4 items from 2017
Fun Home 5th Avenue Theare, Seattle Through July 30th
When it comes to Broadway-caliber theatre productions, cities like Seattle get what New York is willing to give them. Very often this means local audiences only get a taste of the most mainstream, spectacular efforts the Great White Way has to offer, remaining unexposed to the more challenging and innovative works that do sometimes still happen there. As a result, theatre (particularly musical theatre) is relegated to its niche enclave of dedicated fans along with a wider audience of casual theatre goers who come knowing what to expect. While presenting an enjoyable way to pass a few evening hours this can also bear a disappointing stamp of mediocrity. Fun Home, currently playing at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, is a happy exception to this trend.
Like Next to Normal before it, Fun Home works to break the preconceived notions of what musical theatre is and can be. »
- C. Jefferson Thom
“The Book of Mormon”: londonboxoffice.co.uk
London’s West End just earned a dubious honor: it’s just as inhospitable to women as Broadway. A new study from The Stage examined the West End musical productions that ran for at least three weeks from 2007 to 2016, and found that female writers are severely underrepresented — in fact, male scribes outnumber women nine to one. Women received a writing credit on only 16 percent of the West End’s last decade of musicals.
“There are so many women playwrights out there — their voices are heard and they’re writing contemporary, pertinent, compelling drama,” said “Mamma Mia!” book writer Catherine Johnson. “So for that not also to be happening in musical theater, something is really going wrong.”
Indeed. It’s hard to reconcile the news that two-thirds of the Royal Court Theatre’s new season are written or directed by women with the dismal numbers of women writing musicals. Unfortunately it’s true: Seventy-five percent of West End musicals included zero women on their writing teams, which are usually comprised of a book writer, a composer, and a lyricist. Women wrote or co-wrote just 12 percent of the books.
If you take jukebox musicals — musicals, like Carole King’s “Beautiful,” that do not use new original songs — into consideration, women wrote 18 percent of the productions’ music or lyrics. Disregarding jukebox musicals, only nine percent of the musicals boasted a female composer.
Of the 118 musicals the West End has put on during the past decade, only four of the shows’ scores were composed by one individual woman: Cyndi Lauper’s “Kinky Boots,” Jeanine Tesori’s “Shrek the Musical,” Margaret Martin “Gone With the Wind,” and Kath Gotts’ “Bad Girls the Musical.”
And just three of the 118 musicals were written by an all-female team: “Bad Girls,” “Gone With the Wind,” and “Viva Forever!” the book of which was penned by Jennifer Saunders (“Ab Fab”) with music and lyrics by the Spice Girls. In contrast, 88 shows were from an all-male writing team.
“The problem is that the established stable of go-to talent for any of these big-scale opportunities is still basically an almost exclusively white, male, closed shop,” Gotts told The Stage in response to the research.
Jon Bromwich, exec producer at Youth Music Theatre UK, believes that the gender disparity can be traced back to school. “Lack of role models and instruction at a young age are undoubtedly contributory. Ingrained behavior patterns may mean that young female instrumentalists stay with their instrument while males move into composition.”
Whatever the cause, there is definitely a gender problem in modern theater. It seems that every week or so a new story breaks about the obstacles women face in the field. Wellesley Centers for Women found that a glass ceiling exists for women climbing the ladder at nonprofit theaters. Actors’ Equity published research about the stronghold white men have on acting and stage management jobs. And the only new women-written plays on Broadway this season — Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat” and Paula Vogel’s “Indecent” — are not long for this world.
So much for Book, Music and Lyrics founder/director David James’ response to The Stage’s research. “I would say the answer, for both men and women, is to raise their game and write stronger work,” James commented. “If women write the better work, they will be produced. I don’t believe they will be sidelined because of gender.”
If only we lived in that world, Mr. James. But we definitely don’t.
Below are highlights from The Stage’s study. Head over to its website for more information.
Of the 118 musicals that ran on London’s West End from 2007 to 2016:
3 were from an all-female writing team, compared to 88 from an-all male writing team12 percent featured books written by a womanFour scores were composed by a woman75 percent featured no women on their writing teamsNearly nine out of 10 musicals had a book written entirely by menIncluding jukebox musicals, 18 percent of the shows’ music or lyrics were women-written
None of the shows in 2014 featured books, music, or lyrics from women
None of the shows in 2010 featured music from a female composer
None of the books in 2011, 2013, or 2016 were written by women
Study: West End Musicals Are Overwhelmingly Written by Men was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. »
- Rachel Montpelier
The actor and singer on her new role in the civil rights musical Caroline, Or Change – and playing the baddie in panto
Sharon D Clarke, 50, grew up in Tottenham, north London, the daughter of working-class Jamaican parents, and first trained as a social worker. She had a top 10 hit with Nomad’s (I Wanna Give you) Devotion in 1991, and from 2005-8 played Lola Griffin on Holby City. Highlights of her stage career include Ghost, The Amen Corner, for which she won an Olivier award, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. She was described as “ever-magnificent” and “incomparable” in reviews of her last musical, The Life, at Southwark, and next month leads the Chichester festival theatre production of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s 2003 civil rights musical Caroline, Or Change. Clarke is married to an executive producer of Hackney Empire, Susie McKenna.
Your character, Caroline, is a black single mother and »
- Interview by Nick Curtis
Lisa Kron performing at Joe’s Pub: www.lisakron.org
Lisa Kron, who wrote the book and lyrics for the musical “Fun Home,” recently received the 2017 Kleban Prize, which includes $100,000, for writing in musical theater, the New York Times writes. She was awarded the Kleban for “most promising musical theater librettist.”
Kron might be best-known for “Fun Home,” for which she won two Tonys, but her theater career extends far beyond the adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic memoir. According to the Times, Kron has acted in “Good Person of Szechwan,” was part of the acting troupe Five Lesbian Brothers — whose members developed and appeared in “The Secretaries” and “Oedipus at Palm Springs” — and wrote and starred in the autobiographical one-woman shows “2.5 Minute Ride” and “Well.”
“Fun Home” traces Bechdel’s relationship with her closeted father, Bruce, and her own sexual awakening. Bruce committed suicide shortly after Bechdel came out as a lesbian. The musical adaptation was a Broadway hit and won five Tonys, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score. Kron and Jeanine Tesori, the latter of whom wrote the music for “Fun Home,” became the first all-female writing team to win a Tony for Best Original Score.
Some of the musical’s show-stopping numbers include “It All Comes Back,” “Come to the Fun Home,” “Changing My Major,” “Maps,” and “Ring of Keys.”
The judges for this year’s Kleban Prize were “Frozen” songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, actress Mary Testa, and producer Ira Weitzman. The Kleban Foundation was originally established in 1988 as part of Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and lyricist Edward Kleban’s will.
“Fun Home” Lyricist Lisa Kron Receives Kleban Prize for Musical Theater was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. »
- Rachel Montpelier
4 items from 2017
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