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Broadway’s Seedy Underbelly, Captured on Film

Avenue Q’s Jeff Marx and Bobby Lopez, in 2005Photo by Getty Images

Last night, a crowd of actors, producers, and theater enthusiasts reveled in the New York premiere of Show Business. Tony-winning producer Dori Berinstein’s revealing documentary chronicles four shows — Stephen Schwarz’s Wicked, Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change, Boy George and Rosie O’Donnell’s much-hyped collaboration Taboo, and the 2004 Tony winner for Best Musical, Avenue Q — from their conception to the nerve-racking culmination of the Tony Awards. Berinstein interviewed almost 400 people, including actors like Alan Cumming (wearing a fitted tee that spells “Gay Phi Gay: Dirty Frat Boy” in rhinestones), Broadway producers, and critics (“Yet producers keep rising up again, like Dracula with a stake in his heart,” intones Ben Brantley of the New York Times). At the Film Center Cafe last night, with — what else? — show tunes blaring overhead, fans mingled with onstage personalities like Euan Morton (Taboo), Kristen Chenoweth (Wicked), Raúl Esparza (Company, Taboo), and Jeff Marx and Bobby Lopez, the duo behind Avenue Q. We learned that Broadway collectively loves Spring Awakening, that no one saw Pulitzer Prize winner Rabbit Hole, and why theater lures fun-loving neurotics.


What do you want to see more of on Broadway?
I want to see music for young people and musical novices, instead of the same old-fashioned hokey things that only the enthusiasts like.

Do you see a push on Broadway to appeal to a larger audience?
That was our intention, to write a show for people who don’t necessarily love musicals. And that’s the audience we’re getting at Avenue Q: normal people.

Is there anything that you think has been overdone?
We’re all tired of seeing shows about show business. It’s like our industry eating its own tail.

Rabbit Hole just won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, despite being knocked by some critics. What do you think of its win?
I really don’t know, I didn’t see it. But [playwright] David [Lindsay-Abaire] is a good guy.

What’s the best show you’ve seen recently?
Spring Awakening, I love, love, love. It’s not your father’s musical. It’s getting rock fans to go to the theater.

Have you ever encountered a really rude audience member?
People who eat during a show are really distracting. The worst part is when the person gets mad when you turn around and give them a look, like you’re the one being rude. That happened to me when I went to see A Chorus Line recently. I kept hearing this crinkling, and I’m just thinking, Cunt! God, it makes me so mad!


What are you sick of on Broadway?
No more puppets.

What’s in the works for you?
I just finished Finding Nemo: The Musical, which is playing in Disney World. I wrote it with my wife. I did a musical episode of Scrubs. Also, I’m working on a musical with the South Park guys, Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

In the film, playwright William Goldman says, “I just think there are enough neurotics who want to work in the theater, and, hopefully, they get their shot.” Do you agree that the theater business is full of neurotics?
Whenever someone wants to say something to a whole mass of people by breaking into song, there’s probably something wrong with them.

Rabbit Hole just won the Pulitzer Prize, despite a lukewarm response from critics. In Show Business, we watch theater critics dismiss Avenue Q early on, too — I believe the quote was, “It’ll be gone by January.” Do you find yourself rooting for the underdog?
I didn’t see Rabbit Hole, but I love David Lindsay-Abaire. There are definitely a lot of young people in theater who are inspired by long-shot shows that are doing something new. After we won the Tony, people who hadn’t quite made their mark yet came up to me and said, “When I saw you win, I was inspired. I felt like I won too.” It’s funny, because I didn’t mean to inspire anyone. I’m generally very jealous and want to write all the shows myself. —Lauren Murrow

Broadway’s Seedy Underbelly, Captured on Film