Revitalizing the Canon

One of the foremost pleasures of religiously following the theater world is being able to track generational canonization in real time.

Given the ubiquity of revivals in the theatrical ecosystem, what gets revived simultaneously reflects the canon at that moment, AND contributes to the further cementing of that particular show in the canon. 

And when a musical theater star reaches the point where their involvement can singlehandedly fund any project, they’re liable to choose to revive musicals that they grew up obsessively listening to and dreaming about being in, and these choices change from generation to generation. 

This season on Broadway is a case in point. 

You have Hugh Jackman, a representative of the older guard reared on the likes of the uber-canonized — you guessed it! — The Music Man.

BUT, a few blocks over, you had Sara Bareilles — the next generation! — ignore “The Golden Age” in favor of my generation’s Mr. Golden Age: Stephen Sondheim and his Into the Woods.

Later this season, one of her peers, Josh Groban, will turn Broadway back into Fleet Street with Stevie’s Sweeney Todd, probably one of Joshie’s adolescent favorites.

And then there’s Ben Platt. For his Dear Evan Hansen follow up, he could’ve underwritten his own musical theater ticket for any show ever in the history of the medium. Who’d he go with? Jason Robert Brown and his Parade, a man responsible for consummating my generation’s — and Ben’s! — love of the form.

And let me tell you, older generations didn’t come of age spinning the likes of Steven (just ask my traditional grandpa for his thoughts on “THE maestro”) and Jason ad nauseam.

The canon, it is a-changin’.

And the ‘a’ stands for always.

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