At a recent Broadway show in a venue that seats about 670 people, only about 40 percent of those seats were occupied, and upon leaving, I noticed the special Memorial Day schedule and wondered aloud: “Will this show even make it that long?” Turns out that was a generous time allotment, as one of the last Broadway shows to open this season, Glory Days (pictured), closed on May 6th, the very same night it opened, which sent a lot of “I told you so” vibes through the industry and a dagger in the hearts of its very young creators, the 23-years-young duo (okay, one is 24 now) of James Gardiner and Nick Blaemire (who moonlights as an ensemble member of the current John Waters musical Cry-Baby).
So yeah, the show was a complete dog: yet another Rent wannabe about young people “finding themselves” where the songs all had that same Casio-sounding Velveeta glaze, a quartet of sweet, sometimes overeager young actors not quite charismatic enough to mask the insipid dialogue and lyrics (seriously, Two and a Half Men has better zingers than this thing did). But its cruelly quick demise (the likes of which Broadway hasn’t seen since Ellen Burstyn’s 2004 production Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All shuttered in one night, which meant the show’s title was longer than its life) sent an immediate shockwave through the industry. With shows like Passing Strange still struggling to find an audience and old standbys like Rent about to pack it in, is there an audience for shows centering on the younger generation? Will there be another Rent or Spring Awakening in our midst? Has American Idol seized the audience that these shows will depend on?
Catering to the last question, Idol has actually sent its talent straight to the Great White Way, including mama’s fave Clay Aiken (Spamalot), Tamyra Gray (Rent), Constantine Maroulis (The Wedding Singer), LaKisha Jones (The Color Purple) , Diana DeGarmo (Hairspray) and of course, Fantasia, who shook the rafters of the Broadway Theater (and its box office) when she stepped in as Celie in The Color Purple last year and found a role that fit her as snugly (as one song put it) as Miss Celie’s Pants. (That is, when she actually showed up.)And we all know this season’s semi-finalist, Syesha Mercado, has a niceplum Broadway role in her future, as the judges have kept telling herall season. Her “One Rock ‘n’ Roll Too Many” from Starlight Express was positively sizzling, and far more worthy of Glory Days‘ $97.50 top ticket price.
So, what do you think, PopWatchers? Is the state of the youth musical doomed? Or will venues like American Idolensure audiences and available talent for our musical future? And isthere any show, past or present, that you wished had closed in onenight?