Golden Age of Musical Theater?

In some way, when we weren’t looking, it became cool to be a musical theatre fan. No longer relegated to a “niche market,” musical theatre has actually captured the national spotlight in recent years. Film musicals are now a staple of Hollywood’s peak vacation release season– with Into the Woods debuting Christmas Day of 2014 and Les Misérables gathering extraordinary attention for live singing on Christmas 2012. Lin-Manuel Miranda is about to direct the film adaptation of tick … tick … BOOM!. The 85th Academy Awards consisted of a 12-minute tribute to movie musicals, in honor of the tenth anniversary of Chicago, which introduced a revival of the bygone art kind. Live broadcast musicals for the little screen have become the next frontier. Television series have actually entered the musical game, too, with shows like Nashville and Empire composing initial music for stories about the country and hip-hop worlds, plus a traditional musical series in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which earned a win for its leading lady at the 2016 Golden Globes. The production of Disney-animated musicals is back in complete swing– and boomeranging to the phase and the screen– while pop songwriters compose musical arrangements.


This is all without mention of the Hamilton juggernaut that made Broadway an ever-present area in the pop culture conversation– its developer and stars appearing all over from the pages of Vogue and GQ to the web browsers of New York Magazine’s Vulture. Not to mention the development in storytelling happening on Broadway phases, from Fun Home’s coming-of-age narrative to immersive Off-Broadway experiences like Here Lies Love. It proves that the art form itself, along with its appeal, has actually hit new heights. Musical theatre is a larger part of the mainstream entertainment zeitgeist than ever in the past. Does this wave of prominence for the musical mean that we remain in a brand-new Golden Age– a “Platinum Age”– of musical theatre?
The most current ground of development (and competitors) is TELEVISION’s live musical broadcasts. The live musical on television wasn’t born in the last few years, however it has definitely returned to magnificence in this years. During the 1950s, NBC aired a series called Producers’ Showcase, including lots of live musicals and plays, consisting of Peter Pan with Mary Martin and a musical variation of Our Town. Not because that period has the live television musical invested a lot time on our screens.

Under the leadership of manufacturers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, NBC began transmitting live musicals once again in 2013, with The Sound of Music Live! In recent years, they’ve also offered us Peter Pan Live!, The Wiz Live!, Hairspray Live!, and Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, and after that Fox got into the video game, with broadcasts of Grease: Live and The Rocky Horror Show.

Meron and Zadan produced musicals for television even prior to that, with taped variations of Annie, Cinderella, The Music Man and Gypsy particularly for the small screen, as well as the tv program Smash. “The typical school of idea,” Meron states,” [utilized to be] that Broadway was rarified and people [had] to travel to get that experience. [That is] why everybody always thought there was a minimal audience in regards to Broadway product.”

Meron went on to credit the vision of NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt for acknowledging that aspect of Broadway has changed. “With the introduction of musicals like Phantom, Les Misérables, Rent, Wicked, and others, [that] tour extensively, [the appreciation for musicals] started trickling down [more] into neighborhood theatre and school theatre.” He assumes that these tours cultivated an audience that then supported musical theatre on tv– and that the two continue to feed each other.

Laura Benanti, Stephen Moyer and Christian Borle in <i>The Sound of Music Live!</i> Laura Benanti, Stephen Moyer and Christian Borle in The Sound of Music Live! NBC

Laura Benanti, the Tony Award-winning starlet who starred as Elsa Schräder in The Sound Of Music Live! agrees that the broadcasts develop new theatregoers. “I understand numerous fans of Carrie [Underwood, who starred as Maria] tuned in without understanding much about theatre, and became fans. Neil Meron and Craig Zadan have had a significant impact in bringing theatre to the masses and right into people’s houses.”

In a completely extraordinary relocation, The Wiz Live! may be the first-ever piece to go the route from live television broadcast to Broadway. Strategies are still apparently in place for a phase variation of NBC’s production to premiere on Broadway in the 2017 season. Bombshell, one of the fictional musicals from Smash, is also set to be understood as a full stage production after its successful 2015 Actors Fund performance. The increasing pervasiveness of musical theatre on tv produces more item for Broadway.

