Let the Story Be Told

Jenn Butler

  • OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

A number of things stood out to me while watching the Tony Awards on Sunday evening.  But what stood out for me the most was something that Thomas Kail said as part of his acceptance speech for Best Director of “Hamilton”.  

During his speech, he said,

‘So let’s continue to tell stories. What I have seen this season is that there are still stories to be told, and there are people who want to hear them.  Keep telling the stories.”

I can relate so well to this. It got me thinking about the very reason why I became involved with theater and wanted to start writing. I wanted to be a part of something bigger and more than anything I wanted to help tell a story. 

Each show that I have worked on has told a different story in a different way. I have created props such as Luisa’s mask for “The Fantasticks” and the TV remote that William Gillette used in “The Games Afoot”. The details had to be just right in order for the story to come to life, in both the way that it was written and the way that the director had envisioned it to be. I have learned that telling the story is more than just the big picture itself. Minor details are just as important in telling the story as the big picture is. You can’t just build the set; you need the props, costumes, lighting and sound to bring it all together. 

On Broadway each show tells a story. Some characters tell a story of themselves while other characters tell stories from a different viewpoint. Audiences that attend shows have specifically come to hear the story that is being told. They want to hear the next joke, they want to know what happens to the main character and they want to find out how the story will end. 

I discovered that a story can be found anywhere and that sometimes you just have to look a little harder to find one. For example, inside my vest that I wear for my day job, there is a printed story about the people who started the company many years ago and inside each person’s vest there is a different story. 

Mark Twain once said “The two most important days of your life, are the day you were born and the day you find out why”.  I recently discovered why I was put here on earth. I was born to tell stories. Some I tell with written words, and some I tell by bringing scenes to life on the stage.  All I know is that around every corner there is another story waiting to be told and when I find the next one, I will tell it.

Hamilton: A Gateway to a Larger Theatre Community?

Anthony J. Piccione

  • OnStage Connecticut Columnist
  • Twitter: @A_J_Piccione

In less than a week, it will be that time of year again. I suspect many readers of this blog – not unlike me – will watch the 2016 Tony Awards on television, just as they do every year. However, let’s be honest: We shouldn’t feel too surprised about what will happen on Sunday night, when it is highly likely that Hamilton will win BIG at the award ceremony.

Before I go any further, let me just say that I am writing this column as someone who hasn’t yet had the pleasure of seeing this show with his own eyes, which is why – as someone who prefers to wait and judge a show until he sees it in its entirety – I haven’t written a column dedicated specifically to this show up until now. 

However, it is still impossible to ignore the fact that it has become a pop culture phenomenon in a way that is very rare among Broadway musicals today. Even when you put aside the fact that its soundtrack alone sounds breathtaking, or that everyone I know who has seen it says that it lives up to the hype, it is hard not to notice how it is a hot topic even outside of the theatre community, with rappers and politicians and everyone in-between heaping praise.

With that said…is Hamilton really a game-changing musical, like many have suggested? If so, what does its success mean to the rest of the theatre community in the long-term? At this point, I think I’ve already heard just enough about the show – and the reaction it has received from critics and audiences alike – to venture a fair guess as to what it MIGHT mean to the future of musical theatre. Read on, and you’ll understand why I say that.

I’ve already heard some people talk about the potentially lasting impact of this musical, and have been comparing the Hamilton phenomenon to that of other highly popular musicals that have received both critical acclaim and mainstream appeal over the past couple of decades. However, there is something I notice about Hamilton that I believe might make this cultural phenomenon different: This musical is, certainly not the first, but inarguably the most successful example of musical theatre to date that incorporates elements of hip-hop into its production.

This also seems to be one of the reasons why the very small number of people I’ve seen say something negative about Hamilton have done so. For the most part, these seem to be the exact same people who have been decrying my generation for listening to what they don’t consider to be “real music”. Yet the truth is that hip-hop has always been highly popular among both my generation and younger generations, both as a music genre and as a cultural force. Even those around my age who aren’t huge fans are, for the most part, at least willing to acknowledge its legitimacy. Say what you want about Kanye West, but when he stated in 2013 that “rap is the new rock and roll”, he wasn’t wrong. 

