Tea time on Times Square with Showbiz David
Reading my Sunday morning tea leaves at L’Amyx, the new season ahead (everything “tentative” and subject to change) promises a raft of ambitious new musicals and an encore parade of golden age gems from Pal Joey to West Side Story. If today’s efforts fizzle out, yesterday's returnees are sure to supply some temporary relief.
Here’s the lineup and my rash predictions:
Billy Elliot, direct from a hit run on the West End. Music by Elton John, reportedly composing more for theatre than for pop markets and impressing audiences. I'll give it a 50-50 chance.
A Tale of Two Cities, a work begun during the Reagan administration and tried out at the Asolo in Sarasota. Shaky. (update, 9/22: wretched opening night reviews; biz down to about 50%. Sarasota John Ringling Museum snobs: What did you see in this turkey?)
9-to-5, based on the movie with more songs from Dolly Parton. I see Mama Mia box office gold.
13. Teenagers perform on stage and in the band. Music by Jason Roberts Brown, whose one previous effort (Parade) was a fast flop. So I say doubtful.
Clay. About a hip-bop kid. Not commercial, says David Budah.
Shriek, the Musical, from the movie. The work of some savvy contributors. Mark that a promising maybe.
Vanities, A New Musical. About Texas Cheerleaders, JFK’s assassination, women's lib and the Vietnam war. Is that ALL? An out-of-control turkey in the making. Cluck Cluck.
Road Show, yet another attempt by aging Stephen Sondheim to get his bounce back on Broadway. That would be Bounce, aka: Wise Guys, ill-received in DC in 2003. Since that out-of-town death, it’s been “reworked and rewritten.” And remurdered? Mr. S, I’d rather you turn your talents to the horrific Wall Street crash into Uncle Sammy’s sucker hands. I’ve got your perfect title: Greed.
These assorted wannabes go up against five shows in revival, all of them composed by the masters of a golden age when Broadway hosted songwriters with glittering track records:
White Christmas, with songs by Irving Berlin. A Christmas package. Looks good.
Pal Joey, by Rodgers and Hart, with a new book. When will the pathetically insecure R&H organization (fearfully led by Traitor-in-Chief Ted Chapin) ever learn to leave their classics alone and stop rewriting them into the dumpster? Still, a great score and a possibly improved libretto might turn the corner. But I don’t see a hit.
On the Town, the Leonard Bernstein, Comden and Green marvel. Doesn't work well in revival. Maybe this time.
West Side Story, to be directed by 90-year-old Arthur Laurents, who wrote the show’s book and scored last season with the revival of another of his legendary credits, Gypsy, which he also directed in revival. I can see another South Pacific triumph because WSS is in the hands of one of its creators, likely to bring it back as it was meant to be.
Guys and Dolls. Every time they bring it back, it seems less gritty, less amusing. Still, it’s a show that in the right hands can rock the boards. I’ll bet yes.
And there you have it, America, your tickets to melody and mayhem, comedy and chaos and even amateurism parading as the real ting. That’s Broadway.