Blame it on Broadway

This was the year that Elton John and Anne Rice’s musical Lestat bit the big one and High Fidelity was a sound no one wanted to hear.

Those of us who saw Lestat in its pre-Brodway run at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre knew the show had a stake through its heart from the get go. And as for High Fidelity (right), the sample songs on the show’s Web site were so boring it was hard to muster enthusiasm enough to dislike them. Another show with a boringly bland pop score, The Wedding Singer, made a respectable go of it but never reached hit status.

Bay Area folks should not be holding their breaths for a tour of Twyla Tharp’s take on Bob Dylan songs, The Times They Are A Changing. Our Theatre Dogs spies spotted a dog, and they were right. The circus-themed show is history.

Disney launched two new Broadway shows, and though Tarzan is still swinging, it failed to generate much in the way of buzz or critical accolades. Mary Poppins, on the other hand, generated big buzz and a full spectrum of reviews. To me, the most interesting Disney show didn’t open on Broadway. Finding Nemo: The Musical, began performances in Walt Disney World. This marks the first time Disney has taken a non-musical movie and turned it into a stage musical. This is a mini-theme park musical, but if all goes well (so far, buzz is good), we can expect to see Nemo, Marlin, Dory and friends swimming along Broadway.

Bay Area audiences can’t be surprised that A Chorus Line is proving to be a solid hit on Broadway. We saw the out-of-town preview, so we got a taste of what the new cast had to offer in this lively carbon copy version of the 1975 hit. With any luck, our next big pre-Broadway show, Legally Blonde, will be equally as exciting. We were also the first to see Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, and though the show that ended up on Broadway was pretty different than what we saw, it should be no surprise that the always charming Short found his audience. Though the show is closing in early January, it had a respectable run.

When I head to New York, the shows I most want to see are the musicals Grey Gardens and Spring Awakening and Tom Stoppard’s play cycle The Coast of Utopia at Lincoln Center. Can’t imagine any of those will head for the Bay Area in 2007, but we can dream, can’t we? Really wish I could have seen Meryl Streep in Mother Courage in Central Park.

So what Broadway hits might actually be making their way toward the Bay Area? There’s no confirmation of anything, but we might expect the musical The Color Purple to wend our way.

Looking ahead, there are a couple shows blinking brightly off in the distance. One is a legitimate source of excitement. Angela Lansbury returns to Broadway in Terrence McNally’s Deuce alongside Marian Seldes. The other is a warning sign pointing toward the May Broadway debut of Xanadu: The Musical, which features songs from the flop 1980 Olivia Newton-John movie of the same name. Rumors have Jane Krakowski, Cheyenne Jackson and Ben Vereen reprising roles they performed in workshops of the new musical.

Broadway spies

There’s always plenty of juicy theater to keep us occupied here in the Bay Area. But we can’t help casting an eye toward Broadway.

It’s sort of like our favorite sports team is having an away game, and we just want to keep an eye on the score.

That said, some Theater Dogs have recently been to New York to sample some of the current crop of big-budget musicals.

Here’s what they have to say about the Twyla Tharp/Bob Dylan collaboration The Times They Are A-Changin’:

Spy 1: “This SHOW it needs a-hangin’!”

Spy 2: “I practically slept through this show. Oh man – what a mess. I guess I don’t care for Bob Dylan. The singers were good. The freakiest part was watching Twyla’s dancers play clowns. It was just wrong. However, did I tell you how FANTASTIC Michael Arden was? He made that show rock.”

Spy 2 also saw Martin Short’s Fame Becomes Me, which as you may recall, had its world premiere in San Francisco earlier this year.

I loved Fame so much here, I wanted to see the NY version. He cut it down to only 90 minutes! Chopped a lot of stuff out – but my favorites parts were still there. And, of course, Capathia Jenkins stopped the show with “Stop the Show.”

Spy 2 also had good things to say about LaChanze in The Color Purple, which sets out on a tour soon and may be coming to the Bay Area, and Altar Boyz, which is part of the Best of Broadway season next year.

Spamalot also got high marks, but we’re angry with that show. Because it’s playing Vegas, there will be no California tour stops. Well, we didn’t want to see it anyway. So there.

Oh, Marty!

I wasn’t sure I was going to write about this. I thought perhaps it was too self-aggrandizing.
But this is the blogosphere, right? Anything goes.

So let me tell you about the best thing that happened to me this summer: getting my name dropped by Matt Lauer and Martin Short on the Today show at the end of July.

Short was on plugging his new Broadway show, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, which, as you all know, had its world premiere in San Francisco.

You can watch the clip here. My part comes in at around 1:50 in case you want to fast forward (you folks on Apples probably won’t be able to view the clip – sorry).

In case you don’t want to (or can’t) watch the clip, here’s a transcript:

Matt Lauer: Can I brag on you a little bit? You’ve been doing the show in other cities, and the reviews have been fantastic. Of course these are the reviews that you’ve handed me…

Martin Short: …And changed.

Matt Lauer: Yeah, exactly. [reading] “Martin Short’s new Broadway-bound show is goofy, silly, crass and crude. In other words, it is comedy heaven.” We just want to give a shout out to the writer, Chad Jones of the Oakland Tribune for that one.

Martin Short: I love Chad!

The bit goes on, but after that, who needs to hear the rest of it?

One of the great things to come out of the experience was that a nice man from Holland-America cruises saw the show and contacted me about lecturing on cruise ships. So if any of your are cruising to Hawaii in February, guess who will be on board talking about the current Broadway season, movie musicals since 1980 (viva Grease 2!) and other theatrical topics?

Ahoy and aloha.