I should begin this post by saying yes, I am aware that Gentleman’s Guide was adapted from a book. Now we may continue.
There’s a reason that there’s no separate categories for Best Original Book and Best Adapted Book at the Tony Awards — that is, it is very rare that a fully original musical makes it to the stage (for you musical newbies, a “book” is the actual dialogue spoken and script, as opposed to the “score,” which is music and lyrics).
Recently, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder announced that the Best Musical-winning show will be closing its doors on January 17. The show has been suffering financially (you can view its grosses on Playbill Vault), bringing in the most dough during and after 2014 Tony season. For those not familiar with the show, it follows Monty Navarro as he discovers that he is an heir to the Earldom of Highurst and there are only a few measly family members standing in his way. So he decides to murder them (this is not a spoiler, it’s in the title). As heavy as the content may seem, it’s a lighthearted comedy and a fun, original story. It’s a musical lover’s delight, but unfortunately, the industry of Broadway does not revolve around musical lovers. It revolves around tourists who want to see Phantom of the Opera.
If/Then, which opened the same season as Gentleman’s Guide, was an original musical which ran for a year on Broadway. It was nominated for original score and its star, Idina Menzel, got an acting nom as well. It won neither. Something Rotten! is the only original musical currently running. Though it was nominated for ten Tonys, it only won one — Christian Borle won Featured Actor for playing Shakespeare in a show about hating Shakespeare.
Shows like The Book of Mormon, released four years ago, could mark the end of an era — even innovative shows, like Hamilton, are adapted from nonfiction works.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that revivals or adaptations are bad musicals. Sometimes revivals can even give new life to a story. Take Chicago for example. The original Broadway production ran for only two years, but the revival has been running for almost two decades. It means that we’ll have to rethink how we analyze and how we watch shows. We have to decide: does the originality of a work make it more valuable than recycled material?
Gentleman’s Guide has a North American tour starting September 19. You can view the dates and purchase tickets here. If you are planning a trip to New York, you can buy tickets for the remaining Broadway dates here.