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On Stage

What's Crushing Theatrical Creativity

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Recently, I read that a musical featuring a television cartoon character was headed to Broadway in 2016. Contributing original music are performers like Cindy Lauper, David Bowie and The Flaming Lips.

That sounds great—but at the risk of offending lovers of SpongeBob SquarePants, I consider this an excellent example of the umbrella problem hanging over theatrical entertainment. When money makes creative decisions, this is what we get: remakes, retreads, reboots, redundancy.

It's problematic. You can't put on a show without money. But Money People want making money to be bigger than spending money, which is quite possibly why they are the Money People. However, this risk-averse approach to artistic expression guarantees that everything old is new again, just in recycled form. If it worked in television, it might work in film, and on stage, and in toy stores, and perhaps as an interpretative dance, and on and on and on.

SpongeBob has had a television show and at least one movie, to my knowledge. For a sponge who lives in a pineapple, he's done pretty well. Kids love him. Many adults enjoy him, as well. Will SpongeBob make money on Broadway? Who is the target audience of a SpongeBob musical, anyway? I ask only because tickets to Broadway shows are so expensive.

I am not saying that SpongeBob SquarePants is not worthy of a Broadway musical. Wait—yes, I am. If you're a SpongeBob fan, you are welcome to whatever excitement that is conjured for you by a SpongeBob musical. But to me, it just says the investors are trying to hedge their bets. And nothing truly creative can come from that.