Broadway Features and Reviews
Broadway on Broadway Concert Considered
By Leora Kanner, Broadway Magazine
Amidst the gloom and foreboding weather of Sunday September 12th, the 19th annual Broadway on Broadway once again made its largest and most ostentatious attempt to advertise for Broadway. Every year, the array of performances and musical guests from both old and new productions allows everyday New Yorkers and tourists to experience a little taste of everything Broadway has to offer.
The event has a clearly promotional aspect for Broadway, produced in the hope that observers will feel inspired to buy tickets to shows. As mentioned throughout the day, more Broadway viewers would ideally spur economic growth for New York City (Broadway contributes $5 billion annually in economic activity according to reports). Broadway on Broadway's methods are simple: audience members can see a sampling from a show that they may never have heard of (such as the new musical "Elf") or fall in love again with a classic (such as "Lion King"). Either way, the performances should induce a subsequent desire to visit the stage.
But did Broadway on Broadway succeed? As a Broadway on Broadway veteran, I wondered whether the concert has moved too far from its essential goal: to inspire a love for live theater and creative performance. Yes, the focus of the show claims to be Broadway and the shows that make it come alive are those that are beloved by so many theatre-lovers, but too much of the day was devoted to things other than the concert itself. Perhaps Broadway on Broadway's need for co sponsorships and partnering took away from its focus on its biggest product: Broadway itself.
The first 1/22 hour of the show, rather than being performance, was filled with an endless list of promotional partners and sponsorships. Furthermore, a new, and slightly tawdry addition to the concert this year was the interruption of the concert for a "special performance"–twice.
One sponsor, a leggings company, created an extended production in order to showcase their product. The audience was taught a portion of a dance, a participation element meant to ensure cooperation and disguise its true motivation. Yet it still felt as if the spectators were participating in the mass production of a commercial for something unrelated to Broadway musicals, rather than celebrating the magic of live theatre. The interruption lasted far too long and wasn't even performed to show tunes or the score of a show.
Despite this and the fact that many of the shows' performances were slightly underwhelming, Broadway on Broadway remains one of the highlights of the season for many theatre lovers, if only for the mere fact that certain productions never fail to inspire. Although the Lion King's rendering of "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" felt lacking without the accompaniment of its famed costuming, Wicked's simple "The Wizard and I" garnered huge and loving applause. Likewise, West Side Story is a classic that never fails to send its viewers into nostalgic glee, which made up for the faltering of Next to Normal when taken out of context. Excitement for some new shows was sparked, although the classics seemed to remain the highlights for most of the crowd (as judged by their reaction to Billy Elliot as opposed to Memphis.)
So does Broadway on Broadway meet its goal? I have come to find that not every Broadway show is suited for an event such as Broadway on Broadway, and even those that are suited don't necessarily do themselves justice when sampled in this manner.
However, despite this and this year's disappointing and increasing encroachment of non-Broadway promotion during Broadway on Broadway, theatre lovers like myself will continue to enjoy and frequent the event. Probably, because everyone is reminded just how much they love Broadway and they are given a clue as to which shows (new or old) they must see this fall. For anyone who loves live theatre, and even those who just like it, a Sunday spent in the presence of such talent and creativity (with an occasional glimpse of true Broadway genius) is worth braving some rainy weather any day.
Check out our blog and videos for more coverage of Broadway on Broadway, and visit the pages of Broadway Magazine for features on all the new shows of the Broadway season.
For additional Broadway features visit http://www.broadway.tv/broadway-features-reviews