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Broadway’s Most Entertaining Shows About Serious Social Issues

What is your favorite show on Broadway that explores serious issues in an entertaining way?

Below are some answers to this question, which I asked in a recent contest for tickets to a show, now ended, that I felt fit the bill — “Indecent.”  The shows are  listed alphabetically, with excerpts from the explanations.  I only include the choices in which a persuasive case was made for both elements —  that the play or musical dealt with a serious social issue and was also entertaining.

Angels in America

“Tony Kushner shows the devastating blows of the 80s HIV crisis while also exploring faith, gods, love, politics and life in a fantastical way.”

As Is

“Broadway’s first play to deal with AIDS presented its serious subject in a way that acknowledged the serious devastation but was also able to find moments of humor.”

The Book of Mormon

The show is hilarious and the writing is great, but the underlying themes of an outsider (particularly those of the white persuasion) trying to ‘save’ other cultures by imposing their will is a very serious topic, as well as a lack of understanding for ‘others’,…”

Cabaret

“The MC leads you on the journey with whimsy and fun, and then you have this realization that the moments you are laughing at really aren’t so funny. It deals with the rise of the Nazis, homophobia, politics…”

“I left the theater reflecting on societal injustices that are perpetuated through oblivious complicity.”

 

Dear Evan Hansen

This musical was the most popular choice.

“It is able to turn the dark subject matter of suicide and bullying into a well crafted, entertaining and heartfelt show.”

Falsettos

“it explores the rise of AIDS in America in song – and it uses comedic as well as caustic moments to show the tragedy”

“The music is fairly upbeat even while death is on the table.”

Fun Home

“it depicted a difficult relationship between a father and daughter, the lies that the father was living by staying in the closet, and faced with making that same decision, how the daughter rejected living a lie, and yet she later wonders if her choice (and her judgment of his choice) may have influenced her father’s suicide. The entertainment was in the music, the humor, the beauty of the story, the acting and the way it was told.”

Hairspray

“Flashy costumes, 60s style music, and big dance numbers, but it has serious moments regarding racial discrimination and body image issues.”

Newsies

“I know it sounds silly but I thought “Newsies” covered some serious issues including: child labor, worker exploitation, and anti-labor practices. And yes, it was entertaining as hell.”

Next to Normal

This musical about a troubled family was the second most popular choice.” It tackles topics like depression, drug abuse and bipolar disorder….but  I was kind of shocked at how funny the show was.”

Ragtime

“The show weaves together stories of racism, immigration, women’s rights, capitalism and class division with gorgeous songs that make you tap your foot, then make you laugh, then make you cry.”

Rent

“It did a wonderful job at addressing issues such as AIDS…with a catchy rock score

South Pacific

“Rodgers & Hammerstein’s glorious musical entertains with comedy (“There is Nothing Like a Dame,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair”) while addressing racism, both overt and subtle, during World War II. The two love stories(Emile/Nellie and Lt. Cable/Liat) have both light and dark elements as they celebrate their love and confront their prejudices. The song “You’ve Got to Be Taught” still resonates powerfully today.”

Spring Awakening

“It dealt with serious issues such as suicide and abortion, and while it was certainly dark for much of the show, a lot of it was extremely entertaining, with rocking songs liked “Totally F—ed” to comedic moments such as “My Junk”,

 

For the purposes of this list, I made a distinction between “entertaining” and “enlightening,” “important” or “engaging,” but maybe I shouldn’t have. A couple of people picked “Sweat” but described how spot-on it was and how much it meant to them, rather than how it entertained them. And then there is the question of what constitutes a serious issue. I guess I use that term as a synonym for significant social issue — something facing society at large — rather than personal issues such as ambition (“A Chorus Line”) or personal growth (“Avenue Q,” “Groundhog Day,” “Wicked”) or love …which are, Heaven knows, very serious to individuals.

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Most Underrated Shows on Broadway

What was the most underrated show you’ve ever seen on a New York stage? 

Below are the answers to that question, which I asked in a now-ended contest to win tickets to a show I feel fits the bill. The shows below are  listed alphabetically, with excerpts from the explanations for their choice. I put an asterisk next to the shows I know enough about to agree they were underrated.  (Although the question included any show on a New York stage,, I’ve only listed the answers from Broadway.)   I  disagree with some of the most popular choices — American Psycho, and Bright Star, which I felt were rated accurately — and so adamantly disagree with some of the other choices below that it’s almost encouraging: It means that every show has its devotees.

 

 

(I link to my reviews when available.)

All Shook Up

“a silly but delightful 2005 catalog musical taking the tunes of Elvis and spinning them through a 50’s take on As You Like It.”

Amelie

“Tons of people warned me that it was boring,…but I loved it. It was sweet, cute, and quirky with lovely music.”

“Phillipa Soo was so good in it!”

American Psycho

“did not get enough love for its staging and lighting.”

“People missed the point of it being a satire and took offense to the material. At the very least, Benjamin Walker deserved much more recognition for his flawless performance.”\

“It wasn’t given a chance”

*Bandstand

 

“The music was joyful and haunting by turns, the dancing and acting were terrific, and the story hit the perfect balance: honoring and sympathizing veterans while refusing to exploit them. It deserved a much, much longer run.”

Big Fish

“the score and choreography were beautiful, and Norbert Leo Butz had wonderful chemistry with Bobby Steggert. It was emotional without being saccharine”

Bonnie and Clyde

“entertaining and beautifully acted and staged but the bullying press had it out for Frank Wildhorn who finally had a great score…”

*The Bridges of Madison County

“One of Jason Robert Brown’s best scores, just truly beautiful, moving music/lyrics, and incredible performances from Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale”

 Bright Star

“It had a catchy score, and some of my favorite performances. The story, while predictable, was so engaging in its presentation that I found myself taken in by it anyway.”

Catch Me If You Can

“It did have it’s flaws, but I thought it was a very smooth musical”

Chaplin

“the score was interesting, the performances great, costumes were wonderful, story was engrossing”

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

“It’s an incredibly flawed show… [but]  has important morals that ring true today, and I appreciate these kinds of “entertaining” shows that introduce children to theatre in a way that they can relate to and understand.

Chess

“It had such a short Broadway run and was panned by critics, but despite the issues with the book I absolutely love the score and would love to see this one back on Broadway.”

The Encounter

“Simon McBurney did an incredible job of utilizing sound and perception to tell the story of the explorer’s journey in the Amazon.”

Finding Neverland

“pure magic..it rekindled in me everything that I loved about musical theater,”

*Ghost

“…unique, wonderful special effects, excellent music, moving performances.”

“Caissie Levy was a standout, the songs and staging were beautiful and the story itself was classic.”

*Great Comet

“. Josh was fantastic but I think the marketing relied too much on him being the entire show. Denee, Brittain and the supporting cast were outstanding. Infectious energy.”

Groundhog Day

“The score was catchy and Andy Karl’s performance was incredible. It’s a shame to see it close so soon and with no recognition at the Tony’s.”

Honeymoon in Vegas

“Excellent ensemble cast and a game “old guy” played by TV-star Tony Danza who spent months perfecting a solo tap number”

 

If/Then

“a fascinating concept and wonderful performances ”

 

In Transit

“The performers were absolutely brilliant! It is a shame that it was only on stage for a few months. The reason why it was underrated was because it was entirely a cappella. At times as a viewer, I completely forgot no instruments were being used”

 

The Last Ship

“Sting’s score was just ethereal and transforming to listen to with an amazing cast that breathed so much life and spirit into it”

 

*Shuffle Along

“…it closed so quickly. Not only were the big names incredible, but the ensemble was one of the best I have ever seen..”

 

*Side Show

“the music is very dynamic, the lyrics are very clever and powerful, and the story reminds me of a twisted fairytale. It is absolutely unique and charming.”

*Deaf West’s Spring Awakening

“It closed way too fast. It brought attention towards the deaf community…”

Steel Pier

“I saw it when I was 10 or 11, and I remember loving the choreography, score, and set. It’s still ingrained in my memory as one of the most magical nights I’ve had at the theatre… I didn’t realize it was underrated at the time – lukewarm critical reception, unfortunate short run, and while it did garner Tony nominations, it was snubbed in all categories.”

 

Tuck Everlasting

” It followed a timeless story with amazing acting, singing, and dancing! It had an amazing message”

 

What makes something “underrated”? It doesn’t necessarily mean bad reviews that you feel were not deserved. It could also mean that the public didn’t appreciate it enough to keep the show running.

