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Well, That’s a New One: Top Theater Trends in 2010

One of the best things about this year? Broadway was actually interested in looking forward to its future instead of back at its past. Here’s what was sparkly and new in 2010.

Get Lost, Intermission
Remember that thing that used to happen about halfway through a Broadway show? It lasted about 15 minutes, and the lights came up and everything stopped. You had time to go to the bathroom. It was called intermission. Yeah, well in 2010, intermission became so uncool that half the shows on Broadway just stopped having them. Or everyone’s attention spans shrunk. Or producers thought they could save some cash by making shows 35% shorter. Whatever the reason, many Broadway shows are now like New Years Eve in Times Square: Pee before you go or live to regret it.

The Alterna-Leading Man Triumphs
Another trend that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere?  The slightly-off-kilter leading man.  John Gallagher Jr. in American Idiot, Benjamin Walker in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Joshua Henry in The Scottsboro Boys, even Gavin Creel in 09’s Hair…these aren’t exactly your traditional Cheyenne Jackson/Steven Pasquale-looking leading beefcakes.  But they keep booking Broadway’s biggest roles.  And frankly, as non-traditional leading ladies ourselves, we LOVE this trend.

Hey, It’s the Year of Sondheim
Not sure if you knew this or not, but Stephen Sondheim turned 80 this year. Oh yeah, you did know. Because he got a theater named after him, had 27 birthday parties, wrote a book, went on Colbert, and was the subject of a new musical review. We can’t think of anyone in theater who’s more worthy of such celebration, but even Steve himself seemed a little weary of all the fanfare in the end. We’re sure he never felt it more acutely than when he saw Sondheim on Sondheim.

Sippie Cups for Booze
Want some wine with your onstage cheese? Starting in 2010, you got it in a spill-proof cup, often printed with the show’s logo. For some of us, it felt kind of infantile. For others, it was a cheaper and more convenient souvenir than most of the show’s merch. Which brings us to…

Let’s All Drink During the Show
Remember the days when you had to finish your beverage of choice before you could return to your seat after intermission? (We suppose you could have thrown it out, but who wastes a $6 soda?)  They are long gone, ladies and gentlemen. So long gone, in fact, that shows have even taken to encouraging your drinking habit. Take that sippie cup of custom cocktail back to your seat!  Fela! even went so far as to put an insert in the Playbill encouraging you to get up from your seat and visit the bar, which stayed open through the entire first act. We here at The Craptacular have never complained.

Rock Is King or Something
The last time the music on the Broadway stage and popular music were one in the same was, unfortunately, back when folks got their pop fix by buying the day’s hottest sheet music.  Something funny seems to be happening these days, though… rock music (you know, the stuff real people actually listen to) is flooding the stage—Spring Awakening, Next to Normal, American Idiot and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson are just a few examples from recent seasons—and we’re pretty sure it’s finally here to stay.

Replacement Casts are Cool
Once upon a time it kind of sucked when you couldn’t get tickets early enough in a show’s run to see its entire original cast.  (Actually, it still kind of does.)  But recently, the replacement cast has become such a big thing that even the Times waxed poetic on the subject.  In the past few months saw stars like Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley stepping in as Diana and Dan Goodman in Next to Normal and superstars like Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch joining the cast of A Little Night Music.

What Shows Can You Get on TKTS? All Of Them
Once upon a time, Broadway produced roughly one major, long-running hit each year. In that same storied time, the economy was way better, which means that there was such a thing in New York as a hard-to-get ticket. This year, nearly every major show made it to the discount booth at some point, including big hits like Jersey Boys, Billy Elliot and The Addams Family. Wicked and The Lion King might not have been offering cheap seats, but you could still get them on almost any night of the week. That’s a major sea change from years past. Will we have a new bestseller in 2011? Spider-Man, despite its pre-opening drama, could be the show to break the trend, provided that it makes it to opening night. Although if you look at the box office totals for previews, that doesn’t really matter…

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