Tony Time: Why is Broadway’s Best Game Off the Court?
You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine. These famous lyrics from the hit Broadway hit musical, Lysistrata Jones, seem more fitting now then ever that the 2012 Tony Award nominations have come out. A musical following the success of an Off-Broadway run that transfered to Broadway and received hit reviews all around the New York critics has seemed to fall off the radar entirely for this year’s awards season. But how so? Today, Luner on Theatre investigates how Broadway’s best game seems to be off the courts for this years awards.
Lysistrata Jones is a new musical that features music and lyrics by Lewis Flinn and a book by Douglas Carter Beane. Based loosely after the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata by Aristophanes, this fun new musical brings to life a modern day take on hilarious sexual humor that never seems to get old. At first upon watching, one may find themselves thinking “Is this really happening?” as basketball players, mac book computers and tons of other modern marvels fill the stage. However, you quickly realize this isn’t some knock off modern take on a classic piece. Lysistrata Jones quickly finds a place in your heart as the story progresses and we learn not only more about a university divided but a girl who doesn’t stand for giving up. And that is where the heart of this story is at.
Lysistrata Jones began Off-Broadway with The Transport Group in Judson Gymnasium in the Village last Summer. After receiving great reviews all around, it was announced the production would move to Broadway in the Fall. Lysistrata Jones opened at The Walter Kerr Theatre November 12th, 2011 with previews and officially December 14th, 2011. The show received rave reviews all around from the press such as:
“Yet the production that opened on Wednesday night at the Walter Kerr Theater warrants not only sighs of relief but also at least a few lusty cheers. Directed and choreographed by Dan Knechtges, with a script by Douglas Carter Beane, “Lysistrata Jones” has been dressed up (and scaled up) real pretty for Broadway, bringing a heightened touch of summer sun and silliness to what has been an exceptionally gray season for musicals.” – The New York Times
“Dying is easy; comedy is hard. Those sage words likely came from someone in the theatre who understood perfectly well how difficult it is to get a genuine laugh on stage. And so, no matter how silly, when a show comes along that pleases the eye, ear and funnybone as much as Lysistrata Jones, attention must be paid.” – NY1
Even Luner on Theatre upon attending gave rave words all around to Lysistrata Jones calling it “Hands down the most fun on Broadway you will have this season”. However, Lysistrata Jones packed up on Broadway January 8th, 2012 after only 34 previews and 30 performances. So how exactly did Lysistrata Jones only manage to pull off 1 Tony Award Nomination for the 2011-2012 season? Let’s examine more.
Location is a huge factor in all productions. By this I’m not only talking about theatre, I’m talking about uptown versus downtown. Lysistrata Jones advantage downtown was not only a smaller venue but a legit gym the show was playing in. Many times, these Off-Broadway productions work their way uptown only to find themselves lost in big Broadway houses. However, I don’t think this was the case of Lysistrata Jones. The Walter Kerr was hands down the best choice for a show like this. It kept the small controlled feeling by pushing the set downstage and keeping the upstage area to only a second level which the orchestra occupied. However, I do think if the show had continued to play downtown, it would have lasted much longer.
Another issue to explore I think is the idea of pop on Broadway. The new score for Lysistrata Jones, which is music and lyrics by Lewis Flinn, is more of a top 40 hits list then your normal Broadway playlist. Its something you listen to while sitting on your towel at the beach or crusing in your car as opposed to something you think you’d pay $100 for to see on the New York stage. That is not to discredit though the fabulous score this show brings along as well as one major aspect; FUN. This show now brings along a fun factor to Broadway not many other shows have in quite sometime. However, not working without a major well known title, this show has suffered. And while you may think it being based off something would help its case, it seems not many people outside the theatre world know the story of Lysistrata. A tough sell all around.
The musical however is not for a serious theatre goer. The score will hit the spots all around with a younger generation and more productions like this are bound for Broadway eventually. So why not take the ball in your court and run with it? It seems as though this style on Broadway is out of bounds and out of play for many.
However, I do think despite everything that has happened, that does not discredit the success or overall credibility of Lysistrata Jones as a musical itself. How did a musical that critics raved about only score one Tony Award nomination? The musical received a nomination for Best Book of a Musical. Honestly, I believe this show could have seen a few more nominations such as: Best Original Score (Music or Lyrics) Written for Theatre, Best Choreography and definitely a spot in the list for Best Musical, especially compared when something like Leap of Faith, Broadway’s biggest bust of the season, was able to grab a nomination.
Broadway too often forgets about shows that opened and closed in the earlier half of the season. Many can say that is their own fault with timing playing a major factor. However, while this is understandable, it only becomes annoying when a deserving show is shafted. This is no new concept in New York. We have seen shows in the same situation become heavily nominated and some shows entirely shafted. Lysistrata Jones not only needs but deserves recognition.
For the time being, it looks as though Lysistrata Jones will have to Give It Up knowing their show is better then the New York theatre community has decided to show it is. I know this show will definitely become a hit and continue to be a success with the younger generation of theatre goers and will most likely do very well in regional venues. Let’s hope though someday, somebody recognizes the true potential and credibility behind Broadway’s basketball beauty. Check out Lysistrata Jones Official Website for more information as well as check them out on Facebook and Twitter! For Tony Award information, check out the Official Tony Awards Website. And of course, stick to Luner on Theatre for all your theatre news you don’t only need but want to know and so much more!