I hope you will follow me along this journey because in the next couple months, I hope to have some exciting news for you regarding my first official project!
Until then…here’s today’s post.
Today’s Broadway Audiences
Have Broadway audiences changed or have 21st century shows changed our Broadway audiences?
This past weekend, I revisited Roundabout’s second revival of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret. I was last at The Kit Kat Klub during the production’s first run in 1999. It was my first Broadway show (thanks, Mom and Dad!) and I’ve been hooked on live theater ever since. In the late 90s, this Cabaret felt sexy, slightly dangerous, and adult.
But over the last two decades, Broadway has been taken over by what The Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout has astutely coined the commodity musical. Today’s Broadway (for the large part) has audiences humming the tunes before they take their seats. From the dancing in the aisles at Mamma Mia to the inevitable (and unprompted) baby boomer sing-a-longs at Jersey Boys, contemporary audiences come in expecting to have the time of their lives (thank God Dirty Dancing never made it to Broadway).
With this mindset, a show like Cabaret which once left its audiences shocked, now sees its patrons celebrating and interacting with Alan Cumming’s emcee like he’s Hugh Jackman/Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz, applauding Danny Burstein's Herr Schultz’s somber final line like he exited to a Mel Brook’s zinger, and clapping along to the entr’acte (on the heels of the chilling “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”) like it’s a Top 40 Motown hit. The show itself was the same as I remembered it, but the the atmosphere felt different.
While we may love to complain that theater etiquette has gone out the window, we must admit that today’s biggest hits take great pride on promising its audiences a rollicking good time. And these juke box and commodity musicals, earning a top ticket price of $140 or more, often allow if not encourage, behavior that feels strangely out of place at other musicals like Cabaret. Pavlov would have a field day studying the stimulus and response of today’s theater-goers!
The future of Broadway audience behavior is in our hands. Let’s hope we don’t condition tomorrow’s audience to take a selfie with Mary Tyrone in the background coming down those stairs with her wedding dress. #HereComesTheBride