Broadway Hates Jesus

Oh, Jesus

Broadway and Jesus seem like two things that could go together like two things that go together, but that doesn’t seem the case this year. It’s not shocking to find musicals that have powerful religious messages in them. There are tons, and several of those are very bankable machines. So why then is this the year of a mass exodus?

I’m going to suggest that there are a number of reasons for this. First of all, there’s an over-saturation of the market. Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, Sister Act, and Leap of Faith have all played on Broadway this year. Holy shit. Literally. That’s a lot of God, and these are only the ones that use MAJOR religious themes.

Okay, but that’s fine. Just because there are a few shows with religious themes on Broadway, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have had successful runs. The real problem with over-saturation is the fact that Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar are shows that every college, community, regional, church, and corner theatre do all of the time. Want to see one of these two shows? Walk outside, I’m sure some kids are performing it down the street. Then you have Sister Act and Leap of Faith. Sister Act is based off of a beloved movie from the ’90s, and Leap of Faith is a movie Steve Martin did for the money. That doesn’t mean people were screaming for a stage musical of either of these.

The other two reasons come down to the fact that either the production just wasn’t that good or the material just wasn’t that good. Godspell in particular suffered from a modernization that drove theatre purists batshit crazy. The original production is nostalgic now, with those cute clowns telling the story of Jesus Christ, but that formula only worked when it was initially mounted. Whatever happened with the revival was just uncomfortable to watch. Don’t believe me? Go take a look at their Tony Awards performance this year. Side note: Telly Leung can do no wrong, even in this.

Jesus Christ Superstar… This show is fun. It’s written by the Dark Prince himself, Andrew Lloyd Webber, but it’s fun. Why didn’t it work on Broadway this season? I don’t know. Aside from a mostly talented cast, it was boring to watch. There are moments of true theatrical magic, but then the damn projection screens go crazy and I forget where I am. Oh, and yeah. The projection of Jesus at the Tony Awards freaked the hell out of me.

When it comes to Sister Act, the problem was all in the material. The only reason I perked up when hearing about a musical version of Sister Act was because of the gorgeous music in the film… which appears nowhere in the musical. That’s fine, I can accept that. But the material that replaced it was just okay. A few of the songs I genuinely like, and “Raise Your Voice” still gives me chills, but the show itself is not better than the movie. Now, a Sister Act remake with Patina Miller and Sheila Hancock? I’d watch it.

Leap of Faith suffers from the same problem as Sister Act, only people actually saw Sister Act. This musical about a traveling conman impersonating an evangelist lasted for only 19 official performances. I’ll be fair and say that I never actually saw this one, but I’ve heard it and it had a lot of problems. Again, a stellar cast that suffered from nothing to work with. Still, Leap of Faith gets the last laugh of all the shows on the list. At the Tony Awards this year, even though it had already closed, it performed and killed it. One of the best numbers of the evening.

Alright, so there you have it folks. All of the shows in this article are closed or are about to close (Godspell – June 24, Jesus Christ Superstar – July 1, Sister Act – August 26, Leap of Faith – May 13). Also, none of these made their initial investments back, even with a bunch of insane publicity stunts (fuckin’ Tweet Seats).Oh, wait. There is one show about the big J that’s still on Broadway with no signs of stopping: The Book of Mormon. Huh. The Mormons got it right.

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Spider-Man: Turn Off the Injuries

There was a promise that I made to myself that I would refrain from writing about anything that was happening in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark for at least a year.  Then last week happened, and I’m going to have to break that promise.  Don’t worry, I’ll make it up to myself.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has been widely criticized for its delay of performances, canceled previews, and massive budget, but things became much more serious last week when another injury occurred.  On December 20, actor Christopher Tierney fell 30 feet while performing a stunt in the show.  The performance was immediately canceled, as the curtain fell with seven minutes left to go in the second act.  Tierney was immediately taken to the hospital where it was discovered the fall produced a fractured skull, a broken scapula, a broken arm, four broken ribs, a bruised lung, and three fractured vertebrae.

