‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ Broadway, not a holiday musical was playing, save Ruben & Clay. The tickets were bought at box offices galore, in hopes that audiences would soon beg for more. At least, this has been the case in more recent seasons concerning Broadway musicals focused on the holidays. Think about the catalog of Christmas shows alone that have graced Broadway stages in seasons past: A Christmas Story, Holiday Inn, Elf, How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Now don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against American Idol magnates Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken coming together peacefully over the 2018 holiday season for a little AI reunion, but where are the tried and true Christmas Broadway musicals that we have held so dear in past seasons? The choice to bring back such musicals (all of which were also hit box office smashes in their own right) seems to be almost a no-brainer. So why the lack this year?
In fairness, there are possibly two exceptions, neither of which is technically in a Broadway house however: Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (starring Tony Award-nominee Gavin Lee in the title role) at the HULU Theater at Madison Square Garden and those indefatigable Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. Again, neither are technically on the Great White Way this holiday season 2018.
So let’s all put on our producing hats for a second and contemplate the monetary advantage of putting our bets on a shepherding a successful holiday show to Broadway every year. For example, in the week ending December 23rd, 2012, the Pasek and Paul holiday musical hit A Christmas Story (based on the 1983 cult Christmas movie) brought in close to $1.5 million; and that was after only nine performances that holiday week. The show also introduced Broadway and the world at large to the genius that is the now the Tony/Grammy/Oscar-winning musical theatre writing team we all know and love today; particularly for their groundbreaking Best Musical of 2017, Dear Evan Hansen. The musical only ran a total of 66 performances during its 7-week run on Broadway and was both a critical success and instant audience favorite. The show also employs a simplistic but effective immediate family favorite: the employment of children in the show. Why so effective? The only thing that kids love to see more when they see a Broadway musical than the actual show itself is themselves represented onstage. And A Christmas Story has that in spades with kids even leading rousing musical numbers. What else could possibly be more exciting for families
There is also, of course, the nostalgic advantage of bringing back Broadway holiday shows. Which one of us doesn’t love to sit back with our loved ones, curled up by the fire as a light snow begins to fall outside and watch a classic such as White Christmas or Holiday Inn? You can find them running almost constantly this time of year on Turner Classic Movies. The musical Irving Berlin’s White Christmas actually enjoyed two successful holiday mountings, both at the Marriott Marquis Theatre in the heart of Times Square. The show then went on to tour professionally all over the country and still performs yearly at regional theatres across the nation. The beloved heartwarming tale features an unforgettable Berlin score with tunes such as the title song, “Heat Wave,” “Sisters,” “Blue Skies,” “I Love A Piano” and many more.
To be fair, Roundabout Theatre Company did give us a delightful production of Holiday Inn last season at the American Airlines Theatre right on 42nd STreet. The show, directed and conceived by Gordon Greenberg, was technically a “new musical.” The show, unbelievably, had never been conceived before for the Broadway stage. The show had previous incarnations at the esteemed Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut in 2014 and at the MUNY Theatre, just outside St. Louis in 2015. Roundabout knew it had a hit on its hands and being a not-for-profit and realizing that the holiday theme of the show wouldn’t last past the new year of course, decided to have the show professionally recorded on video and distributed through the online theatrical streaming service, BroadwayHD for future viewers to enjoy, not just during the holidays, but all year long. The show also garnered its one and only Tony Award nomination for Denis Jones’ ebullient, upbeat choreography. One number in particular, “Shakin’ The Blues Away,” actually featured an entire tap dancing chorus skipping (while tap dancing) through jump ropes. If that doesn’t shake off the Christmas Grinch in all of us, I don’t know what does.
For 2018 however, we will all have to settle for those rocking Rockettes or seeing Tony Award-nominee Gavin Lee (most recently of this past season’s Spongebob Squarepants: The Musical) as the Grinch for our midtown merriment. Whatever one chooses for your holiday pleasure, make sure to include a show and next season, be nice little boys and girls and maybe Broadway Santa will grant us another holiday Broadway musical on the Great White Way. And to all, a good night!