It’s admittedly not quite an accurate term for some of the shows listed, because both critics and the public who saw them adored them, but the shows closed after brief runs anyway.

 

 

2017 Kilroys List of 37 Good But Little Produced Plays by Female and Trans Playwrights of Color

Kilroys 2017
kilroys2016Below is the 2017 Kilroys list of 37 plays by women and trans writers of color most recommended in a survey of “273 influential new play leaders”  Most of the plays have never been produced; none have been produced more than once. This is the fourth annual list by the Kilroys, a playwright and producer collective. 
The plays are below are those that received the most nominations; the Kilrosy provided the descriptions.
CAMBODIAN ROCKBAND PLAY by Lauren Yee
Part comedy, part mystery, part rock concert, this thrilling story toggles back and forth in time, as father and daughter face the music of the past. Neary, a young Cambodian American has found evidence that could finally put away the Khmer Rouge’s chief henchman. But her work is far from done. When Dad shows up unannounced—his first return to Cambodia since fleeing 30 years ago—it’s clear this isn’t just a pleasure trip.
 
THE GREAT LEAP by Lauren Yee
When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for an exhibition game in 1989, the drama on the court goes deeper than the strain between their countries. For two men with a past and one teen with a future, it’s a chance to stake their moment in history and claim personal victories off the scoreboard. American coach Saul grapples with his relevance to the sport, Chinese coach Wen Chang must decide his role in his rapidly-changing country and Chinese American player Manford seeks a lost connection. Tensions rise right up to the final buzzer as history collides with the action in the stadium. Inspired by events in the life of the playwright’s own father.
 
YOGA PLAY by Dipika Guha
Just when newly hired CEO Joan is about to launch a new brand of women’s yoga pants, yoga apparel giant Jojomon is hit by a terrible scandal. Desperate to win back the company’s reputation (and her own), Joan stakes everything on a plan so crazy it just might work. YOGA PLAY is a journey towards enlightenment in a world determined to sell it.   
 
THIRST by C. A. Johnson
Samira and Greta lead a peaceful life. They have their own clearing in the woods, their own hut, and their son Kalil to keep them laughing. When Kalil returns home one day without their water rations, however, Samira and Greta find themselves in conflict with their local political leader. Set in a tense segregated society, Thirst is a complex look at race and love in war-time.
BLKS by aziza barnes
Some days feel like they will never end. After a morning that includes a cancer scare and kicking her girlfriend out of the house, Octavia decides to have a last turn up with her best friends. 
 
IF PRETTY HURTS THEN UGLY MUST BE A MUHFUCKA: AN UNDERSTANDING OF A WEST AFRICAN FOLKTALE by Tori Sampson
In Affreakah-Amirrorkah, an imaginary but uncannily familiar place, debutantes Akim, Adama, Kaya, and Massassi embody the culture’s notion of Beauty in all its shades and shapes. Still, something about Akim sets her apart, and her allure makes her a target for Massassi and her pretty, “jealous” peers. If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka weaves contemporary African and American cultures into a sweeping journey about what—and whom—we suppress in pursuit of an ideal always just beyond reach.
 
IS GOD IS by Aleshea Harris
IS GOD IS is an epic tale of twin sisters who, haunted by a brutal family history, sojourn West to seek revenge.
 
WE, THE INVISIBLES by Susan Soon He Stanton
In 2011, the director of the International Monetary Fund was accused of sexual assault by a hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo, but all charges were dismissed. we, the invisibles shares the rarely-heard stories of people like Diallo, people from all over the globe working at New York’s luxury hotels. Funny, poignant, and brutally honest by turns, the play is an investigation of the complicated relationship between movers and shakers and the people who change their sheets.
 
QUEEN by Madhuri Shekar
At the very last minute, a scientist realizes that her groundbreaking environmental paper – co-authored with her best friend – is based on flawed data. Should she risk her friendship, her career, the fate of the world… for the truth?
 
THE OPPORTUNITIES OF EXTINCTION by Sam Chanse
Taking refuge from a twitterstorm and other assorted upheaval on a last-minute camping trip, Mel and Arjun meet Georgia, a solitary young woman studying the impact of climate change on the imperiled Joshua tree.
 
HANG MAN by Stacy Amma Osei-Kuffour
The community of a shitty southern town grapples with the murder of a Black man who is found hanging from a tree.
 
LAST NIGHT AND THE NIGHT BEFORE by Donnetta Lavinia Grays
When Monique and her 10-year-old daughter Samantha show up unexpectedly on her sister’s Brooklyn doorstep, it’s the beginning of the end for Rachel and her partner Nadima’s orderly lifestyle. Monique is on the run from deep trouble, her husband Reggie is nowhere to be seen, and Samantha becomes ever haunted by the life in southern Georgia she was forced to leave behind. Poetic, dark and often deeply funny Last Night and the Night Before explores the complex power, necessity, and beauty of loss. 
 
EL HURACÁN by Charise Castro Smith
In Miami, on the eve of Hurricane Andrew, three generations of women huddle together to weather the storm. Beset by late-stage Alzheimers, Valeria (the family matriarch and a former magicienne) wanders between present-day family tensions and the siren call of her memories. But thirty years later, in the wake of a seemingly unforgivable mistake, the family is faced with the impossible necessity of reconciliation. Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest, El Huracán is a story about what we carry when we’re forced to leave everything behind. 
 
TWO MILE HOLLOW by Leah Nanako Winkler
When the Donnelly’s gather for a weekend in the country to gather their belongings for their recently sold estate—both an internal storm and a literal storm brews (uh oh!). As this brood of famous, longing-to-be-famous and kind of a mess but totally Caucasian family comes together with their non-white personal assistant, Charlotte, some really really really really really complicated and totally unique secrets are revealed over white wine…
 
BLACK SUPER HERO MAGIC MAMA by Inda Craig-Galván
Sabrina Jackson cannot cope with the death of her 14-year-old son by a White cop. Rather than herald the Black Lives Matter movement, Sabrina retreats inward, living out a comic book superhero fantasy. Will Sabrina stay in this splash-and-pow dream world where sons don’t die, or return to reality and mourn her loss?
 
ENDLINGS by Celine Song
On the island of Man-Jae in Korea, three elderly women spend their dying days diving into the ocean to harvest seafood with nothing but a rusty knife. They are “haenyeos”— “sea women” —and there are no heiresses to their millennium-old tradition. ENDLINGS is a real estate lesson from the last three remaining “haenyeos” in the world: don’t live on an island. Unless it’s the island of Manhattan…
 
EVE’S SONG by Patricia Ione Lloyd
Outside, black men and women are being killed by police. Inside, Deborah is trying to keep her smart-but-weird son and newly-out daughter safe and happy as light bulbs pop, shadows come to life, and the house gets strangely colder. With theatricality and lyricism, this unlikely ghost story explores what it means to let your song be heard in a world that’s trying to silence you.
 
TO THE YELLOW HOUSE by Kimber Lee
1888. Paris and Provence. A failing artist in desperate pursuit of a new way of seeing, haunted by his past, and hoping to remake his future in the color and light of the south. At what point in an endless cycle of failures does faith and persistence become delusion and foolishness? A meditation on love, art, and not being popular.
 
florissant & canfield by Kristiana Rae Colón
at the intersection of tear gas and teddy bear memorials, at the intersection of darren wilson and michael brown, at the intersection of looting and liberation, florissant & canfield refracts the realities of ferguson in the wake of the black lives matter movement. colliding in the unlikely eden of a civil rights renaissance, a newly formed alliance of protesters are forced to put their nascent ideologies to the test in the quest for new visions of justice.  
 
LES FRÉRES by Sandra A. Daley-Sharif
Inspired by Lorainne Hansberry’s Les Blancs, Les Fréres tells the story of three estranged brothers of Haitian descent, who come home to Harlem for their father’s final days. Troubled memories filled with anger and abuse come rushing back as they deal with their father’s death. They are forced to deal with how each choose to deal with memories, how each have escaped, feelings of abandonment, betrayal and loss. Finally, the end asks two of the brothers if they will escape back into the lives they have forged for themselves or will they try to make new life amongst the embers of pain. The play deals with issues of race and culture, family, and identity.
 
THE HOMECOMING QUEEN by Ngozi Anyanwu
A bestselling novelist returns to Nigeria to care for her ailing father, but before she can bury him, she must relearn the traditions she’s long forgotten. Having been absent for over a decade, she must collide with her culture, traumatic past, painful regrets, and the deep, deep love she thought she could never have.
 
