I have friends who keep a spreadsheet of every show they’ve seen, cross-indexed to their Playbill collection.
I’m the opposite. I toss my Playbills but keep Excel fired up with compulsive catalogs of what’s coming next.
Especially for musicals, it’s a highly unreliable list. Some shows have sat on it undisturbed since the 20th century. I don’t think the stage adaptation of “My Man Godfrey,” first announced in 1985 and occasionally re-announced ever since, will ever actually open on Broadway. And was ABBA really going to write a version of “Marty”? No, that must have been a typo — though I’m not sure for what.
On the other hand, at least one show I thought would never make it off the list unfortunately did. (Clue: It involved an escape to Margaritaville.) In my “comments” column for dubious entries, I sometimes include useful information like “Whut?”
In any case, it’s around this time of year that I traditionally cull and update the herd, getting excited or terrified about what’s headed my way. So far, seven Broadway musicals are in the “definite” column, having been officially announced for the fall.
They make an unusual grouping. To begin with, only one, “1776,” is a revival — and that one might as well be new. As reshaped by Diane Paulus and Jeffrey L. Page in the post-“Hamilton” manner, and featuring a cast of women, nonbinary and transgender performers, the American Independence pageant aims to offer a more inclusive history than our real past did.
Also unusual: Among the six new musicals, only “A Beautiful Noise,” based on the life and songs of Neil Diamond, is a biographical jukebox. (Will Swenson, who does swagger very well, stars.) And only two others — a very modest proportion compared to most seasons — are Hollywood adaptations.
One of those is “Almost Famous,” based on Cameron Crowe’s 2000 coming-of-age film about a young man swept up in a 1970s rock ’n’ roll dream. It may ensure some authenticity that Crowe has written the book for the show, and, with the composer Tom Kitt, the lyrics.
The other Hollywood adaptation is “Some Like It Hot,” based on the 1959 Billy Wilder comedy. If you think you’ve seen it onstage before, you’re partly right; it was first turned into a musical, called “Sugar,” in 1972. That version’s score was by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill; this one’s by their natural inheritors, the “Hairspray” team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
The remaining incoming musicals, though no less exciting, may be even more familiar. (I’ve already seen two of them in earlier productions.) “Kimberly Akimbo,” based on David Lindsay-Abaire’s play about a girl with a premature-aging condition, ran Off Broadway, at the Atlantic Theater Company, last season. “KPOP,” a behind-the-scenes look at the Korean pop music industry, was another Off Broadway hit, in 2017. Both will have big adjustments to make for larger theaters and audiences, and I’m eager to see how they do it.
Then there’s “& Juliet,” which has been playing in London (with a pandemic interruption) since 2019, and which is the only show on my spreadsheet to start with a typographical symbol. From a distance, it appears to be a mash-up of several Broadway tropes: updated Shakespeare, romantic fantasy and hit parade. Its songs, by Max Martin, are mostly familiar from recordings by Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Backstreet Boys and the like.
But the seven sure musicals this fall are only the tip of my Excel iceberg. Slightly below the water line are shows almost certain to announce their arrival quite soon, including the revival of Bob Fosse’s “Dancin’,” the stage adaptation of “The Devil Wears Prada” and the London hit “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.”
Diving a bit deeper, we get to a larger school of wannabes. Many seem fascinating; “Lempicka,” for one, about the hedonistic Polish painter, has been getting good reviews for its various tryout productions.
Others seem stuck in development hell. “Harmony,” the Barry Manilow show about a singing group in Nazi Germany, had its world premiere in 1997; it took 25 years to get as far as the tip of Manhattan, where it had a brief run this spring. At its final performance there, Manilow’s collaborator Bruce Sussman told the audience, “I’d like to think of today as only the end of the beginning!”
Everyone does, even the bottom feeders, those mystifying creatures someone apparently once considered a good idea. “Magic Mike”? “The Honeymooners”? The Baby Jessica Falls in the Well musical? The adaptation of “Paradise Lost”? (Only one of those is made up.)
But for list-compulsives like me — my spreadsheet includes nearly 100 titles, from “A Little Princess” to “Zanna” — the quality of the product hardly matters. What I like to contemplate is the vast array. Sometimes I envision the titles as a swarm of planes taxiing at airports all over the country: “Bhangin’ It,” “Trading Places,” “Black Orpheus,” “Beaches,” even the “Untitled Roy Rogers Musical.” They haven’t lifted off yet, and some of them are out of fuel, but they’re on the runway, eager noses all pointed in our direction.