Prolific playwright Stephen Brown may be heading toward his late thirties, but he looks at least a decade younger and has managed to retain incredible knowledge of and insights into all the angst and anger of teen and preteen life. Whether his plays revolve around the actions and passions of a troubled young boy or girl, they always ring true, inciting gasps of recognition from his audience.
You can always find live theater in South Florida … well, almost always. Major companies tend to follow Broadway’s show calendar, ending their season, at best, in late spring and starting up again in October. Florida summers often showcased smaller venues with obscure or newly hatched productions except for, it would seem, the month of September. When the kids are back at school and parents and grandparents have returned from vacations as well. Where do we go for our live theater fix then?
Everything’s coming up musicals nowadays … and no subject is taboo. Almost feels like the more outrageous the premise, the more likely it is to become a huge hit. Take joyfully murderous “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” or Mel Brooks’ Nazi-themed comedy, “The Producers,” featuring “Springtime for Hitler in Germany” as examples. A few weeks ago, even the universally beloved Star Trek brand has seen fit to choreograph an entire episode as a musical. (Check out S2 E9 “Subspace Rhapsody” of the “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” series on Paramount+. I consider it both thematically and choreographically out of this world!) In this episode, original musical numbers are weaponized to save the known universe – but not before presenting one of the best and briefest explanations for the art form, i.e., a song reveals the singer’s deepest, true emotions.
Towards the end of A CHORUS LINE, FAU Festival Rep’s final production of the summer, a question is posed about whether musical theater will even survive. It made me smile knowing that this musical written by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, with music and lyrics by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban, not only survived from April 1975 to April 1990 (the first Broadway show to exceed 6,000 performances!), but also won a Tony in 1984 for being Broadway’s Longest-Running Musical. In addition to Tonys for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score and more, a Pulitzer for Drama and a Best Musical Olivier Award to boot. So it’s hardly surprising that this American classic remains a favorite regional production choice to this day – embraced for its impressive dance numbers, memorable songs, and the raw revelations of its “chorus line” cast.