By Herb Sparrow
Although there were no runaway smash hits on Broadway during the 2011-12 season, Dennis Martin, director of group sales programs for Theatre Direct/Broadway.com, thinks it was a strong season for musicals and plays.
“As a season, it was stronger than in a long time,” he said. “There were very few crashes-and-burns.”
Martin said most of the new musicals appear set for extended runs, among them the new Disney musical “Newsies,” which is scheduled only through Aug. 19 at the Nederlander Theatre. “I would put $20 in your retirement fund that it will remain,” said Martin.
“Newsies” is based on the real-life newsboys strike in New York City in 1899 and features music by eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken, who also wrote the music for “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid.”
Menken also wrote the score for “Leap of Faith,” based on the 1992 movie of the same name that centers on a full-time con artist and part-time reverend whose traveling ministry breaks down in a small Kansas town.
In addition to “Newsies” and “Leap of Faith,” other shows nominated for the Tony Award for best musical are “Once,” which garnered the most Tony nominations with 11, and “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”
“Once,” set in an Irish pub, is about an Irish guitar player and singer who is encouraged by a Czech immigrant girl to not abandon his music. “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” set in Prohibition 1920s, is the story of a charming and wealthy playboy who meets a rough female bootlegger the weekend of his wedding.
Nominated for best revival of a musical were “Evita,” “Follies,” “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Only “Follies” is no longer on Broadway.
“‘Evita’ will be around for quite some time,” said Martin.
The revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical deals with the life of Eva Perón as she rose to be the popular first lady of Argentina in the early 1950s.
“If there was any theme you could pull out of the spring, it was Broadway has found religion,” said Martin, noting that the lineup of musicals includes “Godspell,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Leap of Faith” and “The Book of Mormon.” “They all refer to religion, however reverent or irreverent.”