No Serious Business In Showbusiness
"People want laughter when they see a show.
"The last thing they're after's litany of woe."A Theatre trope, but could be applied to other media. People who are attempting to get a big break with a musical that they are involved in, usually in a writing capacity, are often advised that they should do something funny, or light at the very least, because Serious Business doesn't sell without a creator's reputation to give people an incentive to go. Contrast True Art Is Angsty, which reigns supreme in most other media (including non-musical theatre). Compare What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?, when material aimed at children is criticised for being too dark.
— "Keep it Gay" - The Producers
Shows that have succeeded as a result of this trope
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: Even though it was originally a school play, it did give Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice a springboard that they used when writing Jesus Christ Superstar. That success lay in rejuvenating old material, although JCS was arguably more accessible than funny, as Joseph was.
Shows that have flopped as a result of this trope
- Dance a Little Closer
- Les Misérables: If the name didn't give it away: Thenadiers aside, this is probably the number one aversion. The professional reviews of its debut bashed it for being far too gloomy, claiming It Will Never Catch On. Word of mouth from the rest of the audience, however...
- Elisabeth: Even the sweet, innocent songs at the beginning ("Wie Du", for example) have horribly dark reprises later. To think of it that way, there are no happy or lighthearted songs in the entire musical — the happiest moment is when the title character dies.
- Inverted in-universe in Finding Neverland: James' producer thinks theater-goers will pay to see only serious works, and thinks the idea of a fanciful play about children is ridiculous. The aversion is somewhat justified, in that James has to bring orphans to the play to laugh at it in order to get the adults to be receptive.
- Next To Normal.