Saturday, December 8, 2007

History Boys and 9 to 5

So we're off to see History Boys at the Ahmanson this evening. I am definitely looking forward to it. One of the most important things to do as a producer is to attend other shows as much as possible to see what other producers are up to and how the "market" is reacting to works. It is always cyclical. Remember when there was nothing but jukebox musicals coming out? Perhaps the producers of the Beach Boys musical, Good Vibrations, would have been better served to not come into the market after so many others had already opened, and quite frankly, made the critics very resistant to giving a good review to anything resembling this type of musical. They closed 44 performances after they opened.

The new trend is to base a musical on a famous movie. Next year, the Ahmanson is jumping on board this trend, producing the upcoming 9 to 5 with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton. They have a powerhouse cast lined up including Allison Janney (one of my favorite actresses from West Wing and many other shows) and Megan Hilty from Wicked. From an investor standpoint, this is probably a pretty good bet (although investing in theater is always gambling). But from an artistic standpoint, I would be very concerned.

It all started with the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast and Grease! We all know these stories from beginning to end before we even step foot into the theater. And because of that, these shows are not required to truly tell the whole story on the stage. What happened with Grease! was since the production was not required to show you the relationships of the characters on the stage because everyone already knows what is supposed to happen, all the numbers became these flashy, Vegas production type numbers that were there only to wow the audience, not inform the audience or push the story forward. With Beauty and the Beast, if you have not seen the movie, I would venture to guess you would be quite confused by the stage version as there are countless holes in the show that are easily filled in by audience members who know the story already so the holes are certainly forgiven if even noticed by those audience members.

My hope for 9 to 5 is this: Remember to show us the whole story in a unique way employing the special storytelling elements and medium of musical theater to entertain the audience. Don't just be a bunch of showy numbers about 3 women who get back at their terrible boss. If it falls into that category, it will be a terrible show. It it falls into the former, it has a shot to be something special.


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