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September 18, 2015 — Alt + Format

September 18, 2015 — Alt + Format


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The soon-to-be theatrical import—or… export/import—TRIP OF LOVE, currently in Osaka en route to Off Broadway, is neither a traditional musical or a jukebox musical or actually a narrative at all. It’s a string of songs from the 60s. Sounds entertaining enough. I might possibly like it. But is it Broadway? Or, in this case, Off Broadway?

I’ve flirted with this topic here before, but there’s a lot of Broadway status being thrown at productions that don’t fit the traditional mold. I mean… I love street theatre. And puppet theatre. And shadow puppet theatre. Pretty much anything with shadows and puppets—but, with a narrative. Theatre is storytelling, no? Even dance-y CATS was comprised of tales that loosely came together, all from a single book of poems.


BEAUTIFUL's Jesse Mueller at Broadway Barks
BEAUTIFUL’s Jesse Mueller at Broadway Barks


I’ve made peace with the jukebox musical—even though stories there can be a bit thin… or barely make sense, like strung-together-with-paper-clips MAMMA MIA!, may it rest in peace. But there is a glimmer of a story–usually some feel-good starting-from-the-mailroom coming up into a triumphant obstacle-overcoming 11 o’clock number (but at 9:30, because curtain was at 7). My dad liked BEAUTIFUL so much, I (legally) downloaded the cast recording onto his Mac.

But TRIP OF LOVE seems to be following in the jazz shoes of MOVIN’ OUT—remember that dicey Billy Joel-vehicle? Anyway, TOL seems to be a bit more even-handed between vocals and choreography. Regardless, these dance shows fall into my FILE 13, along with comedians who have shows “On Broadway”, magicians, too (though my second Broadway show was actually one of these), or cirque du soleil-like limited engagements. Not to mention the occasional bizarre celebrity rant, Carrie Fisher. Which, incidentally, I loved for its brass and bravada.


A still from the production in Japan
A still from the TOL production in Japan


Is it a Broadway show if it’s……

—Canned music, no live musicians?
—Only puppets, no visible humans?
—No dialogue?
—No plot?
—More like a cabaret?
—Without a fourth wall?
—A comedy routine?
—A magic show?
—A showcase of acrobatics or stunts?
—A live reality competition?
—Only dancing, no singing or dialogue?
—A sequel? Like the one supposedly in the works for CATS?
—A monologue play, Mr. Parsons?
—Robots only, on stage? Remember that one?

I suppose technically any production that attempts to entertain the public and rents a Broadway house… and sells tickets… But it’s difficult for me as an actor to take the acting out of Broadway. I like to think even your dance-heavy shows like, traditionally, A CHORUS LINE, or currently, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, still rely heavily on acting. Certainly, we act through our singing in musicals—Audra was acting up a storm in LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR AND GRILL.

Come to think of it, there’s such limited crossover in the high-end arena of “performing” and “acting”. Your Madonnas and Britneys versus your James Francos and Anne Hathaways (remember when the latter two tried to host the Oscars?). It wasn’t pretty. And Madonna, on the tails of internet-proclaimed genius these last two nights at the Garden, doesn’t usually WOW film critics in that Daniel Day Lewis sort of way. Ah-hem.

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