So if older theatergoers truly care about the future of theatre, they should consider the fact that it will be these same people who will decide its future growth and relevance as an art form, and thus be more receptive to musicals with music that may have more appeal to a younger crowd.

Consider this: I think it’s a fair assumption that many people who grow up to become successful artists in theatre – whether we’re talking about playwrights, actors, directors, etc. – do so after having seen at least one example of live theatre or performance at some point in their lives. By this logic, the more people who go to see theatre as kids or teenagers, the more of them could be inspired to one day follow in the footsteps of the people who made those shows come to life. With this in mind, it wouldn’t hurt – at least, in some cases – to think about what kinds of shows might have more appeal to these younger audiences, when producing newer works. 

In past columns, I’ve spoken about the future of theatre, and how I have concerns over the ability to appeal to potential theatergoers who aren’t rushing to buy tickets to our shows. One of the biggest issues that gets me thinking about this – and it’s an unfair issue that I had to deal with far too often when I was a teenager – is the perception by some people that being in a show isn’t as cool or as fun as, say, being on the school football team. If the future of musical theatre involves at least as much rapping as it does singing, it just might become more likely that kids and teens – especially those who otherwise might not be rushing out to opening night of their local theatre production – go on to become new long-term theatergoers, if not new artists in our theatre community.

Again, I have yet to see Hamilton in person, so I don’t want to judge it much more beyond what I’ve already said. However, in terms of what I’ve said about the elements of hip-hop included in the show – and what that especially means, in terms of its long-term influence – I think it is something that all of us ought to be thinking about when we are discussing the subject of musical theatre’s future, or even when discussing just Hamilton itself. While it will certainly be a big achievement if/when Hamilton does, in fact, win big at the Tonys on Sunday, it will be what happens after the award ceremony that will determine just how significant the legacy of this highly popular musical will be.

This column was written by Anthony J. Piccione: Playwright, producer, screenwriter, actor, poet and essayist currently based in Connecticut. To learn more about Mr. Piccione 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).

 

Why I'd Love to be Wrong About Hamilton and the Tonys

Tom Briggs

OnStage North Carolina Columnist

In my previous column [TONY BALONEY] I opined that the presence of the blockbuster musical Hamilton on the Tony Awards telecast may not spike the show’s ratings as many anticipate it will.  I admitted that mine was a minority opinion but I didn’t realize just how much in the minority I am.  No one is buying it.  My pal, D. Michael Dvorchak, an extremely savvy man of the theater, pointed out that it’s the only place to see Hamilton for less than $1,000 (their appearance on the Grammy Awards presumably notwithstanding); that teachers across the country have been using the recording in history classes; that the recording has remained firmly lodged in the Billboard Top 20 (it was released in the fall of last year).  I would add that being only the ninth musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, since the Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing in 1932, has helped bring it to the attention of a certain echelon of the citizenry.  

Just about everyone involved in Hamilton, short of the ushers, have been making appearances on day and late night talk shows.  When was the last time a musical became part of the national discourse?  But amongst whom?  Who discussed it yesterday at their respective water coolers?  Theater geeks and aficionados, that’s who, and they would tune into the telecast to hear me sing a medley from Bittersweet.  They have announced that Barbra Streisand will be on the show.  Now there’s a ratings booster.  Without the excitement generated by Hamilton, she may have passed.  Or perhaps she signed on to plug her upcoming tour, or to announce the latest news regarding her on-again-off-again film of Gypsy.  Who knows?

What's really extraordinary about Hamilton is how it is the last word in diversity on Broadway, which has been miles ahead of Hollywood forever.  Audra McDonald won her first Tony for Carousel in a role traditionally played by a Caucasian actor, and was nominated for 110 In the Shade, again playing against her ethnicity.  James Earl Jones starred in traditionally white roles in revivals of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man and You Can’t Take It with You.  There have been many such examples throughout the years, not including all-black revivals, but nothing, ever, like Hamilton’s casting of actors of African, Asian, Hispanic and who-knows-what descent to play the founding fathers of America.  

