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Which Musical Theatre Legends Need a New Show?

Date: Feb 17, 2015
Welcome toGeek Out/Freak Out, where theatre fans get super enthusiastic about things.

This week, Mark Blankenship geeks out (via Google Doc), with Jennifer Ashley Tepper, who is both a musical theatre historian and a producer. Jennifer's new book, The Untold Stories of Broadway: Volume 2, is an oral history of eight Broadway theatres, as told by the legends who worked there. A portion of every sale benefits TDF, so... you know... go buy a copy!

Today's Topic:
Which musical theatre legends need to appear in a new show right now?


Mark Blankenship:
Hi Jen! I'm so glad we have a minute to discuss the vital topic of musical theatre stars who need another show immediately. And for those who don't know, you are actually quite well-versed in theatrical history. I've heard a rumor that you've even written entire books about it. Is this rumor true?

Jennifer Ashley Tepper: Thank you so much for having me! There is nothing I love more than a good theatre geek-out session. Indeed, I can confirm the rumor---I have written books about musical theatre history, making me what one might call a super-nerd. And proud of it! Excited to discuss this topic.

I acknowledge and honor your super-nerdism. Along those lines, I should add that when I was in 8th grade, my parents had to sit me down and request that I stop listening to the original cast recording of Into the Woods so much. Apparently, there was a limit to the amount of times they could hear the Witch's rap. Which brings me to Bernadette Peters. Can my homegirl get another splashy musical right now? AM I RIGHT?

I love that!! We are kindred spirits because last night, we had Emily Skinner singing "My Brother Lived In San Francisco" at 54 Below, and my mother was looking at me like: "Didn't I listen to this coming out of your boom box in high school, about 100 times a week?" Bernadette Peters for SURE needs a new musical! She is a legend among us. I would love to see her leading an all-star revival of Ruthless!

Wait… is that the show about the little girl who's maybe evil? That Laura Bell Bundy was in, and Britney Spears and Natalie Portman were her understudies?

It is!! The music is by Marvin Laird, a long-time collaborator of Bernadette's, and I know she's done a benefit or two of the show. It's a fantastically original and hilarious send-up of the classic show biz story, with nods to Gypsy, All About Eve, The Bad Seed, and so forth, with a great score. Bernadette would be incredible as the leading lady, a housewife-turned star named Judy Denmark who goes a bit berserk over the course of the show.

Oh man… I love that so much. Please pardon me while I a cash a few war bonds and try to buy the rights. What I especially like about that suggestion is that it would allow BP to surprise us a little. She'd still be in her Fabulous Diva wheelhouse, of course, but that self-aware edge would also give her the opportunity to show off some colors we don't get to see from her that often. That's what appeals to me about this whole question, actually… how can we bring folks back on stage in roles that will excite us? Do you know what I mean? Instead of just having them do the thing we've loved for so long.

Definitely!! It's thrilling to think of brand new collaborations that could bring something truly original to the table. Can you imagine the new show that Lin-Manuel Miranda would write for Mandy Patinkin? I mean… I'm already sold.

YES! He's another one who needs to get back to the stage pronto, and I would love to see him take on something as sonically current as a Lin-Manuel Miranda show. My only caveat would be that he has to keep his Saul Berenson beard from Homeland.

Oh, I am sure Lin would be open to writing Mandy a role that incorporates the beard.

He could build the show AROUND the beard. The beard could hide secrets.

This is already a Tony Award winning idea!

Mark: Damn straight! Especially when we hire Meryl Streep to play the on-stage embodiment of the beard in Act 2. She can finally win a Tony! Is there anyone else on your dream list of missing favorites? 

{Image2} Jen:
Oh, for sure. I have such a dream list of Broadway legends that need a new role. A lot of mine are things like Norbert Leo Butz in a revival of The Goodbye Girl… situations where an under-appreciated musical really deserves a revival and one of our great current stars would be a perfect fit for the lead. And then others are completely original musicals. My frequent collaborator Joe Iconis is working on a brand new musical for Annie Golden right now, written with Lance Rubin and Jason SweetTooth Williams. It's called Annie Golden: Bounty Hunter, Yo!, and it's pretty incredible. I love the idea of bringing back underappreciated shows AND dreaming of brand new shows for these legends.

Mark: One of our writers here at TDF Stages wrote this whole appreciation of Annie Golden and mentioned that show, and I've been anxious to see it ever since. And I love your commitment to getting good shows back on stage at the same time. Because obviously, the cultural memory can't hold on to to everything, which means some musicals that are still incredibly potent have been forgotten (for now). Reviving something like Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky (one of my favorite musicals of the 00s) with people like Tom Wopat and Allison Case in the leads would feel completely new to so many people and would also give new life to something older.

Yes! That is why I have always found what Encores does to be so inspiring. There are just so many musicals that deserve a second go-around that might not get it because they weren't hits the first time. A lot of times the reasons are circumstantial and the shows have wonderful aspects about them that a new audience would really enjoy. I also have to say… I am just obsessed with the idea of Hunter Foster and Sutton Foster doing a show where they headline as brother and sister. Maybe it has to be an original musical… that would be a musical theatre dream come true.

Oh my god. It has to be something set in a small town, I think. Something that totally utilizes their ridiculous amounts of charm. Maybe they're a brother and sister who run a bed and breakfast or something? And there's a slew of quirky guests that converge on them for a weekend? (In my mind, this is a comedy. But if you're thinking dramedy/tragedy/etc., just let me know.)

I love the idea of it being a crazy comedy! I think that would be perfect, because it definitely needs both a tap number and a gospel number… you know, as crazy musical comedies often have. So I guess what I'm envisioning is some musical that is subtly inspired by their respective star turns in 2001/2002 in Urinetown and Thoroughly Modern Millie. But I still think an original musical with the two of them rocking that familial bond could be something new and great.

Mark: This is such a good idea. Because to go back to what I said before, a show like that would play to their strengths but also give us the opportunity to see something new from these performers we love… namely, how they work on stage together. Is there a way to get the Keenan-Bolgers involved, or is that just too much? Jen: HA! I think they might also need their own show. But I would love that!

Now it's your turn! Which stars do you want to see in new shows? Geek out with us in the comments!