Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Discussion of musicals other than Les Misérables.
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Rachelle
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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby Rachelle » Wed May 14, 2014 5:00 pm

I'm relistening to the soundtrack of ALW's The Women in White. I was lucky to get to see it when it was in London. I love picking out the musical similarities to Phantom and Stephen Ward. I really enjoyed it actually, I'm not really sure why it didn't stick. It had an amazing cast (Michael Ball and Maria Friedman were in it when I saw it), decent music, a good storyline and the ALW stamp of approval.

I suppose compared to Love Never Dies and Stephen Ward it actually did quite well (19 mnths in West End and 3 on Broadway).
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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby Prisoner 24653 » Tue Jun 17, 2014 3:52 am

I'm a pretty big fan of Frank Wildhorn's shows, even though lots of American critics and "serious theatre fans" like to bash him. I adore Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Dracula despite their flaws, and I also quite enjoyed Rudolf and Count of Monte Cristo, though I don't know those two as well as I think I should, and I've never seen any of his shows live. I wasn't as fond of what I heard from Wonderland and Bonnie and Clyde, but I still have great respect for Frank as a person and an artist, and it bugs me when people tear him down for hypocritical or nationalistic reasons. I'm glad he's seeing some success in Europe and Asia, though.

Another one I adore is Stephen Sondheim's Assassins. Like many of his shows, it had a rather short run on Broadway but got lots of critical praise. Even many Sondheim fans seem to think of it as a "problem show," but it's possibly my second favorite of his shows after Sweeney Todd.

Chess is another show I love, and I do hope it gets a really great stage production someday. And if we can count Sunset Boulevard despite it being a Tony winner, I'd go for that as well -- possibly my favorite ALW show, period. I also loved what I heard from Side Show, Lord of the Rings, and Next to Normal. And I shamelessly adore Repo; I've only seen the movie, but I'd love to see how it's done onstage sometime. And this one's definitely not "unliked," but the stage version is far less well-known than the film -- Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame. It's only been done onstage in Germany so far, but that production managed to be darker and more faithful to the novel than the film was while still keeping the fantastic music and adding to it. Definitely an example of a screen-to-stage adaptation done right, and I hope that it's done well if/when it's brought to Broadway.

Now, for a major, major guilty pleasure of mine (and at the risk of any credibility I might have previously had)... Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. Specifically the version in previews before Julie Taymor was fired -- I thought the narrative device of establishing that the whole show was fanfiction by comic geeks actually worked in the show's favor for me (since then I wasn't bothered by out-of-canon or out-of-character changes or the fact that it was more an adaptation of the movies than the comics), and so I was a bit sad that that whole thing was cut from the show before the official opening. In all, though, the show was poor but didn't offend my sensibilities either as a comic book fan or a musical theatre fan. If tickets had been considerably less expensive, I might have even been willing to see it live... I had kinda hoped it would be filmed and released on DVD, but it looks like that didn't happen.

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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby Acaila » Tue Jun 17, 2014 8:44 am

I saw it live.....there is literally one memorable song in the whole show and it's not necessarily memorable for the right reasons :D But I didn't see the early Taymor version.
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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby Flynn » Thu Jun 19, 2014 3:01 am

Prisoner 24653 wrote:Another one I adore is Stephen Sondheim's Assassins. Like many of his shows, it had a rather short run on Broadway but got lots of critical praise. Even many Sondheim fans seem to think of it as a "problem show," but it's possibly my second favorite of his shows after Sweeney Todd.


Do they? From all I've read it's generally considered his tightest show- I know he's said himself it's the show he has the least problems/regrets about, and all I've read suggests it's fairly well-liked.

Just from experience the ones I see generally deemed 'problem shows' tend to be Anyone Can Whistle, Follies, Pacific Overtures, and Merrily, though of those I only think Merrily has major problems, though I've yet to know Anyone Can Whistle outside of the cast album.

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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby Acaila » Thu Jun 19, 2014 3:25 am

Is Merrily the one that's also called Bounce or am I getting mixed up? Cos I've heard people say that's a script that has some issues.

Assassins is the only on you'll hear me say I properly like. Don't really understand why it's not more popular. Maybe the sense of humour just isn't very American since it is rather dark?
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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby Flynn » Thu Jun 19, 2014 5:09 am

No, Bounce is Road Show and Wise Guys- but yeah, it's another problem show (as you would expect from a show with three different names). Merrily We Roll Along was probably the biggest flop, though- only ran for 16 performances (and 52 previews!) and was absolutely trashed (Anyone Can Whistle had a shorter run but slightly better reception).

