Monday, October 9, 2017


In the space of 36 hours, the innertube is all-a-twitter about the trailers for Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  In other entertainment news, Harvey Weinstein announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency because that's the only job a sexual predator can get and not be fired.

So you may not have noticed that the musical The Band's Visit began previews on Broadway. But this little-show-that-could has more to do with the DC, Marvel and Weinstein Universes than it would appear.

Sidenote: Here are the best parts of the DC and Marvel trailers:

I don't know what "Ragnarok" means, but I'd like to find out.

The action these trailers are packing speaks volumes about our country's collective consciousness. The trailer for Justice League (a/k/a We Hope We're as Big as The Avengers) runs 2:48 seconds during which we witness approximately 20 acts of violence--on average, about one every 8.5 seconds. The 30-second trailer for Thor: Fraggle Rock packs in about 8 acts of violence, averaging one every 4 seconds. And I couldn't even count how many shots are fired in the Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer. I know, the argument against movie and comic book violence is as old as the genres themselves, but in this moment in our history is entertainment about death and destruction, well, destructive?

Wait--it gets worse. This fall, Justice League (a/k/a Sure, Batman vs Superman sucked, but you loved Wonder Woman, Right?) joins three other movies portraying vigilante justice: American Assassin, The Foreigner and Death Wish. In case the message isn't clear, the Justice League trailer spells it out for us, with a newscaster intoning, "Violence, acts of war and terrorism are all on the rise," followed by this subtle newspaper headline:

Compare that kind of fear-mongering to The Band's Visit, a story about enemies coming together when an Egyptian police band gets stranded in the Israeli desert. There's no trailer yet with highlights, but you can hear the divine Katrina Lenk sing "Omar Sharif" here.

Sidenote: Have you ever considered how radical the onscreen romance between the Egyptian Sharif and Jewish Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl was? The movie came out just fourteen months after the Six Days War.

I'm excited to see The Band's Visit, written by two of my favorite theater artists, composer-lyricist David Yazbek and playwright Itamar Moses. Given that the most successful new musicals of the past two seasons are human-scale stories (Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away from this past season, and Hamilton and Waitress from the season before), I hope that The Band's Visit continues that trend.

But more than any previous season, Hollywood's blockbuster mentality is encroaching on Broadway's territory, with three multi-billion dollar franchises taking the stage: Harry Potter, Frozen and Spongebob Squarepants. While these are all stories that celebrate the triumph of soft power over hard, I worry that any show that already has successful theme park attractions will overpower the little guys.

So is there a future for substantive, thought-provoking theater on Broadway? Well, also opening this season on Broadway is a new Hershey Store that's three times larger to enhance the "immersive, sensory experience." For chocolate that may contain the same chemical as puke.

Can Thor: Crock of Schlock be far behind?

And that, my friends, is The Gospel According to Marc

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