Hamilton, Waitress, Phantom Cast New Leads. Broadway’s Getting More Diverse. Week in NY Theater

Michael Luwoye takes over the title role of Hamilton on Broadway, on the same day that Sara Bareilles, the creator of Waitress, takes on the lead role as Jenna, Peter Jöback the title role of The Phantom of the Opera. All have performed these roles on Broadway before.

Two reports show a nudge towards more diversity on Broadway, and elsewhere in New York theater as well — more nonwhite theater artists on stage, younger theatergoers in the audience. Details below, along with news about Leslie Odom Jr., a video of the American Theatre magazine panel discussion with directors Anne Bogart, Rachel Chavkin, Liesl Tommy, and Anne Kauffman; news and a slideshow about “Angels in America” cast. We bid goodbye to Javier Munoz in Hamilton, and watch while Bernadette Peters says Hello, Dolly. And, while there’s news (yet again) about harassment and high ticket prices, as well as fear’s effect on creativity, we are happy to end with Sarah Ruhl explaining her preference for happy endings, even though they’re not in vogue.

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

John Lithgow Stories from the Heart

John Lithgow, a Tony winner for his very first Broadway show in 1973, has decided to devote his 24th to the reading of two old short stories, Ring Lardner’s “Haircut” and “Uncle Fred Flits By” by P.G.Wodehouse. But “John Lithgow: Stories By Heart” differs from your basic library storytelling hour…Lithgow doesn’t just read the two stories; he performs them…Before each story, Lithgow also tells us at some length why they matter to him. These amount to something of a memoir of his father, and it is no denigration of the short stories to say that Lithgow’s well-told personal anecdotes are what provide much of the heart in Stories by Heart.

Pursuit of Happiness

What makes us happy? The clear if indirect answer in “Pursuit of Happiness” is a lot of laughs, since that’s what the Nature Theater of Oklahoma, a notoriously inventive downtown theater company, provides in their new theater piece. “Pursuit of Happiness” is a bizarre and hilarious hybrid of physical comedy and surreal Hollywood parody, which swings wildly from the Wild West to the Iraq War, and from wondrously slapstick to borderline offensive to surreptitiously insightful.

The Hendrix Project

It’s New Year’s Eve 1969, and a dozen fans are in the balcony of the Fillmore East watching a concert by Jimi Hendrix and his electronic blues trio, Band of Gypsys, nine months before Hendrix dies. That is a summary ofThe Hendrix Project,” running at BRIC through January 14, as part of the Under the Radar Festival. That is also more or less all there is to say about it. We in the audience spend an hour watching the fans in the balcony as they watch the concert.

Mikaela Bennett as Acquanetta in the opera “Acquanetta”


“Acquanetta,” [is an opera] inspired by a cult horror film of the 1940s, “Captive Wild Woman,” and by its alluring and mysterious star, who went by the stage name Acquanetta. The most charitable thing I can say about the opera, which is running through January 14 at the Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center, is that Mikaela Bennett’s performance as Acquanetta provided some occasional sparks, and Deborah Artman’s lyrics were at times intriguing, but  “Acquanetta” was simply not for me.

Disco Pigs

Enda Walsh, best known in the U.S. for the Broadway musical “Once,” first gained fame as the playwright of a furious burst of a play he wrote in five days about two intense and inseparable teenagers who share a birthday and a private language….Luckily, there is an energetic rhythm and vividness to Walsh’s prose that two good actors can make more accessible with their bodies, turning the language visual and physical. Colin Campbell and Evanna Lynch (best known as Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films) do just that.


Mankind [is] a fun comedy that turns berserk about a future world in which women are extinct…O’Hara’s premise is promising, his inspiration laudable, and his stated intentions honorable.. But, ultimately, “Mankind” is muddled. If it does establish the tone of a satiric cautionary tale, it’s not always clear what it is satirizing or what it’s cautioning against.

The Week in New York Theater News

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Beth Malone (Fun Home) will play the Angel at select performances of Angels in America. Also joining Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield in the cast are:
Patrick Andrews, Glynis Bell, Amy Blackman,
Curt James, Rowan Ian Seamus Magee, Mark Nelson,
Matty Oaks, Genesis Oliver, Jane Pfitsch,
Lee Aaron Rosen, Ron Todorowski, Silvia Vrskova and Lucy York.

The two-part play opens at the Neil Simon on March 25., 2018.

