“The Broadway musical theatre in its wild and glittering maelstrom of opulence and extravagance will not evade the profound effects of September 11, 2001, indeed the catastrophe may have declared its need for revolution. Where are the producers who will subsidize the new writers? How many investors and theatre owners will put money into risky shows? Who is willing to save Broadway? Producers outnumber their casts today. They are a consortium, a corporation, or a gathering of landlords and are ridiculed as charlatans. (Livent/Drabinsky, Melvin Kaminsky – a burlesque not Shakespeare nor Fielding, but Minsky.) And it’s all about money. Today’s multi-million dollar marriage between Broadway musicals and Las Vegas was inevitable; more tricked out scenery and dumb-downed (90 minutes) content in order to market more weekly performances. Early Vegas attempts to truncate two-hours-plus musicals were rejected by the classy, principled writers of their time. It was said Rodgers and Hammerstein turned down an rich offer for Carousel after The Sands Hotel and Casino suggested their “Soliloquy” in Act One be shortened as follows: “Bill… My boy Bill I will see that he is named after me…. or die!” What is deeply wrong with sin city’s lust for profits is that it will tempt Broadway to produce other mindless musicals. Indeed the past president of the League of American Theaters and Producers boasted that Broadway had become the Las Vegas type of popular entertainment currency! One can only imagine the essential artistic coinage for the next Broadway-on-route to Vegas musical: a mother, a daughter and three possible dads in white suits, on roller skates, doing the New York Hustle in a tiny Greek island disco to a score by Jay-Z. The greatest question musical dramatists must answer is: does the story I am telling sing? Is the subject sufficiently off the ground to compel the heightened emotion of bursting into song? Will a song add a deeper understanding of character or situation? (When I recently played a recording of Frank Loesser show tunes for my 21-year-old University seminar students, they thought it was classical music.) It’s no wonder the indigenous American art form has not evolved and that the young, new musical theatre composers, lyricists, and book writers are searching for an original voice. We can make the earth move again if we teach writers that the way to write a great musical is to be great. The way to write a poor musical is to be thinking of getting rich.”
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