REDWOOD by Brittany K. Allen
Redwood concerns an interracial couple (Meg, a middle school teacher, and Drew, a physicist) who are thrown into crisis when Meg’s recently-retired Uncle Stevie makes a project of charting the family tree, via Ancestry.com. When Stevie discovers that his would-be nephew-in-law is heir apparent to the family that owned his (and subsequently, Meg’s) relatives in an antebellum Kentucky, a time and space-bending dramedy of manners gone very far South ensues. Long-dead ancestors appear, to comment on their light-skinned progeny. Meg speechifies on the nature of forgetting before the State Senate, and a hip-hop dance class chorus guides the action. The play is interested in the ways love can and cannot transcend both modern social barriers and historical power structures. Meg and Drew must learn if we can we ever truly forgive, champion or fully understand those beloved who are fundamentally ‘other.’
 
BURNED by Amina Henry
Jamal wants to be force for good, like a Jedi in Star Wars, but he did a bad thing, firebombing a synagogue for money. Now he wonders if he’s an evil Sith. A fugitive, he lays low at his mother Mary’s house. Mary and Jo, Jamal’s girlfriend, wonder about the good and evil in Jamal, too, as they witness the different parts of him. For Officer Brown, Jamal is just one thing: black.
 
HATEFUCK by Rehana Lew Mirza
A local Michigan literary professor seeks out a famous Muslim-American novelist to find out if he’s a self-hating Islamophobe or a really good lay. But they find that getting under each other’s skin can easily become a habit, for better or worse.
 
MAGIC CITY OR JULIE IN BASEL by Hilary Bettis
An explosive elixir of power, class, and immigration status, which, when shaken hard with love and betrayal, creates a dangerous cocktail that threatens to destroy lives. In this Spanish language infused contemporary adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie is set in the back kitchen of a Miami hotel during a night of debauchery.
 
NOMAD MOTEL by Carla Ching
Alix lives in a tiny motel room with her mother and two brothers, scrabbling to make weekly rent. Mason lives comfortably in a grand, empty house while his father runs jobs for the Hong Kong Triad. Until the day his father disappears and Mason has to figure out how to come up with grocery money and dodge Child Services and the INS. Mason and Alex develop an unlikely friendship, struggling to survive, and trying to outrun the mistakes of their parents. Will they make it out or fall through the cracks? A play about Motel Kids and Parachute Kids raising themselves and living at the poverty line in a land of plenty.
 
NOURA by Heather Raffo
NOURA reflects the dilemma facing modern America: do we live for each other or for ourselves? Told from inside the marriage of an Iraqi immigrant family to New York, the play speaks directly to modern marriage and the leaving of home. This fast paced script highlights an acutely relevant awakening of identity that tackles our notions of, shame, violence, assimilation, exile and love. It’s a unique insight into the interior crisis that lies behind the collapse of the modern Middle East and America’s inseparable relationship to it.
 
USUAL GIRLS by Ming Peiffer
On an elementary school playground, a boy threatens to tell on a group of girls for swearing – unless one of them kisses him. But just before lips can touch, Kyeoung tackles the boy to the ground. The victory is short-lived. Over the coming years, Kyeoung herself is knocked down again and again. By an alcoholic dad. A group of quick-to-judge friends. And an endlessly invasive parade of men. As we follow Kyeoung from the discoveries of childhood to the realities of adulthood, her stories get stranger, funnier, more harrowing – and more familiar. How do girls grow up? Quickly, painfully, wondrously.
 
AZUL by Christina Quintana
When a lifelong New Yorker faces the loss of her Cuban-born mother and her own sense of identity in the process, she digs into her legacy and uncovers the story of her mother’s beloved aunt, her own tia-abuela whom she never met. While the family fled Cuba at the time of Castro’s revolution, she remained on the island for the love of another woman—a complicated choice in a less forgiving time. 
 
BREACH: A MANIFESTO ON RACE IN AMERICA THROUGH THE EYES OF A BLACK GIRL RECOVERING FROM SELF HATE by Antoinette Nwandu
What happens when a woman trapped in a dead-end job and a fizzling relationship accidentally gets pregnant by a man that she’s not dating? A coming of age story about race, class and motherhood, BREACH examines how hard it is to love others when it’s you that you loathe most of all.
 
HOW TO CATCH CREATION by Christina Anderson
A wrongly convicted man is released from prison after 25 years. As he settles into a new life he begins the quest to become a father. Spanning more than 40 years, this play explores family, connection, parenthood, and the right to start over.
 
NIKE or WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER HERO by Ngozi Anyanwu
Is an Origin story of the Goddess Nike and a retelling of the Olympus myth Black Greek Super hero style
 
SELLING KABUL by Sylvia Khoury
Taroon once served as an interpreter for the United States military in Afghanistan. Now the Americans – and their promises of safety – are gone, and Taroon spends his days in his sister Afiya’s apartment, hiding from the increasingly powerful Taliban. Desperate to escape with his wife and newborn son, Taroon must navigate a country left in upheaval, in which everyone must fend for themselves and few can be trusted.
 
SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER by Chisa Hutchinson
A Chinese-American guidance counselor helps a troubled protege through some gender-bias bullshit. 
 
THE PAPER DREAMS OF HARRY CHIN by Jessica Huang
During the Chinese Exclusion Act, Harry Chin, a Chinese national, entered the U.S. by buying forged documentation. Like other “Paper Sons,” Harry underwent a brutal detention and interrogation, and lived the rest of his life keeping secrets – even from his daughter. Told through the eyes of a middle-aged Chin, THE PAPER DREAMS OF HARRY CHIN reveals the complicated loves and regrets of this Chinese immigrant who wound up in Minnesota. Through dreamlike leaps of time and space and with the powerful assistance of ghosts, the story of the Chin family reveals the personal and political repercussions of making group of people “illegal.”
 
THE THANKSGIVING PLAY by Larissa FastHorse
In this satirical comedy, a mismatched but well-meaning foursome sets out to devise a politically correct school play that can somehow sensitively celebrate both Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month. How can this wildly diverse quartet-separated by cultural chasms and vastly different perspectives on history-navigate a complicated, hilarious thicket of privilege, representation, and of course school district regulations? The schools are waiting, and the pageant must go on!
 
UNRELIABLE by Dipika Guha
Gretchen is a lawyer. Yusuf is her client. Yusuf is being held indefinitely without trial for terrorism. Hattie is Gretchen’s mother. Only, Hattie thinks Gretchen is a secretary, Gretchen thinks Hattie is sick and Yusuf believes he’s been framed. In a world of competing narratives, facts no longer exist. UNRELIABLE investigates the consequences of living only in a story of your choosing.

What Broadway Shows Should I See? Top 10 Suggestions

“I just want you to pick the shows for me,” an out-of-town friend, planning a visit to New York, said to me recently, exasperated that I was trying to determine his taste in theater before making some recommendations.

This is the time of year when people turn their attention to Broadway, for two reasons — it’s the summer, a good time to visit New York; and their interest is piqued thanks to the annual three-hour TV commercial for Broadway known as the Tony Awards broadcast.

Below are some suggestions, listed alphabetically under several categories, starting with long-time hits. They are recommendations based largely on my taste.

 

FOUR LONG-TIME HIT MUSICALS

These musicals have proven to be audience favorites, but a caveat: The original casts have long since moved on.

THE BOOK OF MORMON
The Eugene O’Neill Theater
Opened: March 24, 2011
Director: Jason Moore and Trey Parker
Twitter feed: @BookofMormonBWY
This musical by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (book), the creators of South Park, and Robert Lopez, one of the composer-lyricists for “Avenue Q” and “Frozen” (music and lyrics) is about the founder of the Church of Latter-Day Saints and his modern disciples. It is outrageous, irreverent in one way, but also deeply reverent to (even while parodying) the best traditions of the Broadway musical.

My review of The Book of Mormon: Ridiculing Religion, Worshiping The Great White Way

Tickets to Book of Mormon

 

THE LION KING

Minskoff Theater (200 West 45th Street)
Opened: November 13, 1997
Twitter: @TheLionKing
Based on the 1994 Disney animated film about the coming-of-age of a young lion in the African jungle, this musical offers African-inflected music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice and the visual magic of Julie Taymor. Taymor is the director, a composer and lyricist for some of the songs. But above all, she is the designer of the costumes, masks, and puppets — and it is these visuals that make this show a good first theatrical experience.

