In a season that has already featured many glorious revivals of musicals, the original tuners have generated little interest. However, hope is not lost for a somewhat interesting Best Musical category thanks to a vibrant spring roster of five new musicals, four of which are adaptations of films.
To date, only three new musicals have opened: “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” which has been notoriously maligned and ridiculed; critical black-sheep Frank Wildhorn’s “Bonnie and Clyde,” which lasted just 36 regular performances; and “Lysistrata Jones,” a promising Off-Broadway transfer that failed to connect with Broadway audiences (probably because they couldn’t pronounce the name) and played a mere 30 regular performances.
None of that trio is likely to make an appearance in the Best Musical race. “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Lysistrata Jones” will be long forgotten. Wildhorn, a three-time Tony nominee, hasn’t received a nomination in over a decade, with his last two in 1999 for Best Musical and Best Original Score for “The Civil War.” And “Spider-Man” will likely be snubbed because of the stigmas surrounding the production though it could contend if Tony voters want to reward its box office success and wish to make an edgy statement.
The most unexpected and charming of the shows still to open is the screen-to-stage version of “Once,” which will be transferring to Broadway after an acclaimed Off-Broadway run. Songwriters Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, who starred in the film, won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Falling Slowly”.
“Newsies,” based on a film of the same name, is also an early front-runner after extremely favorable reviews from its tryout at Paper Mill Playhouse. It features music by eight-time Academy Award winner and three-time Tony nominee Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, book by four-time Tony champ Harvey Fierstein, and up-and-coming lead actor Jeremy Jordan. Menken received his Tony nominations for his scores for “Beauty and the Beast”, “The Little Mermaid”, and most recently, “Sister Act”. Fierstein’s notable Broadway work includes “Torch Song Trilogy”, “La Cage aux Folles”, and “Hairspray”.
“Nice Work if You Can Get It” also stands at the top of the pack, featuring three very big assets: a score by George and Ira Gershwin; a book by Joe DiPietro, recent Tony winner for Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical for “Memphis”; and the talents of two-time Tony-winner Matthew Broderick, for his work in “Brighton Beach Memories” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”; and three-time Tony-nominee Kelli O’Hara, for her work in “The Light in the Piazza”, “The Pajama Game”, and “South Pacific”
The other two musicals, “Ghost” and “Leap of Faith,” are coming to Broadway after out of town tryouts as well, but with less favorable reviews.
“Ghost,” which is coming to Broadway from England, received mixed reviews, aside from universal praise for its thoughtful and exciting use of special effects. The 1990 film won two Academy Awards, for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Whoopi Goldberg, and was nominated for three more: Best Picture, Best Score, and Best Film Editing.
“Leap of Faith,” which also got mixed reviews in its debut in Los Angeles, boasts one very impressive talent in four-time Tony nominee Raúl Esparza, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater. Slater has received two Tony nominations to date — both for his collaborations with Menken on “The Little Mermaid” and “Sister Act”.