New season, old shows
The winter lineup for the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines looks like a crowd-pleaser, which is good news for the theater and nearby bars and restaurants.
But when you look at the offerings, you can’t help noticing that theater is an awful lot like Baby Boomer rock music – if you want to sell a lot of tickets, you’ve got to stick with the greatest hits.
Fortunately for promoters, there’s always the word “timeless.” On the Civic Center Web site, “Peter Pan” (based on a story that celebrates its 100th birthday this year) is labeled “a timeless musical masterpiece.” “Mamma Mia!” features ABBA’s “timeless” songs.
But when you mention the specific time we’re talking about, some of this stuff starts to seem downright ancient. The musical “Hair” got rolling in 1967. “The Producers” started as a Mel Brooks movie in 1968, the same year pop band Jethro Tull began to perform and record. All three will visit us this season.
Then there’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Not only was it hatched in a year that will seem familiar to readers of the above paragraph – 1968 – but it has spent more time in front of an audience than Wayne Newton.
According to the official Andrew Lloyd Webber Web site:
It has been the subject of at least 12 cast albums.
It has played in 13 countries and more than 80 cities in the United States alone.
The 1991 London Palladium production ran for a total of 2½ years, attracting an audience of 2 million people.
It has been performed in nearly 15,000 schools or local theaters, involving more than 500,000 performers of all ages, and with an audience in excess of 8 million people.
Today there are nearly 500 school or amateur productions each year in the United Kingdom and more than 750 in the United States and Canada, plus productions in Australia, Germany, South Africa and various other locations.
Gee, you’d think that would come close to saturating the market.
Ah, well, ticket sales chart the course, and no doubt these shows go on and on because audiences love them. If nostalgia is what we want, that’s what we’ll get. We Iowans – along with millions of other Americans – are more interested in escaping than pondering, and we do get more than enough worrisome new information rained down on us every day.
Raise the curtain. Let the familiarity begin.