How did this meteoric rise of musicals on television happen? “We forced the musical down people’s throats,” Zadan acknowledges. “There were no TV musicals till we did Bette Midler Gypsy, and the success of that opened the door for us to do the rest. There were no function film musicals being done up until we did Chicago, and after [that], everybody wanted to do a film musical.” Zadan and Meron credit manufacturer Harvey Weinstein’s faith in the task, when most studios admit they would have said no.

” We created the concept of returning to the 1950s and doing a live musical [on television] with The Sound of Music, and look where that’s led. Each time [there] was this amazing battle to get individuals to believe in [the task], to believe that it would work and attract an audience. And each time, we accomplished that, and then others followed.”

Catherine Zeta-Jones in “” Chicago” Catherine Zeta-Jones in “Chicago”.

In addition to television, social networks has actually likewise brought Broadway into the average American house in a way that wasn’t formerly possible.

The degree to which social media affects a Broadway program’s day-to-day presence astonishes Hamilton’s orchestrator, arranger, musical director and conductor, Alex Lacamoire. “Social media wasn’t what it is now [even] when In The Heights was running [from 2008 to 2011] Lin [Manuel-Miranda, In The Heights and Hamilton developer,] utilized to make his own videos and post on YouTube. He was the one recording and editing. Now, we have a guy on our group whose job is to be in charge of social networks. That’s a thing that has to be factored in [and] managed. [It’s] part of how a program is understood about.”.

Broadway executives scoffed, simply a couple of years back, at how relatively useless it was to promote shows on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Unlike a lot of forms of standard marketing and advertising, those platforms had no sign that the receivers of messages would have access to New York or the capability to buy Broadway tickets. That incredulity has transformed to glee at the outlet’s capability to instantly transfer info about Broadway to individuals all over the globe. The returns might not occur as fast as those in traditional advertising, however social networks cultivates young audiences to end up being life-long theatre fans.

Plus, there’s one program that’s given the web something worth buzzing about. “Hamilton has reminded us of the magic of live [theatre], and the possibilities of it,” states Charlie Rose, host and executive manufacturer of “Charlie Rose,” co-anchor of “CBS This Morning” and “60 Minutes” correspondent. His “60 Minutes” exposé on Hamilton brought the game-changer’s development story to America and even more increased the show’s visibility, while backing the significance of the piece. The story cemented Hamilton’s status as a catalyst for, and item of, a cultural shift. “Theatre has always [been] a vital part of the lives of New Yorkers, [but] it has more currency today. It has a universal resonance.”.
Lin Manuel Miranda_Charlie Rose 2015.jpg.

Hamilton has actually been a revolution for Broadway. With its $57 million ahead of time sales (since November 9, 2015), its extraordinary rave evaluations, its knowledgeable integration of hip hop and rap with musical theatre and its position on variety, the program has entered the zeitgeist swiftly and strongly. Even President Barack Obama has seen the musical– twice.

” Obama has taken ownership of Hamilton, in such a way,” Lacamoire shares. “When he hears someone talk passionately about Hamilton, he [states]: ‘You understand, that show had its very first song carried out here at the White House.'”.

In November of 2015, Hamilton’s album hit number one on the Billboard rap charts– something never in the past accomplished by a Broadway cast recording. The program’s sound bridges musical theatre and the kind of music one would hear on the radio today, while never ever losing sight of its characters or narrative. Pop artists have actually covered tracks from Dear Evan Hansen. We’re all of a sudden back in an age similar to 1935, when the leading 60 songs on the radio consisted of tunes by musical theatre writers Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Harry Warren and Al Dubin, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, Victor Herbert and Rida Johnson Young, and George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin.

Lacamoire, who was also among the Hamilton album’s producers, confides that he desired the record to really conjure the show for listeners, with a substantial concentrate on vocals and lyrics– however that he also desired it to have “true hip hop grit.” Much like his work on the album, he worked to accomplish a balance between the two sound designs in the live production.
Alex Lacamoire Alex Lacamoire.

