On Broadway

In Beats + Bytes by Nue Agency

Good morning. Hope you had a nice Juneteenth holiday.

Amazon Music and Kendrick Lamar (& Friends) pulled off a beautiful event to commemorate the holiday yesterday. The Pop Out was a remarkable show of the strength of the Los Angeles community.

This past weekend was The Tonys. There is really nothing better than dinner and a show. And while in NYC last weekend, I was reminded how much I love Broadway.

Personally, I find theater performances captivating. They are a three dimensional content experience and, as the saying goes, “you can smell the grease paint and feel the roaring crowd.” Like seeing a movie in the cinema or a concert live at a venue, there is a communal experience to being in the theater experiencing the same show.

With Broadway, producers are forced to be creative as the story is confined to a single stage. Actors are required to be more expressive and dynamic, since they can’t rely on stunts or special effects. There is no CGI or AI to transform the performances. There is no rewind or fast forward. The theater calls for true talent and professionalism that you won’t find anywhere else. You are live; listening; hearing; experiencing; so you need to be present.

Broadway had a rough Covid experience and it still hasn’t recovered fully. Folks aren’t rushing to come back to crammed theaters. Costs have skyrocketed, pricing many people out. As the dynamics changed on Broadway, so did the content. Pop stars have emerged as a solution. It’s similar to the appeal of film and book adaptations: familiarity sells tickets.

On top of that, more and more artists and celebrities are gravitating toward Broadway. “You can’t make a living from releasing records alone,” Sara Bareilles recently told the NY Times. The singer-songwriter who wrote the score for Waitress is now writing songs for her second musical, a stage adaptation of The Interestings. “Artists in general understand how diversification of creative output is not just helpful,” she said, “but kind of essential.”

In the streaming era, where more and more content is being pumped out, there are more awards going to artists, actors, and celebrities who want to get their EGOT. An EGOT without a Tony is just an EGO. That’s not how the world’s greatest, mulit-faceted talent wants to be remembered (lol).

Currently, there is an adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” featuring music by Jack Antonoff, while John Legend, Elvis Costello, and Nas are all working on musicals. Neko Case and Mitski are, too.

Elton John, a Broadway veteran, has two more musicals coming this year alone: “The Devil Wears Prada” in England and “Tammy Faye” on Broadway.

As for this weekend’s Tony Awards, the show always shines a great spotlight on Broadway’s up-and-coming shows. I predict the two hottest tickets will be “Stereophonic,” a “behind-the-music” drama with bespoke song fragments by Arcade Fire’s former frontman, Will Butler. I had the pleasure of seeing this show on Saturday afternoon and understand why it won play of the year. It’s an awesome story about how art is made; a fictional tale of the inner dialogue of a band in the studio making a “soon to be” classic album. It chronicles the interpersonal relationships of the bandmates, the plight of an engineer turned producer, and all of the tension that goes into creating this masterpiece album full of awesome records that can potentially lead to a whole new world for the bandmates. One that can lead to stadium shows and fans singing this music all over the world. When you watch those dynamics through the lens of this show, it’s clear that making an album is a very intense creation process.

The other hottest ticket will be Alicia Keys’ show, “Hell’s Kitchen,” which is loosely based on her life and uses her catalog for the soundtrack. This is definitely on my must-see list.

I’m thrilled to see musicians – who are trained at creating an entire world in three minute bursts – now creating pieces that are two and a half hours long. Dare we call it the reversification of TikTok? I love when theater creates cultural dialogue. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the EGOT & the GOAT plus the creator of one of my favorite all time shows, Hamilton, said it best: “I find it exciting, I always think musical theater is more interesting when it’s in conversation with the world.”