Anthony J. Piccione
As anyone who has read my previous columns here at On Stage knows, I am a strong believer that there is not enough great new theatre on Broadway right now. If you look beyond and see what is going on in other parts of the theatre community, perhaps you would have better luck finding more originality than you would in what is largely considered to be the mainstream of theatre. Yet every year at the Tonys, it seems that it is just one bland musical after another. Only a small amount of time during the ceremonies is devoted to plays, which is where I see most of the best new examples of theatre coming from in the 21st century. As I’ve said before, I’d like to see that change, and that means closing the curtain on old shows to make way for new shows.
However, this does not change the fact that some of the same Broadway shows that I speak of – which have been running for several years, if not decades – also just so happen to be some of my favorite shows of all time. In fact, I would say that they are still preferable to many of the shows that have been running on Broadway for only a few years now. To some people, I imagine that it would be hard to comprehend how I could feel this way about these shows, yet also feel that the theaters where they are produced need to find newer shows to produce instead. So allow me to try and explain my feelings about this topic in the best way that I can.
Let’s start with one of my personal favorites: The Lion King, which has been running at the Minskoff Theatre since 1997 and hasn’t shown any signs of closing at any point in the near future. Whether or not you are as much of a fan of the original Disney film as I am, it is undeniable that the musical adaptation is both visually and musically spectacular, with excellent costumes and puppetry that any loyal theatergoer can appreciate.
Of course, I also cannot write a column such as this without mentioning the longest running Broadway show of all time. Having premiered at the Majestic Theatre in 1988, The Phantom of the Opera has been running on Broadway since before I was born. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s haunting score that accompanies the show is nothing short of a masterpiece. I’ll admit that “The Music of the Night” still occasionally brings a tear to my eye.
While this hasn’t been on Broadway for nearly as long as the two shows that I mentioned above, I also suspect that another one of my favorites – which has been running at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre since 2011 – could very well end up running for years longer than it should. This is despite the fact that anyone who knows me well knows that I consider The Book of Mormon to be one of the most hysterical shows in history, and that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are among my own biggest comedic influences as a playwright.
Then there are the countless Broadway revivals of shows – including other favorites of mine such as Les Miserables – which the industry just can’t seem to let go of. I could go on and on about these Broadway revivals of shows that closed a long time ago, but that’s a separate topic for another day.
So yes, I love many of the musicals that have been on Broadway for a ridiculous amount of time now. Musicals such as Phantom and The Lion King are undisputed classics, and will always be among the greatest Broadway musicals of the past century. I recognize that the reason that they have been around for so long is because of how great many of them are, and I will continue to love all of these shows that I mentioned even after they all close some day.
Having said that, I do believe that theaters such as the Majestic and the Minskoff are long overdue for a change of pace. It is true that Broadway is not the only place in the world where theatergoers can go to find great theatre, yet that does not mean that we should not hope for more new and original shows to premiere in what is still considered by many people to be the pinnacle of success in the theatre industry. As long as there are those of us who would like to see this happen, we should start by closing the curtain on some of the shows – as beloved as they may be – that have clearly worn out their welcome.
Besides, when it comes to great theatre, life after Broadway does exist. I can name plenty of community theatre groups that I’m sure would love to one day produce these classics, if given the opportunity…
This column was written by Anthony J. Piccione: Student, playwright, actor, poet and blogger currently based in Connecticut. To learn more about Anthony and his work, please visit his personal blog at www.anthonyjpiccione.tumblr.com. Also, be sure to like him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AnthonyJPiccione.OfficialPage), follow him on Twitter (@A_J_Piccione) and view his work on the New Play Exchange (www.newplayexchange.org/users/903/anthony-j-piccione).