So, I unexpectedly saw Newsies last night because I was stuck in New York an extra night (damn you reminding-me-of-Latin-class Winter Storm Quintus). We rushed it, got $30 standing room tickets, it was great fun (cc Aislinn Kane).
Okay so Newsies is like a microcosm of the current state of American musical theatre, right? I mean, it came from Paper Mill - the first line of it's mission tells us it "preserves and nurtures the American Musical Theatre art form." This is the musical theatre factory, employing all those good-looking conservatory grads for summer stock and transfers.
I mean real talk though, Newsies - the story is meaningless and, yes they strike, great, unions, fair wages, okay, but the reason we're actually watching is the central conceit that newsboys are really great at ballet and tap and singing. This show is made because people dance and sing catchy Menken songs. It's like Annie - something about the Depression is happening in the play, but no one actually gives a flip about that part. Unless you're doing the Hoover number.
[I know, I know, I'm not saying anything that everyone doesn't already know.]
But like not ALL musical theatre is that, right; perfect example, Witness Uganda at what has apparently become the country's other foremost Broadway transfer house, ART.
But I think when Paper Mill talks about committing to nurturing American Musical Theatre its like - run away from your problems musical theatre of 42nd Street and (more recently) Thoroughly Modern Millie.
And I am deeply in love with that construct.
I started doing theatre because of music, and the way music moves people inexplicably. So I always am up for a musical. Alllways.
There's a lot of theatre that's created to make people think and change the world, and I'm all for it.... and I'm pretty sure the theatre I want to get back in bed with is the theatre that makes people sing and dance and forget for a bit. Sue me.
Hooray for frothy shows with just enough of a throughline and belief in a fourth wall so its not a concert, where people sing the songs for days after seeing it, you captivate the youth of America, and help people run away from real world problems (that's what they're paying for anyway, right?). Hooray for American musical theatre.