Beau Salant ‘18/Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
With the recent news that Spring Awakening will be revived on Broadway for the first time later this year, Emertainment Monthly has come up with a list of the Top 10 Musicals we’d like to see revived soon on the Great White Way.
10. Mack and Mabel
Jerry Herman’s based-on-a-true-story musical about filmmaker Mack Sennett and his tumultuous relationship with actress Mabel Normand was critically acclaimed in its original incarnation in 1974, which starred Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters (in one of her first lead roles). However, the show failed to catch on with audiences and was a commercial flop, marking a rare defeat for Herman, one of American musical theater’s most prolific composers. The musical has since been rediscovered, mostly thanks to its fantastic original cast recording as well as two successful West End productions in 1995 and 2006, but has yet to see the lights of Broadway again. It’s time for this wonderful musical, one of Herman’s most complex and intimate, to be reintroduced to modern audiences.
Although they have both been dead for nearly a decade now, Betty Comden and Adolph Green have been quite prolific on Broadway this past year, with their musicals On the Town and On the Twentieth Century enjoying acclaimed revivals. A great way to continue that hot streak would be to revive their Tony-winning 1970 musical Applause. Based on the classic, beloved, Oscar-winning film All About Eve, the story of an ambitious young actress who befriends and eventually takes down her idol is a timeless one. Featuring a memorable score by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams (the team also responsible for Bye Bye Birdie), this musical could thrive in an era like today’s where entertainment icons are worshipped and scandals closely followed.
8. Sunset Boulevard
Another musical about the inner workings of the entertainment industry based on an Oscar-winning classic, Sunset Boulevard is one of the few musicals in the Andrew Lloyd Webber catalogue that has yet to see a Broadway revival. Widely considered one of Lloyd Webber’s finest works, this musical about an ageing actress who attempts to use a young screenwriter as her ticket back to prominence only to discover that the industry no longer wants her, is particularly resonant in this day and age in which female actors of a certain age find themselves fading into obscurity faster and faster. A smash hit – if not fairly controversial – during its original run, the musical swept the Tony Awards and is more than due for a new life on the Broadway stage. And I’m sure that hundreds of big stars would line up to play the lead role of Norma Desmond, who gets to sing songs such as “With One Look” and “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” and whose previous portrayers include the likes of Glenn Close, Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley and Elaine Page.
7. Hello, Dolly!
A classic if there ever was one, Jerry Herman’s uproarious musical about a widowed matchmaker who herself is in love with a “half-a-millionaire,” leading her to create a web of romantic entanglements, has truly stood the test of time. This legendary musical farce – famous for its show stopping titular song – is deserving a massive revival with lavish sets and epic numbers to showcase the true lavishness of the material. Plus, like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, the lead role of Dolly would attract more stars than a clear night sky. The role – dominated on Broadway by the wonderful Carol Channing – has it all: humor, heart, empathy and humanity. It’s a character for the ages.
Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen’s well-regarded musical about a trio of young female singers who become superstars only to encounter both creative and personal differences does not get the love that it deserves. The score is energetic and alive, and the characters are all richly drawn and humane. Famous for her performance of the Act I showstopper “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” Jennifer Holliday (and later Jennifer Hudson for the film version) won countless awards for her performance in the original run. While Michael Bennett’s original production on Broadway may be tough to top, a savvy director such as Susan Stroman, Warren Carlyle or Bill T. Jones could create a revival to behold.
5. Kiss of the Spider Woman
A staple of 90’s musical theater, Kander and Ebb’s dark musical about two men sharing a prison cell during wartime is a complex exploration of sexuality and the brutality of war. With much wider acceptance of both homosexuality and anti-war sentiments nowadays, it is prime time for a revival of this boundary-pushing musical. A smart idea for a potential revival of this show would be to focus on the characters and scale down the staging, as the over-bloated production was one of the most criticized aspects of the Tony-winning but tepidly-reviewed original run. And with songs such as “Dressing Them Up” and the titular “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” a strong vocal cast should be in order as well.
4. Miss Saigon
Another staple of 90’s musical theater, Miss Saigon was Boublil and Schonberg’s follow-up to their smash hit Les Miserables, and many would argue that Saigon is the finer work. Miss Saigon tells the story of the doomed romance between Chris, an American G.I., and Kim, a young Vietnamese woman, during the peak of the Vietnam War, and features songs such as “I’d Give My Life for You” and “The American Dream.” Most notably, the original production of Miss Saigon became famous for landing a real (or at least real-looking) helicopter on stage during a critical scene. Miss Saigon is also currently running on the West End and could easily transfer to Broadway. With Boublil and Schonberg getting increased attention after the success of the film adaptation of Les Miserables, the time is ripe for Miss Saigon to return to Broadway.
3. The Light in the Piazza
Overshadowed during its original run by Spamalot and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Light in the Piazza has become a huge fan favorite. Notable for being the show that propelled Broadway superstar Kelli O’Hara to fame, Piazza contains a gorgeous score by Adam Guettel (grandson of legendary songwriter Richard Rodgers) and a moving story about an endearing romance that overcomes numerous obstacles such as mental illness, cultural differences and familial bonds (Twilight this is not). The original production was close to perfect, and The Light in the Piazza deserves a revival production fitting of the brilliance and complexity of the material to introduce new audiences to this timeless story.
2. Funny Girl
It’s a true mystery as to how Funny Girl – better known as the musical that made Barbra Streisand a star – has yet to be revived on the Great White Way. Telling the true story of the ordinary-looking but extremely talented Fanny Brice, Funny Girl has a smashing score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, and features one of the most memorable leading lady roles in musical theater in Brice. The original production was quite successful, though it failed to win any Tony Awards. If anything, Funny Girl should be revived simply so the show can wreak its revenge on the Tony Awards (50 years later).
No modern musical has been more underrated than Parade. Featuring Jason Robert Brown’s masterpiece of a score, the show tells the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish man accused of murdering a 13-year old girl who is subsequently lynched by the community. An emotional gut-punch of a musical touching on topics such as murder, justice, racism, anti-Semitism, unconditional love and the darker sides of American history, Parade failed to find an audience during its original run, most likely due to its tough-to-sell plot and basis. However, Jason Robert Brown is currently at a career high after his acclaimed work on The Bridges of Madison County and Honeymoon in Vegas, and the story is especially relevant with racism and injustice being a prime topic in the current day in this country. It’s time for this magnificent theatrical gem to see the light of day again.