Tickets to Lion King

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
Majestic Theater (247 West 44th Street)
Opened: January 26, 1988
Twitter: @PhantomBway
The Phantom of the Opera, based on a 1911 French novel by Gaston Leroux, is about a disfigured genius named Erik who lives in the catacombs of the Paris Opera House and falls in love with Christine, an aspiring singer whom he helps…until an old flame of Christine’s named Raoul steps back into the picture.
However, the story in the musical, written and composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber — with more than its share of 1980′s heavy power ballads — is starting to take second place to the story of the musical, which is the longest-running Broadway musical of all time, and the most profitable. I find this show too loud and overwrought for my taste, but it is the one exception I’m making to the list of recommendations based on my personal taste, because it’s a tourist favorite, and admittedly visually stunning – people still ooh at the falling chandelier.

 

Tickets to Phantom of the Opera

 

Wicked NY

WICKED
Gershwin Theater (222 West 51st Street)
Opened: October 30, 2003
Twitter: @WICKED_Musical
The musical tells the story of “The Wizard of Oz” from the witches’ perspective, more specifically from the Wicked Witch of the West, who was not, as a child, wicked at all, but just green-tinted, taunted, and misunderstood. There is so much to like about this musical, the clever twists on the familiar tale, the spectacular set, and music that is a lot more appealing in context (such as the song “Defying Gravity”) that I will forgive the contortions necessary to tack on a happy ending.

Tickets to Wicked

FOUR GREAT NEW PLAYS

Broadway is full of “straight” (non-musical) plays, which don’t tend to have long runs and aren’t publicized as much, but can be more substantive, stimulating and satisfying (and less expensive.)

laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper and Jane Houdyshell

A DOLL’S HOUSE PART 2
John Golden Theater (252 West 45th Street)
Opened: April 27, 2017
Twitter: @DollsHousePart2

The main pleasures in A Doll’s House, Part 2, are rooted in the chance to watch four accomplished performers in this compelling, and surprisingly humorous sequel to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, written 138 years after that first play by Lucas Hnath, making his Broadway playwriting debut. Laurie Metcalf is magnificent as Nora, returning home 15 years after she left her husband and children, with an urgent ulterior motive, and encountering Chris Cooper as Nora’s husband Torvald, Jayne Houdyshell as her former nanny Anne Marie, and Condola Rashad as her daughter

More on A Doll’s House Part 2

Tickets to A Doll’s House Part 2

INDECENT
Cort Theatre (138 West 48th Street)
Opened: April 18, 2017
@IndecentBway

There are many reasons to find deep satisfaction in Indecent, a fascinating backstage tale strikingly staged about a century-old Jewish drama entitled “God of Vengeance,” which featured a scandalizing kiss between two women that caused its Broadway cast to be prosecuted for obscenity. It marks the long-delayed Broadway debut of Paula Vogel, who at 65 is one of the theatre community’s most admired playwrights and playwriting teachers.

It is proof that a play can explore a range of frighteningly relevant issues and be simultaneously enlightening, moving and entertaining. There is so much delightful music in the show that it often feels like a musical.

More on Indecent

Tickets to Indecent

OSLO
Vivian Beaumont Theatre
150 West 65th Street
Opened: April 13, 2017

@LCTheater

“Oslo” explores the little-known story of how a Norwegian couple instigated and pushed along the secret negotiations that led to the famous moment when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat shook hands at the White House in 1993. The play offers a lucid refresher course on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, provides entertainment that is both surprisingly funny and suspenseful. It also leaves us with a sense that maybe even the world’s most unsettling situations can someday be settled.

More on Oslo

Tickets to Oslo

Khris Davis and Will Pullen

SWEAT
Studio 54 Theatre (254 West 54th Street)
Opened: March 26, 2017
Twitter; @SweatBroadway

Playwright Lynn Nottage won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in Drama for this play about a group of friends and family members who hang out in a bar in Reading, Pennsylvania, which was identified in 2010 as the poorest city in America. Like Grapes of Wrath, it offers a devastating look at social and economic breakdown, told not with rants or statistics, but through a riveting tale about good people in a bad situation.

More on Sweat

Tickets to Sweat

TWO BELOVED NEW MUSICALS

DEAR EVAN HANSEN
Music Box Theatre
239 West 45th Stree
Opened: December 04, 2016
Twitter: @DearEvanHansen

Ben Platt gives an extraordinary performance as Evan Hansen, an anxious high school student with no real friends who becomes the center of attention when a classmate he barely knew commits suicide and, through a misunderstanding, people think that Evan was his best friend.  Evan turns that misunderstanding into a lie, and the lie gets out of hand. The musical offers insights into an array of issues, from adolescent insecurity to the downside of social media, while keeping us emotionally engaged with the characters. The songs by Pasek and Paul are tuneful and deeply felt.

More on Dear Evan Hansen

Tickets to Dear Evan Hansen

Lucas Steele as Anatole and Denee Benton as Natasha

NATASHA, PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812
Imperial Theatre  (249 West 45th Street)
Opened: November 14, 2016
Twitter: @GreatCometBway

They’ve made a party out of what looks on paper like unlikely material —  a sing-through musical with  an unwieldy title based on  70 pages of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. But Dave Malloy’s eclectic score is tuneful, the performances are terrific, and the stagecraft is groundbreaking.  Director Rachel Chavkin and set designer Mimi Lien in particular deserve kudos for re-creating on Broadway something very close to the kind of immersive theater that’s lately been intriguing theatergoers all over the world. (Josh Groban as Pierre leaves in July.)

More on Great Comet

Tickets to Great Comet

 

WHAT ABOUT GREAT CHOREOGRAPHY?

 

Check out Bandstand and On Your Feet (which is closing August 20),

 

WHAT ABOUT HAMILTON?

Javier Munoz and cast

I loved Hamilton,  Off-Broadway ,  on Broadway  and now with the new cast , finding it ground-breaking and breathtaking. You have to decide whether it’s worth spending the kind of money that it would take to get a ticket this summer — and not just from the resellers, but from the show itself, where top ticket prices are $849. My feeling is you shouldn’t need to choose between seeing a show and taking a trip to Europe.

There IS a daily lottery online  where you can try your luck at snagging one of the tickets for only  $10 (because Hamilton’s face is on the ten-dollar bill.)

Tickets to Hamilton

WHAT ABOUT HELLO, DOLLY! AND COME FROM AWAY?

This is my taste, remember?

More on Hello, Dolly!

Tickets to Hello, Dolly!

More on Come From Away

Tickets to Come From Away

 

ON A LIMITED BUDGET?

There ARE ways to get affordable tickets to Broadway shows, especially if you are willing to 1. Wait until the day of the performance, and 2. Live with uncertainty. Getting tickets to a hit Broadway show for as little as $10 (and no more than $80) takes time, luck, knowledge and/or ingenuity. Most shows now have digital lotteries and “rush” tickets. For a show-by-show breakdown on the discounts available, check out Broadway for Broke People

 

DON’T FORGET OFF-BROADWAY

Some of the best shows on Broadway began Off-Broadway. Off-Broadway shows tend to be more adventurous and less expensive. But they also tend to have more limited runs, and be less publicized. Off-Broadway shows don’t get the attention they deserve. A willingness to hunt a little will pay off in a satisfying discovery, and bragging rights possibly for years to come.

Norm Lewis and Carolee Carmello

To pick one current example of a terrific show Off-Broadway: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Sweeney Todd, Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s glorious murderous musical, began in 2014 in Harrington’s, one of London’s oldest working pie shops. An impressively detailed replica of Harrington’s has now set up shop Off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theater, including the pies

More on Sweeney Todd (The show now has an All-American cast, led by Norm Lewis and Carolee Carmello.)

Tickets to Sweeney Todd

LOOK OUT FOR THE NEXT HIT

Check out my latest monthly calendar of openings to what’s newly available on Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway.

 

5th Anniversary Special: 50 Best Plays, Hamilton Quiz, 10 Best Broadway Dance Numbers, Slings and Arrows!

Below are the five most popular posts in the five years since I began NewYorkTheater.me in May 2012.

(Above are some of the profile portraits I’ve used over the past five years, none of them of my actual face.)

I’ve done nearly 1,800 posts — or about one a day — since my very first post, which was a list of what shows were then currently running on Broadway. Of the 37 shows I listed then, only five are still playing: The Book of Mormon, Chicago, The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera, and Wicked.

So five seems like a good number. Readers clicked — and are still clicking — on these five posts from NewYorkTheater.me, more than any others. (Click on the titles to bring you to the original posts.)

