I spent the weekend working on the final chapter of my new book, Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, and Musicals, which I have to turn in January 1st.
The bulk of the book will be Miller-style background and analysis essays, one show per chapter like my first three books. This time, I'll discuss The Wild Party, Grease, Hair, JC Superstar, The Rocky Horror Show, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, I Love My Wife, Bat Boy, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and High Fidelity. Cool line-up, isn't it?
But my new publisher wanted me to discuss some of the latest shows in New York, several of which don't really merit a whole chapter (though a few will get full chapters in my next book). So I decided to write a final chapter that surveys a bunch of cool rock musicals over the last decade, including The Capeman, bare, Jersey Boys, Next to Normal, Edges, Spring Awakening, Passing Strange, Love Kills, Glory Days, Rooms, American Idiot, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.
For the last three days, I've been completely immersed in these shows, doing research online, playing through the scores, listening to the cast albums, reading reviews, etc. It's been such fun! I've found some wonderful songs I think we'll put into New Line's next concert at the Sheldon, next season. And there are also a couple shows in that list that I hadn't really considered producing before, but now they're on my radar... You never know...
And truthfully, I already know we'll produce Next to Normal and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson as soon as they'll let us... And we're producing bare in June to close this season.
I've noticed some interesting trends that I hadn't seen before. Several of the more recent rock/pop musicals quite obviously take Songs for a New World as their model (and they could do a lot worse!), sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes not so subtle. I've also noticed that there are a lot of young writers out there creating new musicals right now. bare was created by two 26-year-old writers and a 23-year-old director. Edges, a very cool song cycle that a lot of college-age musical theatre fans are in love with, was written by two college sophomores. Kyle Jarrow was 28 when he first wrote Love Kills. The two guys who wrote Glory Days were 18 when they started work on the show and 23 and 24 when it opened on Broadway.
And that is all such good news for our art form!
Much of my book -- but especially this new last chapter -- argues that as important as Rodgers and Hammerstein were to the evolution of the musical theatre, their work really is not relevant anymore. We have moved on, first to the concept musicals, then the rock musicals, and now the postmodern musicals (Urinetown, Bat Boy, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, etc.) that fully admit the artifice of musical theatre. While many older scholars and commentators still maintain the "Golden Age" of musical theatre was 1943 (Oklahoma!) to 1964 (Fiddler on the Roof), I reject that idea. That was just one era in the art form's evolution, no better than what came later.
I think we're in a real Golden Age now, one that started in the mid-1990s and is still going strong today. Just look at the extremely cool new work being done both in New York and around the country! The musical theatre has never been more vigorous, more relevant, or more exciting. And we've got ringside seats. Hell yeah!
My book will be out next fall... I'll keep you posted.
Long Live the Musical!