Why do big Broadway shows always have to be musicals?

Discussion in 'TV & Media' started by 23skidoo, Dec 17, 2010.

  1. 23skidoo

    23skidoo Admiral Admiral

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    There seems to be an (unwritten?) rule that every major Broadway play has to be a musical these days. At least any play that has a fantasy element. You'll occasionally see a production of Our Town or Shakespeare where the pianos and orchestra are kept in the closet. But it seems most of the big ones have to be musicals.

    Take that Spider Man play they're having problems with, for example. Why in heaven's name is it a MUSICAL anyway? Are they really expecting audiences to accept a guy wearing tights singing "Here I Come to Save the Day!" I was just remarking to someone that I bet they'd have less problems with the special effects and rigging if they weren't having to deal with songs, and were just telling a story. The only song they should have is someone singing "Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can" before the curtain goes up, or they can just pipe in the Ramones' version. ;)

    This ain't new, of course. Wicked was a novel, but it got turned into a musical. Superman was the subject of a big Broadway musical back in the 60s and 70s (and I've seen a bit of the TV version from the mid-1970s and it was horrid). Even Doctor Who isn't immune. Back in the mid-1980s Jon Pertwee and Colin Baker toured with The Ultimate Adventure, a stage play based on the show. And, yup, it had musical numbers. Hopefully none involving the Daleks, but you never know.

    Is this is only way for fantasy-based plays to be accepted by theatrical audiences? I mean, what is wrong with creating an action-packed Spider-Man play where the cast doesn't break into song? The cost of hiring a lyricist and composer could probably have been spent on, I don't know, more reliable rigging, perhaps?

    Alex
     
  2. Professor Zoom

    Professor Zoom Admiral Admiral

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    Not EVERY show on Broadway is a musical.

    That said, musicals bring in the most money, so, non-musical shows are rarer and rarer. And it's a rare musical that DOESN'T have a LOT in it. Next To Normal is a good example of a stripped down musical.

    But, big splashy musicals, have a tendency to make a LOT of money. Wicked does a million bucks a week.

    So, why do the fantasy shows have to have music? Well, probably so it would bring in the crowd who like musicals. That would be my guess. You need those people to pay for the effects, etc, etc. You can't do Spiderman without FX.

    (As it is, Spiderman will probably be a financial disaster. It costs a million a week, you can't REALLY tour it...)

    I'll also add: the cost of hiring a lyricist and composer (U2 probably excepted) is actually quite minimal. They would make most of their money from royalties.

    AND, musicals aren't the only big shows on Broadway. August Osage County had a VERY large cast and set for a straight play. But, that's rare as it is EXPENSIVE.

    edited to add: just be happy the Lord of the Rings musical didn't do well in it's Canadian try outs, it was heading to Broadway.
     
  3. Holdfast

    Holdfast Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    My guess - and I'm not involved in the industry, so don't know the marketing analysis - is that musical theatre is more commercially viable.

    It must be ferociously expensive to put on and market a Broadway show, and musical theatre has far wider popular appeal these days, esp. to the key tourists who may not have English as a primary language but can still enjoy humming along to a catchy tune. Plus, although the two certainly do not always go together, musicals are often also family friendly, again boosting revenue potential.

    Shakespeare escapes because his plays already have massive brand presence in the marketplace. ;)

    (EDIT: posted at the same time as Professor Zoom did, saying much the same thing. Apologies for the largely repetitive content.)
     
  4. Professor Zoom

    Professor Zoom Admiral Admiral

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    Here is a list of the Broadway grosses for the week of Dec 12.

    It's an interesting read... Well. To some.

    Edited to add:

    For some NON musical genre shows, I'll toot the horn of this NYC based company: Vampire Cowboys.
     
  5. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    In the case of Spider-Man, I would argue that a musical version offers something that you can't get on screen.

    Think about it: an "action-packed SPIDER-MAN play" is always going to suffer by comparison to the movies. When it comes to stunts and action and SFX, a stage play just can't compete with a movie or animated adventure. If people just want to see Spidey fighting the Lizard, they can see the next movie.

    But will the movies ever show Spidey and Dr. Octopus belting out show tunes? I think not.

    More importantly, Broadway audiences like musicals. This is a Broadway production. Why shouldn't it be a musical?

    Unless you think there's something wrong with musicals . . ..
     
  6. Professor Zoom

    Professor Zoom Admiral Admiral

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    Making it a musical will also make it LESS like a Theme Park Stunt show...
     
