Coming Soon: Three New Musicals on Broadway

Define soon. So far, there has only been official confirmation of three new musicals opening on Broadway in the 2011-2012 season. This is sad for someone like me who really likes new musicals. Fortunately, there are a bunch of other shows circling the possibility of coming to Broadway. There's just nothing official yet. The three shows that are coming couldn't be more diverse than most anything that's playing on Broadway right now. They're ambitious concepts based on strange ideas that may not even work on a big Broadway stage. As a fan of weird, I have to commend these producers and creative teams for taking the risk to go on the Great White Way. Sometimes the risk pays off big time (Avenue Q: who expected the downtown dirty puppet musical to still be running in a NYC commercial space, albeit Off-Broadway), and sometimes it doesn't (oh, Glory Days, your pop music quartet about high school friends reuniting is the definition of too small for Broadway).

The first show to arrive is a production of the pretty-well-reviewed Off-Broadway musical Lysistrata Jones. Define official. The rumor mill is surging about this production but there hasn't been an official announcement. Michael Riedel of The New York Post was the first to report on the rumor, promising an official announcement coming very soon. Since then, a Equity casting notice has gone out that all but confirms the rumblings.

Lysistrata Jones might sound familiar for some reason. That reason is Lysistrata. This is a modern musical adaptation of Aristophanes' classic farce about Greek women refusing to sleep with their husbands until they end The Peloponnesian War.

This adaptation, with a book by Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed, Xanadu: The Musical) and an original score by Lewis Flinn (The Little Dog Laughed, Die, Mommie, Die!), resets the action in Athens University. The varsity basketball team hasn't won a game in 30 years. New transfer student Lysistrata Jones convinces the cheerleaders not to give out to their boyfriends on the team until the team wins a game. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to see the Off-Broadway run (idiot), but the press for the show is pretty solid and the clips of the score available on the Transport Group's website are promising. The show is smartly looking at booking a small Broadway house and aiming for a fall bow. There's a place for fun, funny original musical theater that winks at its audience with a ton of energy. Hopefully Lysistrata Jones can push just the right buttons on Broadway.

Next up and actually officially confirmed is Frank Wildhorn's new musical Bonnie & Clyde. Wait? Didn't his new show just flop in spite of my glowing review of Act I*? Yes it did. However, Bonnie & Clyde was a better-conceived idea from the start.

For one thing, it's supposed to be a very different Wildhorn score. It has strong folk influences, which should be enough to separate it from the pop and rock sound that's become his much-maligned signature on Broadway. For another, he's working with different collaborators on the book and lyrics, which means this new musical can't really be judged by his older work. Wildhorn's actual score is rarely the problem; the problem tends to be a convoluted book and eighteen lyricists each offering a different word to every song.

Bonnie & Clyde, taking the Schoenfield Theater in December, has already had two successful out of town try-outs. I'm not predicting the usual suspects in the theater criticism community will be any kinder than usual, but the buzz is pretty good with this show. The only doubt I'm hearing is whether or not book-writer Ivan Menschell (shudder, the Broadway Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) made the murderous bank-robbers sympathetic enough for a wide audience. And you know what? Maybe not making them particularly sympathetic will create an interesting conversation about the show. Or maybe it will give the critics something to tear into. Who know what's going to happen in the future? Just watch this trailer from the first production. It actually sounds like musical theater. That's a plus.

The last new show officially coming to Broadway this season will not be arriving until April. It is an English-language adaptation of the German musical epic Rebecca. Based on the film by Hitchcock and the novel by My Dame Daphne du Maurier, Michael Kunze (book and lyrics, Dance of the Vampires which was mangled in the English language version) and Sylvester Levay (music, regular Kunze collaborator on a bunch of works yet to be translated but not Dance of the Vampires) have brought the suspense story to life in an epic smash hit. The gigantic stage features a large staircase that actually lights on fire during the final scenes.

The delay on a Broadway production has been caused by technical needs. This is an effects heavy show. It needs a big house with a huge basement and lots of fly space for all of the sets and lights. They also need to translate the show to English. I can only assume Kunze will be very particular about what happens to his second Broadway transfer after the debacle of Dance of the Vampires. Just tell me how this becomes this. No one can. The film and German musical might have been a farces, but that does not mean you turn the entire show into poorly cast, ugly-designed slapstick.

What I've seen and heard of the German version of Rebecca is quite beautiful. I'm hoping this show works in English. Munze has a very valid voice for modern theater and I'd love to see him get a fair shot at an English-language following.

Anything you're excited for this coming Broadway season? I want to see the Follies revival myself. Sound off below.

*The less said about Act II, the better. For me, I've erased all but the Alice ballet dancer and the final ballad from my memory. It's better this way.

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