Anyone keeping up with this show knows that this is not the first injury to happen in the show.  Actress Natalie Mendoza, who was playing the character Arachne, suffered a concussion during the first preview performance of the musical.  Since the second preview, the role had been played by her understudy and another actress until Mendoza could return to the show.

Earlier this week it was reported that Mendoza was in talks to leave the show.  Today it was officially announced that she would no longer be apart of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.  Though there has been no official statement for her reasoning for leaving the show, it should be noted that a series of injuries in the cast may have at least had an influence on her.  Remember, besides her and Tierney’s accidents, Kevin Aubin broke both of his wrists while performing a stunt from the show for a group of investors.

Here’s hoping there will be no more injuries plaguing the Foxwoods Theare.

Mamet: Back with a Vengeance

When one door closes, another opens. These words could not ring more truer than tonight, October 12, when another David Mamet show opens on Broadway. Though the star-studded production of Race closed only a few months ago, audiences can again be delighted with Mamet’s funny, heartwarming… dickish… words in A Life in the Theatre.

This limited engagement (Closing January 2) production shows Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight playing two actors (big stretch). The play itself details the relationship of these two men from a “backstage theatre life” perspective.

The production is playing The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

Broadway Opening: Mrs. Warren’s Profession

Tonight, October 3, a limited engagement revival of the George Bernard Shaw play Mrs. Warren’s Professions opens on Broadway. The play details the life of a Mrs. Warren, who has made a living by running a series of high class brothels. When her daughter, Vivie, discovers this she is horrified. The relationship becomes even more tangled when Vivie discovers that her mother is continuing to run the business.

The cast includes: Cherry Jones as Mrs. Warren, Sally Hawkins as Vivie, Adam Driver, Mark Harelik, Edward Hibbert, and Michael Siberry.

The play runs until November 21.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Everyone, mark your calenders. The greatest musical opening since Starlight Express is about to happen. On November 14, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will begin previews on Broadway at the Foxwoods Theatre.

Julie Taymor (Most famous for directing Disney’s The Lion King) is back in the director’s chair. She also co-wrote the libretto with Glen Berger. But that is not the most interesting part of the creative team. The music and lyrics have been written by two huge names of musical theatre: Bono and The Edge. You read that right.

You might be asking yourself just what exactly this $54 million musical is about. It really is quite simple. Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider. After crying and moaning that he can’t get the girl of his dreams, he realizes that he has superpowers and attempts to use them for good. When the struggle of saving his city becomes too much for the teenage superhero, he continues to cry and moan. Only now he’s trying to turn off the dark… whatever that means.

The musical appears to be much better than that, though. Unlike the past three movies (Simply titled Spider-Man I, II, and III) this musical will actually contain a plethora of villains. Audiences can expect to see the Green Goblin, Kraven the Hunter, Lizard, Carnage, Grim Hunter, and the new villain known as Swiss Miss (Insert clever joke about the drink here).

There is no telling just how exactly this musical will turn out. It should be noted that, as stated above, the musical is going into the newly named Foxwoods Theatre. The former name of it was the Hilton Theatre, which had killed more shows than the uttering of the “M” word.

The musical officially opens on December 21. For further information about this glorious piece of theatre, check out their website.

This is Miriam!

Chris’s Thespian of the Moment: Miriam Margolyes

A vast majority of people, unless they have been hiding in a closet for the past one-hundred years, should know of Miriam Margolyes. A vast majority of her work has been as supporting characters on television shows as movies. But Ms. Margolyes is much more than that. With her clever timing, brilliant character voices, and dirty jokes; Miriam is one of the most talented Thespians on Earth.

In film, she can be seen/heard in the 1985 version of Oliver Twist, Babe, Little Shop of Horrors, James and the Giant PeachMulan, Romeo + Juliet, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Her theatre performances include playing Madame Morrible in Wicked both on Broadway and as a part of the original West End Cast as well as being in the most recent West End revival cast of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. She also has performed on tour in her one woman show, Dickens’ Women.

