As we hinted on Monday, few art forms say more about life as it is currently lived than the Broadway musical, and there is no more succinct and reliable snapshot of our times than its yearly ceremony of honors. (Straight plays remain and will always be little more than half-baked musicals, lacking in the essential fabulousness – comparable to reportage without facts, or cheese without milk.) We’ve already analyzed the nominees in the pivotal category of Best New Musical; now let us turn our attention to one that is arguably even more important, judging from Broadway’s defiantly retrograde tendencies: Best Revival of a Musical. The nominees are as follows:
- 110 in the Shade
- The Apple Tree
- A Chorus Line
It’s also no accident that all of the nominated shows reflect Biblical themes. The most obvious is The Apple Tree, which takes the tale of Adam and Even as the starting point for a whimsical exploration of original sin. Less obvious, however, is 110 in the Shade, an encrypted retelling of the Deluge myth, in which a formerly repressed woman causes a massive flood by sinfully embracing the life of the body.
There are also secret evangelical overtones in A Chorus Line, with its group of wannabe dancers representing the population of the world, only a small number of which will be “raptured” away to musical-comedy success by an all-powerful director/deity. Rounding out the list is Company, Stephen Sondheim’s allegory for the life of Christ, in which the Messiah (played in this production by a mesmerizing Raul Julia) proves himself all too human by sleeping with and/or being jealous of his various disciples. To gather all of these semi-scriptural events under the rubric of “Revival” is merely the unpopped cherry on top.
It will be fascinating to see which aspect of Judeo-Christian legend the Tony committee will choose to designate as the zeitgeist. However, the die is essentially already cast – by favoring this particular worldview over all others, any winner will serve to support the status quo. And this is simply how the system works. In a sense, the Broadway musical represents a utopian eden, a mythological past during which mankind sang instead of speaking and danced instead of dying. The immense and epoch-making importance of this art form only confirms this primal dream of plenty.
Bearing all of this in mind, one should perhaps not be surprised that the Apocryphist’s heart belongs to the stage. We are only human, after all.