When he’s not practicing his trade as a top-notch journalist or monitoring the antics of his young sons (or doing both simultaneously), American Theatre senior editor Rob Weinert-Kendt makes music. His experience as a composer, performer and all-round obsessive about music for the stage proved especially useful as we prepared “New Notes in Musical Theatre,” this issue’s cluster of features devoted to the field’s new developments. One of those articles—occasioned by Rob’s recent visit to a little theatre in St. Louis, Mo., that’s as music-obsessed as he is—sports a Weinert-Kendt byline; the others are by AT managing editor Suzy Evans and critic Matthew Sigman. I’ve solicited Rob’s overview of our special section here:
“Regularly taking the pulse of American musical theatre is one of our unofficial missions (and pleasures) here at American Theatre. In the past few years what’s been exciting, and a bit daunting, about this subject is that not only does the American musical theatre have a pulse, but it’s racing—there’s so much going on that it’s hard to keep up with it, and with the talents, both up-and-comers and old-timers, who are stretching and bending the form in all directions, from the grittily immersive to the sleekly technological, and all the notes in between.
“In these pages, you won’t read the usual litany of complaints about how musicals these days are all based on movies (that’s just one trend, and hardly the dominant one) or about how they just don’t make ’em like they used to (they don’t, and that’s mostly a good thing), or about how conservative theatregoers just aren’t embracing new voices (not even remotely true). Instead you’ll read about songwriters who cultivate followings and bookings via YouTube; about musicians creating unique theatrical and operatic hybrids with other theatremakers far away from the commercial pressures of Broadway; and about a tiny theatre in St. Louis where the musical’s new Golden Age is getting its due (re)consideration. The musical theatre is churning with change, and we’re on the beat.”
Thanks, Rob. The beat goes on in the remainder of the issue, where another pair of staff-written articles capture the distinctive throb of theatrical Manhattan—Evans tracks the impact over 20-plus years of a production of Cabaret that just won’t quit, and assistant editor Diep Tran stalks the histrionic Booth brothers through the halls and stairways of the 125-year-old Players Club. Eyeing real estate on the opposite coast, San Francisco arts reporter Robert Avila offers an info-packed analysis of that city’s high-stakes effort to revitalize its Market Street corridor. Theatre for youth gets attention in Evan Henerson’s romp through Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s inventive new incarnation of A Wrinkle in Time and senior editor Eliza Bent’s Strategies report on Seattle’s TeenTix program.
In closing, let me call your attention to an editorial change: Our Global Spotlight column, devoted in the past to annotated listings of international theatre events, will heretofore take on a more varied character, incorporating commentary from correspondents around the world as well as critical responses to international performance. This month, Evans sifts through her vivid impressions of the Colombian theatre scene, gathered at the recent 14th Iberoamerican Theatre Festival in Bogotá. New notes are sounding everywhere.