Monday, December 11, 2006

Blame It On Broadway

As long as I'm on the subject of Broadway musicals, what about John Lahr's review in The New Yorker of the latest revival of Company?

Discussing the 1970 show, Lahr writes "songs such as 'The Little Things You Do Together,' 'Marry Me a Little,' and 'Sorry-Grateful' opened up a whole Pandora’s box of ambivalence." Perhaps, but "Marry Me A Little" was cut from the original production, so it didn't open up much of anything back then.

Much weirder:
“What happened to the good-time musical?” Ethan Mordden asked rhetorically in his book “Broadway Babies.” Vietnam is what happened. The culture had lost faith in both its goodness and its gladness.
Mr. Lahr, it's a rhetorical question, no need to answer. But if you do, try to make sense. Company as a response to Vietnam? The culture lost faith in itself?

1) Sondheim doesn't exactly represent the culture. As great as he is, he's in his own corner. Since 1970 the Broadway musical has become more about Andrew Lloyd Webber and operatic spectacle.

2) People have been asking since Oklahoma where has the fun-time musical gone. Plenty of productions that pre-date Company--West Side Story, Cabaret--show a seriousness that doesn't require a Vietnam explanation.

3) The good-time musical hasn't exactly disappeared. Broadway still comes up with stuff like Annie or The Producers or Hairspray which, for better or worse, are bigger hits than anything Sondheim's ever written.

4) Here's what really happened to the musical--rock and roll. When the Broadway idiom no longer represented mainsteam taste, it splintered into a bunch of smaller streams.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another thought-Frank Rich happened to musicals.

6:20 AM, December 11, 2006  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I had some friends in a musical that everyone loved except Frank Rich.

They started wearing buttons telling the New York Times to get rid of him.

6:50 PM, December 11, 2006  

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