by Abigail Katz
So I had the pleasure of seeing [title of show] last week, a delightful, clever little musical that began in the New York Musical Theatre Festival and made it all the way to Broadway. Now I'll admit that I paid considerably less than full price for my ticket, but while I was watching the show, I thought to myself, "would I pay $100 or more to see this show?" To be completely honest, I wouldn't. I would pay $50, but not $100. Then I had to ask myself why. Does the fact that the show is on Broadway somehow create a different set of expectations that tells me I better get my $100 worth? Is a thoroughly entertaining experience enough? Does it matter that it has a cast of only four (plus the keyboardist) with a simple set and the same costumes throughout the show? This led me to consider the question that many people are asking these days, what does "Broadway" mean?
Many audience members want spectacle, stars, lavish sets and intricate costumes for their $100-$121.50 (if you're sitting in the orchestra or front mezzanine.) For others they look for the highest level of artistry with a good dose of gravitas- AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY if you will. Still others want a safe bet with a classic, and we've certainly had our share this season with outstanding productions of SOUTH PACIFIC, GYPSY, and SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE (although I have yet to cough up the cash for SOUTH PACIFIC, so I'm going with the buzz on that one.)
Having said all that, after my [title of show] experience I realized that I really needed to reconsider what I expect from a Broadway show. The landscape is certainly changing and becoming more adventurous, but does that mean anything goes? (sorry no musical theatre pun intended). One of my favorite shows this past season (and one of the best I've seen in quite some time) was PASSING STRANGE, hardly your typical Broadway show. It's too bad that audiences didn't quite embrace that show as they did SPRING AWAKENING and IN THE HEIGHTS, but it does show a willingness on the part of producers to take some risks.
[title of show] doesn't have a large band, a rockin' (or rappin') score, or large dance numbers with phenomenal choreography. Perhaps it's that "large" feeling that made me feel it was better suited for a smaller Off-Broadway theatre. But the show does have heart, and that's a big selling point. Much like the dancers in A CHORUS LINE, these characters are after the dream. A dancer/actress friend of mine said she cried during a good part of the show for that very reason (but have no fear for those who haven't seen it- the show is funny!) So it remains to be seen if audiences will buy (literally) into the dream and make [title of show] a commercial success, regardless of the insider nature of the show and the small scale feel. One thing is for certain, you can't help but root for these guys!
On another note, I also saw THURGOOD this last week- it has only one character (OK it is Laurence Fishburne, and he's a star) one set, and no music. I would have paid $100 for it. Go see his amazing performance before the show closes August 17th!