My mother recently told me that she and her friends were planning on taking a trip into the city to see a show. They're not the most consistent theatre-going bunch but they usually see a show every couple of years.
Since my blogging has basically made me a travel agent for many of my friends coming to the city to see a show, she asked me if I had any suggestions.
"What type of show are you looking for?", I asked.
"Something fun", my mother replied.
Thankfully, for the first time in a long time, I had a lot of shows to choose from.
While I see these various shows as Broadway's growth of appeal to all musical tastes, elitists out there are trying to make the case that Broadway is somehow being dumbed down to just tourist pandering and commercial products.
Take for instance New York Post Reporter Johnny Okensinki, who used a select group of shows to try to make the point that Broadway is abandoning artistry for dollars. Beyond being wrong in his assessment(not surprised for someone who only reviewed two shows since Dec), he ignored other examples which would have disproved his belief. Because while he thinks the presence of family-friendly shows and jukebox musicals are damaging the Broadway product, I would argue against that.
Is Escape to Margaritaville a fun show that entertains Jimmy Buffet fans and introduces his music to a whole new crowd? Yes. So why is that a bad thing?
Does Spongebob Squarepants entertain families, especially kids, who might be going to see their first of hopefully many Broadway shows? Yes. So why is that a bad thing?
For all of Mr. Okensinski's praise of the 2015-16 season which included Hamilton, other than School of Rock, what show opened that year that you could bring your child to? American Psycho? Waitress? The Color Purple?
Like it or not, these jukebox musicals and family-friendly shows are providing options for families and casual theatre fans alike. And the way I see it, the more business the better.
Now if you're someone who's worried about the artistic standard being lowered, then you're not only ignoring other shows this season but also how Broadway has operated for the past 100 years. In every season, there are shows produced to make money and shows to make you think and shows that manage to do both. And for all of Mr. Okensinki's lamenting that 2018-19 is headed down the path of destruction, we have no idea what King Kong is going to look like, Pretty Woman received mostly positive reviews in its Chicago tryout and Head Over Heels is getting praise in San Francisco.
Mr. Okensinki forgot about Gettin' The Band Back Together, which centers on a high school rock band reuniting to try to win a battle of the bands which opens in August. He also neglected to mention musicals such as The Prom, a musical takes place in a small Indiana town, where a prom is canceled after the high school forbids a female student from bringing her girlfriend. When a group of eccentric Broadway actors hears her story, they travel to the community in an earnest—if possibly misguided—attempt to correct the injustice. That show opens on Nov 15th.
He also didn't mention Hadestown, which is opening in London ahead of its 2019 Broadway opening. That show is based on a version of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Orpheus journeys to the underworld to rescue his wife Eurydice set to a masterful score by Anaïs Mitchell.
Not to mention the strong drama season with The Boys in the Band, Torch Song and True West all making their way back to Broadway.
Has Broadway become more expensive? Yes. There's no doubt about that. But the product and standard hasn't been lowered and it's not in danger of being lowered. People like Mr. Okensinki have been decrying the lowering of the proverbial show tune bar since The Lion King announced they were coming to town or that a musical based on the French novel "Le Fantôme de l'Opéra" was opening. And time after time, Broadway has proven it's going to be just fine.
So if you want to sit back, have a cold drink and have fun at a Jimmy Buffet musical, you can.
If you want to take your kids to a musical that will make them smile, you can.
If you want to see a show that opens your mind and fills your heart, you have more options than ever right now.
That's a good thing in my book.