New Yorkers love a good Broadway show. Like pizza, bagels, museums, and cheap street drugs, it’s one of the many perks of living in the five boroughs. While most New York natives wouldn’t be caught dead at other tourist traps like Madam Tussauds or the M&M Store, the average Gothamite will happily join the cattle drive of sweaty-thighed, vacationing Midwesterners that cram into the multitude of theaters that line the Great White Way. Yes, seeing Broadway musicals is one of the rare activities both New Yorkers and tourists alike enjoy besides avoiding homeless people and not going to Mets games. And yet, I just can’t seem to share in the affinity for these glorified, gussied-up karaoke jams — and in a city of Broadwayphiles, that puts me in the minority.
I’ve only seen one musical in my entire life, The Lion King, and that was only because my old college girlfriend dragged me to go see it ten years ago. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t an impressive performance, but I had some problems with it that wound up ruining the Broadway experience for me forever. For starters, there were no live animals. You’d think if Disney was going to turn a cartoon about lions and monkeys into a live action stage production, they’d throw in some real lions and monkeys, at least for the kids. Instead, I was expected to believe that some actor wearing a lion head as a hat was actually Simba. (And speaking of the cast, I found it pretty racist that the producers hired primarily black actors. “Let’s cram all the black people into the one show on Broadway that takes place in Africa.” Appalling!).
Like with all musicals, there was way too much singing for my liking. There’s just something so uncomfortable and unnatural about people inexplicably breaking out into song. If I was having a conversation at a dinner party and just started belting out a song about AIDS from Rent, I’d be “making a scene.” But when an actor on stage does it, it’s called “stealing the scene.” There were so many songs in The Lion King, so many songs! There were even songs that weren’t in the original movie. They managed to take a tight, 88-minute film and balloon it into a meandering, bladder-aching, two-and-a-half hour marathon. The icing on the cake was having to spend upward of $100 a ticket on this debacle — and that was after months and months of trying to score seats on Ticketmaster. It’s only gotten worse in recent years. You’d have better chances of getting tickets to a Pink Floyd reunion tour than getting into the likes of Book of Mormon or Cabaret, and that’s saying a lot because one of the members of Pink Floyd is fucking dead. Yeah, you can get same-day tickets at the TKTS booth in Times Square, if you want to take your life into your own hands around those maligned double-decker tour busses. No thanks.
Needless to say, I’m pretty sour on the whole Broadway thing, and that sentiment has made for some awkward interactions with the majority of artsy people in this city who can rattle off the past 10 years of Tony Award winners. To not be a fan of Broadway in New York is to lack a very critical cultural frame of reference on par with not knowing who the Seinfeld Soup Nazi is or which Baldwin brother is the crazy one (answer: all of them). All I know of the pantheon of Broadway musicals past and present is what I can piece together from the commercials that run incessantly on NYC’s airwaves, or from what I’ve heard about them from others. The following is a summation of my Broadway knowledge…
The Phantom of the Opera – There’s a guy in a mask and a lot of spooky organ music. At some point, a chandelier falls from the ceiling.
Les Miserables – Something, something, something, France. Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway are in the movie version.
Wicked – The Wizard of Oz, but not.
The Book of Mormon – The guys from South Park wrote it and everyone loves it…except, probably, for actual Mormons.
Cats – Back in the ’90s one of the performers was sued by a woman in the audience because he allegedly grinded his crotch up against her.
This is all I know.
So, don’t be surprised, New York, when I steer our chitchats away from the Great White Way and toward something we as New Yorkers all have experience talking about…like the whole Israel-Palestine war going on. Everyone seems to have an opinion on that.