Theater things that don’t make sense: Vol. 7. Is Birdie A “Classic”?

Next season, Broadway will see the very first revival of the hip swiveling hit, Bye, Bye, Birdie (or Grease-lite, as I like to call it).

Who’s the Producer, you ask?

Jeffrey Richards?  Jeffrey Seller?  Jeffrey Finn?  (What is with all these Jeffreys anyway?  Malcolm Gladwell needs to study this like he did hockey players.)

Nope.  The first ever Broadway revival of this commercial success is going to be produced by The Roundabout.

Did anyone else start singing the Cookie Monster song below when they heard this news?

As much as I am a fan of the Roundabout’s work (without them – not one of the courageous Sondheim revivals they’ve done over the past 8 years would have had a shot at a production), Birdie just doesn’t seem to sit on the same shelf as their other shows.  Look at some of the choices of the past year:  A Man For All Seasons, Godot, Philanthropist, even Pal Joey seems to make more sense than BBB, doesn’t it?

Sure, they’ve done musical comedies before, like The Boys From Syracuse, but even that seems to fit, since the odds of a commercial production of that show are as good as the odds are on Piven being nominated for a Tony.

I was a bit confused with the choice, so I took a ride on the internet superhighway to charitynavigator.org to take a look at the Roundabout’s mission statement.

Established in 1965, Roundabout Theatre Company is committed to teaming great theatrical works with the industry’s finest artists to re-energize classic plays and musicals.

Ok, so I guess it fits.  Sort of?  But this is a the sort of traditional-audience pleasing show that many commercial producers (including myself) would have loved to get their hands on.  Instead, it’ll get the warm protective embrace of a non-profit.

It’s this sort of choice that furthers the ongoing debate of “there’s no profit, like not for profit”.

Non-profits have been snatching up theaters left and right, and now
they’re grabbing the rights to extremely commercial properties?

Could a Roundabout revival of Grease be in the cards?

Maybe I’m just jealous because I didn’t get my hands on the rights to Birdie first.

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Comments
  • Steven H. says:

    But if it’s such an “extremely commercial” property that “many commercial producers … would have loved to get their hands on,” then why is this the first B’way revival in the show’s history? Haven’t the commerical producers had over 40 years to grab it? Not intended to be a snarky comment. I’m truly curious.

  • RLewis says:

    Yes, you’re jealous. It’s not like Birdie hasn’t been sitting out there for ages waiting for someone to take a chance on bringing it back. No Producer Wanted To.
    Personally, I think BBB is much more of a classic than Pal Joey, even though I don’t care for either. The Joey revival has been hangin’ around for over 5 yrs. No Producer Wanted It.
    “Non-profits have been snatching up theaters left and right…” If only. Isn’t it more like 3?
    And the mission update on the Roundabout’s website pretty much leaves it to do whatever it wants…
    In 1995, we expanded our mission to include the development and production of new works by today’s great writers and composers. The production of these new works, alongside the production of classics, enables Roundabout to embody the crossroads of American theatre.
    Take a breath, Ken

  • Scott says:

    Maybe its a way for Roundabout to pull back some of their subscribers for some of the crap that they’ve produced in the last few years. I stopped subscribing over 6 years ago after THE WOMEN and DESIGN FOR LIVING. Maybe, like another web site said, its a way to honor Charles Strouse with a double-header this coming season. Maybe they wanted a feel-good show that would hopefully guarantee tickets in a bad economy. Let’s see how they screw up the casting. =:-O

  • Gil says:

    You know, funny you say that Roundabout produces things that aren’t “commercial”, because I’ve always thought of Roundabout as always putting commercialism before artistry. This isn’t Lincoln Center doing Light in the Piazza. These are the people who brought Cabaret and were considering bringing it back again so they can make more nonprofit money. And doing Sondheim to me has never been a matter of non-commercial nowadays; it’s been mostly a matter of “Sondheim gets subscribers in seats, so more Sondheim it is.”
    MTC does obscure stuff, Lincoln Center does obscure stuff (South Pacific aside). Roundabout doesn’t often seem to take quite as much in risks, it seems to me.
    Hey Ken, had the idea of doing Birdie actually crossed your mind anytime recently?

  • marshall.such@verizon.net says:

    I always thought of BBB as “West Side Story” light. But still one of my faves! Think the Roudabout will put a “Happy Face” on a lot of people. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

  • Lil Barcaski says:

    It is a great old and I am surprised to see it’s taken this long for it’s revival too. We are doing local production down here in Florida with our non-profit. I find myself cracking up much more than I expected to. It’s a really funny show and even the young kids I have are laughing at the jokes. Had to explain who Ed Sullivan was though! It’s a joy to direct.
    Lil

  • CarpeDM says:

    I think the reason BBB has not been done before is that there is a perception (rightly or wrongly) that the show lacks any relevance to today and is missing the nostalgia of shows like Grease. Perhaps people view it as not just from another time, but from the time before another time. Certainly the TV movie did nothing to help the show’s case.
    I’m interested to see if the Roundabout can bring out the show’s themes of media manipulation, celebrity fanaticism, and teenage rebellion and avoid putting out a simple “teens are crazy” show.

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