Giant musicals invade Edmonton – it may already be too late

Musical theatre is taking over the world – and something must be done or we’re all going to wind up prancing gaily down the street in our bloomers belting out Tomorrow from Annie. Even to know what that is without looking it up is bad enough!

Edmonton is well on the way to being overcome by the pod people. The success of the musical Beauty and the Beast is just one ominous portent of tuneful apocalypse to come. The show is nearing sold out levels for its run at the Jubilee Auditorium, which ends Sunday, and no one even seems to care that the show got panned. Not bad for anything in the first week of January in Edmonton, Alberta.

This should come as no surprise to the folks who eat this stuff up, no offense to the aforementioned pod people: They are too busy snapping up tickets for absurd amounts of money to Cats, which opens next month, or Jersey Boys, coming in August, or maybe Annie, or whatever is coming down the pike – quite a bit, promises Shana Levin, general manager of Broadway Across Canada, producers of Beauty and the Beast and Cats and a promised fully packed year of proven Broadway smash hits. She cannot reveal the list yet, but she says it will be an “amazing year.”

Local companies are buying in big time. The Mayfield Dinner Theatre is putting on Chicago in April and the Citadel is ending its season with a remount of its most successful show ever: The Sound of Music. Christ, the hills are alive. When will the madness end?

Oh, it won’t. No one will be spared from the swelling Broadway bubble that threatens to engulf us all. It’s too late for movies and television. Hugh Jackman – who just completed a sold-out run of show tunes in New York – will star in an upcoming feature film version of Les Miserables opposite Taylor Swift. Steven Spielberg is soon to launch his new mockumentary series Smash, which details the entire life cycle of a fictitious Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Step aside, Glee. And don’t bet that there won’t be a real Marilyn Monroe musical to come out of the “imagined” version.

Hollywood and all its celebrities who dip their toes into the Great White Way we can tolerate, but it’s the rock stars who must shoulder most of the blame for making musical theatre appear cool. U2’s Bono and the Edge are behind the Spider-Man : Turn Off the Dark musical, which broke the Broadway record for single-week ticket sales despite all the bad press, technical glitches and terrible reviews. Back in the day, if the New York Times panned a show, it closed a week later in shame. These days there is no shame. The very existence of a musical based on Spider Man is proof of that.

Green Day’s American Idiot is hitting the road this year. It’s in Toronto until Jan. 15 earning rave reviews and packed houses. Levin is mum on whether the show will come to Edmonton, or if Broadway Across Canada would be the producer, but this is a no-brainer. We’re already a big Green Day town, so it can’t lose – and drawing in ever more of the innocent uninitiated into the shadow of this sinister cult of musical theatre where all that singing gets in the way of the story.

Let us finger the 2002 film Chicago as the tipping point here. Levin says the her company brought the touring version of Chicago to Edmonton twice, the second time after the film swept the Academy Awards – take a wild guess which run did better.

The Edmonton Sun’s Colin Maclean, an expert in musical theatre, says Chicago is what opened the door “and after that came the flood.” People who’d never be caught dead at a musical theatre production 10 years ago were starting to get curious. Maclean says that the prejudice against musical theatre – that all the singing gets in the way of the story – started to give way to the truth of why they sing: “Because they are so filled with emotion that it’s the only way they can express themselves.”

Irony is the deciding stroke to seal our fate. Witness the massive cross-over appeal of The Book of Mormon, the multiple Tony-award winning musical created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame. This show will also be touring in the fall.

Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane is another cool cartoon mogul who has a soft spot for musicals and the money to do whatever he wants. He tackled the Great American Songbook in his recently released debut album, Music Is Better Than Words – so a crack at Broadway can’t be far behind. Family Guy would make an absolutely FABULOUS musical. Hello, John Goodman?

Good Lord … what am I saying?! It may already be too late. Resistance is futile. Get your tickets now.