I talk a lot about how much I enjoy experiencing new theatrical works...it's especially exciting to see a new musical "grow up" and leave the nest to meet the world. But there are many risks with musicals, in particular...you're not just asking the audience to find the story appealing, but the music as well-and any accompanying choreography too. Oh, and they probably should like the cast; a cast that often must be filled to the brim with triple-threat actor/singer/dancers
(For an example of the work going on in the area of musical development, visit the 5th Avenue Theatre website (link above) to find out more about their New Works Program.)
From readings, to workshops, to small productions, to regional runs; and maybe New York, or a tour, if that's the goal, someone has to care enough about the show to give heart, soul and body to making it grow over the course of years. That's one of the reasons I love going to these shows. Even if a show ends up not making my list of favorites, I still root for it to succeed; if nothing else because the artists involved have likely sacrificed mightily to present it for me to experience.
So today is a special day, because it marks the Los Angeles opening of The Black Suits, a new musical by a great young composer, Joe Iconis. You may know Joe's work from the television show Smash (the song Broadway Here I Come), and I make it a point to see his cabaret performances whenever possible. It is a testament to Joe that he is able to assemble groups of some of the most talented performers I've ever seen on a stage. Some you saw on Smash (Krysta Rodriguez, Jeremy Jordan), and some are working actors in New York and beyond, that jump at the opportunity to sing Joe's music on stage. I guarantee you'll want to see them again once you've seen them the first time. The Black Suits, is a story about a group of high school friends trying to win a "battle of the bands," and move towards adulthood at the same time. The show ran at Barrington Stage in Massachusetts last year, and has now crossed the country to The Kirk Douglas Theatre, part of the Center Theatre Group at The Music Center.
I know some of the people involved with The Black Suits from other shows, and I know how hard they've all worked to make this happen. For many reasons, I can't wait to see the show next week in LA! Here's an introduction to the show:
For those who love musical theater, the annual New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), a three week festival in New York City, is a true treat. Each summer, NYMF celebrates the development of new musicals, providing just a glimpse of the amount of new work being generated from every corner: 30 new musicals, over 1,000 artists and 40,000 visitors coming together, all for the love of musical theater. In 2013, I saw 7 productions, both big and small, and loved every minute!
Fast forward to October '13. I just saw six new musicals in the past two weeks. Two were Broadway productions, one was a pre-Broadway engagement, two were Off Broadway shows and one was a regional production here in DC. Three were based on films, one on a graphic novel, and two were original stories for the shows. My favorite was one of the Off Broadway shows, but I also loved both Broadway shows (and of course there are those that would strongly question my choices, but that's the beauty of it...you get to like what you like, and let others like what they like :)).
Although I love discussing theater with friends and not-so-strangers, I have found that a person's reaction to a musical (or play) is generally wildly instinctive, and decidedly not responsive to arguments against that instinct. I know people who have changed their minds after seeing a show more than once (maybe with a different cast), but I've never known anyone to change their mind about a show just because someone else pointed out all its wondrousness from their perspective. The really fascinating parts of these discussions though, are how different people seeing the same show will notice, and remember (or not :)), completely different things (both positive and negative).
See what you think from these peeks at the other new musicals I saw this past week, and then go find something to discover for yourself (and let me know about it :))!
Big Fish, The Neil Simon Theatre, NYC
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, The Walter Kerr Theatre, NYC
Fun Home, The Public Theater, NYC
Little Miss Sunshine, Second Stage Theatre, NYC
Honeymoon in Vegas, Paper Mill Playhouse, Milburn NJ
Crossing, Signature Theatre, Arlington VA