TheaterMania Report Card: Grading Our Predictions From 2018
Predictions are an annual end-of-year tradition at TheaterMania; now it's time to look back and see how we did.
Every year, after spending 12 months exploring and studying the many subjects of the theatrical curriculum, we at TheaterMania like to take a moment to stop, reflect on what we've seen, and look into the future to predict what we expect to see in the upcoming year. As 2018 comes to an end, we thought we'd take a moment to revisit our predictions and see how we fared. Were we disciplined and studious, earning us a place on the honor roll? Or had we misread the signs entirely and ended up in theater detention? Read on to find out if we made the grade.
Prediction 1: More A-List Musicians Will Play Broadway
The "more" in this prediction is in reference to the wildly successful Springsteen on Broadway, which has certainly proved that audiences are hungry for intimate performances from top-tier musical acts. Unfortunately, unless you count Ruben and Clay's Christmas Show (we don't), this prediction hasn't panned out — yet. In November, Michael Riedel of the New York Post reported that a number of major music organizations are in talks to acquire a Broadway theater for future acts to follow Springsteen's lead. While we might have jumped the gun on this prediction, we still believe history will vindicate us in the end.
Prediction 2: The '90s Are Back
Nostalgia is in. If there's one sure bet you can make in entertainment today, it's that people love the things they love and will open their wallets over and over again for the familiar. Going into 2018, Anastasia and SpongeBob SquarePants had already opened while Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Mean Girls were on the way. Since then, both Network and To Kill a Mockingbird have been the talk of the town this winter. Beetlejuice, Moulin Rouge! The Musical, and Tootsie are all set for 2019 openings. And Clueless, the Musical has made its world premiere at Signature Center. Some of these properties don't belong to the '90s, but the spirit of this prediction couldn't be more accurate.
Prediction 3: Adaptations Will Become Looser in an Effort to Meet the Sensibilities of 2018
Changes large and small were made to major adaptations brought to the stage in 2018. From the nuanced but important — Mean Girls's Cady being from Kenya instead of just Africa — to the major — My Fair Lady's much-needed new ending — creative teams have taken measures to ensure these shows fit today's more rigorous standards. Except when they don't. Or when they do, but it doesn't really work. The sexual politics minefield of Pretty Woman landed on the stage of the Nederlander Theatre this year largely unchanged from its 1990 script. Meanwhile, King Kong's girl-power portrayal of Ann Darrow makes her complicit in the destruction the masterfully engineered puppet brings on the city, but cheaply expects us to ignore those grievous faults and applaud the fact that she's ambitious and confident.
4. Multilingual Theater Will Bridge the Gap Between Communities
We made a compelling case for this prediction based on some strong evidence from the 2017 season. The Band's Visit, Oedipus El Rey, and Children of a Lesser God were all presented as supporting evidence that language-diverse experiences were finding a nice groove. Did our ears correctly translate what we were hearing? Sort of. The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene has long presented Yiddish theater to New York audiences, and their production of the Yiddish-language translation of Fiddler on the Roof (A Fidler Afn Dakh) has been a major success, extending multiple times and recently announcing an off-Broadway run at Stage 42 in February. It's a wonderful piece of theater, but it alone doesn't quite carry the trend. All the same, l'chaim!
5. Theater Awards Committees Will Reconsider the Value of Gender-Specific Categories
Not only did we make this prediction, TheaterMania critics Hayley Levitt and Zachary Stewart debated the merits earlier this summer. Regardless of your feelings on this debate, talk of gender-neutral categories hasn't spread prolifically. While Chicago's Joseph Jefferson Awards revamped their acting categories to comprise 10 performers, regardless of gender, and chose two winners from each category, we couldn't find another major awards body implementing this practice. We'll take partial credit on this one.
6. End-of-Times Dramas Will Become All the Rage
This prediction feels as though it was made under the specter of global circumstances relentlessly reminding us just how precarious our situation on this planet is. Climate change. The rise of authoritarianism. Dying bees. If you read the newspaper, the world is a scary place. But this predicted trend hasn't garnered a theatrical response in 2018. If anything, theaters have leaned hard in the opposite direction. The success of prediction No. 2 seems to suggest that in cold, difficult times, we prefer to wrap ourselves in the warm blanket of nostalgia and fondly recall more stable times.
7. Playwrights and Directors Will Traffic in Truth and Lies
Americans don't know what to believe. We can't seem to even agree what facts are anymore. As former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani recently said, "Truth isn't truth." No play opening in New York in 2018 better represents this idea than The Lifespan of a Fact. Featuring the heavy-hitting trio of Daniel Radcliffe, Bobby Cannavale, and Cherry Jones debating what makes something true and why it matters, Lifespan strikes right at the heart of this prediction. American Son is also a solid entry into this category, putting stars Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale in a police station during the middle of the night as they struggle to uncover the truth of what may or may not have happened to their son. To Kill a Mockingbird deals with the struggle to make justice in the American court system walk hand-in-hand with the truth. We don't expect this particular trend to go anywhere soon.
FINAL GRADE: C
While our final grade isn't anything we'll be quick to take home and post on our refrigerators, it's just another reminder of how exciting and unpredictable live theater can be, which is one of the reasons it's so much fun. What will 2019 hold in store for us? Nobody can say for sure, but check back tomorrow for our 2019 predictions. This time, we'll strive harder to be straight-A students.