OnStage Massachusetts Columnist
I was a Girl Scout for a hot second growing up. I remember very little save for this song, “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.” This is a wonderful way to approach looking at theatrical company’s seasons. The best ones combine a mix of new, fresh musicals and plays and still revive old standards.
New shows are great. Shows like Hamilton, Fun Home, Next to Normal, Rent- they push the envelope and shed light on topics that may or may not have existed 5, 10, 20 years ago. They give voice to new talents in their composers, lyricists, librettos. They reflect the times we live and maybe show us where we’re going.
New shows can do things the classics can’t. Because they are new the rules aren’t written or at least don’t apply to them. The shows can feature anyone, in any role, doing virtually anything and it’s fresh and exciting. Audiences are more willing to follow a new show into unchartered territory than they are for a beloved classic. And yet the classics are still important.
Provided we’re looking at them through new eyes, classic shows like South Pacific, My Fair Lady and She Loves Me to name a few, have their place in today’s modern theater community. I’ll use the current revival of The King and I, as an example. While it’s sad that it took until 2015 to feature Asian actors portraying Asian characters it brings a new perspective and modernizes the show in a way it didn’t have until now.
People always ask why I re-read books, watch the same movies over and over and it’s because while they stay the same, YOU constantly change and evolve. From the last time I saw a show/movie till now, new experiences have happened to me causing me to look at things from a different viewpoint. I’ve said before that I never understood Lady Thiang’s character until I saw the revival last year. It’s because events happened to me, reshaped me in a way that allowed me to understand that characters viewpoint. The classics need to come around again, at least once a generation, so we can all be reminded of where we were and what has changed in the interim.
A good theatrical company, a good theatrical season will feature a mix of the new and modern pieces with fresh looks on classic tales. Whether silver or gold, it’s all precious.