The 50 Best Plays of The Past 100 Years

Philip Seymour Hoffman in Death of a Salesman, 2013

June 27, 2013

This list of best American plays (not productions) is by far my most popular post, which initially made me feel guilty, since the list was put together by the critics of Entertainment Weekly. I certainly agree with the top, say, five:

1.  Death of a Salesman (1949) by Arthur Miller

2. A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) by Tennessee Williams

3. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: (1962) by Edward Albee

4. Long Day’s Journey into Night (1956) by Eugene O’Neill

5.Fences(1985) by August Wilson

 

Quiz: Which character in Hamilton are you?

July 15, 2015

This I put together myself, and (you won’t be surprised to hear), is just the most popular of my many popular Hamilton posts. (The sixth most popular of all time is Hamilton on Broadway New Cast: What Has Changed? posted on December 15, 2016)

 

Broadway’s Best Dance Numbers

July 2, 2013

I put this together from the results of a contest I ran requesting that readers answer the question:

What single dance number was the best you ever saw on Broadway?

I matched the most common responses with videos of the dance numbers (at least the ones I could find.)

Broadway 2013-2014 Season Guide

June 22, 2013

I’ve done a preview of every Broadway season since I started NewYorkTheater.me; I have NO idea why this particular season remains so popular.

Slings and Arrows Returns! 

June 4, 2012

My first, biggest and, alas, virtually only scoop, I got Bob Martin, one of the creators and stars of the beloved Canadian backstage cult TV series “Slings and Arrows” to tell me exclusively (via Twitter) that the team was thinking of reviving the show for a fourth season.  I put this into a post, and, since Bob Martin doesn’t Tweet much and he was otherwise unreachable, it got more visitors by far in a single day than I got before or since — and the story made news all over the world.

An entire year of suspense for Slings and Arrows fans followed — relentlessly tortured by such teases as Slings and Arrow star Paul Gross saying in an interview,  “if they came back and said do you want to do another [season] everyone would say yeah…It was an enormous amount of fun to do.”) —  until Martin finally said (in a conventional) interview) that they’d abandoned the idea of a fourth season, but may do a special. Well, its been five years and even that hasn’t happened. But my Twitter interview and its consequences were studied in college courses, and Martin himself said he learned two valuable lessons  —  that Social Media is powerful, and that he shouldn’t Tweet drunk.

No Reviews?

I am a theater critic and this site contains more reviews than any other kind of article. Yet only two of my reviews made it to the top 20;

Les Miserables Review: Darkened Stages, Brilliant Broadway Cast

Hamilton Review: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hip-Hopped History Musical

Lucille Lortel Nominations 2017 Off-Broadway: Hadestown, Sweeney Todd Lead

Hadestown and Sweeney Todd each led the Lucille Lortel Award nominations this year, with seven apiece, including Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Revival respectively.  Sweet Charity received six; Ride The Cyclone, five. Three of the Off-Broadway shows,  honored  coincidentally with four nominations apiece — Dear Evan Hansen, Indecent and Oslo — have since transferred to Broadway, as has Sweat. The 32nd Annual Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Achievement Off-Broadway will be presented on Sunday, May 7, 201y at NYU Skirball Center

Outstanding Play

Indecent
Produced by Vineyard Theatre in association with La Jolla Playhouse and Yale Repertory Theatre
Written by Paula Vogel, Created by Paula Vogel & Rebecca Taichman

Oslo
Produced by Lincoln Center Theater
Written by J.T. Rogers

Underground Railroad Game
Produced by Ars Nova
Written by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard

Vietgone
Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club in association with South Coast Repertory
Written by Qui Nguyen

The Wolves
Produced by The Playwrights Realm in association with New York Stage and Film and Vassar’s Powerhouse Theatre Season
Written by Sarah DeLappe

Outstanding Musical

The Band’s Visit
Produced by Atlantic Theater Company
Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek, Book by Itamar Moses, Based on the screenplay by Eran Kolirin

Dear Evan Hansen
Produced by Second Stage Theatre in association with Stacey Mindich Productions
Book by Steven Levenson, Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Hadestown
Produced by New York Theatre Workshop
Written by Anaïs Mitchell

Ride the Cyclone
Produced by MCC Theater
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond

The Total Bent
Produced by The Public Theater
Text by Stew, Music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald

Outstanding Revival

The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA the Negro Book of the Dead
Produced by Signature Theatre
Written by Suzan-Lori Parks

Othello
Produced by New York Theatre Workshop
Written by William Shakespeare

Signature Plays: Edward Albee’s The Sandbox, María Irene Fornés’ Drowning, and Adrienne Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro
Produced by Signature Theatre
Written by Edward Albee, María Irene Fornés, and Adrienne Kennedy

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Produced by Rachel Edwards, Jenny Gersten, Seaview Productions, Nate Koch, Fiona Rudin, Barrow Street Theatre, Jean Doumanian, Rebecca Gold, and Tooting Arts Club
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by Hugh Wheeler, Adaptation by Christopher Bond

Sweet Charity
Produced by The New Group in association with Kevin McCollum
Book by Neil Simon, Music by Cy Coleman, Lyrics by Dorothy Fields

Outstanding Solo Show

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide
Produced by Judd Apatow, Mike Berkowitz, Brian Stern, Mike Lavoie, and Carlee Briglia
Written and Performed by Chris Gethard

Latin History for Morons
Produced by The Public Theater in a co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Written and Performed by John Leguizamo

Notes From The Field
Produced by Second Stage Theatre and American Repertory Theater
Created, Written, and Performed by Anna Deavere Smith

The Outer Space
Produced by The Public Theater
Book and Lyrics by Ethan Lipton, Music by Ethan Lipton, Vito Dieterle, Eben Levy, and Ian M. Riggs
Performed by Ethan Lipton

Sell/Buy/Date
Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club
Written and Performed by Sarah Jones

Outstanding Director

Will Davis, Men On Boats
Anne Kauffman, A Life
Lila Neugebauer, The Wolves
Bartlett Sher, Oslo
Rebecca Taichman, Indecent

Outstanding Choreographer

Joshua Bergasse, Sweet Charity
David Dorfman, Indecent
Georgina Lamb, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
David Neumann, Hadestown
David Neumann, The Total Bent

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play

Reed Birney, Man From Nebraska
Michael Emerson, Wakey, Wakey
Lucas Hedges, YEN
Joe Morton, Turn Me Loose
David Hyde Pierce, A Life

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play

Johanna Day, Sweat
Jennifer Ehle, Oslo
Jennifer Kidwell, Underground Railroad Game
Kecia Lewis, Marie and Rosetta
Maryann Plunkett, Women of a Certain Age

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play

Michael Aronov, Oslo
Charlie Cox, Incognito
Matthew Maher, Othello
Justice Smith, YEN
Paco Tolson, Vietgone

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play

Jocelyn Bioh, Everybody
Hannah Cabell, The Moors
Randy Graff, The Babylon Line
Ari Graynor, YEN
Nana Mensah, Man From Nebraska

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical

Ato Blankson-Wood, The Total Bent
Shuler Hensley, Sweet Charity
Patrick Page, Hadestown
Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen
Jeremy Secomb, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical

Sutton Foster, Sweet Charity
Amber Gray, Hadestown
Jo Lampert, Joan of Arc: Into the Fire
Katrina Lenk, The Band’s Visit
Siobhan McCarthy, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical

Nathan Lee Graham, The View UpStairs
Gus Halper, Ride the Cyclone
Joel Perez, Sweet Charity
Ari’el Stachel, The Band’s Visit
Chris Sullivan, Hadestown

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical

Asmeret Ghebremichael, Sweet Charity
Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Betsy Morgan, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Emily Rohm, Ride the Cyclone
Karen Ziemba, Kid Victory

Outstanding Scenic Design

Scott Davis, Ride the Cyclone
Rachel Hauck, Hadestown
Laura Jellinek, A Life
Mimi Lien, Signature Plays: Edward Albee’s The Sandbox, María Irene Fornés’ Drowning, and Adrienne Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro
Jason Sherwood, The View UpStairs

Outstanding Costume Design

Montana Blanco, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA the Negro Book of the Dead
Tilly Grimes, Underground Railroad Game
Susan Hilferty, Love, Love, Love
Sarah Laux, The Band’s Visit
Emily Rebholz, Indecent

Outstanding Lighting Design

Mark Barton, Signature Plays: Edward Albee’s The Sandbox, María Irene Fornés’ Drowning, and Adrienne Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro
Jane Cox, Othello
Greg Hofmann, Ride the Cyclone
Amy Mae, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Ben Stanton, YEN

