Broadway the good and the bad

June 27, 2011 1:36:21 PM PDT
Broadway is a business that's worth more than a billion dollars a year and this season box-office receipts were up and so was attendance: 12 and a half million tickets were sold, but did all those people get their money's worth? Not as often as they would hope.

The most popular show won the Tony award as the year's best musical. "War Horse" was judged to be the best play. "The Normal Heart" won a prize for best revival. See any of these, and if you can score a ticket you're likely to leave the theater very satisfied. But the same cannot be said of many other shows on Broadway.

The Spiderman review, for instance, said "I'm a 65 million dollar circus tragedy." To watch Spiderman "Turn Off the Dark" can cost more than $300 per person and while the aerial stunts are no doubt impressive, you may not know the superhero doesn't fly for the first 45 minutes of this show. Moreover, there is only one hummable hit in this interminable musical:

Too often the music and the script do not rise above the ordinary and the critics called them on it, but too often the critics are part of the problem.

An offbeat musical about the 7th president of the United States drew rave reviews and yet "Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson" bombed at the box-office. There were too many inside jokes aimed only at hipsters and the entire production had a half-baked quality. That's just not fair-given how much regular folks had to pay for a seat.

To ease the pinch of the pocket, there's a program for young people in the city that allows them to see a few shows for free to introduce them to live theater.

But although there are a lot of off-Broadway and live theater options, what makes Broadway so larger-than-life is its sheer magnitude and scale (for which there is a price). But if that fails to live up to the mark, it doesn't disappoint just viewers, but reduces the benchmark Broadway theater has set over the years.