Talkin' Broadway
Talkin' Broadway

The Death of Broadway?

One of our "All That Chat" forum members posted a message this week which reminded me of how for the longest time we always look at Broadway as the dying invalid. Don Dunn, author of "The Making of No No Nanette," obeserved in his post a comparison to Broadway today and to Broadway of the early 1970's when you could only find maybe a dozen shows listed in the ABC's in the Times. For sure, at that time we thought Broadway was dead. So many dark houses with a darker future.

The fact of the matter is that Broadway has been dying for seventy years, but the ol' broad won't give up. One would have to look at the history of Broadway and the entire entertainment industry to understand the changes which have occurred in the last seventy years or longer. In 1900, there were 70 productions produced on the Great White Way and then it peaked in 1928 with over 200 productions. Broadway was a mecca for entertainment in New York until that year, then it began to wane as the great depression of the thirties followed by the stock market crash of '29 and the rise of the film industry brought cheaper entertainment to the masses.

By 1952, there were only 29 new productions being produced. The heydey was over, yet, since then, we have had some of the greatest musicals ever produced on the Broadway stage.

Along comes television and we have an even cheaper form of entertainment, but the invalid called Broadway will never succumb because film and T-V can never capture the magic of live performances in the theater. Broadway will live on long after you and I are on this earth. So, the next time someone tells you that Broadway is dying, ask them when is the last time they saw a Broadway show? If they tell you that they have not seen anything recently, well, let me ask you this, who or what do you think is really dying here?

Tidbits: Got a recent e-mail. "Dear V.J., Do you think Side Show was another Carrie? Good lord! While Side Show is considered a flop now, it had its fans and detractors, but it was nothing like Carrie. The best review of Carrie that I can remember is some critic calling it "disgusting." I mean, it was so bad it was good! Although the score had it's moments, and surely you've heard it as any theater fan owns a copy of the bootleg recording, but trust me, it was bad. Side Show received good reviews and will go down in history as the paradox of the 1997-98 season, the hit show without an audience.

Jerry Zaks has, indeed, been called in to doctor up Paul Simon's musical, The Capeman. It was reported in the N.Y. Post a few days ago, but until it appeared in the Times, as far as I'm concerned, it wasn't official as the writer in the Post lacks credibility. Fun to read, but no credibility.

Anyhow, we hear if you saw the show in its initial previews you wouldn't recognize it now as there have been many changes. Zaks will, obviously, make many more changes in the musical which is packed with thirty-six songs penned by Simon. Supposedly, the show is about "forgiveness" and not the "glorification of a murderer." I would hope so.

The best news of the day is that Lea DeLaria has been signed to reprise her role in last summer's Central Park hit revival, On The Town which is heading to Broadway this spring, however, there will be a new choreorgrapher on board as Eliot Feld got nailed in the reviews. Christopher D'Amboise, a New York City Ballet dancer takes on the responsibilities. On The Town is scheduled to open April 7th at the St. James Theater...some confusion here as High Society is supposedly booked here. Not to worry. With the recent closings, it shouldn't be hard to find a home for either one.

Last year, while in Salzburg, Austria, I took an afternoon tour on a bus. Well, we get to this park and we all get off the bus and this wacky tour guide breaks into song... "I Am Sixteen Going on Seventeen." I light a cigarette and think to myself..."Yeah, right, you are sixteen but you're going to Bellevue!" Then as we turned the corner, there it stood, the wonderful gazebo that was used in the film, The Sound of Music. Now, the whole crowd is singing, and I'm thinking "Oh god, not The Sound of Mucus!

Halfway up the mountainside to Berchesgarten, it's pointed out... a certain hillside and everyone is staring and taking pictures. Why? They were all waiting for Julie Andrews to come out from behind a tree, spinning and singing... "The Hills Are Alive...."

Well, even though this area of the world has capitalized on the success of the film, theatergoers will be able to go back to this sacharine tale of the Von Trapp family beginning Feb. 6th. Rebecca Luker stars as Maria. And, we all hate the Sound of Music because of the film's sugar coated story, right? But, I'll bet you know every single song from the score. Even now, I'm humming "The Lonely Goatherd." Admit it, we're all "closet" Sound of Music fans. See you at the box office!

Broadway, dead? Not at all!

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