Theatre Matters

Contemplations on the dramatic arts from a national perspective


Steven Oxman has contributed to such publications as the Los Angeles Times, American Theatre, Stagebill, and, most frequently, Variety, for which he has written over 300 television and theatre reviews.

Monday, December 20, 2004

What Happened in 2004

Playbill On-line has selected its top theatre news stories of 2004, and the article is a pretty good summary of the commercial theatrical year.

My own quick rundown of their rundown:

1. Playwrights on politics -- the electorate was engaged, as were playwrights. I still can't wait to see (or heck, even read) Tony Kushner's play featuring Laura Bush.

2. Avenue Q's campaigning -- successfully -- for the Best Musical Tony Award. My question: is it that they campaigned -- which every show does to some degree -- or that they did it so darn well? More imortant long term, and a point which the article mentions, is Q's decision to head to Vegas rather than going on the road. Also not mentioned, the NY Times Ombudsman's tirade against the Tonys, a stinging, and I thought thoughtful, rebuke about these awards; its sting though was made quite harmless by the claim that, since the Tonys were controlled by the road producers, there was no way anything but "Wicked" would win.

3. The continued reign of the Jukebox Musical -- great term for the shows that are more excuses for the soundtrack than anything else. I didn't know about all of these:

"In the works are projects built on the greatest hits of John Lennon (Lennon), Bob Dylan (a new venture by director choreographer Twyla Tharp), Chicago (a book musical called Colour My World) Pink Floyd's Roger Waters (a stage version of the concept album The Wall) and Earth, Wind & Fire (Hott Feett)."

4. The continued reign of the one-person show.

5. The selection of Oskar Eustis to head the public. I've said it before -- there's a transition going on, folks, and the new generation of artistic leadership is coming mostly from outside NYC.

6. Changes in theatre coverage at the NY Times.

7. The impending return to Broadway of Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

8. The "banner year" for artists Sondheim, John Patrick Shanley, Craig Lucas, and director Doug Hughes. More interesting topic: Next year, who will it be? (Last year the star was Richard Greenberg.)

9. The rising importance of Vegas as a theatrical city. See: Avenue Q.

10. The new contract between road producers and Equity. Most useful summary:

"Bottom line, actors on the road will probably make less money more often. But then, producers, now compelled to use union actors, will also probably make less money more often."

11. The death of Cy Coleman and Fred Ebb.

As I said, it's a pretty good list, but I'm shocked that the "Gem of the Ocean" melodrama didn't get a mention.