Might that translate to a more diverse viewing audience for the Tonys?  I’d love to think so but I’m skeptical.  Will curious viewers tune out after they’ve seen the number from Hamilton?  Will their number open the show and get it off to a flying start, or will they save it for last in hopes of retaining the audience?  Of course there will be a lot of entertainment value on the show, it having been a wonderful season for musicals.  (Alas, plays are not often featured on the show.)  Numbers from Shuffle Long, Waitress, Bright Star, School of Rock, The Color Purple, Fiddler On the Roof, Spring Awakening and She Loves Me are bound to captivate.  As are numbers featuring host James Corden, and inspired choice IMHO, including an inevitable carpool karaoke.  

In any event, I hope that my smart friend, Mike, is correct and that this year’s Tony Awards will be the most viewed annual commercial for Broadway ever.  If not, trust me – I’ll mourn, not gloat.

Go ahead and pay the scalpers: Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theatre

Michele Clarke

It’s impossible to review this richly woven and sweeping production after just one viewing. So instead, thoughts on Hamilton the Musical from Row D, Seat 113 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre:

•    As a writer and composer, Lin-Manuel Miranda lies somewhere between Shakespeare and Mozart. That's how hard you're gonna work when you see this. And also how much you'll enjoy it.

In fact, you'll think Salieri v. Mozart after watching the staging of the first number. And you’ll come back to it as Hamilton and Burr circle each other when meeting Washington – and when King George cackles with delight at the prospect of chaos in the Colonies. Don't get stuck there. Hamilton is so much more than that.

•    None of us are talking about the choreography or set design or the intricacies of the music enough. This is an all-up masterpiece.

•    Not sure I'll ever see another production as perfectly cast.

•    Leslie Odom Jr. is a tour de force.

•    Jonathan Groff. Beyond being a gifted comedian (what a gift), he seems to break all the rules of theater in this performance. Instead of going big and broad, he plays George as if he's in the tightest of TV/film close-ups. Genius. And what. a. voice. #‎OceansRiseEmpiresFall‬

•    We'll soon be talking about Renée Elise Goldsberry in the same sentences as Julie Harris and Audra McDonald. This woman is bad ass.

•    Don't be afraid to see it when Javier Muñoz is playing Hamilton. He's a gifted and powerful actor and it gives you a chance to focus on the work without being distracted by Miranda's star power.

•    Finally, bring tissues. You're gonna cry.

Postscript… I avoided all things Hamilton – including the soundtrack – before seeing the show. It was very difficult to do with a life full of people who didn’t do the same. But if it’s not too late, I highly recommend it.

8 Reasons Why I Am Obsessed With Hamilton

Dekontee Tucrkile 

From the moment I learned that Lin­ Manuel Miranda was putting on another musical I was already expecting it to be good. However, after listening to the 2 disc hip­ hop infused ground breaking musical I was forever changed. Here is why this show continues to be on repeat on my iPhone and I am pretty sure you can agree this show is everything.  

1.    Historically speaking we are currently in a world that needs to understand how our country was brought together. I think our generation is disconnected from our history as a nation. We need this history lesson.  The implications of not caring about America’s history are far greater than we think. We need to understand the dreams in which our founding fathers wanted for this nation. This show makes my little history loving heart SO happy.  

