Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Stage

Duncan Sheik's racy 'Spring Awakening' opening at Freefall Theatre

Myriad pop stars have attempted the transition from radio dial to Broadway, but it's not always icons who have the richest crossover success. Case in point: Duncan Sheik, who you might remember for mopey 1996 cut Barely Breathing. Sheik was a one-hit wonder in rockdom, but the 43-year-old has been far more successful on the theater stage.

His theatrical adaptation of the bloody satire American Psycho debuts in London this winter. And this week, his Tony-winning rock musical Spring Awakening commences an extended stay at Freefall Theatre. Based on a controversial 1891 German play of the same name, Spring Awakening chronicles robust (read: not for the prudish) sexual discovery amongst randy teens; its initial Broadway run featured such future Glee smilers as Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff.

With Sheik's infectious score blasting into town, we started thinking about other pop stars who've tried to make it on the Great White Way. Not everyone has been as whoppingly successful as Elton John (The Lion King) or Green Day (American Idiot); not everyone has been as unsuccessful as Boy George (Taboo) and Phish's Trey Anastasio (Hands on a Hardbody), either.

Here are some other success (or not) stories:

Cyndi Lauper, Kinky Boots

The current toast of New York City, Lauper, Ms. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, became the first woman in history to win, solo-style, a Tony Award for best score. Kinky Boots, about a shoemaker and his drag-queen business partner, also won best musical at the most recent Tonys.

Paul Simon, The Capeman

A stunning miscue that became part of Broadway lore, Simon's Capeman — based on the life of convicted murderer Salvador Agrón — is one of his few wipeouts in an otherwise sterling creative streak. The 1998 musical had an initial run of only 68 performances, and yet Simon remains proud of the show, revisiting it in concert and one-off events.

Randy Newman, Faust

Our modern-day Mark Twain never had massive success with his satirical retelling of Goethe's tale — it had abbreviated stays in San Diego and Chicago — but he did get some superpowered pals to help record an album version of the musical: Elton John, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Don Henley and Bonnie Raitt. One of Newman's sweeter songs, Feels Like Home, is from Faust.

David Bryan, Memphis

Bon Jovi's humble (but still reliably hairy) keyboard player finally got to feel some limelight on his perm. Memphis is based on groundbreaking DJ Dewey Phillips, one of the first white radio spinners to play black music in the 1950s. Memphis won four Tonys, including best musical, in 2010.

Bono and the Edge, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

U2's frontman and guitar slinger took serious lumps when Spidey Over Broadway had all manner of money and acrobatic problems leading to its debut (sans original director Julie Taymor, who bolted in 2011). But like any resilient superhero, Peter Parker's alias fought through tough times (and high-flying accidents!) and has proved a moneymaking success. Bono and the Edge's score isn't necessarily U2-worthy, but there are a couple good songs, including the anthemic Boy Falls From the Sky.

Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.

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