly his own limited abilities as a playwright, means we have to consider the scene between Julie and Louise, after Billy's supernatural appearance, more as Hammerstein probably was trying to make it (a woman in a terrible situation is trying to deal with it and make peace with it as best she can--and very flawed man trying to redeem himself and still failing at that point) than what it literally says. I don't believe for a moment that Hammerstein was okay with physical abuse. The bully is never a good figure in Hammerstein's work. The bully is what society must defeat. It's easy to defeat Jud Fry he's viewed from the postion of a stable society. Society solves it's problem by 1) expelling him and, when that doesn't fully solve the problem 2) destroying him. But Carousel is fascinating specifically because the struggle isn't society's against an outsider Billy's desire to defeat the the bully in himself. How do you escape yourself without destroying yourself? It's a fascinating question, and it's a fascinating show, even if not a perfect one.

And My Fair Lady isn't a love story, no matter how much people want it to be. Eliza says herself that she liked living with Higgins and Pickering because they were friends. I've always thought Higgins was gay. The term he uses for himself and Pickering "confirmed old bachelors" was code for being gay in the era when Pygmalion was written. Part of the reason he never treats Eliza as a gentleman should treat his lady fair is because he never thinks of Eliza as his lady fair. He treats her, literally, like everyone else. Granted, the way Higgins treats "everyone else" is no great standard, but the problem there isn't male-female relationships.

Updated On: 10/10/19 at 10:49 AM
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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #9
Posted: 10/10/19 at 11:00am
To compare two different shows. Tuck Everlasting was simply a bad show. Bright Star was a victim of timing. Perhaps had they waited a season or two, they could’ve had a better shot. Just simply due to Hamilton being overwhelmingly present in the media.
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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #10
Posted: 10/10/19 at 11:04am

dramamama611 said: "I think VotePeron wrote everything in my head. They are not bad....and I don't think the majority of theater goers think they are either."

Dramamama and I agreed on something?! Let’s get drinks!

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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #11
Posted: 10/10/19 at 6:05pm

Call_me_jorge said: "To compare two different shows. Tuck Everlasting was simply a bad show. Bright Star was a victim of timing. Perhaps had they waited a season or two, they could’ve had a better shot. Just simply due to Hamilton being overwhelmingly present in the media."

I absolutely loved Bright Star, and I think you're right- I think it might have had a longer life had it come out during a different season. 

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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #12
Posted: 10/10/19 at 6:11pm

Hamilton closed every show that season- the only one that survived was Waitress. I think American Psycho was an excellent show with poor timing in regard to when it opened. 

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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #13
Posted: 10/10/19 at 6:20pm

None of those classic shows are bad. Why would they be done all over the world every single year if they were considered bad? They aren't. Shows who close that you never hear about again are BAD. Three classic shows that have huge, beloved fan bases are not in that category. 

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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #14
Posted: 10/10/19 at 7:29pm

The problem any of these shows have NOW is not the problem of the shows themselves, but of some audiences of now not being able to see beyond their 2019 noses and that's especially true of any classic musical that doesn't happen to take place NOW, which is basically everything ever written.  Oh, and the woke of these message boards who make everything about now - rather than simply understanding a) when these shows were written, and b) when they take place.  

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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #15
Posted: 10/10/19 at 11:34pm

Lol, Bright Star was NOT a victim of timing. It needed a way better lyricist and a more sophisticated book writer. 

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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #16
Posted: 10/10/19 at 11:41pm

VintageSnarker said: "Lol, Bright Star was NOT a victim of timing. It needed a way better lyricist and a more sophisticated book writer."

Regardless of whether you like the show or not, it’s hard to dispute the fact that everything from that season lived under Hamilton’s shadow. In a different season it would have likely done much better.

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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #17
Posted: 10/10/19 at 11:47pm

joevitus said: "magictodo123 said: "I was just thinking about this. Well, I was actually thinking about this as it applies to a TV show I love, but this is BroadwayWorld, so Im bringing to theater. Are shows like Carousel, Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady...these shoes caused very strong reactions whenever theyre performed. But are they actually bad shows, or have they just not aged well so people THINK theyre bad?"