2.    With that said this show came out at the PERFECT time. From the music to the casting choices and everything in between. It is satisfying to know that this is a show about yesterday is told by the people of today AND tomorrow. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and of course Alexander Hamilton played by the least likely people. Don’t get me started on how much I love that I see people who look like me play parts that I never imagined they would play. So much internal joy right now. My America today needs this visual. My  America needs this show. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda (center) with the cast of 'Hamilton,'  Joan Marcus

“Look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” 

* I am willing audition. I want to be this show. Let's start a campaign to just get me an audition. #Go Peggy*  

3.    The MUSIC is brilliant, well written, character appropriate, and passionate. Miranda’s choice to use recurring musical themes is the best I have ever heard in my life. The orchestrations literally kill me. The melodies are as complicated as the characters. I love the word choices. These characters have important things to say and fight to say them with every ounce of their being. They don’t stop talking until they get their point across and they were willing to die in the process. Especially Hamilton, who uses as his words as main defense. All the rap battles (cabinet meetings) are not only accurate but they are CLEVER AS HECK! All the singers sing with such conviction and command of the English language.  

4.    A. Ham. He came from nothing and was able to use intelligence to change the face of the country. This brilliant man is able to fight his way all the way to the top. Talk about started from the bottom. Also there was so much scandal, drama, anger, love, and hate in his life. I mean homeboy started the idea of a US bank and had an affair AND lost a child AND fought for central government AND basically wrote the federalist papers all in his lifetime. He is basically a G. His story is begging to be told. What did Aaron Burr do? Exactly. Killed Ham in a duel and was involved in some treason stuff. He is the villain in our history books. #Chickpow  

*Don’t get me wrong Burr has so much swagger, but A.Ham wins* 

5.    The Schuyler Sisters. Enough Said.  

6.    This show is stinking innovated. That’s all. 

7.    The characters are fully dimensional. EVERY SINGLE ONE. The music tells their story brilliantly.  

8.    I am obsessed with Hamilton because I am reminded that my dreams can come true. Miranda, just took the idea of producing your own work to a whole new level. I am inspired to work hard and dream big. I am inspired to fight with all of your heart for what I believe.  I am inspired to tell my story no matter how much work it takes. 

Photo: Joan Marcus

The Hamilton Cast Album: Has Theatre Been Reinvented?

C. Austin Hill

I don’t live in New York.  I don’t have the funds to travel to see theatre, and I’m so frequently in production (as I am right now) that I frequently feel distant from the Broadway vibe.  And it’s been hard that I’ve not been able to see and respond to Hamilton and the buzz it’s creating.  I’ve had to wait for the cast album, and hope that (unlike so many others) it will simulate the visceral ephemerality of the stage production.  I also felt this way about Spring Awakening…and the cast album failed me in nearly every way.  I suspect that Spring Awakening played so much better on stage than it did on CD—it must have, because I was completely unmoved by the album.  So much so, in fact, that I lost any interest in seeing the show.  So Hamilton has had me worried.  I’m always leery of hype, and always suspect of largely universal praise.  I was very intrigued yesterday when the album dropped on NPR. 

Having listened to it, I’m ready to respond. Maybe I'm overreacting, or maybe I'm taken by the reviews, or maybe it's just a remarkable recording--whatever the reason, this does strike me as an INCREDIBLY important piece of theatre. A few minutes ago, in my Dramatic Lit class, I talked about Marlowe. I told my students about how blank verse had existed BEFORE Marlowe used it, and that iambic pentameter had been around for centuries before Marlowe...but I explained that somehow when Marlowe used it in his plays it forever changed the flavor of theatre. I'm not a hip-hop fan--not usually. But something in this recording strikes me a revolutionary. Like Marlowe's mighty line. Hip-hop has been around for decades. It has been used on stage before. But this FEELS so different. I'm so moved and engaged and enthralled by this piece. What if Lin-Manuel Miranda has just given theatre a new beat? What if he's reminded us how to use "popular music" to do something entirely new (not a jukebox musical or a review)? What if he's shown us how to talk about history, or feelings, or passions, or whatever we need to talk about us in a new and challenging and unelevated vernacular? Sure, history might prove this all wrong...but what if it isn't wrong?

