Alley Theater To Produce Yet Another Frank Wildhorn Musical; Stunned World Asks "Why?"

The Alley Theater has announced its 2009-10 season; it includes productions of recent Broadway comedies Boeing, Boeing and Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, which should be fun.

But the announcement also contains much more ominous news, consisting of just five words: Yet. Another. Frank. Wildhorn. Musical.

For some odd reason, Houston has been a dedicated incubator of Wildhorn's bland, overblown musicals which have baffled Broadway critics for years. TUTS and the Alley can share blame for, say, Jekyll & Hyde, the David Hasselhoff epic, about which no more needs to be said than "the David Hasselhoff epic."

Wildhorn's specialty is to take stories from the public domain and then add generic, surging "Broadway" music and lame lyrics from any of a series of collaborators. His works include Dracula, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Count of Monte Cristo, Svengali and Cyrano de Bergerac: The Musical. You get the idea.

His shows run on Broadway -- at one time he had three running simultaneously, quite a feat -- but they don't make money there (As of 2008, one estimate has his productions losing a combined $20 million on Broadway through the years). They tour forever around the world, though.

As to what critics think, here's The New York Times' Ben Brantley on one:

And here it is, looming like a giant stuffed bat on a stick, the easiest target on Broadway. ''Dracula, the Musical,'' which sets the familiar tale of old snaggletooth to the familiar music of Frank Wildhorn, creaked open last night at the Belasco Theater with all the animation, suspense and sex appeal of a Victorian waxworks in a seaside amusement park.

Expectations were exceedingly low for this latest offering from the unstoppable Mr. Wildhorn -- the composer of the expensively dressed clunkers ''Jekyll and Hyde,'' ''The Scarlet Pimpernel'' and ''The Civil War'' -- and expectations have not been disappointed. So go ahead. Take your shots. Say something, if you must, about toothlessness or bloodlessness or the kindness of hammering stakes into the hearts of undead shows. Think of every appropriate variation you can involving the verbs to bite and to suck.

O.K., now that that's out of your system, perhaps you'll concede that it just isn't much fun to trash something that's so eminently, obviously trashable. ''Dracula, the Musical,'' which features a book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton and is directed by Des McAnuff (''The Who's Tommy''), isn't simply bad, which is an aesthetic state of being that is kind of fun if you're in the right mood. (Gee, remember the ripely terrible ''Dance of the Vampires''?) It is bad and boring.

And now the Alley is foisting on us Wonderland. Which, in a complete change of pace, is based on a book in the public domain -- in this case Alice in Wonderland.

The Alley calls it "a delightful new musical that updates Alice's adventures through an amazing pop score. Alley audiences will be among the first to see this new production filled with extraordinary songs, fantastic characters, and lots of heart."

What the critics call it, we can't wait to see.

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly