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Recent Fortunes of Broadway & Madama Butterfly | On Stage


Broadway had its best season in years, thanks to the fantastic success of Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop-history musical Hamilton. The use of contemporary musical structures, rhythms, and lyrics helped bring the 21st century to a medium that had been, for many, stuck firmly in the mid-20th century. The warm reception of the film La La Land also contributed to this resurgence of the musical, although in a more traditional form.

Fiscal success naturally attracts the attention of those whose business it is to make money, and with that attention comes the likelihood of the growing trend in entertainment, which is the boundary-crossing repackaging of an original work that extends to other formats to make even more money: musicals become films, films become musicals, musicals and films become concerts, become television series, become a never-ending conga line of one product manifested in every conceivable form.

From animated television series to the footlights of the stage—the musical version of Spongebob Squarepants arrives on Broadway in November. It had a successful tryout in Chicago, and includes original music by everyone from gospel-singer Yolanda Adams to The Flaming Lips to John Legend to They Might Be Giants, and more. Who is the audience for whom this musical is meant? My best guess is nostalgic adults and wealthy children.

While musicals are frequently understood to be a kind of time capsule, reflective of the society that produced it, operas are considered by many to be timeless. Onstage this week at Century II on September 30th, the Wichita Grand Opera is producing Puccini's Madama Butterfly.