New Yorkers have long known that the current generation of Broadway production is all about revivals and musical adaptations of successful films. Rogers, Hammerstein, Hart, Porter, Coward, Berlin – the hills are alive with the sound of recycling. Yes, an original production appears from time to time, but for every Hamilton there are three Hello Dollys and a pair of Showboats. Need something more current? Tap those toes to Groundhog Day The Musical, Legally Blonde The Musical, Shrek The Musical, Waitress The Musical, Sunset Boulevard The Musical, and Amelie The Musical.
An unusual opportunity has come my way as my wife went to school with a producer constantly on the lookout for the next bright Broadway bound idea. I see every production here in Southern Oregon; she’s asked me to pass on any new work that might do well in the Big Apple. She has said she needs gripping contemporary dramas, new voices, fresh ideas; I beg to differ.
I’ve sent her my slate of hot prospects, any one of which could be bouncing its way as the centerpiece of next year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, a once-proud celebration of music and spectacle culminating with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, now devolved into Broadway’s version of product placement.
Mr. Ed The Musical
The Great White Way has long hoped for a bit of equine humor with a dry twist. Mr. Ed, the astounding American Pharoah, displays a shaky baritone warbling the familiar “A Horse Is A Horse Of Course, Of Course” but who cares? Ed’s manipulation of his ostensible owner, Wilbur Post (“Hay, Wilbur”), darkens the show with Gone Girl gaslighting, setting Louis Black as Wilbur up as an ineffectual and psychologically disordered stooge (“What’s The Matter, Wilbur?”).
The Bachelor The Musical
Roses for everyone! Twenty high-strung, conniving, emotionally wounded women provide an unmatched chorus of voices on the show’s title song. Lyricist Chuck Palahniuk’s deft patter ( Total Heartbreak Never Ends/ No Skank Here Was Making Friends. Although Corinne Opened Up To You/ You Didn’t Need To Bonk The Shrew.) elevates the pedestrian script. Daniel Baldwin’s off-handed portrayal of the show’s host is completely incomprehensible. Lindsay Lohan’s desperate also-ran Bachelorette is both compelling and truly disturbing.
Talent Round Up Day The Musical
This clumsy pandering to nostalgia-bound Boomers plumps an ersatz Annette, Darlene, and Clubmaster, Jimmy, in a noxious triangle set against a ripped-off Chorus Line musical confession. Fresh faced Eric Von Detten (Brink) almost saves the last act as Cubby, the driven drummer whose frantic timpani solo brings this mess to life for a fleeting moment.
The Newlywed Game The Musical
From the signature game show anthem to the disturbing “Where’s The Strangest Place You’ve Made Whoopie”, this challenging and thoughtful examination of the early years of marriage raises questions perhaps better left unanswered, particularly in the awkward duet, “I Thought You Liked That”. Johnny Depp is miscast as provocateur Bob Eubanks, but the rest of the cast carries the day. Dakota Fanning as the wrong girl married to the wrong guy breaks hearts nightly at the Orpheum.
The Rifleman The Musical
Sensing a shift as older generations take their leave, the NRA commissioned this faux-western musical in the hope of bringing an iconic and well armed figure back from TVLand obscurity. Against all odds it works. Lin-Manuel Miranda holds the audience hostage with the stirring “I’ve Got My Sights On You”. Bernadette Peters as the Rifleman’s nemesis, Shotgun Polly, rocks. “My Cold Dead Hands” in a delightful dream sequence set in the Arlington Cemetery.
Hogan’s Heroes The Musical
Never has a prisoner-of-war camp been more lively! Matthew Broderick is the wily Hogan routinely outsmarting Neil Patrick Harris’ rigidly obtuse Colonel Wilhelm Klink. Harris’ dimwitted Junker Kommandant does most of the musical heavy lifting, leaving to Broderick fast paced-bamboozling with Seth Rogan’s Sergeant Hans Schultz (“I Know Nussing!”). Hyper-hormoned French detainee, Louis LeBeau (Zak Efron channelling Maurice Chevalier) and zaftig camp follower Megan Hilty romp through the raucous “What’s A Latrine For If Not For Love?”
Leave It To Beaver The Musical
Hugh Jackman is Ward, Kristin Chenoweth, June, and delightfully miscast Martin Short the Beaver. This airy farce is reminiscent of the most artfully choreographed French comedies as indiscrete couples in flagrante delicto narrowly escape exposure. Wally (Taylor Lautner) stolidly juggles his three girlfriends while keeping the aroused Eddie Haskell (Jesse Eisenberg) on a short leash and away from June. Short’s Beaver whines charmingly, particularly in his rendition of “Miss Landers, You Are So Hot”. Chenoweth is one of Broadway’s signature voices, never better when chiding her distracted husband, “Ward, You Have To Talk To The Beaver”.