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Broadway lacking original material?

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bwaylyric
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Broadway lacking original material?#0
Posted: 10/26/03 at 6:54pm
I personally am getting tired of all these new Broadway shows that are being adapted from Hollywood films. Yes, I know it's been going on for ages, but how about some originality? Broadway is in desperate need of new storylines - not Hollywood plots. Thankfully, not all adaptations had long runs: Urban Cowboy, Footloose, Saturday Night Fever, etc. I know there's a lot more on their way: Cry Baby, Catch Me if You Can, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Batman. What's next? "A Beautiful Mind, the Musical?"

Same thing goes for shows produced to showcase a musician's discography: Mamma Mia, Movin' Out, Boy From Oz. Books end up being bland (Mamma Mia, Oz). I heard of a Beach Boys musical in the works. How much longer do we have to wait to see the new Canadian musical import "My Heart Will Go On?"
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Auggie27
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re: Broadway lacking original material?#1
Posted: 10/26/03 at 7:08pm
Points well taken. Perhaps the trend will come to a halt after URBAN COWBOY's hasty departure, and the OZ reception. It's been said here/elsewhere, but producers seek properties with minimal risks, and think audiences walking in knowing the stories/humming the songs means the 'comfort food' factor will kick in. (I have to be honest -- a couple of adaptations out there really intrigue me -- notably Henry Krieger working on MOON STRUCK, a story that begs to "sing," and Charles Strouse adapting MARTY. At least they require complete musicalization, and weren't existing film musicals hastily rethought for the stage...) Does anyone else continue to notice how hard everyone is on new material? Particularly new songs? We needn't debate the WICKED score here, but a lot of audiences seem impatient with music they're hearing for the first time. Maybe it's part of our attention span problem, too. Big topic, probably deserving another thread.
"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Garry Shandling
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newyorkuniq
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re: Broadway lacking original material?#2
Posted: 10/26/03 at 7:09pm
No next is Forrest Gump
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re: Broadway lacking original material?#3
Posted: 10/26/03 at 7:12pm
I believe that Broadway producers don't make it lucrative for writers to write for the theater. Writers can do much better writing for Hollywood or the pop music world. I also think that universities don't do enough to promote writing for the theater.
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
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bwaylyric
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Be careful of what you wish for. The soundtrack to Forrest Gump was a 2-CD set. They might just sing all those songs.
MusicMan
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This is an incredibly complex and complicated issue. Here are some conisderations:
Theater production has become a very expensive and prohibitive proposition. Since corporations like Disney, Clear Channel, etc. are the only ones able to pick up the tab, they, unlike independent producers of yesteryear, care about one thing: the bottom line. So they raid their catalogues for musical ideas or pick a property with "marquee value" to insure their investment. As a result, what was once considered a populist entertainment is now being marketed as a mass entertainment. With that comes a dumbing-down of product and the sorry sense of deja vu we experience time and again on Broadway these days.
Secondly, musicals are popular entertainments and reflect popular taste. Considering the sorry state of pop music and music education in America, is it any surprise that our musical stages have been infiltrated with abysmal, banal crap like Mamma Mia, Urban Cowboy, etc?
By the way, Marty has already been reviewed by Variety as having no reason for being a musical since the songs contribute little to the evening, as one would expect. And I can't imagine a "composer" less suited for Moonstruck than the talent-free, amateurish Henry Krieger who couldn't craft a decent song with an Uzi pointed at his head.
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Henry Krieger is undeserving of even a "let's wait and see?" The man who gave us material as entertaining and emotionally rich as DREAMGIRLS and SIDE SHOW? Hey, I salue anyone who has high standards -- whether it's Rogers, Sondheim, Bernstein --, but surely speaking in such absolutes ("talent-free" "amateurish") is unfairly dismissive -- not only of Krieger but the legion of fans of his accessible and satisfying songs. A guy who can pen two act one closers like "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" and "Who Will Love Me Like I Am" gets my vote -- I'll pay my money, gladly, to hear his next effort. It frightens me to think someone would feel compelled to call a man with his craft an amateur,and prefer he just disappear. And by the way -- since when did VARIETY's opinion of any project become the final word? Strouse, who gave us the ambitious and rewarding (but unsuccessful) RAGS knows that sometimes one's best work doesn't click.
"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Garry Shandling
MusicMan
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Sorry, but touting DREAMGIRLS and SIDESHOW undoes your case for claiming Krieger's music as "rich and entertaining." SIDESHOW is simply one of the most bone-headed, mis-conceived and stupid projects that has ever played a Broadway theater with a score that trawls new depths in banality. As far as the two act closers you mention, I can't imagine anything less musical and inhuman than those two obnoxious numbers which only manage to reduce its performers to pitiful, screeching banshees, sans grace, soul or wit.
I did not claim Variety as the final word. But as it is a barometer of the industry and offers an assessment of works-in-progress, it merits consideration. And since Marty is a project that has resisted musicalization for nearly 50 years, Variety's assessment seems justifiable. Finally, ambition is fine but when the result is a pretentious and undistinguished score like RAGS, I would refrain from calling it the best of anyone's work.
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wow-- Music Man tell us how you really feel aboutt he show?

