RANKED: Top 10 Musicals That Never Made it to Broadway
There are a ton of factors to mull over before even beginning to produce a musical on Broadway. Given the financial risk, it's no wonder that a lot of great material gets left out. Even though they may have had legendary Off-Broadway, Regional or even West End productions, something about moving them to Broadway seemed a bit too far fetched.
So here is our list of the 10 best musicals that have yet to get their shot at the Great White Way.
10. Martin Guerre
Taking place in 1560, Martin Guerre tells the story of two friends who love the same woman. While on the battlefield fighting against the Protestants, Martin Guerre tells his friend, Arnaud du Thil, how he was forced to leave his wife, Bertrande, and start a new life. As Arnaud is urging Martin to return home to his wife, they are attacked by the Protestant army. Martin is stabbed and left for dead. Arnaud then visits Bertrande's village to give her the news of Martin's death. In the process, Arnaud and Bertrande fall in love. More trouble ensues when it turns out that Martin survived his wounds and returns to the village. However, in the name of their friendship, Martin forgives the lovers.
Pros: It's a big, classical style musical from the composing/writing team of Les Miserables and Miss Saigon.
Cons: Has received mixed reviews which has led to a slew or rewrites and reboots. Also, nowadays Les Mis-esque style musicals only work on Broadway if you're...well...Les Miserables. Don't believe us? Just as A Tale of Two Cities, Pride & Prejudice, Amazing Grace, The Scarlet Pimpernel and Doctor Zhivago.
9. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
This simple romantic tragedy begins in 1957. Guy Foucher, a 20-year-old French auto mechanic, has fallen in love with 17-year-old Geneviève Emery, an employee in her widowed mother's chic but financially embattled umbrella shop. On the evening before Guy is to leave for a two-year tour of combat in Algeria, he and Geneviève make love. She becomes pregnant and must choose between waiting for Guy's return or accepting an offer of marriage from a wealthy diamond merchant.
Pros: Regarded as one of the best movie musicals of all time.
Cons: The design would cost a fortune and given casual Broadway audience tastes, would they rather see The Lion King or a musical based on a 1964 French film?
8. A New Brain
Gordon collapses into his lunch and awakes in the hospital surrounded by his maritime-enthusiast lover, his mother, a co-worker, the doctor and the nurses. Reluctantly, he had been composing a song for a children's television show that features a frog - Mr. Bungee - and the spectre of this large green character and the unfinished work haunts him throughout his medical ordeal. What was thought to be a tumor turns out to be something more operable and Gordon recovers, grateful for a chance to compose the songs he yearns to produce.
Pros: One of William Finn's best works with a powerful message and some of his best songs in his entire catalog.
Cons: Not really sure. It's often gotten positive to mixed reviews but the 2015 Encore's Concert was very well received. Given that Spelling Bee and Falsettos have/are enjoying successful runs, we may see this classic soon enough.
7. Ruthless: The Musical
The story is basically a dark spoof of the hunt for Broadway stardom. Ruthless is the story of a naive 1950s housewife, Judy, and her adorable but sociopath 8-year-old daughter Tina. Encouraged by her manager, Sylvia, Tina will do ANYTHING to get the lead role in her school play “including murdering the leading lady!" In Act II, while Tina spends time at a reform school for psychopathic ingenues, Judy discovers from her adoptive mother that her birth mother was a famous actress. Judy decides that she should be famous as well and becomes a Broadway diva.
Pros: A hilarious dark comedy spoof of the hunt for Broadway stardom.
Cons: Over the top satirical camp doesn't usually sell well on Broadway. Plus this piece is better staged for intimate settings like small theatres and clubs rather than 1000+ seated houses.
6. Bat Boy
Based on a story in The Weekly World News, BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL is a musical comedy/horror show about a half boy/half bat creature who is discovered in a cave near Hope Falls, West Virginia. For lack of a better solution, the local sheriff brings Bat Boy to the home of the town veterinarian, Dr. Parker, where he is eventually accepted as a member of the family and taught to act like a "normal" boy by the veterinarian's wife, Meredith, and teenage daughter, Shelley.