And with the exception of Into the Woods all the Lapine collaborations have had fairly muted receptions- all have been pretty critically acclaimed, but haven't really hit it off with audiences for one reason or another. Of course, it's important to remember Assassins was also originally off-Broadway and didn't get a proper Broadway production until 2004, so that probably has something to do with its perceived lack of popularity.

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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby Acaila » Thu Jun 19, 2014 2:43 pm

Yeah, was it the original production or the revival that was meant to come out just after 9/11? I'm guessing the revival going by the dates. That probably wouldn't help either!

Merrily did really well in London recently for a revival type show. (I don't know if it was an actual revival in London, but the Menier transfer anyway)
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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby Flynn » Thu Jun 19, 2014 5:12 pm

That's what I've heard re: Merrily- they did a big revision of it back in the 90s which is what I think everyone uses now. I'm not really familiar with it myself though I do have the Encores! cast recording (really should give it a full listen sometime soon).

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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby Prisoner 24653 » Thu Jun 19, 2014 6:07 pm

I still need to listen to Merrily... I've heard a couple of songs from it and liked them, so hey.

@Acaila: Aye, the Broadway premiere was supposed to be just after 9/11. So for obvious reasons, that didn't happen. And that would be the first Broadway premiere rather than a revival... though there had been a few changes to the show from the original Off-Broadway version, notably a new song called "Something Just Broke," about regular people's reactions to Kennedy's death. Fans are divided on whether that song was a necessary/good addition or not, which may be one reason why some seem to view Assassins as a "problem show" (along with the huge delay between the off-Broadway and Broadway premieres... though it's certainly not the longest a show has been "in flux" before debuting on B'way).

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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby Acaila » Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:13 pm

Eh, I don't know that adding one slightly controversial song is enough to move it into the problem category. I mean, Mizzies tend to bitch about Turning and yet it doesn't sink the show.

And yes, the whole "it's not a Broadway revival even though it is a revival" must be where my confusion comes from. So yeah, the NPH/Cerveris version is the one I mean.
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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby Prisoner 24653 » Thu Jun 19, 2014 9:29 pm

Agreed. I personally like the song (though I've not seen the full show), but I don't think a single song should cause it to be a problem. Some fans apparently disagree, though. *shrugs*

And yeah... I think this was what we were talking about back when we were discussing this year's Tony nominees. It's a confusing issue, for sure.

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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby Acaila » Thu Jun 19, 2014 9:47 pm

That was Hedwig was it not? :D Which I really need to get some footwear of, just because I adore a couple of songs from it.

Yeah, the song never bothered me, but when I was introduced to it by seeing it live the first time, it was that version, so it's also never stuck out as an addition to me.
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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby Prisoner 24653 » Fri Jun 20, 2014 2:28 am

Aye, I think it was Hedwig. And nice! Yeah, I first discovered the show through the Broadway cast album, so I felt the same way. I also prefer the keys for certain songs in the Broadway version over the 1990 album, likely also as a side-effect of hearing the B'way album first, though I do prefer many of the cast members from the original version. However, having the Balladeer double as Lee Harvey Oswald is such a fantastic staging choice that it feels odd to me that they didn't do that originally. :lol:

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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby MmeBahorel » Fri Jun 20, 2014 11:02 pm

Something Just Broke isn't necessarily about the Kennedy assassination - depending on the staging, it can be about all the assassinations (I've seen it done both ways). It happens to be located after the Kennedy assassination, but the way that one is staged, it's a historical culmination, it's every assassination together since every successful and would-be assassin is instrumental in bringing it about, that the following reaction can also be about every successful and would-be assassin. The details are general enough to apply to any time period covered during the course of the show, the show hasn't proceeded chronologically anyway, and the proprietor's announced refrain of "The President's been shot" is accurate to all four successful assassinations (plus Reagan until the "dead" part).

My problem with it is that you then have to get back to the jaunty reprise of Everybody's Got the Right. Without it, sure, you go from the Kennedy Assassination directly in, but that just feels more in keeping with the whole thing. They succeeded in bringing in Oswald, so it can be almost celebratory on their end. The tonal shift reads differently.
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Re: Soft spots for short-running or unliked musicals?

Postby Flynn » Sat Jun 21, 2014 4:47 am

I thought that was the intent of the song lyrically, not just with the staging- that it's about all four assassinations and not just Kennedy. How I always interpreted it, at any rate.

For myself, I do like the song and agree it should be kept in the show...but I much prefer the musical transition in going from the assassination to the "Everybody's Got the Right" reprise. It's a uniquely chilling moment that sums up the show perfectly, and it was always a shame to lose it to have "Something Just Broke" in between. Ah, well.


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