While Sting fans count the last 48 hours before the release of his next album The Last Ship, the excitement doubles as this will be his first official step towards a Broadway debut; Sting had announced the plans for a musical play back in June and on Thursday September 19, his website announced the dates of his first pre-Broadway attempt in Chicago (June 10 - July 13, 2014).
Ever since Broadway started welcoming original contemporary pop-rock musicals like Rent, the hunger for profoundly imagined fresh musicals took an unexpected turn: Coinciding with economically challenging times, a shift toward an unquenchable thirst for karaoke cash -- supported by the glitter of 'all things Cirque du Soleil' -- plagued the Broadway scene. Although there have been many attempts to revitalize the classic Broadway into the new millennium, the formula of creating shows with songs that were not originally intended for musicals became the juke box 'Motown' solution; with considerable 'Mamma Mia' box office success.
The 'tourist-trap' toll, however, sucked the life out of original works and gave us the likes of a desperate Rock of Ages at the low end of the scale, while a tolerable Jersey Boys appeared on a (somewhat) higher spectrum. There have been occasional success stories of fresh sounding works on Broadway; the delightfully subversive Spring Awakening gave pop-rock songwriter Duncan Sheik an opportunity to shine and demonstrate how fresh compositions can revitalize an all-too-familiar Broadway sound. Paul Simon's overwrought Capeman was also a contender, but in his case the effort was expensively futile; Simon's failure on Broadway sent shockwaves and chilling warning signals to a lot of his pop-rock contemporaries.
Sting's recent attempt at this mammoth undertaking is analogous to Paul Simon's run; not only because of the 'rock cred' they both share, but also due to the internationally successful body of work that puts them in an exceptional category of their own. (Elton John is up there as well with a huge Broadway appeal). Sting and Paul Simon's songs have added deeper dimensions to popular music; their lyrical introspection especially. Having acknowledged that, the costly 'reinvigoration of Broadway' project turned prohibitively sour for Simon. Sting will hopefully take his colleague's erroneous entry into the Broadway neighborhood very seriously and avoid costly mistakes. You can't re-write Broadway by turning against it.
The stakes are high for Sting; the critics and fans will be eager to see if the Paul Simon 'spell' can be broken. If so, Sting may be able to contribute a lot to Broadway's standards -- and practices -- by bringing his signature as a songwriter to the inevitable Broadway metamorphosis of the times.
Depending on how the book, the music and the staging get along, we may finally have a refreshing (and desperately needed) upgrade, a new leaf on the Broadway stage without compromising the high standards of the classics that have helped define American music. Until then, a mix of acrobats posing as dancers, magic tricks and explosive pyrotechnics trying to pump blood into revivals will have to justify the cost of a Broadway ticket.
Twitter: @FuatAbdullah, e-mail:FtjAbdullah@gmail.com