Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim….and The Ramones?

Gothamist was amused to recently hear of yet another dinosaur band’s music being used to shill Broadway tickets. Chicago is the latest band to join the club, allowing their catalogue of tunes to be used in Colour My World, a musical which will incorporate their songs into a story of two friends who embark on different life journeys. Now Gothamist has nothing against Chicago, nor do we against the estates of John Lennon and Elvis Presley, and also The Beach Boys and The Ramones , and the others who are signing on for this trend. In fact, we worship many of them and spit on anyone who does not, especially Mr. Lennon. Here’s the deal with these shows: Basically, they are following the lead of Mama Mia and Movin’ Out, which took, respectively, the music of Abba and Billy Joel, and wove a brand new story around the songs. Queen and Rod Stewart had similar treatments of their music on London’s West End in We Will Rock You and Tonight’s The Night. Interestingly, Queen’s a really big hit on the West End and just opened last week in Vegas, but Rod’s just not drawing them in.

On one hand, it’s kinda fun to hear some of these old favorites in a new light. And of course it is cool that a younger audience might be exposed to some great classic music. What bothers us, however, is that there are so few new musicals being produced nowadays. Huge production and marketing costs prevent Broadway producers from gambling too much with their investors’ money, and it’s a hard sell for them to roll the dice on upstart composers with - dare we say it – original ideas. We are down with checking out these “jukebox” musicals, but deeply wish more new talent was getting their chance to be heard as well. Oh and by the way, USA Today recently called this genre “rock 'n' roll musicals." We like our term better. Cause we love Broadway, but we don't really think these shows really ever rock.