When an uber fan wants to preach the gospel of Broadway, they tend to focus on the best shows Broadway has to offer.
Which makes sense — gotta put your best foot forward! — but such hits aren’t the backbone of Broadway. 80% of productions lose money, which means this 80% is the actual lifeblood of Broadway.
As such, these oft-forgotten shows deserve to be toasted, even if critics and audience recollection fail to do so.
Which is where closing-night speeches like Billy Crystal’s for Mr. Saturday Night fit the bill:
Mr. Saturday Night falls firmly in that aforementioned 80%.
I’ve always said that Broadway musicals are the toughest art form to pull off. There are so many moving pieces, each and all of which need to come together at the tippity-top of their respective crafts to succeed.
And, usually, they don’t. Which is why musicals take damn near a decade to develop. Everyone involved works and works and works and works and works, in an effort to enter the hallowed air of a Broadway classic.
But even when they fall short, this work still should be celebrated. Because guess what: even when you fall short, the company still traipses on that stage eight times every freaking week to give ticket buyers the entertainment they paid for.
And when the material itself never coalesced into greatness, the burden on the cast becomes even greater, placing the onus on them to overcome these deficits to ensure the paying public gets their money’s worth on a random Thursday in August.
And anyone lucky enough to see Billy Crystal during Mr. Saturday Night‘s run can attest to how he emptied the tank every goddamn night, predominantly and primarily for our pleasure.
The musical itself wasn’t magic. The powers-that-be never solved all of its problems. And yet, eight times a week, week in and week out, they still had a job to do, and they did it, to very best of their abilities, despite playing with a flawed hand.
And THAT’s the beauty of Broadway. The show must go on, and it did, because Billy is a consummate professional, and he understands what it’s all about, as expressed in his curtain-call speech.
It’s about everyone sitting in that theater. They might not be in store for perfection, but Billy and Co. tried their dardnest night in and night out to make the best of not the best.
And THAT’s why I adore Broadway. It’s not always about the rare peaks. Sometimes, it’s about where most of us live: somewhere in the middle, which feels anything but middling.
So here’s to you, Billy. I hope to see you back on the boards sooner than later.
Because if he’s got anything left in the tank, then you fucking know he’ll strive and strive and keep striving to deliver.
And even in a show that’s less than the best, that striving still shines through — perhaps more so — through some good old fashioned love of the game.
And for that, we love ya, Billy.