Why Variety Is an Important Thing to Have In Theater

Patrick Connolly

It’s good to leave a theater happy and satisfied. Who wouldn’t want such an experience in their lives? But imagine having to leave a theater happy and satisfied every single time, and not experiencing any other emotion at all. Ironically, that would produce a third feeling: boredom.

Variety is to diversity. Without it, there is no such thing as a rich life. Yes, shows that provide a happy and satisfying time at the theater are worth every penny, but shows that manage to go the extra mile—shows that not only entertain, but provide a truth about the nature of life itself—deserve to be heavily acknowledged.

I think back to a show like Next to Normal, a show that takes bold risks in making theatergoers feel a variety of emotions. There’s one scene in particular when Dan Goodman—husband to Diana Goodman—tries to make everything feel like it’s all good, and nothing bad will ever happen. This backfires when Diana makes a cake for her son Gabe, even though her son has been dead for sixteen years. In this one scene alone, complex emotions run amok. In the beginning of the scene, happiness and joy is king until sadness takes over when Diana enters the room. Eventually, anger and tension start to take over as Diana explodes in front of Dan, so much to the point where she throws forks and knives onto the floor. I can’t think of another moment in musical theater like it, to be honest.

There’s also a show like Children of Eden, perhaps one of the most underappreciated musicals in Stephen Schwartz’s career. Despite its obvious religious overtones (of which, for the record, I don’t mind in the slightest), there’s a significant amount of truth about the human condition located within some of Schwartz’s amazing songs. Take the titular song, for instance. The lyrics that speak to me the most are “You will know heartache, prayers that don’t work, and times of bitter circumstances/But I still believe in second chances”. The importance of humanity shines through in just that one lyric; ideas of sadness and redemption are expressed in those few seconds, and the result is nothing short of rewarding.

Shows like Next to Normal and Children of Eden make me realize how important variety should be in the theater world. Both musicals provide genuine, raw expressions of the human condition that has no intent in sugarcoating the realities of life. There’s no doubt I appreciate those good ol’ fashioned song-and-dance musical comedies (which is referenced and parodied to great effect in “A Musical” from Something Rotten), but there’s something about musicals—and plays—that manage to go the extra mile to provide truly unique theatergoing experiences.

Now excuse me while I attempt to create a musical that would add more variety in the theater world.