Good theatre makes you feel something. It makes you laugh. It makes you angry. It makes you love. Great theatre, much like great television, takes it a step further. It teaches you something as it moves you to those emotions. It charges you to action, or at very least, a new way of thinking.
HBO's 'The Newsroom' is great television. This may seem off topic - talking about a television show on a theatre blog, but bear with me for a moment.
The most talked about theatrical influence, perhaps, is the creator of the show, Aaron Sorkin, beloved playwright (A Few Good Men) and movie scriptwriter. He is known for his poignant work, and does not disappoint here. Then there's the adorable and endearing Jim Harper, played by John Gallagher Jr. of Broadway's Spring Awakening and American Idiot fame. Plus, the main character, Will McAvoy, is played by Jeff Daniels who has seen his share of stage time and founded The Purple Rose Theatre Company in Michigan. And then there's Sam Waterston who is...well, Sam Waterston.
The list goes on and on, but the most obvious theatrical influence comes from the script. As a friend and fellow stage manager put it as he was trying to convince me the show was worth my time, "There's at least 574,839 musical references per episode." Halfway through the 10 episode run this season, and I've caught allusions to Man of La Mancha, West Side Story, Gypsy, Oklahoma, Annie Get Your Gun, Little Shop of Horrors, Brigadoon, and Evita.
But even more than that, it is a brilliant, important look at how the news is distributed and a call to the public to think about what 'facts' they are being fed from a myriad of sources. I was initially intrigued at Sorkin's use of actual news stories, but I was hooked because of the quality and relevance of what he's put together. Plus, it's always fun to hear a mainstream, non-theatre based show reference Sardi's.
There's probably more to say, but I'm anxious to get to episode six. Track down 'The Newsroom' if you get a chance. At very least, the musical theatre enthusiast inside of you will be thrilled.