” It was necessary that the band play most of the music live. Hip-hop by nature is digital music. It’s developed by computers,” Lacamoire describes, sharing that just some minutes in the show are partially pre-programmed or pre-recorded. “It was necessary to me to have a natural component [due to the fact that] that’s where the heart lies. I’m so motivated by seeing live bands assembled hip hop sounds– something that sounds pristine, as if it were in a studio, and yet you have a live [band] making it occur.”.

Hamilton crossed over into mainstream music with a score by a homegrown musical theatre writer, but there are likewise more singer-songwriters than ever making the opposite leap: writing their first initial musical for Broadway after years on the pop charts. With artists like Sara Bareilles, Cyndi Lauper, Phish frontman Trey Anastasio and Sting penning brand-new musicals for Broadway, the kind achieves a certain prestige, even amongst audience members who declare theatre music isn’t for them.

And then, obviously, there’s the crossover for the tiniest of fans. We’re in the midst of a resurgence in appeal of Disney’s animated musical division– and its songs. When Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez began composing Frozen’s 2013 hit “Let It Go,” they had no idea it would become one of the most worldwide recorded Disney tunes of perpetuity.

” For us, ‘Let It Go’ was simply solving a problem for a story,” Anderson-Lopez discussed. “And then it ended up being something far various than that. It nearly does not feel like it belongs to us any longer. It feels like it belongs to the singing little women and all of the people who have taken it and made it part of their lives.”.
Bobby Lopez, Idina Menzel and Kristen Anderson-Lopez Bobby Lopez, Idina Menzel and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.

The husband-wife writing group started in musical theatre, having participated in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. They credit fellow BMI musical theatre authors, who also ended up being scribes of animated movies, as major motivations. “The Disney renaissance movies [by] Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were extremely prominent,” Lopez notes.

” When Matt [Stone], Trey [Parker] and I were writing The Book of Mormon, and were [trying to imitate] the conventional musical, we were considering Rodgers and Hammerstein hand in hand with Ashman and Menken.” In 2013, Mormon became the first cast tape-recording to strike the Billboard charts because Hair in 1969.” [Ashman and Menken] really re-booted the traditional musical in the late 1980s and early 1990s, however it was with the animated Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.”.

When Disney released the animated film Beauty and the Beast in 1991, effective New York Times critic Frank Rich hailed it as the very best musical score of the year, much better than actual Broadway scores that season. The declaration was partly accountable for bringing Disney musicals to life on actual Broadway phases– as Beauty and the Beast came to Broadway in 1994. Since then, 7 more from Disney Theatrical have actually bowed on the Great White Way.

Similar to Bombshell and The Wiz, Frozen will quickly boomerang from screen to phase helmed by its original creative group, consisting of Anderson-Lopez and Lopez with the film’s writer and director, Jennifer Lee, writing the book and Broadway’s Alex Timbers in the director’s chair. This marital relationship of mediums produces an international audience. Anybody anywhere can view those homes on screen– developing a fan base for stage variations before they even open.

Similarly, established phase musicals continue to leap to Hollywood in increasing volume. The last 5 years alone have brought us Rock of Ages, Les Misérables, Jersey Boys, The Last 5 Years, Annie, Into The Woods, and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. These analyses not just net a larger audience, they likewise provide chances to broaden artistically. Into the Woods offered information in production design not possible on the phase, while The Last 5 Years re-imagined the story with included context for the 2 lead gamers. Motion pictures like Hail, Caesar!, La Land and The Greatest Showman resurrect the song-and-dance kind for a new age– and utilize Broadway skill.

A movie adjustment of Pippin tops the list of Meron and Zadan’s current projects. With motion picture musicals including Chicago and Hairspray under their cumulative belt, they inhabit the driver’s seat as the connection of phase, tv and film grows deeper. “Our background is the theatre. We began working for Joe Papp in the 1970s,” Meron shares. “In regards to translating theatre into a different medium, you have to actually be a translator. You need to [comprehend the residential or commercial property’s] language of origin and after that truly discover the language where it can reside in the next medium.”.

