On January 1, when most people were thinking about New Year's Resolutions, I was thinking about the last decade in theater. Or, to be precise, the last decade in theater that never was. Showbiz is a tough business. And sometimes "Broadway" shows are announced that simply never make it to the Great White Way. Many theater fans remember high-profile failures such as The Rhythm Club, The Mambo Kings and the Hilary Swank-headlined Miracle Worker revival. But in the first decade of this century, we heard about many other shows that never got close to NYC.
Oh, how much time I spent researching the musical version of Rocky. It was librettist Thomas Meehan who first spoke of the stage show. Then Sylvester Stallone himself mentioned it on his weblog. Back in the first half of the decade, it was reported that R. Kelly was in final talks to write the music. Then, a few years later, all of a sudden it was Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty. Going from R. Kelly to the team responsible for Ragtime and Seussical is what one might call a change of direction. Then again, they don't seem to be close to a destination, so I might as well be writing the score.
This season, barring a catastrophe, the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre will be home to The Addams Family, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. It will be Lippa's first full length Broadway show. It is not however the first Lippa piece expected to hit Broadway. There were the constant rumors that Dodger Theatricals would bring in his version of A Little Princess. I even heard a venue for it now and again. Then there was his show Jerry Christmas, with book by Daniel Godlfarb. In 2004, Jason Robert Brown (who has seen two of his shows come to Broadway) was fired from the musical Betty Boop and Lippa was tapped to compose. But there has still been no one (intentionally) singing "Boop Boop A Doop" on a Broadway stage.
Did you know that the powerhouse producing duo Fran and Barry Weissler wanted to do a Clueless musical? They did not get very far with it--they did better with The Opposite of Sex. Always an odd choice for the tuner treatment, the show premiered in San Francisco in 2004. It was supposed to come to the Big Apple Spring 2005. Then the season after that. Then it was going to Dodger (aka New World) Stages. Now it's dead. I think.
There are so many more! Rosie O'Donnell made it to the stage a few times this past decade, but neither her announced autobiographical stage show Find Me or the play Folding the Monster, in which she was supposed to star opposite Danny Aiello, ever hit the big time. Producer Marc Platt (now best known for co-producing Wicked and Three Days of Rain) was at one time expected to bring in musical versions of Honeymoon in Vegas and Bring It On. I don't know if he ever even got writers for them. While we're on the topic of writers--in the middle of the oughts, the Weisslers interviewed up-and-coming composers for a musical based on the reality show The Apprentice. I am not sure who thought that was a good idea and I suspect the theory will never be tested by an actual production
I could go on and on. But for now I'll just note that there is hope for all those shows that didn't materialize in the past decade--they could make an impact in this one. For instance, the musical version of Leap of Faith, often discussed but never actually staged, had a high-profile backers audition last week and is aiming for a late 2010 premiere. Plus, the fact that Memphis, which I saw a tryout of in 2003, opened at the Shubert just this past year proves miracles do happen. For some, at least.
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