I’m not trying to diss the work done by Adam Cork for Enron or Branford Marsalis for Fences. I haven’t even seen either of those shows yet. But I am lamenting the fact that the Broadway musical is in such a dismal state that it can’t fill out the music part of its own category. You could blame the whole thing on the current obsession with branding. At least that’s what I’m doing.
And speaking of Sondheim, there’s no question that he’s a genius but so were Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers and the theater of their day found a way to nurture their very different talents. As it did the varying musical styles of Sondheim and his contemporaries Jerry Herman and John Kander and Fred Ebb.
Instead, we should all welcome the fact that these songwriters, who’ve already made their bones in the pop field, want to write for Broadway and we should encourage them to keep trying their hand at it. We should champion new talents too. Which means a few less revivals, a few more original musicals by folks like Next to Normal’s Tom Kitt, In the Heights’ Lin-Manuel Miranda and Passing Strange’s Stew.
I love a show tune as much as the next theater geek but I tell you, I’d be delighted if the Best Original Score ballot in 2020 were composed of Lady Antebellum, Radiohead, Jay-Z, Tom Kitt for his fourth or fifth Broadway show and some 25 year-old wunderkind who'd recently come out of the BMI Musical Theater Workshop.