Outstanding Sound Design

Mikhail Fiksel, A Life
Robert Kaplowitz, Hadestown
Stowe Nelson, Small Mouth Sounds
Nevin Steinberg, Wakey, Wakey
Matt Stine, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Outstanding Projection Design

Elaine McCarthy, Notes From The Field
Duncan McLean, Privacy
Jared Mezzochi, Vietgone
Peter Nigrini, Dear Evan Hansen
Peter Nigrini, Wakey, Wakey

HONORARY AWARDS
Lifetime Achievement Award
William Ivey Long

Playwrights’ Sidewalk Inductee
Lynn Nottage

Edith Oliver Service to Off-Broadway Award
Harold Wolpert

NOMINATIONS BY SHOW TITLE

Hadestown 7
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 7
Sweet Charity 6
Ride the Cyclone 5
The Band’s Visit 4
Dear Evan Hansen 4
Indecent 4
A Life 4
Oslo 4
YEN 4
Othello 3
Signature Plays: Edward Albee’s The Sandbox, María Irene
Fornés’ Drowning, and Adrienne Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of
a Negro 3
The Total Bent 3
Underground Railroad Game 3
Vietgone 3
Wakey, Wakey 3
The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World
AKA the Negro Book of the Dead 2
Man From Nebraska 2
Notes From The Field 2
The View UpStairs 2
The Wolves 2

The Babylon Line 1
Chris Gethard: Career Suicide 1
Everybody 1
Incognito 1
Joan of Arc: Into the Fire 1
Kid Victory 1
Latin History for Morons 1
Love, Love, Love 1
Marie and Rosetta 1
Men On Boats 1
The Moors 1
The Outer Space 1
Privacy 1
Sell/Buy/Date 1
Small Mouth Sounds 1
Sweat 1
Turn Me Loose 1
Women of a Certain Age 1

Members of the general public are welcome to view the 7:00 PM ceremony. Public tickets are $75.00 and currently on sale via phone at 212.998.4941, online at www.nyuskirball.org and in person at the Skirball Center’s Shagan Box Office (556 LaGuardia)

15 Great Books About The Theater

The 50 best plays and 10 greatest musicals of the last century are all available as books to read, but what are the best books about the theater?

That’s the question I asked in giveaway contests for two books:

 

 

The Great Comet: The Journey of a New Musical to Broadway
And


Tradition!: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, the World’s Most Beloved Musical

Below are 15 books (one of them in two volumes) selected by the contestants, with some of their comments. Click on the the titles for links to a page where you can learn more about the book, read excerpts, and purchase a copy.

Act One: An Autobiography by Moss Hart

“I picked up the book after I saw the show at Lincoln Center, and I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about Moss, or the show really, before I went in. I left the theatre feeling inspired and rejuvenated with my love for theatre. I read the book in two days and felt even stronger feelings upon finishing it. It’s incredible how vivid his stories are, especially from his childhood. And the book often feels like a novel, not a memoir, because the dialogue is so rich. Easily one of my favorite books about theatre for sure.”

Hat Box: The Collected Lyrics of Stephen Sondheim

This contains Stephen Sondheim’s two volumes of annotated lyrics, written separately, Finishing the Hat and Look I Made a Hat.
Stephen Sondheim has always been my favorite musical theatre composer/lyricist. His collection is an invaluable resource to any Sondheim fan/theatre lover. These books provide an insight of the process of song writing and creating a musical in general and give a brief history of how each of his shows came to be. The West Side Story and Sweeney Todd chapters were especially useful while I was working on productions of those shows for a better understanding of the original work.

The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built by Jack Viertel

“It’s such an insightful and thorough look at the insides of the current American musical, and shows the start of such musicals from Rodgers & Hammerstein to Stephen Sondheim. It truly is a great read.”

“It wowed me earlier this year. I got the book over the holidays and devoured it – I was so impressed by how clearly and intelligently he dissected the American musical. Not only does it work as an analysis of the American musical, but it can serve as a guidebook for creating musicals – what the essential elements are (and how they exist in musicals) and why they work in the creation of a show. It’s a wonderful read, and while it may not be the BEST book (that would probably go to Sondheim’s Finishing the Hat and Look I Made a Hate) but it certainly is one of the most interesting and entertaining I’ve read.”

 

Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops by Ken Mandelbaum

It’s just full of fascinating stories – sometimes the shows that DON’T work are more interesting than those that do, because there are just so many things that can go so terribly wrong…I love seeing the thought processes behind these “failures,” and of course for every so-called flop out there, there’s someone who actually cherishes that show for various reasons! It’s important to remember even Broadway’s mistakes, especially because they can hopefully help us all learn from them for next time

Broadway: The American Musical

“One of the best books written about the history of Broadway and it’s roots. It’s huge, has tons of cool photos and it is accompanied by great videos of each chapter. Bonus: it has an intro by Julie Andrews.”

Original Story: A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood by Arthur Laurents

“It was incredibly honest about himself and the theatre folks he worked with over the years. Laurents was able to create a richly detailed tapestry of a story while not glossing over the moments that were challenging.”

The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate by Peter Brook

“The Empty Space” by Peter Brook. This book showed me more of what theatre can, could, and should be than any class I ever took in college. He takes theories and movements that I was familiar with and turned them into something I had never imagined, allowing me to grow as a director and artist.”

David Merrick – The Abominable Showman: The Unauthorized Biography  by Howard Kissel

“We can all learn how to be a creative genius/monster from the actions of David Merrick!”

THE SEASON A Candid Look At Broadway by William Goldman

“It is certainly dated in more than a couple of ways, but I can’t think of many more books that have impacted the way I think about the business and ecosystem of New York Theatre the way that that one has. From the flops to the hits, not only do you get to be jealous of the standard ticket prices of the shows in the late 60s, you learn about why certain shows connect with critics or audiences and other shows don’t. And the idea of “The Muscle” who is the chief driving creative force behind a production, is something I think about all the time in regards to both Broadway and Hollywood.”

 

Theatre of the Unimpressed: In Search of Vital Drama by Jordan Tannahill

Theatre of the Unimpressed by Jordan Tannahill. The book mostly functions as a diagnostic of the state of contemporary theatre in Canada and attempts to establish a standard for revitalization. Not everything is agreeable, and the book is more about problems than solutions, but it really gets the wheels in my head turning.

Ghost Light: A Memoir by Frank Rich

“It passionately describes how a love for musical theater is born out of both a need to escape into something beautiful and a desire to relate to characters in a range of emotional states. Personal and lovely”

How Does the Show Go On: an Introduction to the Theater by Thomas Schumacher

I love it because it’s geared towards kids and is written to excite a new generation of audience members and theatre artists

Unnaturally Green: One girl’s journey along a yellow brick road less traveled by Felicia Ricci.

“It’s a story of the actress who got to play Elphaba in Wicked, and it’s really wonderful because it goes through all the audition calls, the rehearsal process and the show itself. For the student actress as me, it’s one of the best resources to get more familiar with theatre work. I always wondered how it goes on Broadway, what happens after you get the role, is it any different from what I know… Felicia reveals just so many little details! I learned a lot of new things about American theatre while sitting in Russia and drinking my tea. That’s the magic. And that’s the theater.”

Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History by Glen Burger
“It goes into detail about the decline and fall of Turn Off the Dark. Understanding what makes a show with ‘everything going for it’ fail helps us recognize what is needed for a show to succeed.”

 

Hamilton: The Revolution

“Reading that book not only gave me insight to Lin Manuel Miranda’s world, but all of his collaborators as well. Reading Hamilton is much like reading other books, even though it is nonfiction there are still literary elements that spark imagination. When I read about Hamilton, I can’t help but feel an appreciation for art. Creating art is one of the most ambitious challenges anyone can face. To create art you have to become vulnerable, explore different styles, and above all show humanity. With automation in the 21st century it is difficult to find true human work in anything. Hamilton, the whole world of Hamilton, is unadulterated humanity, and that is why I love the book.”

89th Oscar Nominees: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Pasek and Paul, Fences, Moonlight

 

“La La Land,” the musical tribute to Los Angeles, leads The Academy Award nominations with a record-tying 14, Lin-Manuel Miranda received an Oscar nomination for best original song. (If he wins hell be the youngest ever EGOT — winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.) Also nominated for best original song are Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (creators of Dear Evan Hansen) for two songs from La La Land. Two of the best picture nominees, Fences and Moonlight, were adapted from plays — by August Wilson and Tarell Alvin McCraney respectively.

