Broadway Musical 2018-2019 Preview: Thoughts On What’s To Come
The 2018-2019 Broadway Musical Season is well underway with the recent arrivals of Head Over Heels, Pretty Woman and the arrival and forthcoming closure of Gettin’ the Band Back Together. Today, I am addressing the musicals that have been officially announced for the rest of the season. This is most definitely speculation, my thoughts on what is to come and how I am feeling about the musicals readying themselves for Broadway.
Official Opening: November 8, 2018
I have to admit that I find King Kong to be the most intriguing of all of the entries for the coming season. Do I think that it will make for a good musical? I am skeptical. Do I think that it will make for an amazing spectacle that is bound to engage tourists? More likely. What few visuals we have seen so far are certainly arresting theatrical magic, but I have to ask, “what about this story exactly sings?” The plot is centered around a giant ape and his unusual relationship with a lovely actress. Doesn’t that limit have of the show’s ability to sing, or at least make it vocally one-sided? King Kong features a book by Jack Thorne, with a score by Marius de Vries and songs by Eddie Perfect.
Official Opening: November 15, 2018
The Prom sounds like a fun concept for a musical comedy. With Casey Nicholaw directing, it will most likely be a funny, energetic one. The story follows four fading Broadway stars who rally around a teenage girl who wants to bring her girlfriend to the prom, despite the protestations of her small Indiana community. The Prom features a score by Matthew Sklar (Elf) and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer, Aladdin), a book by Beguelin and Tony-winner Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone). I’d like to be optimistic about this show because it sounds like something I’d enjoy, but it feels like one of those shows that would be better served Off-Broadway in a more intimate setting. I’m hoping it has a chance.
The Cher Show
Official Opening: December 3, 2018
I am an enormous fan of the music that Cher has performed over the years, but I am so adamantly opposed to jukebox musicals that I am having a hard time mustering enthusiasm for The Cher Show. Taking a similar approach as Donna: The Donna Summer Musical (which just announced an extension of a year), The Cher Show will have three performers playing the diva at different stages in her life. Also, one shouldn’t underestimate the draw of Cher’s music, so from a tourist audience perspective, this show could take off. The question is: is there a compelling enough story to be told and can the body of Cher’s music adequately tell that story?
Be More Chill
Official Opening: March 10, 2019
This musical was a sensation before it even set foot in New York. Resonating with teens who were watching and listening to bootlegs of it all over social media, it should be no surprise that Be More Chill was an unqualified hit Off-Broadway and quickly-announced to transfer to Broadway this spring. Taking on the subject of popularity and our attraction to what one has to do to achieve it is nothing new in the annals of musical theatre. Grease, Heathers, Mean Girls, Zanna Don’t! and Dear Evan Hansenhave all touched on this in one way or another. I don’t mean to diminish the excitement that Be More Chill has buzzing around it by comparing it to the aforementioned titles. I find the score enjoyable and the unique approach to its theme refreshing. It will most likely be this season’s biggest hit.
Kiss Me, Kate
Official Opening: March 14, 2019
The only revival that has been officially announced for the 2018-2019 season is the Roundabout Theatre production of Kiss Me, Kate. With Kelli O’Hara and (particularly) Will Chase announced for the leads, it is hard not to get excited for it. The Cole Porter score sparkles with some of his wittiest songs. The book by Sam and Bella Spewack is also intelligent and multi-layered with its show-within-a-show parallel complexity. The chief problem? The subject matter of the show. How will a musical where an arrogant ex-husband spanks his temperamental ex-wife when serving as her director and co-star play in today’s climate? It has been an issue that has plagued this show for decades.
Official Opening: April 23, 2019
I know that many of my readership are opposed to musicals that are adapted from films, but I argue that it is execution and not the source material that makes the difference. David Yazbek has written delightfully probing scores for many musicals based on films including The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and the Tony-winning The Band’s Visit. For me, Yazbek is the most-thrilling composer currently writing for Broadway. Tootsie, his next Broadway-bound musical, is loaded with opportunities to tell the interesting story through music: an out of work, difficult actor disguises himself as a woman to increase his employment opportunities, lands a part in a popular soap opera and soon gets a taste of what women experience in the workplace.
Official Opening: April, 2019 (Exact Date TBA)
I’m having a hard time imagining how Tim Burton’s kooky film about the afterlife will work as a Broadway musical. The film is a dark comedy remembered more for its situation, visuals, and the indelible performances by Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder than for having any kind of engrossing plot or character development. Is this too tall of a specter to overcome? Visually, I think it could be real treat onstage (sets, costumes, and lighting will need to be spectacular), but how are they going to give these characters any depth through music? Beetlejuice features a score by Eddie Perfect, and a book by Scott Brown and Anthony King and they have their work cut out for them. If the show works, it will owe a great deal to its director Alex Timbers who always finds clever ways to mine the most out of a theatrical property with his imaginative staging.
Ain't Too Proud - The Life and Times of The Temptations
Official Opening: Spring, 2019 (Exact Date TBA)
If my opinions about The Cher Show didn’t give you a taste of my feelings about jukebox musicals, then you’ll be surprised that I am not exactly sitting in eager anticipation of Ain't Too Proud - The Life and Times of The Temptations. It’s not that I think all jukebox musicals are awful (there a few that I think have been fun like All Shook Up! and Mamma Mia), I just simply prefer songs that organically grow out of a story instead of being sandwiched into one. In the case of biographical jukebox musicals, I have to be excited enough about the singer or the band’s body of work to become invested. That is the reason I enjoyed Jersey Boys enough to sit through it. I happen to love Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I am not as big a fan of The Temptations, but my personal feelings aside, it will be a roll of the dice to see if Broadway has enough room for so many of these jukebox biographies. I have more confidence in The Cher Show being a tourist draw, but with the right concept and staging, Ain't Too Proud - The Life and Times of The Temptations may surprise us. We’ll keep an open mind?