What's happing to Boston as a tryout town for Broadway musicals?
I can't get to New York City nearly as often as I'd like, so I was really excited when I found out that two musicals - the Rob Ashford-helmed Brigadoon and Nice Work if You Can Get It, with Harry Connick Jr., were going to play at Boston's Colonial Theatre before heading to Broadway. That's only an hour away from me.
Well, last week it was announced that the Gershwin-themed Nice Work if You Can Get It is on hold because all of the elements couldn't be put together after director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall left the project. And this week, Brigadoon has been postponed, according to Playbill, because of "the lack of an appropriate Broadway theatre in spring 2009."
I realize that the fate of those two shows had nothing to do with choosing Boston as their tryout city. (At least I don't think it did). Still, it's frustrating, especially when other cities don't seem to have a problem attracting Broadway-bound musicals.
Seattle is getting Shrek, and last year, it had Young Frankenstein. (Oops, I mean The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein. Sorry, Mel!) Before that, Hairspray had its out-of-town tryout in Seattle, and Wicked's was in San Francisco. San Diego got the tryout of A Catered Affair. I could go on.
Of course, before air travel, Boston was a favorite Broadway tryout city, along with other places along the East Coast that were only a train ride or a short drive away, like New Haven, Conn., Philadelphia and Baltimore. The list of musicals that premiered at the Colonial Theatre includes Oklahoma!, Carousel, Annie Get Your Gun, Porgy and Bess and La Cage aux Folles.
So what happened? Is it the desire for a little fun in the sun before the rigors of Broadway? I've been to San Francisco in the summer and let me tell you, while I absolutely love the city and I could ride the cable cars forever, it can get a little chilly there, even in August.
I assume that the migration to the West Coast was designed, in part, to get as far from New York City as possible, allowing a show to be fine-tuned away from the prying eyes of critics. But really, when you can find a review of a show on the Internet within hours after the conclusion of its final dress rehearsal (never mind first preview!) that distance is largely irrelevant.
In addition, I'm betting that production costs are lower in places like Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego than in the Northeast. I'm sure that plays into the producers' decision about where to stage the tryout.
I don't begrudge my fellow theatre fans on the West Coast the thrill of seeing a show with its original Broadway cast. I realize that most of those fans will never make it to New York City to see the musical on Broadway. I just want the producers to spread the joy around.
Hey, I know it's not a lost cause. After all, Boston still gets some tryouts. There was the late and mostly unlamented High Fidelity, which started at the Colonial Theatre in September 2006 and moved to Broadway, where it closed 10 days after it opened. But you can't blame that on Boston, can you?
And we gave a good sendoff to The 39 Steps, which I saw, and loved, during its pre-Broadway stint last fall at the Huntington Theatre Company. Okay, the show started in England, so Boston didn't have a world premiere. But the play is still running in New York, at the Cort Theatre.
Still, in terms of Broadway-bound musicals, it's wait 'til next year.