There’s nothing civil about the debate over The Civil War. Since the announcement in August that the musical re-creation of the War of Northern Aggression was Broadway bound next spring, critics have directed more than a few rebel yells at Houston’s Alley Theatre, where the production originated. As was the case with Jekyll & Hyde, another recent Alley export, the issue is whether high art is being sacrificed for lowly lucre. “Making a musical and heading it for Broadway seems to me unnecessary,” former Houston Chronicle fine-arts editor Ann Holmes told the New York Times in September. “It’s always what [theaters] do to bring in new crowds, but in our overall artistic product, we’re experiencing a lessening.” Gregory Boyd, the Alley’s artistic director, wasted no time returning fire. “I think she’s kind of out of touch,” he said of Holmes. Backstage squabbling aside, Houston audiences seem to like the serious, emotion-packed “theatrical concert,” which has been playing to packed houses. And if it’s equally successful in New York, everybody wins: Broadway gets an infusion of new material from a regional theater, the Alley gets a promotional shot in the arm, and the South rises again.
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