I think all of those shows are great shows, not bad at all. I would say aspects of the show haven't aged well in exactly the way great 19th century novels have aspect that haven't aged well. Our concepts of male-female relationships have changed,so lines like Curley's "quityour crying or I'll spank you" or Julie's "Yes, a person can hit you really hard, and it can feel like a kiss" disturbus, more I think for what we hear when they are spoken then what they mean in their actual context.

Curley is obviously not going to treat Laurey like an infanthe is a parent to--in fact, the main plot expresses how exactly equal Laureyand Curly are, how almost identical in their personalities--which is why they keep alienating each other despite being in love with each other. One the pleasures of the show is the Beatrice-Benedict relationship they share.

And Julie's confession to Carrie about Billy's physical abuse, and her quiet sobbing on Mr. Snow's shoulder, make it very clear that abuse isn't okay--isn't even okay to Julie. Hammerstein isn't great about dealing with this. Spousal abuse wasn't talked about at that time, and the desire to make everything "okay" for an audience of his time, and probably frankly his own limited abilities as a playwright, means we have to consider the scene between Julie and Louise, after Billy's supernatural appearance,more as Hammersteinprobably was trying to make it(a woman in a terrible situation is trying to deal with it and make peace with it as best she can--and very flawed man trying to redeem himself and still failing at that point) than what it literally says. I don't believe for a moment that Hammerstein was okay with physical abuse. The bully is never a good figure in Hammerstein's work. The bully is what society must defeat. It's easy to defeat Jud Fry he's viewed from the postion of a stable society. Society solves it's problem by 1) expelling him and, when that doesn't fully solve the problem2) destroying him. But Carousel is fascinating specifically because the struggle isn't society's against an outsiderBilly's desire to defeat the the bully in himself. How do you escape yourself without destroying yourself? It's a fascinatingquestion, and it's a fascinating show, even if not a perfect one.

And My Fair Lady isn't a love story, no matter how much people want it to be. Eliza says herself that she liked living with Higgins and Pickering because they were friends.I've always thought Higgins was gay. The term he uses for himself and Pickering "confirmed old bachelors" was code for being gay in the era when Pygmalion was written. Part of the reason he never treats Eliza as a gentleman should treat his lady fair is because he never thinks of Eliza as his lady fair. He treats her, literally, like everyone else. Granted, the way Higgins treats "everyone else" is no great standard, but the problem there isn't male-female relationships.
"

Joe, I agree with your thesis that the shows listed by the OP are indeed "great shows", even if moral values have changed over the decades. But I promise you nothing about CAROUSEL suggests Hammerstein was an insufficient playwright. Rather, he was in a lifelong love match with his wife and believed that feminine influence was the great civilizer of men. That was HIS take on Molnar's LILIOM, not a product in inadequate talent.

As for MY FAIR LADY, it is (or was) the AMERICAN take on the story--"Love conquers all", no matter how peculiar Higgins is--where Shaw's original is the British take--"class conquers all, even love". Sure, one can read it as if Higgins and Pickering were gay--but that isn't all the phrase "confirmed bachelor" meant during the Edwardian age. In fact, I'm not even sure if it meant gay back then, though it surely did by the 1950s and 1960s. I don't think MY FAIR LADY needs a fix, no more than PYGMALION.

To me, KISS ME, KATE; ANNIE, GET YOUR GUN; and even GUYS AND DOLLS all feel dramaturgically as if their happy endings arrive just because 2.5 hours are up. I think they are pre-R&H musical comedies dressed up in R&H clothing. Which is not to say they are bad, either, just a product of writers from earlier times attempting to adapt to changing styles. Loesser was the most successful, especially with MOST HAPPY FELLA and HOW TO SUCCEED.... (Exception: AGYG was extensively rewritten in 1965 for the Lincoln Center revival and now seems a little more up to date in style, if not in the reversal of its plot at the end.)

As you can tell, I'm not a fan of rewriting any theater to pander to contemporary rules of political correctness.

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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #18
Posted: 10/10/19 at 11:50pm

Call_me_jorge said: "To compare two different shows. Tuck Everlasting was simply a bad show. Bright Star was a victim of timing. Perhaps had they waited a season or two, they could’ve had a better shot. Just simply due to Hamilton being overwhelmingly present in the media."

