Christ Just Can’t Get a Break on Broadway

I’m sure it is nothing.  Maybe just happenstance… an unexpected alignment in the universe… if anything, but this year’s confluence of Christian influenced (I’d be pressed to say “themed”) Broadway musicals have had a rough few days.

First (June 12), Godspell announced it was closing after it’s June 24th performance.

Next (June 19) came word that Jesus Christ Superstar was thinking about closing on July 1st “unless business improves”.

And now (June 20) we find out that come August 26th, Sister Mary Clarence will hang up her habit making Sister Act the third in this Broadway Trinity to call it a day.

Now, you should understand that I love Broadway.  I feed on the magic of musical theatre.  I adore and am humbled by the artistry and skill that goes into every production and am in no way gleeful to see these three shows ascend to hoofer heaven.

But I wonder if there is something telling in the taste of the Broadway theatergoer and, by sampling, the taste of the political climate, that these three shows have decided that they’ve had their day and will make room for the next flock.

Probably not.  I’m very likely reading too much into this.  But as someone who is also keenly aware of the division in our country between the conservative right and the liberal left, and the seemingly divergent beliefs that each faction would have the other be perceived of having (though I don’t think either group can claim that they hold 50% of ANY single belief system really) it strikes me that this is happening to these shows at this time.  Yes, other factors are at play here.  Finance, investors, projections, tourism, yada yada.  But what about the social implications of the current political temperature?  Is it possible that groups like the Tea Party (just as an example) have created such strife in the population that we just can’t bear the thought of any Christian exposure?

I ask this as someone who never enjoyed church and was always hesitant to embrace organized religion.  I never felt welcome and, because of my Southern upbringing I am nothing if not a gentleman, do not stay where I am unwelcome.  I am curious if I am feeling this pressure from the Far Right in ways “regular church goers” may not and am thus thinking about this in a different spectrum (i.e. Broadway) than others would.

Thoughts?  How much is Broadway impacted by our socio-political climate at any given time?  It is certainly a catalyst for expression in times of crisis but is it, itself, also expressed upon by the climate?

2 thoughts on “Christ Just Can’t Get a Break on Broadway

  1. It’s an intriguing question. It seems obvious that “Broadway”, as a metonym for all theatre, must be affected by our socio-political climate, and affected by it all the time, but I’m not sure whether the affect is really that obvious or measurable. If it were the interesting implication would be that playwrights and producers could tailor works to fit the current mood and have guaranteed hits. It seems like every time that’s tried, though, the result is guaranteed flops.

    You’ve reminded me, though, that I love the music of Jesus Christ Superstar but have always felt uncomfortable about liking it. I’ve also always been uncomfortable with organized religion, and also never enjoyed church. And as much as I’d enjoy a live production I’d have qualms about paying for a ticket, especially if I thought, even for a moment, that it would mean being associated with Tea Party or Christian conservative types.

    Then again I remember that, when it first came out, Jesus Christ Superstar was considered heretical by some. When my parents went to see it they had to walk through a group of protesters telling them they were going to Hell. My mother told me she was pregnant with me at the time, which would definitely have interesting implications.

    • Thanks for the comment! I tend to agree that it isn’t as specific as I imagine it but the idea is intriguing. And you’re right, the “the world is thinking this thing so let’s create a show based on that” often seems doomed to fail.

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