Perpetual Anticipation: The New Musicals of the 2017-2018 Season
It happens every year (thank god). Fans of Broadway musicals get all excited over the barrage of new musicals announced for the coming season. We are always salivating over the newest sleeper hit, blockbuster, and even flop, anticipating that glorious adrenaline that comes with attending a Broadway show. Since the cycle never really stops, this is perpetual anticipation and as Mr. Sondheim reminds us, such suspense may good for the soul, but bad for the heart. Out of the myriad musicals that arrive in New York each year, only a handful go on to glory (and recoupment).
Broadway is busting at the seams with new musicals slated to open in the 2017-2018 season. Though I am sure that this list is far from complete, here is what we can look forward to this season on Broadway. It’s an exciting and varied list of options, sure to tantalize even the most-discerning among us.
Prince of Broadway
A limited engagement at MTC, Prince of Broadway is arguably not a new musical, but rather a collage of the scenes from the great musicals produced and directed by Harold Prince. Still, it is specially assembled to celebrate his work (a la Jerome Robbins’ Broadway and Fosse) and it is a heart assemblage of sublime talent married with some of the most iconic scenes from Broadway musicals. The only problem: It’s a limited run and closes October 29.
Why we are excited: It’s a celebration of Harold Prince. We wouldn’t have musical theatre without him. He is the art form.
The Band’s Visit
For me, this is the most exciting entry of the 2017-2018 season. The Band’s Visit is brought to us with a score by the always wonderful and clever David Yazbek (The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) and a book by Itamar Moses. Set in 1996, an Egyptian Police Band is set to play a concert at the Arab Culture Center in the Israeli town of Petah Tikvah. They accidentally end up in Bet Hatikvah, a small village in the remote desert. There, the denizens invite them to perform their concert as they strike an unlikely friendship with the people. The Band’s Visit premiered off-Broadway in December 2016 and won the New York Drama Critics' Circle award for Best Musical.
Why we are excited: The Band’s Visit is easily the most out-of-the-box musical this season. It is something different. It is also challenging in its themes and ideas, and we love a musical that makes us think.
Many of you are frenzied over the forthcoming Broadway arrival of Mean Girls, based on the popular 2004 film starring Lindsay Lohan and featuring a screenplay by Tina Fey. The Broadway production will have a book by Fey (adapting her sharp and witty screenplay), with a score by Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin. Casey Nicholaw will direct and choreograph. The story is about the evils of high school, where popularity supersedes all and climbing to the position of Queen Bee is the goal of any aspiring young diva.
Why we are excited: Even if it’s not great, we love the movie and will go to see what they will do with it. With Tina Fey and Casey Nicholaw attached, it’ bound to be fun and expertly put-together.
The film was a blockbuster. The song “Let it Go” is still ringing in our ears and hearts. The fairy tale that demonstrated that true love doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of a handsome prince rang true with many of us. Frozen is an (loose) adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Snow Queen with a score by Kristin Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and a book by Jennifer Lee. Michael Grandage will direct. It’s a musical fairy tale with a feel-good ending and the strength of female sisterhood. It’s a Wicked for the next generation.
Why we are excited: The kiddies and the Disney fanatics love this film and Disney puts a lot of emphasis on spectacle and production value. Whether it wins awards is immaterial. This show will be a hit.
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical
I must admit, I’m intrigued here. SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical seems like an enormous wild card, but the TV show continues to be a hot item and it’s the type of exuberant, larger-than-life cartoon premise that can actually-lend itself to musical theatre. The titular ocean dweller, full of optimism and hope, is the idealistic catalyst in every musical comedy ever written. Tom Kitt has assembled several top-notch composers of pop musical to each write a song for this show set in Binkini Bottom at the base of the ocean. It could be awful, or it could be just quixotic enough to work. I want it to surprise us!
Why we are excited? It’s impossible to understate our curiosity over just what this will be. That’s enough to get many of us in the door. And who knows…maybe it will surprise us!
Escape to Margaritaville
Jukebox musicals are not my cup of tea, and I’m not sure the world actually-needs a Jimmy Buffet musical, but heck, let’s try to have an open mind. Escape to Margaritaville will feature many of the hit songs by Buffet who, to his credit, continues to have an enormous following. The musical is a bartender/singer named Tully who is living the good life. A tourist shows up and shakes up the world as he knows it. It’s a pretty cliché musical comedy romance premise, but one that almost-always works. Can we get past the juke box formula and find a musical with heart and purpose? Fingers crossed.
Why we are excited? This promises to be fun and we can always use a little fun in our life. Jimmy Buffet fans will attest to the positive vibe of his music.