Broadway Bound – Not!
Every theater professional wants to be Broadway bound. But is Broadway the best place for every show? The record shows the answer to this question is often no.
In 2014, A. R. Gurney’s two-hander, Love Letters was staged at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Even an ever-changing cast of big name stars couldn’t quite save the production from what Associated Press’s Mark Kennedy called “the thinness of the spectacle.” And let’s face it, that thinness of spectacle came at a big, fat price.
If two characters sitting side by side, reading letters and cards they’ve sent each other over 50 years isn’t spare enough, this year we have Stories By Heart at American Airlines Theatre, where for $156 the audience can watch John Lithgow recite two short stories, first Ring Lardner’s “Haircut” (complete with sound effects) and then P. G. Wodehouse’s “Uncle Fred Flits By.”
I am definitely a fan of Lithgow and I enjoy reading and re-reading Lardner (not so much Wodehouse). But even the formidable Lithgow does not belong on Broadway in a show that would be much more appropriate for his grandchildren at bedtime.
On the other hand, sometimes small shows make an excellent Broadway transfer. This season, The Band’s Visit, an unassuming but penetrating new musical with an engaging score by David Yazbek, moved from the Atlantic Theater Company to the Barrymore Theater. The show, like a mother’s heart when she has more children, grows with mutual love, in this instance between the audience and the cast.
So Broadway can be a blessing, both for producers and theatergoers. But it can also be a trap. A trap for the overly ambitious, for the reckless, the naive and the over confident.