I saw my favorite flop this weekend.
I braved a borough and traveled to Brooklyn to see the BAM concert of Capeman, which featured Mr. Simon himself.
It was a wonderful celebration of a musical that didn’t work on Broadway, and still has its flaws. But those flaws are found in some of the most beautiful and unique music we’ve heard on Broadway in the last decade (Encores, if you’re reading this, put down that script of Flora The Red Menace and call Paul).
As I listened to tunes like “Satin Summer Nights”, I forgave so many of the problems with the piece (most notably that the lyrics tend to be more narrative and do not further the characters arcs).
What made me forgive? Three words. Mel. O. Dy.
In the commercial musical theater medium, melody is so very important. Common sense, right? Then why do so many of the young and upcoming composers avoid it like an STD. This not only goes for those fresh out of school, but also to those composers who have been anointed by the New York Times as being the future of musical theater (Has anyone realized that Michael John LaChiusa has never had a hit? Doesn’t it seem odd for him to be teaching Graduate Musical Theatre Writing at NYU?)
In their search to be the next Sondheim, so many seem to forget what artists like Paul Simon, Elton John, Billy Joel, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Marvin Hamlisch, John Kander and Richard Rodgers knew so very well.
A strong melody is like a drug to an audience. It opens their mind.
And then, once they have smoked a little of what you’ve offered, you can say whatever you want to them.
And they’ll believe you.