Encores Off-Center season at New York City Center:

Songs for a New World, Jason Robert Brown Jun 27 – 30

Gone Missing, book by Steve Cosson, music by the late Michael Friedman Jul 11 and 12

Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope, by Micki Grant and the late Vinnette Carroll Jul 25 – 28


Bette Midler’s ended her run in Hello, Dolly on January 14.   Bernadette Peters will be taking over the role of  Dolly Gallagher Levi on January 20th.


Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr

Leslie Odom Jr. Will Sing at the Super Bowl LII on February 4, the second year in a row that original cast members of Hamilton appear during the premiere football game of the year

Crowds remain white and female and primarily tourists, but younger people and New Yorkers are making up a larger portion of the Broadway audience, according to the Broadway League’s report, The Demographics of the Broadway Audience for the 2016–2017 season. There were 13.3 million admissions to Broadway shows.
New Yorkers – 22 percent, highest in 15 years (tourists 61 percent)
Under 25 – 25 percent
Female – 66 percent
Playgoers tended to be more frequent theatregoers than musical attendees. The play attendee saw nine shows in the past year; the musical attendee, four.
About half of respondents said they purchased their tickets online, although those who live outside the U.S. were more likely to buy their tickets in person.

Theatergoers reported personal recommendation as the most influential factor when it came to selecting a show to see. Other factors included the music, having seen the movie, internet listings and having seen the show before.

Thirty-five percent of all roles on Broadway and in the 16 largest non-profit theater companies in New York City went to actors of color and disabled actors, according to a another report, conducted by AAPAC (the Asian American Performers Action Coalition, Ethnic Representation on New York City Stages 2015-2016. (Details here) That is better than the average over the ten years that AAPAC has been conducting the study.


The Kleban Prize, named after the Tony-winning lyricist of A Chorus Line, along with $100,000 apiece, was awarded to Alan Schmuckler (“Diary of Wimpy Kid The Musical”) and Amanda Yesnowitz (“Somewhere in Time”),  for their lyrics, Christian Duhamel (“My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend”) for his libretto .

Google Starts Vetting Broadway Ticket Resellers


Blockbuster shows are finding new life Off-Broadway

Can a filmed performance, even live streamed, do justice to live theater? 

Why Fear may be killing your creativity

Panel discussion with directors Anne Kauffman(Marvin’s Room), Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812), Anne Bogart (SITI Company), and Liesl Tommy (Eclipsed)

Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has acquired the archives of Arthur Miller, from his first play “No Villain” (1936), written when Miller was at the University of Michigan, to “Finishing the Picture” (2004), produced just months before his death.

USA. Roxbury, CT. 1962. Playwright Arthur Miller at his desk with daughter Rebecca.

From the Arthur Miller Archives

Inside the Battle for Arthur Miller’s Archives

The Ransom Center has bought the entire archive for $2.7 million, following a discreet tug-of-war with the Miller estate, which tried to place the papers at Yale University despite the playwright’s apparent wishes that they rest in Texas.

For her latest play, Adrienne Kennedy, 86, wrote while angry, which is how she’s written for 50 years. “Things are just boiling inside me. I keep a lot of notes and then suddenly it emerges. Every word.”

On first day of the final COIL festival, Performance Space 122 has a new name — Performance Space New York — new website , new logo, &and a newly renovated space, under a new director Jenny Schlenzka. But the same Twitter name — @PS122

The Artist Co-op (TAC) will be holding a conversation on sexual harassment in the theater, moderated by Claire Karpen, with Diana Oh, Shakina Nayfack, and Alexis Williams, on January 19th, 2018,
12:00 PM 2:00 PM, in person at 500 West 52nd Street, and on Facebook Live. There will be an on-site community counselor.

Art is not sacred – the abuse of power must end – by R.M. Vaughn in The Globe and Mail


Howard Sherman: Should we really be celebrating record-breaking Broadway box office results?

(That’s why I think that the statistics should emphasize attendance figures, not box office receipts.)

Playwright Sarah Ruhl

Sarah Ruhl on Happy Endings

Happy endings are not in vogue…

It could be that I wrote more happy endings once I had children. I was looking less at the afterlife and more at the ground. Tolstoy said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” And so Tolstoy furthered the myth of unhappiness as a marker of uniqueness. What if happy endings are also unique unto themselves; and each search to find them as rare and singular as the proverbial snowflake.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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