Whoa, I thought I heard an ecstatic shrieking emanating from midtown when I left my apartment this morning. Now I know why! The increasingly TV-happy Steven Spielberg and premium cabler Showtime have announced that they are in the early stages of cobbling together a scripted series about the making of a Broadway musical. Yes, scripted. But the musical would be real. Like, once the season of the series ends, the show actually goes to Broadway. Meta!
I'm not really sure how that would work--would the actors on the TV show still be in the musical, and thus playing characters who are... playing characters? But it definitely sounds intriguing. Ubiquitous music man Marc Shaiman (Hairspray) is attached to help write music, which isn't great news but isn't bad news either. What is definitely good is that apparently Spielberg has been planning this for years, and Showtime president Robert Greenblatt is an avowed theater buff, so the project is at least in emotionally-invested hands. But will it actually work?
In case you haven't noticed, theater isn't exactly the booming industry it was... um... 60 years ago. Sure Broadway musicals can make millions of dollars and run for years, but even then they're still so rarefied and specific, either only available when you drop a ton of cash to head up to New York or when they come briefly rumbling through your town. For some (possibly many), they're magical, larger-than-life experiences. But does that mean that enough people really want to see how that sausage gets made? While theater nerds like myself are encouraged by the success of a show like Glee--show choir and theater are inextricably bonded together--that performance-happy series at least has pop tunes and cute high schoolers. But a show about the actual grown-up, often unglamorous business of putting on a big-budget musical may just get a bit too... technical.
Basically this sounds like it will be awesome for fans of Canada's terrific three-season TV series Slings & Arrows--a funny, moving, smart, but very niche program about Shakespeare that will likely only ever exist in the realm of cult-status--but not so much for anyone else. See that show was Canadian (and thus weird) and, like, on the Sundance channel in the US. This is Showtime, land of big-ticket programming like Dexter and Weeds. A show about the frickin' theater just seems maybe a little small for the network. But, then again, it is Steven Spielberg.
I for one hope everyone breaks their legs on this one. You?