Broadway has a way of spewing back the familiar over and over again, because that sort of thing is generally less financially risky than something new.
But sometimes the regurgitation takes on an inspired form that makes the revival come off fresh and illuminating.
Let me give you two glorious examples.
My favorite musical revival of all time was:
1992’s Guys and Dolls, directed by Jerry Zaks.
The cast–including Nathan Lane as small-time schnook Nathan Detroit and Faith Prince as his girlfriend Adelaide–couldn’t have been better cast in this zippy, colorful production which brought Damon Runyon’s characters and Frank Loesser’s score to glorious life.
Every second was pure magic in this hilarious, satirical, touching, retread that brimmed with conviction and staked a claim that this could well be the great American musical (a claim that the next revival unfortunately tried to debunk).
My favorite dramatic revival ever was:
1999’s Death of a Salesman, directed by Robert Falls
Arthur Miller’s landmark play about the dissolution of the American dream was driven powerfully home in this taut, shattering version, with Brian Dennehy as the floundering title character and Elizabeth Franz as his nobly loving and long suffering wife.
They were both astounding, bringing the work such immediacy and raw emotion that the play seemed brand new and ripped from the heart.
The recent revival was OK, but left me thinking, “I can’t cry.”
It was in ’99 that Death really lived.