Every year American Theatre magazine publishes a list of the 10 most widely produced shows of the coming season — and most years that list is a look at what’s new and interesting and not so well-known. Granted, a small-cast Pulitzer-winner from a season or so before is likely to get a lot of productions across the country. But, besides A Christmas Carol and the plays of Shakespeare, you’re sure to see a lot of titles on that list that are just trying out their wings.
Not so much in Central Florida, where I just took a semi-systematic look at what’s scheduled for the 2010-2011 season and found a whole lot of same old, same old. The most popular playwright among the 60-plus theaters across Central Florida this season? Neil Simon, who’s now 83 years old and who hasn’t turned out a really good play (forgive me, but it’s true) in nearly 20 years.
Here’s the list of most performed shows for the coming season:
Tied for second place, with three productions apiece:
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
- Arsenic and Old Lace
- Blithe Spirit
- Disney’s The Jungle Book Kids
- Fiddler on the Roof
- Guys and Dolls
- James and the Giant Peach
- Noises Off
- The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
- The Crucible
- The Producers
- The Wizard of Oz
And in first place, you guessed it: A Christmas Carol, with nine productions of various adaptations thereof.
And here’s the list, in descending order, of the most-produced playwrights this season:
- A tie between musical-theater writer Stephen Schwartz and comedy writer Joe DiPietro;
- A tie between Mel Brooks and British farceur Ray Cooney;
- Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
- Musical-theater book-writer Thomas Meehan, who had the good sense to write Annie, The Producers and Young Frankenstein. (I suspect his retirement savings are assured.)
- William Shakespeare.
- Stephen Sondheim.
- And, in first place, Neil Simon.
Now, some of those folks are the best we have. And of course we can attribute a lot of the tried-and-true to the area’s many smaller community theaters, which can only sell tickets for very familiar names.
And we can always be thankful that a few of Orlando’s scrappier theaters do go out on a limb.
But don’t you wonder what things would be like around here if more theaters took chances — and if more audiences urged them on?
I’m waiting for that day to come.