Zadan uses the 2015 Oscar broadcast as an example of the impact of their theatrical background on their screen work. “We saw ‘Glory’ performed on tv [at other awards reveals numerous times] last year prior to we produced [The Oscars] It constantly [seemed to be] a performance variation, and it was good, however not psychological or effective,” states Zadan of the song from Selma that went on to win Best Original Song. The duo decided to direct “Glory” like it was “opening night on Broadway.” The stagecraft pushed the series to a transcendental efficiency.

Zadan and Meron are not the only producers finding stagecraft in motion pictures. Mark Kaufman, Executive Vice President of Warner Brothers Theatre Ventures has been at the front lines of producing brand-new work for the stage based on film properties, including Misery, Elf, The Wedding Singer, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and many more. “The challenge of a film adjustment is producing something that is more than simply a replica of story with songs shoehorned into the plot,” he states. “There needs to be a reason to tell the story on stage, and, if it’s a musical, there has to be an organic reason to sing. I’m interested in how the original story can be surpassed or even more boosted. An ideal motion picture is harder to adapt for the phase.”.

” At the end of the day,” Anderson-Lopez adds, “it’s truly about working together with your collaborators. Whatever we do for stage and whatever we provide for [screen] has to do with that dance between trusting what it is to work with someone else and likewise keeping your true vision.”.

These visions appear to complement each other across mediums today, specifically, and more signs of this Platinum Age continued to appear in the previous year.

” We graduated in the 1990s, which was an interesting and sad time for musical theatre,” Anderson-Lopez says. “We lost an entire generation of geniuses [to the AIDS epidemic], and there was a sort of vacuum. [This] got filled with Jonathan Larson and Rent, [however then] we lost him. I think the Golden Age involves a bunch of individuals growing up who liked theatre, survived their 20s and 30s [and are] finally getting to do it.”.
Howard Ashman Howard Ashman.

Howard Ashman, co-creator of The Little Mermaid and Beauty the Beast, was one of many theatre artists lost to AIDS at the start of an appealing profession. Broadway of the 1980s and 1990s was robbed of so much work that would have existed if not for this tragedy– the work not just of writers, but of actors, designers, impresario, directors and more. The crisis decimated the professional arts community.

Lacamoire feels today’s musical theatre authors reflect the exact years they matured in, which has actually developed the potential for excellent success. “It took this wish for someone to mature listening to hip hop, so that it ended up being so natural to them they could compose a hip hop musical. Because Lin [was] born at the time he was, he [grew up] admiring the hip hop world, the rap world and Broadway,” states Lacamoire. “He’s not faking it. He was surrounded by the best flavors and had the ability to soak all of it up and make it a part of him.”.

According to Kaufman we remain in “another renaissance” for musical theatre. “I am excited by the crossing of genres: movies end up being stage musicals; phases musicals become movies and live televised events,” he states. Kaufman monitored the 2002 Broadway production of Hairspray, initially a Warner Brothers film home, which was then equated into a movie version of the stage musical in 2007 and after that a live television broadcast in 2016.

” Look at all of the great original [musicals] that have won the Tony in the last 15 years,” Lopez says. “Obviously, Stephen Sondheim led us here [by] revealing us that music does not need to represent love and romance in every musical. There are lots of other factors for music to exist. [Today’s musical theatre authors understand they] can pick minutes that are surprising. I think that’s [part of the reason that] our generation has actually really welcomed musical theatre.”.

At the dawn of this Platinum Age, all are quick to point back to the tradition of artists prior to them. “I like seeing programs that are brand-new and ingenious and fresh, along with the older beautiful shows that started it all,” Benanti says about this Broadway season.

Today’s youths clamor for musical theater. From crossover in between the arts to mold-shattering brand-new works, there’s so much to prepare for. For this Platinum Age to continue and thrive, theatre-makers and fans need to continue to discover the balance between conventional forms and brand-new ones, take risks on tasks with no precedent, and diversify the mediums in which musical theatre lives.

Industry leaders plant seeds now that will grow musical theatre in remarkable methods. “The air is humming,” Sondheim once composed, “and something terrific is coming.”.

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