THIS WEEK @ JK's TheatreScene

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Well, my "little vacation" ended up lasting two and a half years... funny how life steers your life in directions you weren't planning on. I'll start off with occasional posts, but I fully plan to resume this blog to full speed by the new year.

I hope you'll come back for frequent visits, to see new reviews, to share opinions, to take a survey (or two), and to celebrate the shows and show people that have made the TheatreScene!

Jeff

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Yet Another Trend: Biographical Musicals


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Earlier this week, I blogged about the trend toward biographical play.  Even more so, there has been a trend toward biographical musicals.  History is full of them: Funny Girl (Fanny Brice), George M! (George M. Cohen), The Will Rogers Follies (Will Rogers), and the granddaddy of them all, A Chorus Line.  And those are just a few.  Why they are such a source for big musicals?  Well, all the very best shows have compelling characters that are both relatable and larger-than-life, with stories that are compelling, relatable and larger-than-life.  And those are all things that the subjects of biographical shows.

GETTING STARTED


Historical Figures: Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow, Jesus of Nazareth





WHO IN HISTORY: This current trend can really be traced back to the 2010 - 2011 season, with Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (Andrew Jackson), The Scottsboro Boys (The Scottsboro Boys), Baby It's You (The Shirelles/Florence Greenberg), all financial flops, two critical triumphs.  This season, just finished continued with Bonnie and Clyde (Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow), the fan-popular, vastly underrated Frank Wildhorn musical, and the yawner revival of Jesus Christ Superstar (Jesus of Nazareth).  Despite the fact that both shows didn't last as long as hoped, both have their champions in Broadway fans and a few critics.

STILL AROUND


Historical Figures: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Eva and Juan Peron






WHO IN HISTORY: Well, no matter what I think of the show, I can't dispute the fact that Jersey Boys (Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons) continues to be box office gold, packing in the fans week after week.  Not bad for a jukebox musical, right? Wrapping up its run this week is the return engagement of Fela! (Fela Anikulapo-Kuti) a critically-acclaimed show that ran a respectable length of time the first time, though not nearly as long as the reviews and Tony love would have indicated.  And easily the biggest hit bio-musical of last season is Evita (Eva and Juan Peron), a show that has divided critics and fans alike.  But you just can't beat the allure of superb dancing, a huge score, and some guy named Ricky Martin.

COMING SOON


Historical Figures: Charlie Chaplin, Aimee Semple McPherson





WHO IN HISTORY: Two of the biggest celebrities of their time are being given the Broadway bio-musical treatment.  First up: Chaplin (Charlie Chaplin) the musical formerly known as Limelight, telling the tale of one of the most famous icons of all time - ladies' man, accused communist, brilliant comedian and enduring film legend Charlie Chaplin.  His life story seems like the perfect fodder for a hit show. Next up: Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson (Aimee Semple McPherson) tells the story of the most popular woman of her time - Evangelist, eccentric, dynamo - her life even included an alleged kidnapping!  With Carolee Carmello in the lead, the show should at least be interesting - she's no slouch!

THE NEAR FUTURE


Historical Figure: Harry Houdini, Hal Prince





WHO IN HISTORY: Already announced for the 2013-2014 season, Houdini (Harry Houdini) will show us all about the world's most famous magicians, and will star one of the biggest stage and film stars of our time, Tony winner Hugh Jackman.  Two other new shows could also be biographical, depending upon how they play out: The Prince of Broadway (Hal Prince) a revue of numbers from shows directed or produced by the Tony-winningest guy of all time, could tell something about his life, and Motown a musical about that musical empire could potentially tell the story of such legends as Barry Gordy and Diana Ross.  Time will tell!

Jeff
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