Why Broadway’s lack of originality is going to cost us

By Caelyn Osbern

Broadway for years has been not only a tourist attraction but something beloved by New Yorkers as well. However, in recent years, Broadway has been relying on old musicals to keep them afloat. Although I’m absolutely someone who works out to the melodies of Sweeney Todd, the lack of original concepts on Broadway is making it lose its spark. Seeing it suffer is not only a problem for the arts but also speaks to our overconsumption in society. Getting Broadway back to the level of genius and credibility of past years can easily be done, but we need to start expecting creation. That's what the arts are for.
With the rise of revivals such as Parade and Sweeney Todd, and adaptations like The Great Gatsby featuring big names such as Josh Groban, Jordan Fisher, Gaten Matarazzo, Ben Platt, and Jeremy Jordan, it’s no surprise that people practically drool at the thought of seeing them live. However, with such heavy success, people quickly lose interest in other shows that are just as good, and much more unique. For example, “How To Dance In Ohio” (discussed by Tais Soto-Vaca https://www.thebullhorn.net/article/how-to-dance-in-ohio-a-review) was wonderfully received, and was a huge stepping stone in Broadway - its show having featured all autistic actors and having accessible amenities for neurodivergent and disabled audience members. However,- although none of these shows opened or closed on the same dates- it was quickly outshined by the two revivals with flashy famous names, which completely took away from the larger impact it could have had. Parade was originally supposed to be a limited run, but extended due to audience demand, while shows such as How To Dance In Ohio, Harmony, Prayer for the French Republic and many others closed all too quickly, to be able to achieve that level of appreciation.
Our society loves what we already know- that's not new. There’s a lot of fear in the unknown, and although Broadway is extremely progressive, it falls behind when the people watching, creating, and those in charge aren’t interested in new ideas. It’s no surprise that people would rather go see a show they already know the plot of with actors they adore, rather than a show with a new plot, full of understudies and newcomers because some shows are more digestible than others. Shows like “The Prom” were not ready for Broadway, because they weren’t comfortable for audiences to watch; which sometimes should be the sole point of a performance. Art should comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable.
The lack of new content is so much bigger than Broadway- it speaks to our inability to enact change and be open to new ideas. The arts need that creativity spark with new shows as much as they need wonderful revivals like Sweeney Todd and Parade. Without new content, Broadway will go under- maybe not in sales, but in what the arts truly should be about: making people feel, and entertaining them. Without change, the arts can never progress, and the arts have always been at the forefront of progressiveness in society. Without that notion, we cannot progress, and luckily, it’s a very easy fix: listen to new ideas, and put them on Broadway.