Complete list of nominations:

Best Picture
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester By The Sea
Moonlight

Best Actor
Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

Best Actress
Isabelle Huppert
Ruth Negga
Natalie Portman
Emma Stone
Meryl Streep

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell Or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester By The Sea (currently in the play Yen at MCC)
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis
Naomie Harris
Nicole Kidman
Octavia Spencer
Michelle Williams

Directing
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Film Editing
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Moonlight

Foreign Language Film
Land Of Mine
Tanna
The Salesman
Toni Erdmannn

Original Score
Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

Production Design
Arrival
Fantastic Beasts
Hail, Caesar
La La Land
Passengers

Visual Effects
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The Jungle Book
Kubo And The Two Strings

Adapted Screenplay
Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight

Original Screenplay
Hell Or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester By The Sea
20th Century Women

Animated Feature Film
Moana
My Life As A Zuchinni

Cinematography
Arrival
La La Land
Moonlight
Lion
Silence

Costume Design
Allied
Fantastic Beasts
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land

Documentary Feature
Fire At Sea
I Am Not Your Negor
Life Animated
OJ: Made In America
13th

Documentary Short Subject
Extremis
The White Helmet

Makeup and Hairstyling
A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

Original Song
Audition, La La Land
Can’t Stop The Feeling, Trolls
City Of Stars, La La Land
The Empty Chair, Jim: The James Foley Story
How Far I’ll Go, Moana (by Lin-Manuel Miranda)

Animated Short Film

Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider And Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper

Live Action Short Film

Ennemis Interieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights
Sing
Timecode

Sound Editing
Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

Sound Mixing
Arrival
Hacksaw
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

 

Best-read posts in 2016 on NewYorkTheater.me

As my best-read posts from 2016 below make clear, some theater trends stay strong year after year: Anything about “Hamilton” is still popular nearly two years after the musical first opened, Off-Broadway. And many of my most popular posts this year were written before 2016.

5 BEST-READ POSTS IN 2016

1. The 50 Best Plays of The Past 100 Years, According to Entertainment Weekly

Hamiltonquizcollage
2. Quiz: Which character in Hamilton are you?

Close in popularity to this quiz was another Hamilton Quiz, put together this year.

BillyElliotElectricity
3. Broadway’s Best Dance Numbers
Videos of 10 dance numbers from Broadway musicals that readers voted the best ever (including Electricity from Billy Elliot, pictured above)

4. Broadway 2013-2014 Season Guide

I have no idea why this particular Broadway season preview guide is so popular three years later, especially since only two shows from that season are still running (Aladdin and Beautiful.)  Maybe somebody can explain? Meanwhile, here’s the Broadway 2016-2017 Season Guide.

5. America’s Hamilton

The documentary about the making of “Hamilton” the musical and the history of Alexander Hamilton

haobama

5 BEST-READ REVIEWS IN 2016

Grand Paradise 16-+(photo+by+Darial+Sneed)

The Grand Paradise: Bushwick’s Titillating Tropical Resort

Hamilton

Hamilton

Hamilton : Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hip-Hopped History Musical

The Radicalization of Rolfe

The Radicalization of Rolfe

The Radicalization of Rolfe: A gay Nazi’s version of The Sound of Music.

 

Amazing Grace 

Hadestown New York Theatre Workshop By Anaïs Mitchell Developed with and directed by Rachel Chavkin 2015/16 SEASON May 6, 2016—July 3, 2016 With Hadestown, celebrated singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and inventive two-time Obie award-winning director Rachel Chavkin (Three Pianos; Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812) transform Mitchell's "phenomenal concept album" (Rolling Stone) into a bold new work for the stage. This folk opera follows Orpheus' mythical quest to overcome Hades and regain the favor of his one true love, Eurydice. Together we travel from wide open plains where love and music are not enough nourishment to survive the winter, down to Hadestown, an industrialized world of mindless labor and full stomachs. Inspired by traditions of classic American folk music and vintage New Orleans jazz, Mitchell's beguiling melodies and poetic imagination pit nature against industry, faith against doubt, and love against death. Scenery by Rachel Hauck Costumes by Michael Krass Lighting by Bradley King Sound by Robert Kaplowitz Properties by Noah Mease Arrangements & Orchestrations by Michael Chorney Music Supervision, Co-arrangements & Orchestrations by Todd Sickafoose Music Direction by Liam Robinson Choreography by David Neumann Dramaturgy by Ken Cerniglia Co-conceived by Ben t. Matchstick Stage Manager Lindsey Turteltaub Featuring Nabiyah Be, Damon Daunno, Lulu Fall, Amber Gray, Patrick Page, Jessie Shelton, Chris Sullivan, Shaina Taub

Hadestown: A Hell of a Musical

 

BEST-READ PROFILES IN 2016

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Noah Robbins on Grease Live, His First Musical Since High School

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An Aaron Burr Who’s Not The Villain: Leslie Odom Jr in Hamilton

 santino fontana profile

Santino Fontana’s Act One, The Unluckiest Lucky Actor In New York

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Bowie, Bogosian and Bobby Moreno

TOP 5 EVENT POSTS IN 2016

Times Square, January 23, 2016 at 1:30 p.m. Click to see enlarged.

Times Square, January 23, 2016 at 1:30 p.m.

Broadway and the Blizzards of 2016

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Hillary Quotes Hamilton in Convention Speech

Hamilton Cast to VP Elect Mike Pense: Respect Us (Trump Replies: Apologize)

kilroys2016

2016 Kilroy’s List of Good but Unproduced Plays by Women

Broadway for Hillary

New Year’s Eve in New York City 2017 Last Minute Plans

My annual New Year’s Eve guide features the Broadway show schedule for New Year’s week, and other shows, parties, concerts, intimate dinners, cruises, outdoor events and quiet alternatives you can still do on New Year’s Eve 2017 (when 2016 turns into 2017) in New York City. Also free events — and TV listings.

Only eight percent of Americans reportedly say they plan to go out on New Year’s Eve. For those who haven’t made those plans yet, here are some ideas:

TIMES SQUARE

The New Year’s Eve tradition in Times Square began in 1904 with a rooftop celebration to greet the New Year. Three years later, they started lowering a ball.

From the organizers comes this overview of New Year’s Eve in Times Square, so you know what is in store for you if you decide to stand at the Crossroads of the World for New Year’s Eve

3 p.m. Revelers start arriving late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve. By approximately 3:00 PM., the Bowtie of Times Square (42nd to 47th Sts. between Broadway & 7th Ave.) is fully closed to traffic. The crowd, in the millions, could go as far uptown as Central Park, 17 blocks away.

Another way of saying this: If you want to be within naked-eyesight of the Times Square ball, arrive in the afternoon, and be prepared to stand immobile until the ball drops at midnight.  Huddle with friends and loved ones for warmth.

mariah-carey-times-square6 p.m. The celebration begins with the lighting and raising of the New Year’s Eve Ball atop One Times Square.

Following is an evening of entertainment — although, if you’re looking solely to be entertained, standing in Time Square might not be the best option.

11:16 – 11;19 p.m. “The Associated Press, the world’s oldest and largest news gathering organization, presents a news reel highlighting some of the most memorable events of 2016.”

11:38-11:44

Mariah Carey performs medley of Auld Lang Syne, Emotions and We Belong Together on the Countdown Stage. (The picture is of Carey performing at Times Square on New Year’s Eve a decade ago.)

11:59 p.m.

The Sixty-Second Countdown

The Mayor of New York City and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon push the Waterford crystal button that signals the 70-foot descent of the New Year’s Eve Ball over 60 seconds, as everybody counts down.

Midnight

HappyNewYearclock

Confetti, “2017” sign in lights, lots of hugging and wishing for a Happy New Year

I’ve spent three New Year’s Eves in Times Square, which is probably two more than necessary, but found each memorable. Do keep in mind, though, that the highlights will be televised. See What’s on TV, below.)

In just a few days, this street will be packed with millions of huddled masses yearning to shout

In just a few days, this street will be packed with millions of huddled masses yearning to shout “Happy New Year!”

DINING OUT ON NEW YEAR’S EVE

Open Table lists some 800 restaurants  with “New Year’s Eve offers” Most of them offer a choice of seatings – either earlier in the evening, so that you can make it in time elsewhere for the stroke of midnight, or party-hat-equipped seatings that lead up to midnight, where you can often turn on a TV so that you can watch the ball drop in Times Square. Open Table enables you to look for one in your neighborhood.

