Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shows are bustin' out all over

I'm learning that spring is a great time of year for a theatre fan, because that's when plans for the new season come together - repertory companies announce which plays they'll be putting on and touring companies announce which shows will be coming my way.

There's a great rundown at Modern Fabulousity of the upcoming Broadway season, and once again, there's practically nothing I don't want to see. Well, maybe I'm not that interested in Shrek.

High on my list is the Elton John musical Billy Elliot, which has been a hit in London's West End since it opened in 2005. It's based on the 2000 movie with Jamie Bell and Julie Walters about a working-class boy from a family of coal miners who dreams of becoming a dancer.

Billy Elliot is one of those "little" British movies that I love. They're movies that take place away from London, away from posh, upper-class England, in rural parts of the country or gritty, industrial cities. Often, there's a political element - Billy Elliot is set against the backdrop of a miner's strike in the 1980s, during the Margaret Thatcher era. They're not big blockbusters, but small stories, well-told with a big dollop of humor and humanity. (I think I'm a sucker for mining stories, too. I loved How Green Was My Valley. And I've been underground in a real Yorkshire coal mine that's been turned into a museum.)

Other shows on ModFab's list that I've put on my personal Broadway wish list include:

Al Pacino's return to Broadway in Lyle Kessler's three-hander play Orphans. I have to admit, I've never heard of the play or Kessler, but it's Al Pacino, one of America's greatest actors, star of one of my all-time favorite movies, The Godfather. I even like the mostly unlamented The Godfather: Part III. "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." I'd go see him in just about anything.

Horton Foote's play Dividing the Estate. This one got good reviews off-Broadway last fall, and it sounds like a messy, dysfunctional, multigenerational family drama filled with quirky characters and plot twists. What fun! I just hope there are a few long-buried family secrets. Every family has some, right?

[title of show] is a musical about the making of a musical, and in addition to stories about miners and dysfunctional families, I also love backstage stories. From everything I've read, [title of show] sounds really funny. In fact, when I was first thinking about starting my blog, I thought about calling it title of blog. But since I'd never seen the show, I realized that probably wasn't such a hot idea.

I'm also excited about a revival of the Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey. Since plans to bring a revival of the Frank Loesser musical Guys and Dolls to Broadway have fallen through, I figure this is the closest I can get to a story of somewhat unsavory characters in the big city. And I think they both take place during the 1930s. Sure, it's based on a work by John O'Hara, not Damon Runyon, and it takes place in Chicago, not New York, but I think Pal Joey will have the same kind of feel to it. At least I hope so.


Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, I think you'll enjoy [title of show], but be prepared because there are no big dance numbers and I doubt they'll have a huge orchestra if it's anything like the downtown original.

I saw Billy Elliot nearly three years ago in London and enjoyed it immensely. My biggest fear is that they'll feel the need to dumb it down due to the thick accents and very English subject matter that they may think Americans can't understand or appreciate.

Esther said...

Ok, I'll be prepared! I'm learning to appreciate the charms of smaller musicals that don't have big dance numbers or huge orchestras. ;-)

Yeah, I know what you mean about the accents in "Billy Elliot." I have friends in Yorkshire and it can be tough to understand them at first, but not impossible. I just hope they don't dumb it down. I know there's sometimes a brief history or explanation in the Playbill, so maybe that would work. For "Deuce," they actually had a few lines describing the scoring in tennis. And for "LoveMusik," they had a page, I think, about Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya. So I think a paragraph or two with some historical background would do the trick.

I'm really looking forward to both shows!

Kevin Daly said...

I too cannot wait for "Billy Elliot." And while we're on the subject, I want Encores! to bring back the musical version of "How Green Was My Valley" called "A Time for Singing." Definitely one of the best flop scores ever.

Esther said...

Wow, I didn't realize "How Green Was My Valley," had ever been made into a musical. Thanks for the tip! I just checked the Wikipedia entry more closely and saw a mention of it. It's interesting that according to Ken Mandelbaum, who wrote "Not Since Carrie," the show paved the way for grander musicals like "Les Miserables." I'm a big "Les Miz" fan, so I bet I would have loved it. I think I'll try to find the cast album. That would be so great if Encores did it someday. My love for the story comes mostly from the book, which I read in high school. But I'm pretty sure I've also seen the movie.