Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Self-Proclaimed Broadway Brat

I have seen a lot of Broadway shows.  A lot.  More then I ever would have imagined I would.

My very first show was in the summer of 1993.  I was 12 years old and my girl scout troop chose to go to see a play with our cookie money (this became a little tradition).  I was really excited to see a show.  All through elementary school I had classmates that had been to several shows most often Cats, The Secret Garden, and Les Mis.  I was curious about them.  Broadway was not nearly as kid friendly as it is today and we went to see The Who’s “Tommy.”  Looking back I have to wonder why our leaders had picked that show as opposed to others since it’s a rock show filled with child molestation and drug use, among other adult concepts.  Of course being so young everything went over my head and all I really remember from that show is a few amazing numbers, the simple yet amazing set, and the very loud wonderful music.  I have tracks from the Broadway Tommy on my iPod because of this.  Pinball Wizard being my favorite.

My second show was the following summer.  I was 13 and we went to see the opening season of Beauty and the Beast which is a very different show.  I saw Beauty and the Beast a total of three times and it is the only show I have ever gone to more then once.  Although some of my favorites I would not mind seeing again, but all of those are no longer on Broadway.  Time flies.

These are the shows I have seen in no particular order:
Beauty and the Beast
Billy Elliot
Mary Poppins
Sunset Blvd
The Lion King
The King and I
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Jekyll and Hyde
Miss Saigon
White Christmas
The Little Mermaid
Legally Blonde
Young Frankenstein
Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark
West Side Story (I almost forgot this one the show was so new when I went they didn’t have a program yet)
Zarakana (not Broadway, but worthy of it)
Christmas Spectacular (not Broadway, I know)
A Mid Summer Nights Dream (saw this in London)
Amadeus (also saw this in London as a pre Broadway show)

Of the shows I have seen I have favorites, some that I enjoy, some that didn’t do it for me, and of course some that I didn’t like at all.

The Broadway experience to me is the combination of live music (both vocal and instrumental), inspirational set design, acting, and sometimes dance numbers.  A show needs to have all of this work together in order for me to truly enjoy it.  I say that because the shows that I have not liked were missing pieces of this.

West Side Story is a wonderful example of a show I absolutely did not like and regret seeing.  I was really upset with it.  I dosed off in the theater.  I have NEVER fallen asleep in a theater.  Never.  I was fighting myself to stay awake.  The only part of the show worth watching was Karen Olivo as Anita.  Olivo wound up winning a Tony for her performance and she really was the highlight of the show.  The rest of it was completely flat.  There is this push to modernize Broadway that I don’t think is needed.  The story of West Side Story is still relevant today, other then a time period change (which is doesn’t need) there is no reason to modernize it.  From what I saw their version of modernizing was no set design, a time period change, and switching quite a bit of the script from English to Spanish.  The language change was appropriate but the big pull for Broadway is tourists and I highly doubt they all understand Spanish (I certainly don’t other then a few words here and there).  The lack of set design killed me.  Plays can have simple sets and do a lot with it, but this wasn’t the case.  The music was wonderful of course and I am reading now that six months into shows they changed the language back to English.

Then there are shows I absolutely love like Les Mis.  Who knew a girl who can’t stand history class and doesn’t jump for romance novels or movies would love a love story about the French Revolution?  I didn’t.  I had this weird need to see Les Mis and Miss Saigon before they left Broadway and luckily for me I was able to.  Miss Saigon was wonderful but Les Mis really brought it.  From amazing music, an amazing cast, a beautiful set, and a story that has so much depth I was happy I knew a little bit about it before going to the show, it was wonderful and I wish it was still on Broadway because it’s one of the very few shows I would see again with out a question.  Miss Saigon was also amazing but it had a very complex story that I did not know prior to seeing the show so I missed a lot as I was trying to figure out what was going on between the main plot and all the sub plots.

One of my other favorites is Legally Blonde.  Figures right?  I love the movie so of course I love the play.  Not exactly.  When I first heard about this show I was appalled.  Why on earth would they turn Legally Blonde into a musical?  Why?  MTV aired a live show for Thanksgiving one year and I still was not about it.  Nope.  Then I got a random email for discounted tickets and decided to go.  Why not?  I loved it.  Its almost true to the movie, it’s funny, it’s loud, it had a great cast, great music, and a great set that is forever burned into my memory.

Mary Poppins is another favorite of mine.  This is another show I went to on a whim.  I took a friend for her birthday and the tickets were fairly inexpensive which I found very surprising at the time.  We had really good seats too.  I like the mezzanine.  I sat in orchestra once and found the seats to be less stadium.  I am not very tall and I had a tough time seeing.  Anyway, Mary Poppins is an amazing show.  It’s different from the movie and follows the book.  I know this because I read the book after seeing the show and I believe it takes pieces from books one and two.  The set was stunning.  The house and how it moved about the stage was show in itself.  It was like watching a doll house come to life and morph before your eyes.  I was glued from the moment I got there.

Just because the show is a Disney show doesn’t mean I will always like either.  Disney does not equal success.  Unfortunately I never got to see Aida or Tarzan on Broadway, but I have seen The Lion King and The Little Mermaid.  The Lion King is a wonderful show and it has everything plus amazing costumes.  Personally, I have never liked The Lion King story so I wasn’t crazy about it.  The story was always much too flat for me.  The Little Mermaid was the first show I was really excited about seeing.  I saw it shortly after opening and had been following it online.  I went to the show and was highly disappointed, for all of my excitement I wound up not liking it.  The first act was great and the second was blah.  I can only reason that the story and the way it was performed had been dumbed down as though it was intended for young children.  It’s great that Broadway is more kid friendly but I see no reason to strip a show down in the manner that they did.  Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King are both amazing shows that prove a show can be kid friendly and not overly childish.  The added music to The Little Mermaid was not that great either, but I do have to say that Sherie Rene Scott as Ursula made the show.  Sierra Boggess as Ariel was excellent as well, and I did NOT understand why the kid who played Flounder was costumed in a T-SHIRT!  With all the money they spent on the show they saved how much putting that kid in a T-Shirt… according to the internet the show closed just over a year after opening because it was losing money.  Go figure.  Learn the lesson Disney.  Oh wait with Disney’s gain of Marvel does Spider-Man now fall under a Disney play?  Eek I say.

I have been to a lot of shows over the years.  I am even surprised at how many.  My own reactions to shows make me feel a bit snobby sometimes but in reality it’s just because I really have seen better productions and I get really annoyed paying the high cost for a show and then not liking it.  It’s much worse then going to a movie and not liking it.  Lately, I have found myself not liking a lot of newer Broadway shows and that is depressing.

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