Subpar Theatre(s)

At the beginning of this season, I didn’t mind the fact that two shows I probably wouldn’t consider my cups-of-tea — Jimmy Buffet’s jukebox Escape to Margaritaville, and the two-part, interminably-excessive Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — were planning to occupy my two least favorite theatres on Broadway: respectively, the Marquis and the Ford Center for the Performing Arts-turned-Hilton-turned-Foxwoods-turned-Lyric (for now).

Two birds with one stone, dumbass Steven thought! Since Broadway audiences seem to always support shamelessly-commercial entertainment — the sort that replace artistic integrity with capitalist pandering — I figured these two theatrical conglomerates might as well take up houses I wouldn’t mind not revisiting for a while.

But now, I’ve seen the error of my ways. The problems with this calculus:

Based on its current grosses, Escape to Margaritaville won’t be long for this world, despite its perfect fit as a tourist trap of a musical in a tourist trap of a hotel: the Marriot Marquis. The building has about as much personality as a stucco wall, and will always be guilty of a massacre, even though this genocide may have helped “revitalize” Times Square and, in turn, Broadway. This Disneyification had obvious downsides, but it did allow paranoid tourists to feel safe enough to return to the Great White Way (by becoming ever whiter; thanks racist gentrifying Giuls!). The Marquis undeniably led to Broadway’s newfound prosperity, but the powers-that-be really couldn’t have chosen another block for the hotel that didn’t require the demolition of five theatres?!

As for Harry Potter and the Blah Blah Blah (my Twitter-length review: A technical marvel, but a textual trifle), it’s one of the few shows that can fill the cavernous Lyric, and I’m not referring solely to its seating capacity; the place is just a fucking barn. But I still feel like some musicals could make due with the space. In any case, after suffering through Potter, I’d now prefer other ventures to try and fail instead of this unremarkable dud taking up a valuable theatre for years to come.

And that’s another component of my altered calculus: Given the present paucity of available theatres — which is a negative byproduct of the positive trend of SO many shows running for SO long — I just can’t support such mediocrity hogging two of the finite number of Broadway theatres desperately in demand right now. The more Broadway thrives financially, the more producers will want to shepherd new enterprises to the Great White Way, which unfortunately has fewer and fewer vacancies.

And if you throw the rote “BUT AT LEAST THEY’RE BRINGING FRESH FACES TO BROADWAY!!!” argument at me, think twice about the sort of introduction they provide. Let’s just say they don’t necessary put Broadway’s best foot forward.

And then there’s this frightening question:

Could The Boy Who Lived become the first property EVER to have a play AND musical running on Broadway AT THE SAME TIME!? A musical adaptation(s) of the original book(s) is by no means out of the realm of possibly in the next decade. And since the notoriously-verbose J.K. Rowling and Co. would obviously want to maximize profits — let me tell you, The Cursed Child‘s bloated story in no way justifies its SIX HOUR runtime. What can, similar to the decision to divide the last movie into two parts: “We can force our hopelessly-devoted fans to see one show for the price of two!” And I do mean forced; no one’s allowed to buy tickets for just one — it’s safe to assume that each book would be translated into (at least) one musical per.

An even more frightening question:

What if, instead of running in repertory at the same theatre like Blah Blah Blah, these new versions decided to take up INDIVIDUAL THEATRES?! It would be up to their owners to say no to the guaranteed gobs of magic money…like that’d ever happen (case in point: Rocktopia, in addition to every other non-theatre piece to grace the boards of late). This glut of Gryffindor could threaten to burst its own bubble…in the same way the cinematic superhero craze already has…wait, nvm.

Speaking of which, legitimate thanks are owed to Julie Taymor and her Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark  for scaring away Marvel from Broadway for the foreseeable future (for the record, she remains a genius in my book, and I’d trust her with ANY material. High risk, high reward. The Lion King, literally the most lucrative live entertainment property in the history of humanity, wasn’t a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination, and she stretched hers farther than most could).

Since I’ve been a bit mean to Harry here — A) he can handle it; this has been the definition of punching-up, and B) you ain’t read nothing yet if it ends up seriously contending for Tony Awards — in the name of fair balance, I do want to mention the best part of Potter: After the recent string of magic-meets-theatre extravaganzasBLAAAAAAAAAAAH takes us one step closer to the realization of my dream of a GOOD play about magic on Broadway, which would work if it understood and even explored how “theatre magic” and “magic magic” play around with so many of the same concepts (as I hopefully sufficiently illustrated here). If only Harry Potter and the Cursed Child didn’t fail at the GOOD part of that equation.

Have you picked up on the fact yet that I’m not a Potterhead?

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