  7. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    With Les Mis and Phantom of The Opera successful big musicals became franchises with market potential far beyond the sale of tickets in New York and London - they are visual and aural spectacles designed to be replicated in scale by their touring companies around the world, and ancilliary sales and merchandising like soundtracks, books, teeshirts etc are designed into the package. Shows like Tarzan or Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark are so elaborately staged in the hopes that audiences in D.C. or Minneapolis or Toronto will sell out shows to see the costumes, sets, stunts and effects that they've seen so hyped in the media.

    A really successful show becomes a business and machine that returns money to its investors for perhaps decades.

    In other words, ka-ching!
     
  8. Professor Zoom

    Professor Zoom Admiral Admiral

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    I really do wonder about Spider Man and it's future. Looking at Wiki, it doesn't look like Tarzan has toured. And only remounted in a few places. I wonder if the technical aspects of the show make it challenging.

    What they are hoping for is another Lion King, that's why they've let Taymor go crazy...

    My bet: they'll build a theater for the show either at a Disney or Universal theme park (whoever controls the characters NOW for theme parks) and just run it there.... in a theater with more seats...

    And now they've pushed back opening until Feb...
     
  9. Nowhere Man

    Nowhere Man Commodore

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    I've only seen a few musicals, "South Park: Bigger, Longer< Uncut", "Team America: World Police.", "Monty Python and the search for the Holy Grail." All of those were from the comfort of my home. Other than that I have no interst in seeing musicals.
     
  10. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Admiral

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    Because they can sell the soundtrack and make a lot more money!
     
  11. Professor Zoom

    Professor Zoom Admiral Admiral

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    I was like you once... but, let me tell you... it's kind of awesome....

    I saw The Producers on Broadway (avoid the recent movie version) and it was a BLAST. Probably the last musical I saw on Broadway was the brief remount of Ragtime, and it was pretty cool.

    And I don't know if I would call the Holy Grail a musical. Now, Spamalot... unless that's what you meant.
     
  12. Robert D. Robot

    Robert D. Robot Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I was just going to propose that idea! Also, the music/soundtrack had the ability to exist outside the actual production (maybe a song becomes popular and ends up on the radio, on iTunes....), which is great PR for the show. A person can enjoy the musical aspect of the show without actually being in the theater. You can't really get a similar experience for a non-musical play if you aren't actually there sitting in the theater watching it.
     
  13. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Tarzan was not a hit; Spider-Man will tour if it is (ain't looking too likely, but who knows). The franchise thing only works if the Broadway run creates a demand.
     
  14. TemporalFlux

    TemporalFlux Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    We didn't beat those limey, red coat bastards for nothing! This is America, damn it! We sing on stage here!

    Dictated, but not read,

    TemporalFlux
     
  15. CaptainCanada

    CaptainCanada Admiral Admiral

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    Plays are never going to compete with films, etc. in the action department. Music is one of popular theatre's biggest trump cards since the format is ideal for it and it's not something you'll see them do in other media in all likelihood.
     
  16. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Broadway will always be the pinnacle of American theatre. But musicals are the defining medium for Broadway theatre and always have been. They're the thing that sets American theatre apart -- musicals are an American innovation and an American tradition. They define us and our contribution to the world's theatrical heritage, and they define Broadway's history.
     
  17. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I keep hoping that Spamalot will go The Producers route, with a theatrical film adaptation of the musical based on the non-musical film.

    I liked Spamalot when I saw it on tour, the soundtrack is faboo, and I'd gladly see a film. :)
     
  18. Professor Zoom

    Professor Zoom Admiral Admiral

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    True.

    But Spider Man will have it's own technical demands. That make loading in and out of theaters more challenging and time consuming... They've been in that theater for HOW long and they are still working on the effects and stunts? ...and the weekly cost of the show... You won't be able to charge Broadway prices everywhere... We'll see if they do tour it... Course, they have to open it first... It's been a few days, maybe they are shooting for a March 2020 opening now...


    Just as long as the movie version is better than The Producers. OY. It was so soulless. Maybe I can blame it on a first time film director--same director of the stage show--but, it was just... blah.

    And the stage show with Lane and Broderick was SO much fun. The guy that played the Director was STUNNINGLY Hilarious.
     
  19. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Well, this probably isn't for you then. But the world is full of great musicals, many of them based on unlikely subject matter. (SWEENEY TODD anyone, or LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS?) Maybe SPIDER-MAN will work, too.

    There's definitely an audience for Broadway musicals, so why not give SPIDER-MAN a spin? (Pun most definitely intended.)
     
  20. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Well, that's what you solve during the initial run.

    I've not seen a show on Broadway first and then compared it directly to a traveling company of the same show. My understanding is that ever since Les Mis great efforts are made to reproduce the scale and presentation, but I'd suppose that there are some compromises made based on the specific venues.