That’s how our director describes Broadway musicals. It’s an observation, not a criticism, artistic judgment or evaluation of the cultural significance of musical theatre.
It’s a simple way to say that musical theatre shows are a whole lot song and dance about a little bit of life -- the orchestra, big multi-level mechanized sets, fancy costumes and lighting are glamorous embellishments to stories of love, success, sex, greed, corruption, treachery, etc., etc.
All the things we hold near and dear to our hearts.
So this weekend I’m part of a cast of nearly 70 adults, teens and school-age children who are celebrating what’s on Broadway today. What’s on the stage in New York is the inspiration for an 80-minute revue that we will perform in downtown Austin at Ballet Austin’s Austin Ventures Studio Theatre.
By celebrate, I don’t mean imitate. You won’t see Spider Man flying a zipline, tap dancing sailors fronting a full size battleship on a backdrop or a chandelier swinging from the audience. All magnificent tricks and sets, but our point is that it’s not all about THAT.
We want to sing and dance. In a Broadway musical, there’s a lot about little things in life. This weekend, we’ve got a little bit of a lot of Broadway. 55 abridged pieces of music, whittled down to their essence, paced back to back.
There’s darkness and light – glorified gangsters and tabloid tawdriness in Chicago – or the holy disco of a chorus of nuns in Sister Act. Broadway borrows a lot from us and our memories, whether that’s Rock of Ages, a playful romp filled with 1980s power pop and metal ballads, Mamma Mia with the only ABBA songs anyone ever cares to hear, and the biographically inspired dose of nostalgia that’s Jersey Boys.
The set -- four folding plastic benches -- and a 3-piece rock band join the cast on stage for "Broadway in May/Broadway Today" at Ballet Austin's Butler Community School on Apr 30 and May 1, 2011.There’s even a revisionist history lesson cloaked in emo rock, thanks to Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Black shirts and jazz pants are our basic costume, plus a few accessories and other goodies straight out of our own closets and Goodwill so audiences get the gist of it all. When your set is four plastic benches, you know you’ve simplified Broadway down to the basics, namely song, dance and attitude.
It’s a lot about the little things that are near and dear to our hearts.