Here’s what New York City is currently angry about: everything. This is evidenced by the fact that every single driver in Manhattan is honking his horn constantly, and has been doing so since the island was first purchased from the Indians (which I suspect may have been why they were so eager to sell).
The major thing causing anger, though, is that Broadway’s longest-running show, “Cats,” is closing. Actually, this does not anger New Yorkers; in fact, they hate the show and would like to, figuratively speaking, run it over with their cars and/or put it to sleep. (I’ve seen it, and I know it can’t be fixed.) What angers them is that it was supposed to end in June, but after that announcement was made, all of a sudden everyone wanted to see it — if a show is going out of business, it must be really good, being the apparent logic — and so now it’s been extended into September. Here they thought they were finally going to be rid of this thing, and now it’s going to stink up the whole summer. As if New York doesn’t smell bad enough already.
So theater-goers are mad about that, and everyone in New York considers himself or herself a theater-goer. (I really did overhear a delinquent-looking, saggy-pantsed, prison-bound teenager say, on a pay phone, “Yo, dawg. We seein’ ‘Rent’ tonight, or whassup?”)
I can understand the animosity toward “Cats.” It’s a plot-free show full of tuneless Andrew Lloyd Webber songs about different kinds of cats. It’s also an example of false advertising. The show is called “Cats,” yet is there a single feline in it? No. “People Dressed Like Cats” would be an appropriate title, as would, “This Show Has Been Around a Long Time, So It Must Be a Classic, So Please Buy a Ticket.”
One show that apparently does not falsely advertise is the current Off-Broadway sensation “Naked Boys Singing.” As I understand it, this show consists of naked boys singing, just as the title implies. (Actually, though my knowledge of child-labor laws is admittedly non-exhaustive, I suspect it should actually be called “Naked MEN Singing.” But that’s still more honest than “Cats,” and just as indicative that we’re very near the end of civilization.) I don’t know if the songs they sing have to do with being naked, or if it’s just random songs that are more enjoyable to listen to if the singer is naked, or what. All I know is, I’ll bet there are no open flames in the show. Open flamers, sure, but that can be said of any Broadway show.
“Naked Boys Singing” is such a descriptive title for a show, I think all plays should follow suit. “Fiddler on the Roof” should be “Jewish People Singing.” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” should be “Sexist Men Kidnapping.” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” should be “Utahns Paying Money to See the Same Show Over and Over Again.”
Speaking of Broadway, the other current sensation in New York is Tim Rice and Elton John’s new collaboration, “Aida” (or, “Elton John Not Going Away,” as it should be called). According to the program, it was “suggested by the opera” of the same name. (“Hello, Mr. Rice? This is ‘Aida.’ Listen, I don’t want to tell you how to do your job or anything, but I would strongly advise that you and Mr. John write a Disney-fied pop version of the classic tragic opera, me.”) This musical features everything you could want in a show: singing, dancing, and ill-fated lovers being buried alive. If only they were naked, or dressed as cats, then it would be perfect.
I'm not sure whether I'm appalled or amused at the fact that a show actually exists called "Naked Boys Singing." My feelings are somewhere in between, I think.
This column was written entirely "on location," as I spent a week in New York City, free-loading off my friend Rachel and staying rent-free in her Harlem apartment, where I managed not to be killed at all.
Rachel pointed out one good thing about "Cats" being on Broadway all those years: At least while it was there, it couldn't be done by high schools and community theaters. It was quarantined to Broadway. Once it left Broadway, it would become available for amateur productions, and I think that's the last thing anyone wants.