Center Stage SPOTLIGHT

The Online Journal for Center Stage Playhouse

The Lack of Originality on Broadway?

by Nick Leshi…

Here’s an essay I wrote earlier this year about Broadway’s seeming addiction to rehashing existing material instead of championing original content.  Let me know what you think…

Broadway is starting to look a lot like Hollywood.  One would think that of all the performing arts, live theater would be the best place for the expression of original ideas.  Yet, as Broadway business grows bigger than ever, producers seem to be following Tinseltown’s model by seeking projects that are a known quantity.  Why take a gamble on an unknown story when there are enough risks with known properties?  So we see more and more adaptations, sequels, revivals, tales about well-known celebrities, and retold stories of historic events. 

Broadway adaptations and revivals are nothing new — classic shows have certainly been made from pre-existing content.  If we look at the Great White Way today, however, it’s harder and harder to find a musical or play based on a wholly original concept.  Looking at the shows last season, all I see are more adaptations, revivals, and even a sequel.  (And the new season isn’t much different — read my preview by clicking here.)

The Columnist (play) – Here’s a new play by David Auburn who wrote the wonderful Proof, but look closely — it’s based on the true story of newspaper columnist Joseph Alsop who served as an adviser to John F. Kennedy in the 1960s.  Auburn used powerful dramatic license to delve into Alsop’s reaction to the Soviet KGB’s threats to expose his secrets with compromising photos.

Death of a Salesman (play) – Arthur Miller’s 1949 classic came to life again, this time starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Loman.

Don’t Dress For Dinner (play) – You thought I was kidding about a sequel?  If you saw the critically acclaimed play Boeing-Boeing and were wondering what happens next, this was your chance.

End of the Rainbow (play) – This play explored the life of Judy Garland on the eve of her final series of concerts in 1968.

Evita (musical) – Andrew Lloyd Webber’s fan-favorite returned with Ricky Martin playing the role of Che.

Ghost: The Musical (musical) – Eventually, every movie will be turned into a Broadway musical.  This one was based on the supernatural romance thriller that starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Gore Vidal’s The Best Man (play) – I actually didn’t mind this timely revival of the 1962 play about a presidential primary race because it starred an amazing cast: John Larroquette, Candice Bergen, Angela Lansbury, Erik McCormack, and James Earl Jones. Read my review here.

Jesus Christ Superstar (musical, March 1) – I went to see a preview performance of this Andrew Lloyd Webber revival.  It was a critically acclaimed production, making its highly anticipated trip to Broadway. Read my review.

Magic/Bird (play) – Written by Eric Simonson based on his conversations with basketball legends Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, was this a sports version of Frost/Nixon?  (I kid. But read my review.)

Newsies (musical) – The 1992 movie about a newsboy strike in 1899 came to Broadway in 2012.

Nice Work If You Can Get It (musical) – Here’s a twist on the jukebox musical concept — a production based on songs from the George and Ira Gershwin catalog.

Once (musical) – The 2006 movie received the musical stage adaptation treatment.

One Man, Two Guvnors (play) – Based on the 18th century Italian comedy Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, this updated retelling was set in the 1960s.

A Streetcar Named Desire (play) – This is a great play by Tennessee Williams.  This new revival starred an African-American cast, with Blair Underwood as Stanley and Nicole Ari Parker as Blanche.

Wit (play) – Cynthia Nixon starred in this revival of the Off-Broadway hit that was written by Margaret Edson. 

Some of these were fantastic productions and I was glad to have had the chance to see them, but I also yearn for some truly original tales to come to life on the Broadway stage.

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This entry was posted on September 9, 2012 by .

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