Like fine wines, there are some years in Broadway history where one finds a better vintage than others.
Just today, for instance, I was playing a selection of tunes from shows that opened in 1966. Sweet Charity. Mame. Cabaret. Classics, all. I also played a tune from The Apple Tree from the same year. Not a great show, but not bad. This got me to thinking about vintage years on Broadway.
When was the last great "vintage" year?
In my opinion, one has to go back many years to find a "vintage" year. Let's not even consider anything before 1996 as vintage. Not that there weren't some decent shows in the years between then and now, but nothing that could be called a "vintage year."
I think the closest we can come to a "vintage year" in the recent past is 1987 – with shows like Les Miz and Into the Woods, a revival of Anything Goes and Starlight Express. Close, but no cigar.
Before then, one might consider 1975 – with The Wiz, A Chorus Line, Chicago and Shenandoah. How about 1965 with The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd along with shows like On A Clear Day You Can See Forever and Man of La Mancha? Then you have to go back to 1959 with shows like Fiorello!, The Sound of Music, Gypsy, Redhead, Take Me Along and Once Upon a Mattress.
The point, if there is one to be found here, is that this is CERTAINLY NOT a golden era for Musical Theater. Successful shows like Hairspray and Thoroughly Modern Millie really offer nothing new and, with the possible exception of Hairspray, have generated little to no interest in the wider realm of "pop culture."
What can be done? I do what I can, presenting this music to a new and growing audience of folks who stumble onto my channel while checking out the wide selection of music on XM Satellite Radio. I find that when folks who say they don't like show tunes actually listen to them – especially to songs they didn't KNOW were show tunes – they tend to enjoy and hang around.
What else? Broadway producers need to be more open to things new and different. Revivals are fine. But the fact that there will soon be more revivals than original shows on the Great White Way is a sign of a world out of balance.
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