Until recently, you might have been able to argue that the musical had become a dead art form. You could point out that stale plots and reliance on dated techniques were taking their toll.
Then came The Producers and its unearthly success. Here's a Broadway musical everyone can love, loaded with belly laughs and risky ideas, even. Look deeper, and for every twenty No, No, Nanettes you'll find the relevance of a Rent or the hilarity of a Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack.
Scott Miller, the don of New Line Theatre, brings us his annual sampler of songs from twenty different musicals at the Sheldon this week. This year's A New Line Cabaret, Episode II: Attack of the Show Tunes offers a divisive look at the history of American theater. The first half of the concert, "Songs We Love From Shows We'll Never Do," features various groupings of the eighteen-member company doing numbers from such musicals as Guys and Dolls, Mame and The Pajama Game.
"There's some wonderful music in those musicals," says Miller, "but we're never going to do them, either because they're too conventional or they're too big [for the ArtLoft Theatre]."
The concert's second half, "Songs From Shows We're Gonna Do," features tunes from Nine, the musical based on Fellini's 8 1/2; from Promises, Promises, based on the Billy Wilder film The Apartment; from The Wild Party, based on the lewd Jazz-Age story/poem by Joseph Moncure March; and from many other unusual new musicals.
A funny drawing promoting the concert looks like a "demonic Harold Hill [from The Music Man] with a baton with flames shooting out of it," Miller says. All we can say is that there's trouble right here in River City -- "trouble" with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for "progress."