Theater: Beauty Marks Smile Music

by Marvin Hamlisch Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman

This season's first four new American musicals all closed the week they opened, continuing a daunting threeyear run of almost unrelieved financial failure for what used to be Broadway's mainstay. Staged with varying degrees of artistry, the ill-fated shows shared one disabling presumption: musicals must be "about" something beyond melody and romance. Rags tried to survey the immigrant experience, Honky Tonk Nights blended music hall with racial conflict, Raggedy Ann was a dying girl's Freudian nightmare, and Into the Light asked whether the Shroud of Turin is Jesus Christ's burial cloth. All suffocated under the weight of their ambition.

One might...

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