I have to totally disagree. I think that the show speaks volumes to people all over the world who are not perfect... Those of us with something wrong with us. We do it to people everyday. We judge and we critisize and we place them lower then us. The freaks we are.
And if you do not like the voices of the singers that is the singers problem not Henry Krieger.
...this is wrong on so many levels... Diane Lane in "Must Love Dogs" "If you have poo, now is the time to fling it" -- The Monkey's from Madagascar
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ORPHAN
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music man i really disagree about "and I'm telling you i'm not going" that song is really well constructed and powerful. Jenifer Holiday's gospel high stuff is her own style and not the song writer's additions... not to say she is screeching she's not.
orphan
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Orphan-- she does kind-a sceetch a bit... but it is in the context of the show she is having a nervous breakdown on stage. I mean I would be doing more then screech.
...this is wrong on so many levels... Diane Lane in "Must Love Dogs" "If you have poo, now is the time to fling it" -- The Monkey's from Madagascar
MusicMan
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First off, Sideshow's premise that "we are all freaks" (so the creative team and the show's producer would have you believe) is self-justifying, presumptuous, and (I would suspect for most audience members) laughably untrue. But that's the least of the show's problems. It's completely vapid plot only serves to trivialize a bizarre but potentially compelling story. The truly human aspects of the story (imagining the agony of these girls getting dressed in the morning, for example) was sacrificed in favor of a cliched storyline worthy of a grade-Z, Harlequin romance soap opera, especially after its rather interesting and intriguing opening which promised a different show than the one they delivered. Which leads to me to note that the show's lack of coherent tone was its biggest undoing. The show didn't know whether it wanted to be starkly human or plain old camp and tried to have the best of both worlds. A moment like the Egyptian number, for example, suffered from that indecision: the audience didn't know whether to hoot and holler or pity the poor creatures. All one ultimately felt was embarassment. And rightly so.
The rest is silence.
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of absolutes#12
Posted: 10/27/03 at 8:50am
Whoa, who knew the very mention of messrs. Kreiger and Strouse would inspire such an outpouring of distaste for their work. We're all entitled to our opinions, which is the general raison d'etre of boards like this. I am a bit taken aback by the sense of MusicMan's absolutes. Subjective appraisals are offered as definitive, irrefutable facts. This show is bad, this score is amateur, that one pretentious. If only the value of art was so easily determined! I value the development of critical faculities. People gaga over everything can be off putting. Still, personal taste is a factor, wouldn't you agree? Or is bad bad and good good and end of discussion? (If that's your feeling, then .. why post?) I am intrigued by how these shows "failures" have pushed your buttons. How awful it must have been to sit through them -- sheer torture -- while many around you were captivated, even moved. Must be painful to attend the musical theater, since to you much of it has become such a showcase for the shallow, unprofessional work of hacks. I hope if there's something you feel passionate about that you'll share it with us here. I'm curious to hear what scores touch you, break your heart. (To unfairly pigeonhole you, I'd take you for a "Finishing The Hat" afficianado. A pain-drenched song about how misunderstood a REAL artist is might nail it.)
"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Garry Shandling
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BACK TO TOPIC =)#13
Posted: 10/27/03 at 9:08am
I agree that bottom lines and staging just anything can produce crap. However, the argument of original vs adaptation isn't an easy one, when you consider that almost everything in musical theatre history has been an adaptation--of books, plays, operas, films, etc. Even Shakespeare was adapting his work from previous stories. (West Side Story may be an adaptation of an adaptation!). But, if you are arguing that transposing a screenplay to the stage without any "genre changes" is a bad idea--I agree. =)

