Saturday, May 26, 2007

Well, Why Not?

Just goes to show you (or shows to go you) how backed up I am that Surplus managed to scoop me (and so far as everyone else I can see) on the whole Addams Family musical coming to Broadway in '09-'10. I read it first here, where it apparently beat out Campbell Robertson of the Times, but I digress: there's a point.

A lot of shows have been taking flak lately, shows that aren't even in previews yet (and hence undeserving of criticism). Everybody laughed at Xanadu, but an early report from my fellow racer Patrick, shows that it might not be quite as bad an idea as we thought. People have been up in arms about the purported jukebox musical from The Flaming Lips and Aaron Sorkin, but I've seen odder cafeteria confections in children's lunch-boxes. What I say? Two things that I like, mixed together. There's only so much that can be wrong with that, especially when they go so far as to compare the forthcoming plot to Brazil. (Pretentious, I won't argue.)

Not that there haven't been bad ideas. I don't quite remember how much Lord of the Rings lost as a cash-crop musical, or what exactly they were thinking with The Apprentice: The Musical, but these were spur-of-the-moment attempts to make money off a hot, topical item. With The Apprentice now canceled, and spring 2006 far gone, we may be saved from another Trump fiasco (do we need his "great" White way on the Great White Way?).

But there are also those stuck in the mix between inspired and greedy: why are we so worried about Spider-Man: The Musical? The only question there is: why U2? Julie Taymor is pretty talented at finding unique ways to stage what we thought could only be animated (The Lion King), and a book penned by Neil Jordan isn't necessarily better than anyone else's, but why not give the guy a chance? Batman: The Musical is looking less and less likely, but was nobody excited (or jaded enough) back in '04 at the prospect of seeing Tim Burton's vision on stage? There's camp, there's kitsch, but then there's also sometimes a rare success in the ridiculous.

Which brings us back to The Addams Family. Granted, we're already getting a Gothic comedy out of Mel Brooks and his Young Frankenstein, but do we have any reason to shudder at this combination?
Composer-lyricist Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party) is writing the songs; Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (Jersey Boys) provide the book. Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, the Improbable Theater founders who created Shockheaded Peter, will direct and design.
I'd at least like to give them the benefit of the doubt, especially when one considers that they're modeling the show NOT after the well-meaning movies or their charming TV counterpoints, but on the original and disturbing comics in The New Yorker. Give the guys credit for reaching deep.

End point? Anything can work on Broadway, and given the current and much beleaguered "state" of musical theater, should be tried on Broadway. If Spring Awakening wins big, we might be able to take a step back from the cloying laughs of Legally Blonde, Spamalot, and the rest of the sugar-fed spectacles. And even if it doesn't, I'm all for adding some darker comedy to the mainstream: especially when it's at least starting in such capable, eager hands.

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