I'm always fascinated by the shows that live on after Broadway. And by live on, I mean catch on in regional and community productions. Of course, high school shows are a subset unto themselves. Some shows, no matter how artistically strong or financially successful, just won't catch on in high schools. The Producers will likely fall into this category; the subject matter, and all that. And then there are other shows that catch on in schools despite their lack of quality: Footloose and Fame come to mind.
Each year, the Educational Theater Association surveys high schools around the the country asking them what plays and musicals they've performed. (But we only care about the musicals, right, dear reader? For the full list, see here. For my take on last year's list, see here.) This year, 830 schools responded, and here are the results:
1. Beauty and the Beast
2. Little Shop of Horrors
3. Guys and Dolls
4. (tie) Seussical
4. (tie) Thoroughly Modern Millie
6. (tie) Bye Bye Birdie
6. (tie) Into the Woods
8. (tie) High School Musical
8. (tie) Once Upon a Mattress
The thing that struck me was that four of these shows have had recent, financially under-performing revivals: Guys and Dolls, Little Shop of Horrors, Once Upon a Mattress, and Into the Woods. Could it be that a major factor in the lack of success for these revivals is that everyone has already seen or done these shows again and again? I mean, why pay $100+ for something you could see at your local senior high? Of course, one data point in the other direction is the current smash-hit revival of West Side Story. That show is done all over the place, and that doesn't seem to be stopping people from shelling out an average of $100 at the Palace.
Which brings me to Bye Bye Birdie, which the Roundabout will be mounting in the fall. Pro: This will be the show's first-ever Broadway revival. Con: Frickin' everybody has done this show. Pro: Talented director/choreographer Robert Longbottom is due for a hit. Con: The book is creaky as hell. Pro: The score is charming, with lots of memorable tunes. Con: The book is creaky as hell. Pro: They've amassed a cast replete with Hollywood beauties (Gina Gershon, John Stamos) and Broadway stalwarts (Bill Irwin, Jayne Houdyshell, Dee Hoty). Con: The book...you get the idea.
The Roundabout will run Birdie at the newly renovated Henry Miller, rather than the Studio 54, which is where they typically house their musicals. Perhaps this is because they've realized the Studio 54 is a cold, heartless barn of a venue, and that Birdie will do much better in a warmer, more intimate space. It could also be that they have high hopes for Birdie, and plan on running it for a while, while using the 54 for their rotating slate of shows.
Another indication that the Roundabout has grand plans for Birdie is the show's recently announced top ticket price of $136.50, which Roundabout managing director Harold Wolpert defends by pointing out that subscribers comprise half of the Roundabout's ticket sales, and pay about half the face value on the ticket. Well, all I can say is, after the Roundabout's lackluster 2008-2009 season (cf. Pal Joey, The Philanthropist, A Man for All Seasons, Waiting for Godot) you'd think that they'd be lowering their ticket prices. I'll definitely be seeing Bye Bye Birdie, but I'll have to take the rest of their 2009-2010 season on a case-by-case basis.