I do find it interesting that we (generally) have no problem with films being adaptations of stage plays and musicals: Chicago, Cabaret, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Angels In America, etc etc etc.
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re: BACK TO TOPIC =)#14
Posted: 10/27/03 at 9:30am
You're right, JRB. The musical theater -- the theater in general -- would be in serious trouble without the reinvention of source material. (In fact, of the great American musicals ... how many have totally "original" books? MUSIC MAN is the only one from the golden era that springs to mind... I'm sure I'm forgetting others. But the R&H shows all were developed from other material, yes?? Even Rogers and Hart went to Shakespeare for "Boys From Syracuse.")

By the way, on topic: This other syndrome has a history. Wasn't the first major show to try this film-to-stage thing the Twla adapatation of "Singin' in the Rain?" (In the 80s? Wasn't it Twla??) I could be wrong, but it wasn't all that successful, yet it paved the way for others. Some notable failures include "Meet Me in St. Louis" and "State Fair." I use "failure" to mean didn't recoup. I'm sure they had their fans. If you think about it, rather than ensuring a sure thing ... remounting brilliant originals makes the job far HARDER. "Rain" is a classic, and, with something like "St Louis" how do you ask people to sit in a theater and listen to "Trolly Song" or "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" without thinking of one of Garland's definitive song performances? The quality of the originals actually makes it much more of a challenge to "clone" them. Even "Sat. Nite Fever" had the break-out perf. of Travolta. You'd think this syndrome would be running its course. As noted above, perhaps the string of financial losses will send people back to workshops. The sure-thing film-to-stage "adapation" clearly doesn't exist.
"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Garry Shandling
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re: re: BACK TO TOPIC =)#15
Posted: 10/27/03 at 11:10am
Auggie, ANYONE with a passion for musicals would have to be pained to sit through what passes for musicals these days. Audiences are routinely subject to either the pretentiousness of the post-Sondheim school or the dumbed-down product the corporations put forth. Somehow, musical theater has lost its ability to take the middle ground and do what it does best, "entertainment with an idea" (Gregory Peck's mandate), shows with true feeling, intelligence and appeal, with scores that are not replete with overblown banalities or tortured dissonances with no emotional payoff.
As far as "absolutes" go, let me post a speech from Tom Stoppard's THE REAL THING:
(Henry is critiquing a script by a fledgling writer and draws an analogy with a cricket bat)
HENRY: "This thing here, which looks like a wooden club, is actually several pieces of particular wood cunningly put together in a certain way so that the whole thing is sprung, like a dance floor. It's for hitting cricket balls with. If you get it right, the cricket ball will travel two hundred yards in four seconds, and all you've done is give it a knock...What we're trying to do is write cricket bats, so that when we throw up an idea and give it a little knock, it might...travel.(picks up the script) Now, what we've got here is a lump of wood of roughly the same shape trying to be a cricket bat, and if you hit the ball with it, the ball will travel about ten feet and you will drop the bat and dance about shouting, "ouch!" with your hands stuck into your armpits. (indicating the cricket bat) This isn't better because someone says its better, or because there's a conspiracy by the MCC to keep cudgels off the field. It's better because it's better."
'Nuff said.
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(OT:) MusicMan, we certainly agree on...#16
Posted: 10/27/03 at 11:25am
...that brilliant observation in Mr. Stoppard's play; it's one of my favorites, too, so perhaps on that common turf is place to leave our differences. Anyway, the depth of your responses has made me want to read anything you post here! So I'm quite sincere in saying I'll look forward to reading your reactions to this barely budding season. From posts here and other boards, the new material seems to be provoking all kinds of debate. (And I'd be a total hypocrite to leave out how worked up I get about some post-Sondheim composers -- who probably have legions of fans here, namely Wildhorn's entire oeuvre, which leaves me cold.)
"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Garry Shandling
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re: BACK TO TOPIC =)#17
Posted: 10/27/03 at 11:36am
Yes, I was referring to the screenplay directly to stage concept. Usually not good. Regarding Broadway to Hollywood transfers - I think it is more acceptable only because there are no limits in films. There's only so much you can fit on a stage. With all the editing, special effects, dubbing, etc., the possibilities are endless for movie versions of Broadway shows. Plus, we get to watch them over and over again. $10 isn't bad for the price of admission, too!