BY: SAMANTHA BURKE
It was less than a year ago that James L. Nederlander first announced that he would be producing a new jukebox musical featuring a selection of songs from pop princess Britney Spears’ massive catalogue, but the show is already rumored to be heading to Broadway. Earlier this week Broadway World reported that a reliable source had confirmed that the musical would start previews at the Marriott Marquis Theatre starting June 26, 2020. Representatives of the production have yet to comment, but the show’s choreographers do have NYC noted alongside Chicago (where the pre-Broadway tryout will premiere) as a location for the show this spring on their list of current projects.
Once Upon a One More Time (yes, really), is another in a long line of jukebox musicals, a number of which have struggled to make the cut. The celebrity status of this production opens up a world of potential for the new show to become fan favorite of its season, but will it follow in the footsteps of an unfortunate slew of its recent predecessors, or will it rise from their ashes?
Unlike most of the jukebox musicals of the last few years, the plot of Once Upon a One More Time has nothing to do with the pop star’s life; instead, it offers a fresh take on a collection of fairytales. (It is worth noting that Jagged Little Pill, the Alanis Morisette jukebox musical, also doesn’t follow the musician’s life and has been doing very well.)
Once Upon a One More Time begins with a number of our favorite princesses at book club, working their way through Grimms’ Fairy Tales, when Cinderella wishes for something new. A “rogue” fairy godmother appears, dropping a copy of The Feminine Mystique into her lap, spurring a modern awakening for these classic characters. Hello patriarchy? We’re all coming for you.
That’s point one for the next Broadway success story: everybody loves a good taking back of the narrative, and thematically, Once Upon a One More Time is coming at a crucial time in the feminist movement. Though by the same token, The Cher Show was a celebration for women owning their own power which even two Tony wins couldn’t keep open. So what does the future hold for Britney? Can she reach the viral fame of Hamilton or Hadestown, or will she crash and burn before she really has a chance? Here are six things working in her favor, and four that could stand in her way:
1. Kristin Hanggi directs.
Hanggi already has a successful jukebox musical under her belt; She previously directed Rock of Ages, which ran on Broadway for just shy of six years. It even spawned a movie version starring a number of A-listers.
2. Keoni and Mari choreograph.
This dancing duo has quite the impressive resume, having previously choregraphed and starred in Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”. They’ve also choreographed for Ed Sheeran, Billie Eilish, BTS, NBC’s World of Dance and more. Chances are they can handle some intense, Britney-inspired choreo!
3. C’mon, it’s Britney Spears.
There’s no short supply of catchy bops here, and that could bode well for drawing in audiences that aren’t so big on showtune-style music. Plus, even those who do dig showtunes are usually down to jam along to a good pop song!
4. Her fanbase is wild.
In theory, Britney’s fanbase will become a built-in fanbase for the musical. Her Vegas residency was so popular that she extended it by two years–the girl’s got staying power, and the musical could very well take after its mother.
5. Think of the costumes!
Just because the show isn’t based on Britney’s life, doesn’t mean they can’t take some of her artistic liberties. Spandex jumpsuits and patch denim dresses and snake scarves, oh my!
The Tina Turner musical has nearly reached or exceeded its potential gross every week since shows began on Broadway, and while the musical based on the life and times of The Temptations had a slower start when it opened last March, the show has met or exceeded its potential gross for over half of its weeks on Broadway. Also worth mentioning that Jagged Little Pill opened to rave reviews and the unconventional jukebox musical Moulin Rouge (which uses the soundtrack from the Baz Luhrman film) has exceeded its potential grosses for all but just one week of its time thus far on Broadway, giving an extra boost of hope to the unconventional Once Upon a One More Time.
But on the other hand…
1. Several jukebox musicals in recent years just couldn’t stay afloat.
Summer: The Donna Summer Musical never got closer to its potential gross than about $300k, while Escape to Margaritaville never even hit 50 percent, even with Jimmy Buffet’s massive fanbase. The Cher Show failed to meet its potential gross even once, even after Stephanie J. Block’s long-awaited Tony win for her role as Star and Bob Mackie’s show-stopping costume designs, which would deserve a show of their own if, y’know, The Cher Show hadn’t existed.
2. Britney’s fanbase is massive, but can they be turned into theater fans?
See: Margaritaville. While there are certainly fans of Britney Spears that also enjoy live theater, who knows how much crossover there really is. It might be different if the show were chronicling their fave’s journey to stardom, but are they going to care enough to come see a cast of people unfamiliar to them perform a show that has nothing to do with the star herself?
3. Even if the critics like it… will they admit it?
It’s just hard to imagine Ben Brantley or Jesse Green gushing over a musical featuring songs like Toxic and Work, B****. While we’d never say never, these two have a history of skewering jukebox musicals — and bad reviews can kill a show because it really starts (though they shouldn’t!).
4. The Marquis Theatre might low-key be cursed.
Only one show has lasted more than a year in the space since The Drowsy Chaperone closed in December of 2007. Escape to Margaritaville failed to ever really take off, despite heavy marketing from both producers and Jimmy Buffet himself, Tootsie, which did more for critics than it ever did for audiences, and Jekyll and Hyde, which ended up shortening its already limited engagement. Is Britney next?
It’s impossible to tell at this point which of these factors are going to overshadow the others, but new, outstanding shows have been biting the dust far too soon, far too often. Hopefully Once Upon a One More Time gets the chance it deserves, whatever that chance may be, but Chicago previews don’t start until April 14, 2020, leaving us with a bit of time to go before any solid evidence begins to roll in.
Ain’t Too Proud, Jagged Little Pill, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical & every other Broadway show are all in play at Broadway Roulette!