If there's someone without an opinion on Spider-Man, he or she won't be on this website. Rather than jump into the ocean of cyber ink that will be spent discussing the pros and cons (okay, the cons) of this 800-pound Broadway gorilla, we thought we'd approach this from a different angle and share a few thoughts on the sociology (or is it pathology?) that led to this show's creation and, more to the point, the cultural climate that could, in fact, sustain it ...
Despite claims to the contrary, there is big money to be made on Broadway. If one can create a cash cow like The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera or Wicked, the money one can earn year in and year out is nothing short of astronomical. Clearly, the budget for Spider-Man has been spinning out of control for some time, but the concept of creating a spectacle show with a mega-hit movie brand name was always a viable financial model. But what do we make of a show that becomes a lightning rod for the media not because of its quality, but rather because of its gargantuan budget and its propensity to hurt and maim actors? What does it say about the Broadway-going audience that there is a very real chance that this show, regardless of reviews, might run for years?
Here's what it reveals: theater people might be the opinion-makers that can make or break a serious attempt at dramatic musical theater like People in the Picture, but our relatively small brigade of committed theatergoers are used up within a precious few months of any show's opening. Frankly, both our numbers and, to a large extent, our opinions, are irrelevant to a media juggernaut that gets national network television coverage any time there is a whiff of mortal danger.
What makes us most curious will be the future audience response to a revised show that could conceivably be reviewed as "better" than it was but far less visually exciting. It might well turn out that, ironically, it wasn't good musical theater that the audience for Spider-Man wanted, but rather a rock 'n' roll version of Cirque du Soleil, which is to say, an incomprehensible plot with lots of high flying danger.
Cy Coleman may be the most underrated Broadway composer of the 20th century. Here's a man who wrote Broadway scores for over four decades and built an impressive list of hit songs from those shows, yet he does not seem to be the darling of today's musical theater devotees and is consequently little seen and quite literally rarely heard. Happily, however, the first major revue of Coleman's work has finally arrived in New York and is playing through July 3rd at 59E59 Theatres.
With an attractive and talented A-list cast, The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman is banging out some of the composer's most memorable songs. And just the songs. There is no narration in this show, a rather daring move on the part of the man who conceived the revue and directed it, David Zippel. It's ironic, of course, that Zippel (best known as a lyricist) has rejected the use of a traditional script. While we would have liked some factoids and anecdotes about Coleman along with the music, this seamless demonstration of the composer's work is very impressive. We expect this will be the first of many revues that celebrate Coleman's rich body of work.