It seems to me, without having seen the show that Lin-Manuel Miranda has found a wonderful way to talk about Hamilton’s life and history.  This doesn’t sound like any other show I can think of—including In the Heights.  In that show, Miranda tells a new story—one from his life and imagination.  Yes, it’s inventive musically, but not necessarily in the same way that Hamilton is.  The earliest drama we have record of—in ancient Greece—retold existing stories in innovative ways.  Myths, legends, and religious stories have been reinvented through emerging theatrical forms ever since.  Histories, too—of course—have been reimagined and re-presented to new audiences throughout theatre history.  That’s precisely where Hamilton sits.  In many ways, the play is like Sondheim’s Assassins—telling historical stories through musical theatre forms.  But unlike Assassins (which I absolutely adore, by the way), Hamilton is telling its story in a language that isn’t like anything else on Broadway—EVER.  The incredible precision of the dialogic sections is breathtaking.  Musically, the dynamics are engaging…even on a recording. This show really seems like a masterpiece.

Let’s then couple this with what Miranda has done in terms of race.  In the casting of this show, race has been inverted and manipulated—and it leads us to have to interrogate it.  We suddenly need to explore our historical narratives, and the ownership over those narratives.  This isn’t color-blind casting—this is something MUCH more interesting—this is deliberate, and groundbreaking.  Taking a narrative about a mixed race man, whose story has either been ignored entirely or has been whitewashed—like so much of American history.  The insistence that Hamilton is white (and therefore acceptable as a “founding father” in the history books), or the relegation of his story to the margins, is PRECISELY what Miranda’s bold production is calling to your (and my) attention. 

So what if Hamilton has changed the rules?  How can we know?  Where do we go from here?

Why I Drove 866 Miles to See Hamilton

Caleigh Derreberry

Over labor day weekend, I made a pilgrimage from Atlanta to New York for the sole purpose of seeing Hamilton. Ok, maybe not the sole purpose—I also attended a couple of improv shows, walked around the city, ate lots of food, and participated in the general shenanigans that accompany going on vacation with some of your best friends—but it was the crux of the trip, the fuel behind our 866 mile drive. To a lot of people, traveling 26 hours to see a 2 hour performance sounds crazy. To me, it was a small price to pay to see the hottest show of the season.

It should go without saying that I’m a huge musical theatre geek;I jump at the chance to see any show on the Great White Way. But I live in Atlanta, so watching Broadway shows usually isn’t feasible. It takes a special show, with a few key ingredients, for me to make it feasible. Hamilton met all of the requirements.

It’s by an artist I love.

I’d be lying if I said that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the driving force behind Hamilton, wasn’t the main reason I made the trip up to New York City. I’ve been an adamant admirer of Miranda since I first saw In the Heights, and I’ve been following Hamilton since the video of him rapping the opening number at the White House was posted on youtube in 2009. However, my love of Lin-Manuel Miranda wasn't enough to make me travel to New York City. After all, I didn’t travel that far to see Bring it On! Hamilton still had to meet my other requirements. If it hadn’t, I wouldn’t have made the trip, and would’ve instead waited to see it on tour or watched a crappy bootleg online. I love Lin-Manuel Miranda, but his name on the poster wasn’t the only factor that went into my decision to drive across 9 states. 

It’s unique.

I described the show to my friends as the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton’s life told through rap and hip-hop. That had enough of a WTF? element in it to peak their interests and convince them to spending 26 hours in a car with me. Hamilton’s built upon an idea so different from what we’re used to seeing in a theatre setting that people attend if only to see how the show could possibly pull it off. It’s incredibly satisfying to be in the audience of a performance that’s breaking boundaries, that’s doing things people haven’t tried before. It makes the audience feel as if they’re experiencing history.

It’s had critical success. 

Because I live so far away, most of my information on the good, the bad, and the ugly of the current Broadway season comes from critics. So it was hard to ignore Hamilton when critics started gushing over it. I’d had faith that Lin-Manuel Miranda would pull off a spectacular new musical, but it was nice to hear the voices of critics assuring me that he had created one better than anyone could’ve imagined. When people are saying a show is so good you should mortgage your house to get a ticket, it’s hard not to plan to drive 866 miles to go see it.

