Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily, which comes live from New York City this week.
You can also get regular updates throughout the day on ShentonSTAGE LIVE, a rolling theatre blog that appears on my website, updated throughout the day as necessary, to reflect news updates and other observations and commentary as they occur. The landing page for this is here: http://shentonstage.com/shentonstage-live/
I can also be found regularly on Twitter, https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/
SIX ON BROADWAY — AND ITS CREATORS IN CABARET AT 54 BELOW
Broadway, of course, is frequently host to London-born productions; the West End revival of Sondheim’s COMPANY — the quintessential Manhattan musical, set on its very streets — is currently a hit at the Jacobs Theatre, after having just begun previews prior to the theatre shutdown in March 2020.
And the West End hit SIX — now on its third West End address — had completed its previews at the Brooks Atkinson and was preparing for its official premiere on March 12, 2020, when at 5pm that day came the announcement that theatres were being closed with immediate effect. The show’s London PR Kevin Wilson was actually staying in my New York flat at the time and had flown out specially to be there.
It, too, returned last September to resume its run at the Brooks Atkinson, and I finally caught its Broadway incarnation last night. And I made a night of it: since Six runs for just 70 minutes, I was able to hotfoot it from 47th Street to 54th Street immediately after to see Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, its co-authors and creators, in a cabaret at 54 Below.
It made for a fascinatingly diverse evening, proving first of all that they are no one-hit show wonders, but that they have a number of other ones already in development. They presented a dozen songs from various projects, most notably one they were not being paid to write but were writing on spec from which much of the cabaret’s material was drawn.
A bit like a scratch night or backers’ audition, the biggest discovery for me was that Marlow and Moss diverted so far away from Six’s signature pop pastiche tributes. Seeing Six again earlier last night in a packed Broadway house, that concert-like show plays a bit like a jukebox musical, not least because the audience is so full of fans who already seem to know most of the score. But at 54 Below we were hearing brand-new songs with fresh ears; I really can’t wait for their next show now to reach the stage.
COVID: INDUSTRY CHANGES IN THE WEST END
Covid has changed the world, and industry practices that used to be followed or accepted as gospel in the theatre may no longer be fit for purpose, on both sides of the Atlantic.
An interesting column by producer Michael Rose in The Stage (who produced the first new show after restrictions were lifted in September 2020 to open a new musical SLEEPLESS at Troubadour Wembley Park, pictured below) reiterated the failure of leadership offered by the Society of London Theatre in navigating its members — producers and theatre owners — through the pandemic, and casting them adrift to individually make up their own policies on how to manage its fall-out. I’ve been banging on about this for months, but Rose sets out a perspective on exactly why this has happened as it has.
As he explains, this is not entirely the fault of SOLT CEO Julian Bird (who is stepping down from his post this year after a decade at the helm of the trade body). It is a systemic failure, based on the fact that he is trapped betweeen opposing factions who want different outcomes: too many restrictions and you put off audiences; too few, and your risk the health of those audiences and perfomers and other theatre staff alike.
He compares it to the situation on Broadway, where the Broadway League HAS been able to set a policy that everyone now follows to the letter.
COVID: INDUSTRY CHANGES IN THE US
Meanwhile, on Broadway one of the early steps implemented by the Broadway League when its theatre industry re-opened in September 2021 (a year after Michael Rose’s Sleepless in London above), was to stop publishing the weekly grosses of box office income and percentage attendances for each show, but instead publishing only an aggregate of all the shows playing.
As Lee Seymour wrote in a column for Forbes following a leak of the previously withheld data,
He also points out the fallacy of the widely-held anecdotal belief that black shows don’t sell on Broadway. After the reckonings of Black Lives Matter that followed the death of George Floyd, Broadway suddenly became acutely aware of its own systemic racism, and a flurry of black-themed work has been programmed by Broadway and off-Broadway theatres alike.
Playwright Lynn Nottage, for instance, has had three shows on at different theatres in the last few months: her new original play Clyde’s at Second Stage’s Hayes Theatre on Broadway (pictured above); she also wrote the book for the new Michael Jackson musical MJ; and her 2003 play Intimate Apparel has been turned into an opera at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theatre.
But is there now too much black-themed work to make it all viable at the box office? Seymour writes,
THIS WEEK’S THEATRE OPENINGS IN LONDON AND ON BROADWAY
A relatively quiet week brings just one notable opening to London and a blockbuster one in New York, both on Thursday:
- Thursday February 10:
LONDON: The Chairs (Almeida) February 5-March 5, press night February 10. Omar Elerian translates, adapts and directs Kathryn Hunter, Marcello Magni and Toby Sedgwick in a new production of Ionesco’s play. Press contact: Alexander Milward at the Almeida.https://almeida.co.uk/whats-on/the-chairs/4-feb-2022-5-mar-2022
BROADWAY: The Music Man (Winter Garden Theatre) Previews began December 20, opening February 10, Hugh Jackman plays ‘Professor’ Harold Hill, the music man of the title, in a revival of Meredith Willson’s 1957 musical, co-starring Sutton Foster as Marian Paroo. Jerry Zaks directs, with choreography by Warren Carlyle, the same team behind the 2018 revival of Hello, Dolly! Press contact: DKC/O&M. https://musicmanonbroadway.com
For an updated list of future openings in London, the regions and on Broadway, visit my feature here: http://shentonstage.com/theatre-openings-from-w-c-feb-7-onwards/
SEE YOU TOMORROW
See you in your inbox tomorrow. But if you can’t wait that long, you can find me on Twitter @ShentonStage (though not as often on weekends), or in my live blog here.