Have a favorite neighborhood eatery that’s not listed on Open Table? Go to them NOW, and ask them whether they will take reservations.

THEATER ON NEW YEAR’S WEEK

Fifteen of the shows currently on Broadway will be offering performances on New Year’s Eve — all of them matinees. (They’re almost all in Times Square, remember.) Then 16 of the shows will offer performances on New Year’s Day, a mix of matinee and evening performances.

Below is the schedule for the entire week leading up to New Year’s Day.

Crossed out dates= canceled performance
Bold faced dates= added performance
Italic dates= different curtain time

 Click on the schedule to see it enlarged.

Keep in mind that a good number of these shows are closing soon, so this may be your last chance to see them.

Closing December 31:
Fiddler on the Roof

Closing January 1, 2017:
The Illusionists
Matilda
Something Rotten

Closing January 8, 2017:
The Color Purple
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
The Encounter
Falsettos

Closing January 15, 2017:
Jersey Boys
The Humans
Holiday Inn

Closing January 22
Oh Hello

Closing January 29
The Front Page

(If tickets are not available through the box office, try buying tickets here)

Of course, New York theater is far more than just Broadway, and some Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway shows are not just happening, but getting into the whole excess thing that means New Year’s Eve to so many in New York. Prime example is Sleep No More, which for New Year’s Eve adds something called the McKittrick Masquerade, “live performances and an open bar all night long,” at a cost of a mere $450 apiece.

Similarly XIV Company offers its  “Nutcracker Rouge,”  (a “baroque, burlesque” not-for-children take on Nutcracker Suite) at Irondale Theater in Brooklyn, followed by a party with the cast.

FAMILY SHOWS NOT ON BROADWAY

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Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular

Harlem Gospel Holiday Celebration at Mount Olivet Baptist Church

That Physics Show

NEW YEAR’S EVE PARTIES AT NIGHTCLUBS & WEIRD PLACES (including home)

https-cdn-evbuc-com-images-26816208-85633514729-1-originalThere’s a New York for almost any taste, so why would it be surprising that Eventbrite lists nearly 500 New Year’s Eve parties? Forty of those are listed as free (that’s my taste.) Others are obscenely expensive.

You can dance at parties set up in Times Square venues, such as the Marriot Marquis and the AMC 42nd Street movie theater, most promoting a great view of the ball dropping (which — do you mind my pointing out? — is an insane pitch, but apparently an effective one. Maybe that’s a good summary of 2016)

You can also dance at a party set up at  a “Secret Bushwick Warehouse Location.” That’s BangOn!NYC‘s offering; we do know it’s called “Time + Space” and features a host from Australia —  “tropical house” DJ Thomas Jack.

 websterhallnyeWebster Hall offers “four huge dance floors, 6 unique rooms, 8 DJs, and 100,000 balloons at midnight.” It’s loud.

Also loud is what’s billed as the “F#CK 2016!” party at Brooklyn Bazaar: “As quite possibly the worst year on record, let’s destroy it like a teenage house party” with performances by Titus Andronicus (that’s a band, not Shakespeare’s bloodiest play), High Waisted and Toys in Trouble.

For contrast there is the Third Annual New Years Eve Flamingo Formal, which takes place at the Royal Palm Shuffleboard Club. (In Florida, a shuffleboard club might not be hip enough to be hosts on New Year’s, but this one opened in 2013 in Gowanus, Brooklyn.)

joan-crawford-partier

Many have suggested throwing your own New Year’s Eve party, and offer vaguely insulting step-by-step tips on how to do so. The most memorable advice for throwing a party came from Joan Crawford, who was quite a partier in her day (see above). Her advice (see below)  can be summed up as:

  1. Have a mix of people as your guests, but nobody with dirty feet.
  2. Secretly drug them.

joan-crawford-advice-on-party-giving

(Don’t do this.)

CONCERTS

St. John the Divine Concert for Peace.

st-john-new-years-eve-concert An annual event since 1984, when it was founded by Leonard Bernstein. Free.  This year with special guests Judy Collins, soprano Jamet Pittman, and theater composer Jason Robert Brown, in a program that includes Haydn, Bach, African-American spirituals,  and a new work  “Light Shall Lift Us,” a musical response to the Pulse nightclub killings in Orlando.

The New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center: “Some Enchanted Evening.” Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and Tony-winning baritone Paulo Szot sing Broadway hits from The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, while the orchestra performs Copland and Strauss. The bad news about this concert is that it’s sold out. The good news is that it’s being broadcast live on PBS starting at 8 p.m.

Phish

Phish at Madison Square Garden for the tenth year in a row!

The Long Bellow at Bowery Ballroom

Louis Armstrong Tribute with Joey Morant and Catfish Stew at BB King Blues Club.

CABARET

Tip: Most cabarets offer two seatings on New Year’s Eve. The one earlier in the evening is far less expensive. Many of these performers return to these venues every New Year’s — a wonderful tradition that makes last-minute tickets chancy, but worth trying.

Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford, with her band the Whiskey 5, at Feinstein’s/54 Below

Annaleigh Ashford

Annaleigh Ashford

charles-busch

Playwright and performer Charles Busch at Feinstein’s/54 Below early show

Sandra Bernhard at Joe’s Pub

SandraBernhard

Natalie Douglas at the Duplex — her 17th New Year’s there

NatalieDouglas

Marilyn Maye at the Metropolitan Room

maye_pre_060310_gls_030

FIREWORKS

NewYearsEvefireworks

Annual Prospect Park Fireworks – free. at Grand Army Plaza

Coney Island New Year’s Eve Celebration – free fireworks on the boardwalk

Central Park Fireworks (See also midnight run below)


HARBOR CRUISES

Big selling point of all these cruises — a close-up of the New Years Eve fireworks over the water. Most include a buffet, open bar, and dancing with a dj. Drawbacks: These cost hundreds of dollars, and many are already sold out.

Circle Line New Year’s Eve Cruises

 Zephyr New Year’s Eve Family Cruises

A MEDITATIVE ALTERNATIVE
The Kadampa Meditation Center in Chelsea, $30 for non-members, provides a way for you to “ring in the New Year “with compassion and beneficial intentions!” — hors d’oeuvres, meditation, and no alcohol. (Pre-registration is required.)
WALKING AND RUNNING AND BIKING
New York Road Runners’  Emerald Nuts Midnight Run in Central Park
Shorewalkers Happy New Years Day Hike — Hiking the shores and parks of upper Manhattan starting at noon on New Year’s Day, which gives you a good excuse to go to bed early.
19th annual Bike Ride and Outdoor After Party, from Time’s Up environmental action organization, which meets in Washington Square Park at 10 p.m. and bicycles en mass to the Belvedere Castle in Central Park.
WHAT’S ON TV
ABC: Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with hosts Ryan Seacrest and Fergie. For the 45th year, ABC invites viewers to a “Rockin’ Eve,” although the show has been without longtime host and producer Clark since his death in 2012. Gloria Estefan, Mariah Carey and the cast of  “On Your Feet” from Times Square, plus  guests from the Billboard Hollywood Party in California.
andersoncooperCNN: New Year’s Eve Live With Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin for the tenth year, from Times Square, with CNN correspondents reporting from celebrations across the country — and, afterwards,  a second countdown from New Orleans.
(I can’t help quoting what Anderson Cooper said in 2013: “I don’t know anybody who has a fun time at a party at New Year’s Eve. That’s why I work on New Year’s Eve.”
Fox: Pitbull’s New Year’s Revolution. from Miami, with Queen Latifah and Snoop Dogg

FXX: A 30-hour marathon of “The Simpsons” animated TV series, dubbed “The Simpsons New Year’s Resolutions,” beginning with “The Simpsons Movie” at 6 p.m. on Dec. 31 and continuing with resolution-themed episodes from the past 26 seasons. (And yes, they did a Simpsons marathon last year too)

NBC: New Year’s Eve With Carson Daly.Daly returns to Times Square for the 14th year, joined by Mel B. Performers include Jennifer Lopez, Alicia Keys, Pentatonix and Blake Shelton.

PBS: Live from Lincoln Center New York Philharmonic concert, followed by Downton Abbey marathon. (And yes, they did that marathon last year too)

Some TV specials you might want to avoid:
AMC: “The Walking Dead” marathon all New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Fox News Channel: “All American New Year” will feature President-Elect Donald Trump live from Florida starting at 11 p.m.
You can also watch the Times Square festivities online here
 DogonNewYearsEve