It’s exciting.

This is the big one, the culmination of all of the above factors and the one element without which I wouldn’t have made the trip. Hamilton is exciting. It’s unique, which is exciting. It’s by a talented creative team, which is exciting. It’s had critical success, which is exciting. But mostly, it’s exciting because it’s a unique show by a talented artist that’s had critical success.These are the shows that Broadway needs to watch out for, that people will do whatever it takes to go see. These are the shows that leave a mark on the theatre community, that remind people why they love this art form. Shows that excite people

Hamilton Doesn't Need Tonys To Validate Its Success

Chris Peterson

There has been a lot of hoopla surrounding the news that Hamilton's producers are going to limit the amount of performances that Tony voters can get free tickets to see. 

While I'd like to believe this is an artistic, "We don't need Tonys" attitude behind the move, it's probably a money thing. Would you want to give away 1,400 free tickets to the hottest show on Broadway? Especially during the time of year when grosses get higher? 

I didn't think so. 

But while some are freaking out that Hamilton might not win every category, or even Best Musical, I would like to remind them that many works that we consider the greatest musicals of all time, didn't win the Tony for Best Musical either. 

The list is iconic, West Side Story, Gypsy, Follies, Pippin, Chicago. If we're talking more recent years, you could include Wicked and Next to Normal. In some cases, these musicals lost to far inferior work (Sorry Billy Eilliot). 

So if you're worried that Hamilton won't best thought of as one of the great works of our time if it doesn't win a Tony award, given the list above, I don't think that will be the case. 

The Color Blindness of Hamilton

Carolina Ribeiro 

“How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by Providence, impoverished, in squalor grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”

It is precisely this question that Lin Manuel Miranda’s latest show answers. Hamilton is a hip-hop/rap musical about “the ten dollar founding father without a father,” Alexander Hamilton.  I actually remember watching a video of Miranda performing the opening number at a White House event several years ago and thinking, “Wow, now wouldn’t that be a great musical?” Sure enough, it became one of this year’s most talked-about shows during its run at the Public Theater, and just last week it began previews on Broadway. 

There are many reasons to be excited about Hamilton. For one thing, the idea to employ hip-hop and rap in a show about the American founding is nothing short of revolutionary (pun intended). Moreover, most of Hamilton’s cast members are people of color. The significance of this colorblind casting may not be readily apparent, especially to those audience members who quickly acclimate to a black George Washington and a Puerto Rican Hamilton. But for many people, the birth of our country evokes images of white slave-owning men. People of color are universally underrepresented in history textbooks, despite the fact that they have made significant contributions to this nation’s development. In many ways, Hamilton reclaims the agency of minorities and pays tribute to those who have been historically marginalized on the basis of their race. 

The tribute is more symbolic than explicit. Although the actors are playing white people, they do not embody whiteness in their performances. They communicate through hip-hop and rap, a cultural symbol for people of color in the United States. More than just styles of music, hip-hop and rap are, quite literally, the characters’ voices. It is through this language that they scheme against the British, strategize on the battlefield, and debate the structure of their new government. And, of course, it is no coincidence that the villain, King George, is played by a white actor.

If we understand hip-hop and rap to be part of Black and Latino identity, then we see that race is not a barrier, but a source of empowerment for the characters in the show. In this way, Hamilton is anti-colonial in the 21st century sense of the word. Bravo, Mr. Miranda.

A History of Writers Performing in Their Own Musicals

Aaron Netsky

In just a few weeks, the musical Hamilton will begin previews at the Richard Rogers Theatre on Broadway. Hamilton features a book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and stars Miranda as the title character, Alexander Hamilton. If audience members experience some déjà vu at performances of Hamilton, it’s probably because they were fortunate enough to witness Miranda performing in the central role of Usnavi in In the Heights, at the Richard Rogers Theatre, also a product of Miranda’s own creative juices (with a book by playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes). Miranda does it all, and fortunately for us as well as him, he’s quite good at it all. Not every musical features a performance by one of its own creators, in fact very few do.

