now in previews: “Nashville”

This is a review of the current Broadway musical Memphis, now on Broadway at the legendary Shubert Theatre.

Where has the next generation of Broadway songwriters gone?

Consider the original musicals up for this year’s Tony (yes, the Tonys are Sunday.  Try to contain your excitement, dear reader).  American Idiot, Fela!, Memphis and Million Dollar Quartet. Now, I’ve only seen the last two of these so far, but you’re unlikely to hum any tune on the way out you weren’t humming on the way in.  Now consider the ones not nominated:  The Addams Family.  Short of snapping your fingers, there’s no piece of music I can recall from it some several weeks later.

And so lies the sorry state of the original musical.  Where are the Rodgers & Hammersteins, Cole Porters, Frank Loessers, Stephen Sondheims of today?  (I’d argue the closest we’ve gotten in a while is a distant second with the charming Avenue Q).  It’s all jukebox musicals, pre-sold scores, and when you do encounter tunes not previously written for anything else (that’s an original musical!), they’re crap.  So sad.  If anything, you have to go off-Broadway, to Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years or Brand New World.  (But now we’re way inside theatre.  Sorry.)

Whither this man?

Which brings us to Memphis.  Ready?  Here it is:  Not as bad as I would’ve thought.  Not great music, not bleeding ear music.  Incredibly talented and hardworking cast (and I write that not just because I know a few of ’em).  Strong first act, weak second act.  Fine direction, good sets.  Wonderful dancing!  Wonderful singing!  Banal, schmaltzy story gussied up as Something Important.  Preposterously silly and tacked-on ending.

Or this?

But no musical I’ve seen in, say, the least 10 years approaches Lincoln Center’s South Pacific revival.  See it before it closes August 22nd; you’ll thank me.  And yes, it won the Tony two years ago.

'Till August 22nd. You'll thank me.

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2 Responses to “now in previews: “Nashville””

  1. Lil' Zamchick Says:

    I’d have to argue that “In the Heights” and “[Title of Show]” may deserve some kudos as far as original material goes. And, not to plug our current venture, but I think Jonathan Larson was on his way there.

    It is a shame that JRB’s break-out Broadway show (“13”) was such an abomination. I think he may be the absolute most talented Musical Theater composer working right now, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

    Or, you know, if I ever finish a musical…

  2. now in previews: “The Great Mouse Detective” (the musical) « Wally's Blog Says:

    […] White Way’s current tuners (it’s a good piece because it echoes the sentiments I made earlier).  Last night, of course, was the Tony Awards, and yet the spectacle that doesn’t sacrifice […]

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