05 September 2009


On Sun 23-August, it was announced that the upcoming Broadway revival of BYE BYE BIRDIE would cut the act two "Shiner Ballet". (Yes, for those of you not as well versed in musical theater, there is a musical which features an act two "Shriner Ballet".) Gina Gershon was quoted as saying it "felt a little too gang rapey".

Almost immediately the show-queen sector of the internet was a-tizzy. Is a 1960s musical really too "risque" for 2009 audiences? Could Gina Gershon not handle the dance? If high schoolers have been pulling it off for 50 years, why can't Broadway? The "scandal" got to the point where Roundabout (who is presenting the revival) got their PR people to get Playbill to run an article in which Director/Choreographer Robert Longbottom details what is changing for the revival and why. Apparently (though conspiracy theorists may not "buy it"), the cut was made for dramaturgical reasons (i.e. there actually is no reason for a musical to feature an act two "Shriner Ballet"), and not a lack of talent or imagination. From the article it does seem like this is a fairly thoughtful production of BYE BYE BIRDIE. Will it be fun? That remains to be seen. But I am willing to let it open before passing judgment.

What Shinergate revealed was the big ol' bullseye on BIRDIE's back. Critics of the revival that hasn't happened yet have commented that the book is old fashioned and creaky, as a means of illustrating why the show is unfit for a 2009 Broadway production. Yet these same critics suddenly think Gower Champion helmed WEST SIDE STORY the minute a five minute dance routine gets the ax in order to make the show feel less dated. Though 5 days away from first preview, but BIRDIE's reviews have already been written.

SPIDERMAN, TURN OFF THE DARK, which isn't even really in rehearsal yet, seems doomed for a similar fate. Though no one has seen anything of the show (and those who have heard a bit of the music seem to think that its okay) it is ruthlessly villainized in the press because of its alleged $45mil price-tag and its temporary shut-down as more funds were raised. Since when was being expensive a crime? Or having difficulty raising money? And why, as people seemingly invested in the growth of the American Theater--both artistically and in terms of relevance--are we so quick to attack anything that theoretically (because we are judging based only on what we hear might be the case) exists outside of our arbitrary guidelines for what is and is not acceptable? Everyone has the right to one's opinion, but shouldn't the show be finished before it is judged? If we want interesting new work geared towards intelligent and adventurous audiences, we need to be genuintely open minded and adventurous, even if that means potentially liking Gina Gershon as a shrinerless Rosie.

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