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Welcome to Geek Out/Freak Out, where theatre fans get enthusiastic about things
This week, TDF Stages contributor Linda Buchwald geeks out (via Gchat) with TDF Stages associate editor Raven Snook.
Today's topic: Broadway-bound shows that didn't make it but deserved to.
Linda Buchwald: With The Humans transferring to Broadway and deservedly winning the Tony for best play, it got me thinking about another Stephen Karam play that ran at Roundabout Theatre Company's Off-Broadway Laura Pels Theatre in 2011: Sons of the Prophet. I'm still sad that it didn't have the same trajectory.
Raven Snook: It's funny you started with plays. I feel like musicals that aim for but don't make it to Broadway are the productions everyone talks about. I think part of that is because musicals that die often have songs that live on via YouTube. I can't imagine Googling Sons of the Prophet and hoping to find a scene!
Linda: Yeah, that's part of it, and I also think musicals are usually higher profile, so there is more buzz about them being "Broadway bound." That said, if you Google Sons of the Prophet you actually can watch a scene. Did you see the play?
Raven: I didn't. What did you love about it so much?
Linda: Karam is so good at capturing the humor and pain of life, and writing realistic dialogue. The main character was played by Santino Fontana and I was already a huge fan, but this is the play that really cemented him for me as an actor who can do anything. I'm sorry you didn't get to see it. I saw it twice and regret not going a third time.
Raven: I'm sorry I missed it, too. I wonder if, now that The Humans is such a hit, it could get a belated transfer. Fun Home had some time between its Public Theater run and its transfer to Broadway. In terms of shows that didn't make it to Broadway, I think there are different scenarios. Shows that announced they were coming -- some even booked theatres and put up marquees! And shows that never officially said they were Broadway bound, but that fans feel should have made it there. To me those are two different things.
Linda: Yes, I think so, too. And for the purposes of this conversation, we should limit ourselves to shows that either announced a Broadway run and then never opened, or had legitimate talk of a transfer, otherwise we'll be here all day! For some shows, it's probably a matter of right place, right time. Producer Scott Rudin saw The Humans Off Broadway and decided to transfer it with the same cast, and it worked out very well. I don't know if there's any correlation, but Significant Other, another play I loved at Roundabout's Laura Pels, recently announced a Broadway transfer. Like The Humans, it doesn't have any huge stars, so maybe producers are more willing to take risks now.
Raven: The thing that obsesses me is when shows get so close to Broadway, even the marquee is put up -- and then goes dark. Like the Sherman Brothers' Busker Alley, which toured the U.S. with Tommy Tune. That was 1995 and I had my first theatre job that year, working for a group sales ticket agent. I remember we were already promoting the production to groups. The marquee went up at the St. James and everything. I always wished I had a photo of it! Thankfully the internet does. Whoa, a quick Google search reveals producers tried for more than a decade to bring it in with different stars!
Linda: Oh wow! I'm not familiar with the show, but I grew up on the music of the Sherman Brothers.
Raven: More whoa: I just discovered that the York Theatre Company did a one-night only, semi-staged concert of it in 2006 with Jim Dale and recorded a cast album!
Linda: Another show that I think should have gone to Broadway is The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I saw it at Paper Mill Playhouse. The Disney movie never worked for me, but I always thought the music was gorgeous. The stage musical was much darker and I thought worked better.
Raven: I have always wondered about that one. Disney used Paper Mill Playhouse as the jumping off point for Newsies before it moved to Broadway. Do you know if that was the intent for Hunchback?
Linda: They never officially announced it, but I think if it had the kind of response that Newsies did, it probably would have transferred. The reviews weren't great. Star Patrick Page wrote on Facebook that it wasn't transferring, which makes me think that he thought it would. Fans even started a petition to bring it to Broadway! Page was born to play Frollo. I'm so glad his performance is at least captured on the cast recording, which I highly recommend. I think the show will be done regionally all over the place. It's already started happening.
Raven: Do you think that usually, when a show doesn't come in, it's because of one thing, like say the book? Or because there's fighting behind the scenes? Is there a pattern of some sort?
Linda: I think it depends on the show. Some seem troubled from the beginning, like when they keep switching up the creative team, but I'm sure the number one reason is money. Broadway is a tough business.
Raven: And that's just it: it's a business. It's amazing to see which shows do make it to Broadway, because they have the backing, and which don't. In the end it often comes down to cash, not art.
Linda: Are there any shows that you personally wished would have gone to Broadway?
Raven: Yes, Ever After. It played Paper Mill recently (and I didn't go, I know, I know) and that may be the closest to Broadway it ever gets. I've long loved the cabaret songs of Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler ("Taylor the Latte Boy", "Alto's Lament"), and their children's musicals (Dear Edwina, Junie B. Jones: The Musical), so I was dying to see their adaptation of the Drew Barrymore Cinderella reboot. They've been developing it for years...too long, perhaps. I think Broadway may be Cinderella-ed out. Another show I was hoping for: Richard Kline, aka Larry from Three's Company, in a bio-musical about Liberace. It was announced as Broadway bound but I can't imagine it ever coming in, though oh how I would love it to.
Linda: Wow! I'd totally see that!
Raven: Are there any recent-ish shows announced for Broadway that haven't yet come in that you're rooting for?
Linda: These haven't been announced, but in case any producers are reading this, I really want Bend it Like Beckham to transfer from London because I adore the movie. Also, Sunny Afternoon because I'm a big fan of the Kinks. That could be a whole other GOFO: West End productions that I hope transfer stateside because I can't afford to fly to London every time there's a show I want to see.
Which shows that didn't come to Broadway do you wish had made it? Tell us in the comments!
Linda Buchwald tweets about theatre at @PataphysicalSci. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.
Photos by Jerry Dalia. Top image: Michael Arden and Patrick Page in The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Paper Mill Playhouse.
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