In this poll, Playbill On-Line asked you to predict which late 20th century plays and musicals would still be performed, discussed and revered one hundred years from now.
The poll was inspired by a New York Times story that asked two current and one former critic the same question.
Here is a selection of the replies from Playbill On-Line members. Those who included their e-mail addresses welcome replies. Playbill On-Line thanks all those who participated:
From B.P. (BPSprtFan@aol.com), Bensalem, PA:
I think that Les Miserables will still be performed and appreciated 100 years from now. For 10 years,theatregoers have flocked to it,and 100 years from now, they still will. The themes of redemption and love are truly universal and everlasting, and it is so powerful that it is impossible not to be moved by it. After all,the novel which the musical is based on has lasted for more than a century. I think Victor Hugo's explanation of the need for Les Miserables says it all: "So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which,in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine,with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age - the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night - are not so solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless."
From Pamm Stadt (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Although "Rent" is reflective of what is going in today's society, I strongly believe the story of these Bohemians will speak to people of all ages in the year 2096. Love, hate, animosity, forging friendships, acceptance of people of all kinds, etc...will exist in each generation. Although younger people 20 years from now will probably not be experiencing what young people are going through today, there will be something in the show to speak to this generation.
From LIDave21 (LIDave21@aol.com):
Sunday in the Park with George is brilliant and timeless.
From Laura MacDonald (email@example.com):
I think that shows like Angels in America and Rent will survive the next hundred years because they depict our times. If you look at what has endured it's classics that tell about people and major events/controversies. The two I've mentioned will endure because they deal with a twentieth century disease, AIDS, and an alternative lifestyle. These are surrounded by controversy as were plays like Ibsen's Doll's House when it premiered, and it has endured because it represents and criticizes its society and time. It's not the stars or the high grossing shows that last; look at hits from the middle of the century, they're forgotten. Shows that make people think, that disturb them and that raise controversy will survive. Not shows about singing cats and faded movie stars, because these are the 90's, and those shows don't represent us. State Fair is an excellent example. It would have been a hit in the 50's because that's the time it depicted. But it opened in the 90's and flopped, so it won't survive.
Seven Guitars, Love! Valour! Compassion! -- this kind of theatre will survive, because it's quality.
It may not make money, but that's not why it was created, it's created to question, to educate, to say something. Sondheim's musicals will survive because they have something to say and are original.
Albee's Three Tall Women will stand as one of the defining moments of English-language theater. By telling us about one very specific woman, he defines what it is to be human, to be mortal, and to live and to die. It stands with Waiting for Godot (which is too obviously a classic to bother voting for) as proof that there are still writers alive in the theater.
From James McQuillen (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Shows that will last:
1. Cats - it's sort the "Chorus Line" of the 80's and 90's. I mean, it's running, and running, and running. It is very popular and is the first really BIG hit of the so-called British invasion. Plus, there's "Memory".
2. Les Miserables - it's been around for ten years, and it has lost very little of its popularity. The music holds up well and the show lives very well without stars (and probably would be very effective in many different styles of production).
3. Rent - maybe. Remember all the hype around the opening of The Who's Tommy that it was heralding a new link between popular music and Broadway? So what happened? Two shows (Rent and Noise/Funk) do not a trend make. Plus, Rent was already written (in some form) when Tommy was around. Now, there is talk of ticket sales taking a nosedive when the original cast leaves. If anything, Rent will be remembered for its subject matter and its author. I mean, I hope it outlasts Cats, but I am not sure if it can.
From: Kristin Hughes:
Hopefully, Sondheim's Sweeney Todd will still be performed. It has a brilliant score, and a timeless theme: Man's inhumanity to man. I can never listen to this show without being moved. I have seen some awful productions of this show (at the community theater level) and the score still gets to me.
From Brian (email@example.com):
There are many shows that have proven longevity and endurance in theatre, but I think the show that will survive the longest into the next century will be HAIR... Yes, that's right, Hair. Not just because of the awesome music, or the simple but powerful story, but because it portrays life in one of the most fascinating times of American history. Plus, looking back, I think people will recognize it as the greatest landmark in American theatre this half century.
Waiting for the return of Aquarius.
From Sara Holliday (Sara.Holliday@oberlin.edu) Oberlin, OH:
Of course, I'll vote for my favorite musical, "Les Miserables," and my favorite play, Tony Kushner's "Angels in America." Personally I think "Angels" more likely to last even than "Les Mis," if only because it's a portrait of an era the author knew personally, rather than of one removed by another hundred years of history.
From: DLMaestro (DLMaestro@aol.com) Lebanon, OH:
Les Miserables is simply one of the finest works ever to be staged. I feel it will endure. However, I feel it will eventually move to the repertoire of the opera houses around the world. It is majestic in style, much like the grand opera of the late 19th century.
From Marc Goldman:
As long as there is theatre, A CHORUS LINE will be discussed, reproduced, and admired. No, it is NOT my fave musical, BUT it is minimalist, poignant and ABOUT theatre. It combines the best of book, music, and lyrics and can last through the ages!!!
From Stephen Lindsay:
What will endure?????
RENT! Just as HAIR defined a generation, RENT will forever be remembered.
From John Francis Yocca of Newark, DE
I believe that "Les Miserables" will last long into the 21st century. I have seen the musical twice and have watched the concert numerous times and I can't seem to find a flaw in it. The music is superb and it appeals to all audiences.
Webber's "Phantom" will also travel far into the next century due to wonderful romantic music and a fantastic visual show. There is no doubt that I would see those shows again and again.
From: Josh Ludzki (firstname.lastname@example.org) New Jersey:
I believe Les Miz will be appreciated and preformed one hundred years from now. The story has been appreciated for so many years that I believe the musical will have the same effect.
From Craig Woythaler (email@example.com) Boston, MA
I think that Les Miserables will live forever.
From Matt Di Cintio (firstname.lastname@example.org) Richmond, VA
I think "Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Mis" are the two prominent musicals that will still be talked about in 100 years. "Angels in America" will definitely be the play.
Two words: Not Cats.
PS. I love this show, too.