When musicals come back to Broadway, typically the material elements of the show survive intact. Revivals of shows like Gypsy and The King and I have both received multiple revivals that featured new physical productions, new star performances, and sometimes slightly re-focused direction, but their scripts and scores were left more or less as they premiered originally.
But, especially in the last 20 years or so, it has become normal for musicals to come back in new productions that take a dramatic new look at the material. These so-called “revisals” (rather than simple revivals) have featured updated scripts and scores to fit modern production trends or to insert completely new ideas and re-writes—to varying degrees of success.
We’re taking a look at 5 musicals that got a major makeovers when they came back to Broadway.
Revivals: 1994, 2007
Grease’s first transformation actually happened before it ever opened on Broadway. It’s original production in a Chicago nightclub in 1971 was notoriously raunchy and featured far more explicit language before it was cleaned up a bit for its Broadway transfer the following year. After eight years and more than 3,000 performances, Grease was the definition of a huge Broadway hit, so a movie adaptation became almost unavoidable. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John starred in the 1978 movie adaptation, still one of the most perennial and successful movie-musicals ever made.
The show was first revived on Broadway in 1994 in a completely new production directed and choreographed by Jeff Calhoun. This production removed the original “Alma Mater” in favor of a new “Alma Mater” and an a cappella choral arrangement of “We Go Together.” The ’50s pop hit “Since I Don’t Have You” was inserted into the score for Sandy to sing at the end of the first act, and all of the original songs received substantially new arrangements, perhaps most notably “Beauty School Dropout,” which became a gospel tour de force for Billy Porter’s Teen Idol.
But Grease returned to Broadway in an even more thoroughly revised version in 2007, following TV’s Grease: You’re the One That I Want, a competition reality show that cast Laura Osnes and Max Crumm in the two leading roles. Director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall incorporated elements from the 1978 film version for the first time on a Broadway stage, including opening the show with “Grease (Is the Word)” and inserting “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” This production also replaced “Alone at the Drive-In Movie” with the film’s “Sandy,” and “All Choked Up” with the film’s “You’re the One That I Want.”
2. Annie Get Your Gun