Don’t know why, it’s just one of those flamboyant little fantasies that you’d never expect a person like me to have. It’s not even as if I’m massively into musicals. To be honest I tend to find them intrusive and annoying to listen to. But that Broadway thing has always been bubbling away and after I saw “The Producers” movie a few years ago it attacked me for weeks. I went to see it in London, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, no less but it wasn’t the same. I wanted Shubert Alley, Sardis, 42nd Street – they mattered as much as the show itself. I even wrote a crossover fic about the Doctor and Rose meeting Leo Bloom, because I always suspected that whole plan about making the worst show on Broadway had Doctor all over it. And besides, Sardis is probably the only famous restaurant that rhymes with TARDIS.
Anyway, I have at last seen not one Broadway show, but two. “Avenue Q” and “Spamalot” – both excellent in their own way and a good contrast in scale. “Spamalot”, like many Broadway shows, celebrates Broadway itself as much as Monty Python. There’s a wonderful, outrageous number that goes “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway (if you don’t have any Jews).” And that seems to encapsulate one of the most moving things about Broadway to me – that this amazing cultural phenomenon was created by the two groups of human beings that Hitler tried to exterminate – homosexuals and Jews. That tells us a profound lesson about prejudice, methinks.
I’ve seen many more profound things on stage than “Spamalot” and will, no doubt, see many more, since I’m starting a degree in Shakespeare very soon. But in a way, Broadway is more about the execution than the material – the complete convinction, energy, confidence and professionalism of everyone involved, and the environment itself. And for me, the city was the biggest star. Just the thrill of coming out of the theatre right onto Shubert Alley, seeing Sardis right across the road right next door to the St James where “The Producers” played and then walking six blocks home through a glittering, noisy city every bit as theatrical as the show itself – that was the experience of a lifetime. Unforgettable.
I’ve played a lot of vintage Broadway numbers on my iPod the last few days – from classic hoofing songs like “Lullaby of Broadway” and an awful lot of Gershwin to more recent classics. They all celebrate the Big Apple in some way. They are also wonderful to work out to, though I did have a slightly surreal experience when watching (with no sound) the DW Prom on New Year’s Day. They had this montage of Doomsday clips which went straight from Bad Wolf Bay Part One to JE, and to watch that to the background of “The Song that Goes Like This” seemed oddly perfect. I think RTD might appreciate that.
I can’t believe there’s more
It’s far too long im sure
That’s the trouble with this song
It goes on and on and on
For this is our song that is too long
Plus, I was rather astonished (specially at Avenue Q) to realise just how accurately Mel Brooks sums up the experience of theatregoing in New York:
You waited for ever and finally got tickets
To get to your seat you had to cross pickets
The man on your right is frightfully tight
The one on your left appears to have rickets
The music’s yuck, the lyrics suck, the casting is all wrong
And when you reach the bathroom, the line is five miles long
Right, I’m off to watch the Great Announcement, and I’m sure I’ll throw a fannish hissy fit and declare I’m finished with this show now,
“You swear you’ll never go again, it’s simply not worthwhile,
You make that vow and then somehow, you’re back there on the aisle.”