Bat Boy is happy with his new life, but when he naively tries to fit in with the narrow-minded people of Hope Falls, they turn on him, prodded by the machinations of Dr. Parker, who secretly despises Bat Boy. Shelley and Bat Boy, who have fallen in love, run away together from the ignorant townfolk and have a blissful coupling in the woods, but their happiness is shattered when Meredith arrives and reveals a secret. Soon the entire town arrives and hears the shocking story of Bat Boy's unholy origin.
Pros: A musical with a surprisingly good score and powerful message. A staple among local, regional and collegiate theatres.
Cons: Tough sell to Broadway audiences. Although with the right cast, it could definitely work.
5. The Baker's Wife
A small Parisian town is enamored with the wonderful bread baked by a newly arrived, middle-aged baker and his beautiful young wife. However, when his wife has an affair with a handsome young gigolo, the baker loses his will to bake and the community is thrown into disarray.
Pros: Pretty well known material including audition standard "Meadowlark".
Cons: Again, not exactly sure what the hold up is with this. It very nearly made it to Broadway back in the 1970's with Patti LuPone attached, but was pulled almost at the last minute. We think it deserves another shot.
Based on Hans Christian Andersen's beloved story, "The Ugly Duckling," Honk! tells the story of an odd-looking baby duck, Ugly, and his quest to find his mother. Soon after Ugly is born, he is seduced away by a wily Cat who wants to eat Ugly for dinner. Eventually, Ugly manages to escape, but has no idea how to return home. He embarks on an adventure in which he encounters a beautiful swan, Penny, tangled in a fishing line. After saving her, the two birds fall in love. Penny, however, must return to her flock and fly south for the winter. Determined to find his family, Ugly journeys on, only to become frozen in the snow. Eventually, Ugly's mother finds him and her warm tears manage to thaw him out. He revives, and is surprised to discover he is now a handsome swan! Soon, Ugly is reunited with Penny and two swans decide to live the rest of their days in the same pond as Ugly's loyal mother.
Pros: Wonderful score, creative design, great message.
Cons: It walks the line too closely for an adult or children's show. Unless your Matilda, children's shows typically work in short bursts not full run Broadway productions.
Based on the classic novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edna Ferber, GIANT is a new American musical that spans generations in an epic chronicle of the state that’s like no place else on earth: Texas. Amid a turbulent culture of greed, bigotry and money, a powerful cattleman, his new East Coast bride, their family and friends – not to mention their enemies – embrace and confront the joys and sorrows that loom as large as the state they call home.
Pros: Sweeping epic score from Michael John LaChiusa based on a iconic novel.
Cons: Earned mixed reviews often calling it "long". Not what you want to hear if you're investing millions into a production.
2. Saturday Night
Saturday Night tells the unassuming story of a group of Brooklyn boys trying to make good in the stock market in 1929. Unfortunately, one of them, Gene, is so eager to climb the social ladder and impress his sweetheart, he invests his friends' money in a swank apartment near the Brooklyn Bridge, even going as far as to sell the gang's precious automobile.
Pros: It's one of the few Sondheim properties that never made it to Broadway.
Cons: Written before Sondheim truly got into his groove as a composer, so it does have its flaws. But not really anything much more wrong with it.
1. The Last Five Years
An emotionally powerful and intimate musical about two New Yorkers in their twenties who fall in and out of love over the course of five years, the show's unconventional structure consists of Cathy, the woman, telling her story backwards while Jamie, the man, tells his story chronologically; the two characters only meet once, at their wedding in the middle of the show.
Pros: By far the most produced and popular piece from Jason Robert Brown. Resulted in one of the best movie musicals this century and has become a favorite among local, regional and collegiate theatres.
Cons: It's short. 90 minutes without an intermission. For a show like this to sell, you need a powerhouse cast and asking for $100 for a 90 minute musical is too far of a stretch for casual Broadway audiences.