There is a fascination with musicals in the USA. We come to it honestly through music hall and burlesque. The unfortunate truth is that they’re popular and make money. What promises to come to Broadway is asfollows: American Physco, Groundhog Day, Tuck Everlasting, Heathers, and RebeccaIf it’s money-making film we should make it into a musical. 


No, actually we shouldn’t.


In doing a quick search as to what plays are being produced in New York there are three in development, and 4 revivals planned. The list of musicals,both new and revivals, are legion. For me this has a lot more to do with the commercialization of Broadway than anything else. We are not promoting the thinking man’s theatre to the out-of-towners.


Now let me be clear, I made my living for several years doing musical theatre, its hard work and these actors are just as committed to their craft as non-musical performers. Taking this into consideration, along with Equity’s decision to go against their voting base and demand a pay frame for 99-seat theatres that is unsustainable for those theatres, we see what is happening to the play in the US, and the news isn’t good. Most of the new work is coming from the UK, as good as that is, where are the American Playwrights? Why are we not hearing from them? We also have to realize that this new financial constraint on small theatres will make it twice as hard for emerging playwrights to get produced. We won’t even start on the subject of female playwrights getting produced.


We are distracted and sold entertainment in the form of musical theatre. We are not challenged to think, or to wrestle with current affairs; we are seduced into humming along and watching the big production numbers.  I always get Les Miserable or Evita thrown up to me as examples. How many people who see Les Miserable make the comparison bwetween the struggle within the story and what is happening in the outside world? Evita is a love letter to a tyrant; lovely music but she and Peron murdered thousands of their own people, it’s almost as good as Springtime for Hitler.


I have nothing against entertainment or musicals, but the balance has shifted and we are not challenging our audiences on a larger scale, we are not asking them to think. 


If we do our jobs well we can challenge and engage, without preaching, we can promote discussion, we can make trouble. We can stop placating and start provoking. According to the corporate producers there is no money in this, so it is up to the small theatres and the fringe theatres and independent theatre makers to keep up this tradition.


As someone who has produced I see the economic and understand that rent must be made, but I’m an artist first. I didn’t follow a career in theatre for the money. I followed and continue to follow theatre as my craft and as a way of communicating and starting a conversation with the audience. Yes, to entertain is a worthy thing but at what cost do we continue to drink the Disney Kool-Aid? We have big issues to face and address and its time we started to look at them through different lenses, before its too late.


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