The Tonys, Broadway’s answer to film’s Oscar, music’s Grammy, and television’s Golden Globe happened this past Sunday. With both expected wins and some upsets, it was a funny and brilliant show. While I did not watch every award given out, it did get me thinking. Thinking of what you may ask?
Well, it got me thinking and asking: Why have there not been more musical based adaptions of Shakespeare’s plays put on? Why do we not have musicals based on Macbeth, Julius Caesar, or dare I say it Hamlet?– I know we have a couple Hamlet based musicals already, so it should not be hard to do more.
Musical Theatre is a something that is wholly American, but why can’t we pay homage to our predecessors in theatre by creating musicals based on works by them. Sure, there is the fact, that later this year some of Shakespeare’s plays will be hitting the Great White Way- (See Francis’ Oberon’s Orb for this week to learn more). To be honest though, I would love to see a Macbeth, The Musical. Can you imagine the song titles: Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, Out Damn Spot!, and I Flee. Wholly and unabashed, I would have so much fun watching those songs being sung while the action of the musical is going on in the scenes. It would be great fun to see and people of all ages could finally understand the stories told in Shakespeare’s works. So, I ask again: Why are there not more musicals based on Shakespeare’s plays out there?!
Now, I know what you are thinking. You all are thinking: Steven, what about Kiss Me Kate or Hamlet! The Musical? What about the fact that three of Shakespeare’s plays are going to be on Broadway later this year?
My answer to you is this: What about Kiss Me Kate or Hamlet! the Musical? These two adaptions prove my point for me that we should have more musicals based on Shakespeare’s plays. Kiss Me Kate, written by Cole Porter, has been a classic musical that has been a perennially performed in colleges, high schools, community theatres, and more. Hamlet! The Musical just proves that a show that primarily is a tragedy can be flipped on its ear, as it were, and be successfully turned into a comedy and a musical at the same time.
As to the second question you are thinking: What about the fact that three Shakespeare plays are going to be on Broadway later this year? All I can say to that is GREAT!!! We should have more productions of Shakespeare on Broadway. Before you ask, I am not saying that this is something that should happen every year, but Shakespeare needs to have a bigger draw here in America. People should not fear it like they do now. By allowing it to go on Broadway, this is how we get rid of the stigma that Shakespeare was a playwright that only wrote for theatre people. By going on Broadway, the theatre world gets to help get rid of the stigma that Shakespeare is hard to understand, when in fact he is one of the simplest playwrights to understand by today’s standards. Only by performing Shakespeare on Broadway can we get it to the masses in America. Only then will they understand what the rest of the world already knows.
Shakespeare has been performed at colleges and small venues and regional theatre long enough. It is time to put the spot-light to the national stage of Broadway, and allow the people here in America to see what the rest of the world sees. That Shakespeare is not a misunderstood, past his prime irrelevant playwright, with tired jokes and frilly language to his name. That he is instead, a genuine and emotional explorer of the soul and human condition. That Shakespeare is both relevant today and hysterically funny all at the same time. Shakespeare shouldn’t just be a theatre thing, a niche thing, or even a British thing, it should be a world thing that should appeal to the masses. Hopefully, these plays of Shakespeare’s will be a success so we can see more Shakespeare and Shakespeare based musicals on Broadway.
So, here is my challenge to all those theatre people out there-myself included. Go to these shows when they premiere later this year. Spread the word and let people know about them. Find a way to create more musicals based on Shakespeare. Create the next Hamlet! The Musical or Kiss Me Kate. Only by doing that will people start to see Shakespeare for what he is-a true master.