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Glory Day(s)

May 9, 2008

I don't keep up with the world of musicals as closely as some other arts scenes. But the news that the Broadway musical Glory Days was shutting down after only one performance made me feel sad. Penned by 23-year-old composer-lyricist Nick Blaemire and 24-year-old librettist James Gardiner, the 90-minute, pop-driven musical deals with four friends sorting out their differences a year after high school.

My feelings don't have much to do with the work itself, which I didn't see during its preview run or on opening night. When I was in New York a couple of weeks ago, however, I was struck by the avalanche of publicity that the show was getting in advance of its official opening at Circle in the Square Theatre. There were posters everywhere. Every time I turned on the local news, I heard the show mentioned. All the friends I saw during my stay talked about the fast rise to fame of the production's creators.

The amount of hype alone raised warning bells for me, though I didn't think that the musical's producers would open and close the show on the very same night in response to poor advance sales and weak reviews.

As an article about the show's brief rise and fall in The Washington Post explains: "But while the novelty of two extremely young talents crashing Broadway created considerable publicity, the online chatter ran from befuddled to venomous, and the box office was dismal. During last week's previews, the show grossed just under $47,000 and played to about 22 percent capacity."

What makes me upset about this story is the system. It provides yet another example of the damaging effects of society's obsession with youth and speed. The caffeinated journey of this modestly-scaled show from Arlington's Signature Theatre in January to the Circle in the Square follows similar lines to, say, the trajectory of Britney Spears. I just hope to god that Blaemire and Gardiner have the good sense not to let this setback push them into rehab, or worse.

I'm sure the producers had sound financial reasons for pulling the plug on Glory Days. But why so soon? Couldn't they have let the show run on for a few more weeks? Even if the critics hated it, I'm pretty sure the musical would have done swift business among high school and college groups.

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