Grammys Salute Sondheim, and Validate the Broadway TikTok Musical. Paradise Square, Plaza Suite, Oratorio Reviews. #Stageworthy News of the Week

Step aside, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Burt Bacharach, Stephen Schwartz, Bob Dylan, Claude-Michel Schönberg. Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, aged 23 and 20 respectively, won the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album over these more established (male) composers…for the album of a musical that has never existed in a theater.  The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical is another Tik Tok musical, in the tradition of Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical . It is the first award from the Recording Academy to go to a project of any kind that originated on TikTok.

“A year ago when I asked the internet, ‘What if ‘Bridgerton’ was a musical?’ I could not have imagined we would be holding a Grammy in our hands,” Barlow said in accepting the award. “We want to thank everyone on the internet who has watched us create this album from the ground up, we share this with you.”

Inspired by the first season of the popular Netflix series about the search for love and marriage among the debutantes of Regency era London, the songwriting duo collaborated over social media during the pandemic, composing 15 songs in six weeks.

As they point out themselves none too shyly on their website: “They broke the glass ceiling on the standard way that a Broadway show is brought to life by involving the audience every step of the way throughout the creation of the musical via social media and TikTok live” – where they received 60 million likes and 250 million views….and now the Grammy.

“This is really for all of my fellow female producers, composers, engineers that are still struggling to gain recognition and support for what we do,” Bear said, holding the Grammy. “It’s not that we don’t exist, we do.”

April 2022 New York Theater Openings

March 2022 Theater Quiz: The Slap, Broadway Style

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

Paradise Square. Black and Irish New Yorkers In Love and Dance and Death

There are pleasures in “Paradise Square.”  The terrific dancing tells its own story, a quintessential American (and Broadway) one: How African-American and Irish immigrant dancers learned from one another in New York and created a unique American art form — tap dancing.

It’s the flip side of one of the ugliest events in New York City history, the Draft Riots of 1863, in which poor white New Yorkers, mostly Irish immigrants upset about the new Civil War draft, targeted Black people,  lynching an untold number, destroying their homes and businesses,  leaving thousands homeless. “Paradise Square” attempts to tackle this history in the epic musical tradition of “Ragtime” or “Les Miserables,” an oversized pageant that’s meant to be pointed and poignant.  Some of this works. …But “Paradise Square” was largely a disappointment…

Oratorio for Living Things

“Oratorio for Living Things” is such a gorgeous, awe-inspiring concert of original music by Heather Christian that it feels like a religious experience.  Indeed, the music — inflected with Baroque, gospel, blues, pop, and jazz — could work as a church service. A third of the songs are even in Latin…and the concert comes with its own prayer book!  That’s the libretto, a small, paper bound booklet that is handed out to each of us as we enter the completely reconfigured theater at Greenwich House, and take our seats in what look like the plain wooden pews of a Mennonite meeting house, except steeper. 

The libretto is probably essential reading to understand most of  Christian’s piece (it offers English translations for the Latin, for example.)  But, like the classical oratorios by Handel, Mendelssohn or Bach, it’s not necessary to grasp fully what’s going on in order to appreciate the soaring score, which is brought to intricate, harmonious life by a choir of some dozen virtuosic singers plus a half dozen versatile musicians on horns and strings, piano and percussion.

Plaza Suite 

Why would long-married celebrity couple Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker choose “Plaza Suite” as the play to reunite them on stage for the first time since 1996? 

Neil Simon’s 1968 comedy, never revived on Broadway before, is what used to be called a laugh fest, its one-liners and sight gags arriving with metronomic precision. In three unrelated one-act plays, each one taking place in Suite 719 of the Plaza Hotel, Broderick and Parker portray three different middle aged couples,  mostly suburban, who engage in what used to be called the Battle of the Sexes. 

The Week in Theater News

‘Macbeth’ performances on Broadway pause after Daniel Craig tests positive for the coronavirus. Production scheduled to resume April 8. (NYTimes)

KPOP is coming to Broadway, opening at Circle in the Square on November 20, 2022 starring South Korean singer Luna .  I loved the 2017 immersive production of this musical, 

In the Broadway production, the cast will include Julia Abueva, Joomin Hwang, Jinwoo Jung, Jiho King, and John Yi (who were all in the 2017 production), Will Brill, Major Curda, Amy Keum, James Kho, Bo Hyung Kim, Eddy Lee, Jully Lee, Min Young Lee, Timothy H. Lee, Abraham Lim, Kate Mina Lin, Aubie Merrylees, Patrick Park, Kevin Woo.

Lincoln Center has announced the fifth Broadway revival of Lerner & Loewe’s musical “Camelot” with a revised book by Aaron Sorkin, scheduled to open on December 8, 2022. The 1960 original starred Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, and Robert Goulet making his Broadway debut.

Playwrights Horizons announces its new season:

  • Catch as Catch Can, Mia Chung’s unconventional depiction of two unraveling New England families, with three actors playing dual genders and ages, Directed by Daniel Aukin, Beginning October 2022
  • Bruce Norris’ Downstate, a play about child molesters, Directed by Pam MacKinnon, Beginning October 2022
  • The Trees (World Premiere, Playwrights Commission), Agnes Borinsky’s portrait of a community that forms around two siblings who have become rooted in the ground. February 2023
  • Regretfully, So the Birds Are, Julia Izumi’s play about adopted siblings unsure of their heritage. Directed by Jenny Koons and Co-Produced with WP Theater, March 2023
  • Wet Brain, John J. Caswell, Jr.’s take on the American family drama. May 2023

Rush tickets for A Strange Loop, which begins performances on Wednesday, and opens April 26, will be available for $47 on a first come, first served basis. Tickets may be purchased in-person at the Lyceum Theater box office when it opens (10am Monday – Saturday, 12pm Sunday) for that day’s performance(s) only.  (My interview with Michael R. Jackson after he won the Pulitzer)

The original Broadway cast of “Mrs. Doubtfire” will record a cast album this week in New York City. The musical resumes performances on April 14.

The history of:
Blue Man Group
For Colored Girls
Al Jolson’s star turn in “Hold On to Your Hats” in 1940
Garth Drabinsky

Ben Platt, Rachel Zegler, Cynthia Errivo, Leslie Odom Jr. sing a tribute to Stephen Sondheim

The Week’s Theater Video

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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