Summer of our discontent: Hot months lead to a cold theater season
Just how bad was the summer theater season, which will essentially conclude this weekend with the final few days of the annual Fringe Festival? That depends mainly on your tolerance for mindless shows on Broadway and for increasingly amateurish festivals.
Since quite a few shows tend to close after the Tonys, Broadway in the summer now hosts bottom-of-the-barrel attractions.
This season’s most embarrassing Broadway production was probably “Let It Be,” a shameless Beatles tribute concert that was derivative of “Rain,” from three years ago.
“Forever Tango,” a dance spectacle that has previously played Broadway, returned. But it’s hard to endure the show’s monotonous style.
“Soul Doctor” and “First Date,” two new Broadway musicals that opened this month, would have fared better at the Fringe or the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), where audiences are more forgiving of lackluster material, given the low ticket prices.
Speaking of NYMF and the Fringe, it’s hard to remain enthusiastic about festivals that contain so many shows, all of varying quality, that it’s impossible to predict which ones will be worth attending.
Even the prestigious Lincoln Center Festival disappointed with “Monkey: Journey to the West,” an underwhelming hybrid of circus and action sequences, as its centerpiece.
Off-Broadway, there was a revival of Tennessee Williams’ dreary “The Two-Character Play,” Wallace Shawn’s snob hit “The Designated Mourner” and the irritating reality TV-themed musical “Nobody Loves You.”
While the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park season was pleasant, it lacked the excitement and appeal of the “Hair” revival or Al Pacino in “The Merchant of Venice.”
There was one significant achievement this summer: the “Encores! Off-Center” series at City Center, which featured concerts of Off-Broadway musicals, including “The Cradle Will Rock” and “Violet.” That series is sure to make future summers more enticing.