Broadway is changing. Sometimes change can usher in new innovations and developments for the art, but sometimes it doesn’t.
Last week I had the opportunity to see Broadway’s newest musical “Bad Cinderella.”
“Bad Cinderella” follows Cinderella, a girl living in Bellville, a town that has been awarded as the “most attractive town” 49 years in a row. Despite the actress playing Cinderella being extremely conventionally attractive, the entire town hates her for her ugly appearance. The rest of the plot is pretty much irrelevant and leaves audience members unsatisfied with the forgettable score and unimpressive storyline.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, who wrote the score, is past his prime, which became extremely apparent during the entirety of this performance.
This camp derivative of the original fairy tale was a harsh reminder that original stories rarely go on Broadway anymore, and ticket sales are slow when they do. Audiences don’t rush to the theater for new material like they used to.
Movie adaptations, revivals and shows from the United Kingdom have been popping up in Broadway theaters since Broadway reopened after the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdowns. Sales have still been down from the pandemic, and live theater has just been playing it safe.
Broadway is an incredible financial risk for investors, so by investing in more well-known and less controversial stories, the chances of making money become more stable.
So many incredible original stories began on Broadway such as “Hamilton,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “West Side Story.”
These stories did not start as money-grabbing tourist attractions, however. Every bold and original story has to take a chance to see if audiences will receive it well, but in today’s economy audiences are wearier to try something new, especially those coming from far places.
People tend to like to stick with what they know.
Seeing a musical based on an iconic fairy tale might make more sense for a family from Texas, rather than seeing an original musical like “Shucked” or “Kimberly Akimbo.” I am not trying to purposefully bash Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Bad Cinderella,” but the media this musical is getting due to it being a washout is only taking away voices from musicals that are trying to tell original stories.
Growing up, I was very fortunate to see some incredible live Broadway productions. One of my favorites is “Kinky Boots” which deals with issues of homophobia and how all people are capable of growing past bigotry. Original material with worthwhile stories is what makes live theater so incredibly exciting and heartwarming.
It’s not just the current stories that are stale and unoriginal, but the casting in musicals is as well.
As it has been since its creation, most Broadway casts are thin and white. Despite trying to perform relatable stories for audiences, casts all look the same.
Size inclusivity seems to be a hard pill to swallow for Broadway casting directors. Barely any roles on Broadway are made for bigger-bodied actors. Plus-size performers are also rarely ever depicted on stage, especially as leading roles or romantic interests.
At the end of the day, the people who make up Broadway audiences come from different backgrounds, sexualities and sizes. So why are the actors and stories that take center stage not representing that?
If producers were to stop playing it safe and take chances on different variations of actors and plays, new groundbreaking musicals could come to life once again. “Bad Cinderella” just serves as a reminder to the rich people behind Broadway that playing it safe never guarantees success. Taking risks is the only way to show that some things can be made better and more worthwhile.