First off, off-Broadway’s reining champion, The Fantasticks. It first opened on May 3rd, 1960, and has boasted such performers as Jerry Orbach, Kristen Chenoweth, Liza Minelli, and Glenn Close. Even the show’s producer Lore Noto did a stint as The Boy’s Father, Hucklebee, but when it opened, librettist Tom Jones, under an assumed name, played the Old Actor, Henry. Later in the sixties, Anthony Newley collaborated on two musicals with Leslie Bricusse, Stop the World – I want to Get Off and The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, and directed and starred in both on Broadway.

Hamilton

Hamilton

From the seventies, and even to this day, there is really only one Riff Raff, and that is Rocky Horror Show composer/lyricist/librettist Richard O’Brien, who, alongside the iconic Tim Curry as Frank N. Furter, starred in the original West End and Broadway productions, and in the film. In 1998, long before Neil Patrick Harris revived the role last year on Broadway, the lead in Hedwig and the Angry Inch was originally played off-Broadway by John Cameron Mitchell, the show’s book writer. Mitchell also directed and starred in the film version, and was recently among the actors who succeeded Harris in the Broadway revival.

Writers appearing in their own musicals became a lot more common post 2000, partly because those writers were also performers themselves. When Boy George’s musical, Taboo, came to Broadway in 2003, George himself, who wrote an original score complimented by a few old hits, played Leigh Bowery, perhaps the most flamboyant character in a show full of “characters” from the eighties, while a young Boy George was played by Euan Morton. In 2008, Stew narrated his musical Passing Strange, about a young rock musician searching for the true artist’s lifestyle. Billy Joe Armstrong played St. Jimmy at different times throughout the Broadway run of American Idiot, based on one of his band Green Day’s albums. Sting, who wrote the score for the musical The Last Ship, which was based on memories of the town he grew up in, stepped into the role of Jackie White toward the end of that musical’s Broadway run.

It is only fitting that, since The Drowsy Chaperone started out as a bunch of Bob Martin’s friends parodying some of the more ridiculous traditions of musical comedy at a party thrown for him, he would eventually help write and star in the musical that came out of those experiments. He played a man who hates going outside but loves musicals so much that when he shares his love with an audience, and plays his favorite cast recording, they come alive around him. That show opened on Broadway in 2006.

Harvey Fierstein has long been a prolific writer and performer, winning his first two Tony Awards for writing and starring in Torch Song Trilogy. In 2007, he wrote the book for the musical A Catered Affair, and played the “bachelor” Uncle Winston. In the movie the musical was based on, the uncle was ostracized for being a drunk, but on Broadway he was re-made to demonstrate attitudes toward gays in the 1950s. Fierstein has also written the books of other musicals, and though A Catered Affair was the first of his own that he himself starred in, toward the end of the Broadway run of the most recent revival of La Cage Aux Folles, Fierstein stepped into the role of the drag performer, Albin. At the time, Fierstein remarked that, while he seemed an obvious choice for that role, he had written the show seeing it more from Georges’s point of view.

So it is getting more common. One wonders if Lin-Manuel Miranda will ever write a show he, for whatever reason, doesn’t want to be in. Then again, why mess with a working formula? If no one else is writing the shows you want to be in, write them yourself. An acting teacher once told Robert Creighton that he bore a resemblance to James Cagney, so what did Creighton do? He wrote a musical about the life of Cagney, and it was recently produced by the York Theatre Company in New York City with Creighton playing Cagney. Writers have long written shows with specific performers in mind; think Ethel Merman, her musicals, and then a bunch of other musicals written around her time that she wasn’t in but seem to have been written for her. More and more, the performer in mind for the role is the person writing the show.

Aaron Netsky writes the 366 Days/366 Musicals blog. Only a month in, so still plenty of time to catch up and follow along. Visit it at http://366days366musicals.tumblr.com.