THE BLOG

Let There Be New Shows

04/19/2011 10:46 am ET | Updated Jun 18, 2011

We're heavy into the spring season. The flowers are blooming. Flops are already being declared (that's you, Catch Me If You Can). Artistic hits being promoted (clear your throat, War Horse). And I'm in a mood to both reflect and look forward.

Good People is good theater. Plain and simple. The enjoyable play started my spring season viewing off right. It's the first straight play in years that I have felt comfortable recommending to a wide variety of people. Sure, there will be many that don't absolutely love it, but even those people will have a pleasant evening at the theater. That makes the show laudable and rare.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert also made me happy. I know it's not the best musical ever, but whenever the stage happenings lose focus, there is another new hat to marvel at. Almost every musical would be better with glorious hats, wigs and costumes, and Priscilla has them all. I'm being serious here. If the red shoes in Hot Feet were represented in hats, the show would have received a lift. It still would have been crap, but it would have been slightly more enjoyable crap. Priscilla has dozens of marvelous hats, including a cross hat, a menorah hat and an umbrella hat. Thankfully for Priscilla, it has more than just visuals going for it. Among other things, it also has a fun score and a genius performance by Tony Sheldon. It's lively. If I leave the theater smiling, I consider it a successful night. I left the Palace smiling. Score.

I have yet to see Sister Act which, like Priscilla, is from a movie and brought to you by a famous producer, but I wonder if both can survive. I will be interested to see which does better in coming months. They are very tourist friendly in many respects, so they both could flourish. Yet, when there are two shows that target the same audience, there is usually a victor. Neither of these musicals will win the Tony for Best Musical, so the battle will begin and end at the box office. Stay tuned. (Note, I purposely did not include Catch Me If You Can in this discussion because I don't think it has the exact same appeal.)

Speaking of staying tuned -- who isn't curious about what The Normal Heart will be? As Patrick Healy wrote about in his April 14 post on The Times' ArtsBeat blog, there remains a question as to whether the actors will be off book by the show's start date. Now, I'll say this: if they are not, producer Daryl Roth should be canceling previews. This was not a show billed as a concert presentation. People who bought tickets bought them expecting to see a staged play with actors who know their lines. Perhaps some ticket buyers knew that this staging was based on a concert staging, but, even then, I doubt they were expecting performers to be on book. The revival of Chicago was based on a concert presentation and I never saw Bebe Neuwirth on Broadway with a binder in her hand. Like Spider-Man, this is a consumer protection issue. The Normal Heart has a cast that may sell tickets, now Roth has an obligation to try to give those ticket buyers their money's worth.

The producers of Baby It's You! might not be rooting for the success of The Normal Heart. I don't blame them. See, Broadway shows are not supposed to open on the same night. In order to prevent a conflict, each show registers an opening night with The Broadway League. Usually another show doesn't jump on a reserved night. The concept makes sense -- there are very few media outlets that cover Broadway openings; it is unwise to split their limited attention.

I think in my decade-long career only once have two Broadway shows opened on the same night (9 to 5 and Waiting for Godot). But, this year it is happening again. Baby It's You! announced an April 27 opening date and weeks later The Normal Heart announced that same opening date. When The Normal Heart announced its opening, there were no free dates, so the selection of April 27 made as much sense as the selection of any other date. However, then Fat Pig dropped out of the season, leaving April 26 open.

The nice thing would have been for The Normal Heart to move. It didn't. This could be justified by the cost of changing the opening night party or rehearsal schedule reasons (the actors will apparently need the extra time), but I think it smacks of arrogance. Undoubtedly, those involved in Normal Heart think they will win the press battle. They have a more famous title and more famous cast members (including Emmy winner Jim Parsons). So the conflict may hurt Baby It's You! more -- I hope that is not the case.

With all this said, I look forward to the upcoming Tony Award season. I have many Tony posts coming up, so, if you have Tony questions/concerns, please email me or post them below.