Miriam Margolyes has, and continues to have, a marvelous career in all forms of media. Even so, I think that her essence can be summed up with the following quote: Upon being asked what she studied while at university, she replied, “Oral sex.”

I salute you, Miriam Margolyes.

Via Galactica or What the Hell, Broadway?

Opened: November 28, 1972

Closed: December 2, 1972

Number of Performances: 7

There has been much talk and debate over what is the worst flop in Broadway history. A lot of people point out the musical version of Carrie. It should be noted that though Carrie is a hard musical to watch, swallow, or shoot up; it at least had a plot. The same cannot be said for Via Galactica.

Via Galactica, from what I can gather, is a musical about… something. The basic gist is that there are a group of outcasts that are living on an asteroid. Oh, yeah, and the year is 2972.

On this asteroid, we find a man named Gabriel Finn. Gabriel Finn is a blue (literally) “space sanitation” man that picks up trash in garbage shipped named the Helen of Troy. This ship leads him to the above mentioned asteroid (named Ithica) and beyond that I have no idea what is going on. The songs, and almost the entire show was intended to be sang rather than spoken, leave no clue as to what is happening and I honestly could not care less.

The most interesting thing about the show was what was involved with the production. The show, which played in the Uris (Now Gershwin) Theatre on Broadway, made heavy use of trampolines onstage. Even better than that, laser light shows, random trapeze dances, and a man who was nothing more than a head all make this show interesting enough to see.

Who cares if it’s absolute drivel? Give an trampolines covering a stage as part of a musical, and you’ve got butts in your seats… sometimes.

Interesting Fact: The musical was originally titled Up! Producers felt that that may look awkward with “Uris Theatre” following it on the marquee.

Oliver Richman-Defying Gravity

Nine year old Oliver Richman has become an overnight sensation to anyone that knows or cares about anything Broadway (about seven people). His performance of the song “Defying Gravity” from the musical Wicked has left more people spellbound than the top ticket price for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. So what’s so special about him?

I was introduced to Oliver when creepy pictures of him kept popping up on the ad-bar for Facebook. These I chose to ignore. When he began making appearances on the news sections of many Broadway websites, I still ignored him. It was not until he began popping up on message boards and people began ripping on him that I decided to check out his video.

It needs to be said that obviously Mr. Richman is talented. He could be out in the world, tipping over old ladies and drinking glue like a normal nine year old, but no. Oliver chose* to show the world his gift of a magical voice, and for that I applaud him. Some other people might not, so here’s hoping that he attends a performing arts school.

That’s all fine and dandy, but what really needs to be discussed is this music video. How has thing won no awards? I was in tears when the old woman** at the beginning of the video expressed her sentiments to the kid. Put this woman on Broadway and give her a Tony***.

Then the singing began. For those of you that are familiar with the song probably know that it is typically sung by a girl with a bad complexion and an unnatural ability to fly****. In this video, none of that happens. Instead, Oliver Richman has to suffer the trials and tribulations of a sunny day on some beach. As he belts through the song, we see him strike the infamous Titanic Jack and Rose pose with someone that can only be considered his sister. Awkward.

But the fun does not end there! Oliver proceeds to move onto many more locations, while clad in a red shirt and sunglasses.  We see him running down a row of miniature columns, looking something like if John Doyle had tried to direct Gladiator*****. The scenes continue as Oliver can be seen twisting, turning, and having a seizure whilst running down a boardwalk, some more beach, and a rather odd looking hill.

The highlight of the entire video occurs right on that rather odd looking hill. Oliver proceeds to tell all of Oz that “No wizard that there is or was is ever gonna bring me down!!!” complete with epic riffs. This is fine when watching Wicked. It’s a bit odd when a nine year old screams it at the hills of California.

All in all, the video is amazing. Watch it, learn it, live it, love it.

6/5 STARS

*Or at least his mother did.

**Mother? Grandmother? Sister with an aging defect?

*** I’ll settle for a Drama Desk Award.

****WITCHCRAFT.