What I learned from last week’s American Idol finals.
Last week’s American Idol finals put two singers chosen by the “American people” downfront and center.
And both of them were country singers.
And if you think that’s some strange coincidence, you better saddle up, cowboy, because you’re about to get ridden out of town with a brand on your butt that says, “I (heart) Country!”
Some surveys state that 60% of the US population listens to country music, and another whopping 24% listens exclusively to country music.
So why haven’t we seen a country music hit? Well, for one, the ideas for our shows usually originate with the authors, and I’d bet that if you did a demographic study of musical writers . . . you’d find that most would not be fans of country music. Sondheim, yes. Hank Williams? Not so much. I’d also bet that most grew up in the Northeast, far from the steel guitar-filled South.
Still, I couldn’t help but find last week’s premature closing of the Off-Broadway country musical Lucky Guy ironic, as America was crowning a country idol in Scotty McCreery.
There’s gold in them thar hills. We just haven’t found it yet.
We had Whorehouse years ago (revival anyone?). And there was the flop Ring of Fire. But I don’t know of any pure country musical that has taken advantage of the incredible popularity of this musical genre. (There’s actually a musical called Pure Country that has been kicking around for awhile, and their domain name is PureCountryOnBroadway.com so they obviously have hopes, but I haven’t heard any news, have you?).
I tried to get Garth Brooks to write a musical years ago, but his reps said “he wasn’t there yet.” Huh, maybe that’s it too. If one of the reasons that we don’t have a country musical is that our writers didn’t grow up on country, of course the opposite is probably true. I’d bet that most country musicians didn’t grow up with a Broadway influence.
But it’s a shame. Because country songs are known for being story songs, filled with drama, emotion, and great hooks.
A great country musical would seem to be a marriage made in Texas.
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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.