Sorry, but musicals about throwing babies off trains have never been successful. BRIGHT STAR might have survived if that had been one plot point, but every other scene from mid-Act I to mid-Act II is about the dead baby and in an entirely different tone from the comic scenes in between. I actually like the score, and loved, loved, loved the leading lady, but I was nothing but disturbed and manipulated when I saw the national tour.

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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #19
Posted: 10/10/19 at 11:51pm

What about Addams Family? Bad show or did they simply not give themselves enough time to get it right?

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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #20
Posted: 10/10/19 at 11:52pm

bk said: "The problem any of these shows have NOW is not the problem of the shows themselves, but of someaudiences of now not being able to see beyond their 2019 noses and that's especially true of any classic musical that doesn't happen to take place NOW, which is basically everything ever written. Oh, and the woke of these message boards who make everything about now - rather than simply understanding a) when these shows were written, and b) when they take place."

And even if it is written now and takes place now, it is judged so harshly by the PC police that conflict would be impossible if one were to pander to that crowd. See DEAR EVAN HANSEN.

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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #21
Posted: 10/11/19 at 12:02am

TheGingerBreadMan said: "CATSNYrevival said: "What about Addams Family? Bad show or did they simply not give themselves enough time to get it right?"

Bad show. It made it as long as it did because of name recognition. Lippa, Brickman, and Elice did not understand their source materials well enough to write a good show. They completely butchered the characters without any sense of how they were originally intended to be in the comics/TV show/movies and manufactured a thin plot that feels like a crummier version of "You Can't Take It With You".

It also isn't as if Addams opened in a season where it was majorly overshadowed by anything else - 2009/10 was a relatively uneventful season."

Updated On: 10/11/19 at 12:02 AM
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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #22
Posted: 10/11/19 at 12:03am

Double post
 

Updated On: 10/11/19 at 12:03 AM
magictodo123
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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #23
Posted: 10/11/19 at 6:05am

ModernMillie3 said: "None of those classic shows are bad. Why would they be done all over the world every single year if they were considered bad? They aren't. Shows who close that you never hear about again are BAD. Three classic shows that have huge, beloved fan bases are not in that category."

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that the shows I mentioned are bad. I'm sorry if it came across that way. Those swing more along the lines of when they are revived, you always have very strong opinions coming out of the woodwork talking about problems with the show, why it shouldn't be revived, why did they cast certain people, etc (the most recent revival of Carousel, which I loved, comes to mind for that one). 

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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #24
Posted: 10/11/19 at 10:15am

GavestonPS said: "
Joe, I agree with your thesis that the shows listed by the OP are indeed "great shows", even if moral values have changed over the decades. But I promise you nothing about CAROUSEL suggests Hammerstein was an insufficient playwright. Rather, he was in a lifelong love match with his wife andbelieved that feminine influence was the great civilizer of men. That was HIS take on Molnar's LILIOM, not a product in inadequate talent."

Thank you for the compliments in you post. I am no fan of PC, either, and I agree with you that he saw feminine influence as the great civilizer of man. But the above portion of your post confuses me. How does Hammerstein's personal life suggest he isn't an insufficient playwright? An artists can have the right personal experiences and still lack skill in some aspects of their art.

For the record, I heartily believe Hammerstein was a great architect when it came to script planning. He knew what would work, he knew what  in an ailing show (adaptation or not) needed to be fixed. He could even be genuinely funny (not just corny funny), as Oklahoma! shows.

But that dialogue between Julie and Louise is flat-footed, and it isn't the only instance in the R&H canon. There's just no way Hammerstein meant--as the words of the script could be literally taken to mean--that if you love someone, being hit by them can feel as sweet as a kiss. So, he wasn't doing the best he could with the material, whether the material originates elsewhere or not (and though I no longer possess my copy of Liliom, I'm pretty sure there's no similar passage about abuse not hurting if the person loves you in Molnar's script).

None of this takes away from the real achievements of Carousel's script, or Hammerstein's work throughout his career treating serious issues and creating a more intellectually complex kind of musical theater than anyone had previously seen. He just fumbles a little occasionally in his dialogue. Nobody's perfect. 

 

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Bad Shows vs. Being a Victim of their time? #25
Posted: 10/11/19 at 10:19am

Bright Star may have been a Broadway flop, but it's now one of the most-produced shows in America. 

"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."