I get asked this question a lot: “What shows should I see on Broadway?” I get asked from friends who are visiting New York City for the weekend, teachers who are taking their students on an extended field trip and even friends who live in the city. Now, I usually try to answer that question, keeping in mind, what my friends or students would be interested in seeing – making sure its content and style appropriate.
Here are the top five shows you should see on Broadway, as of November 4th 2009. It’s always changing!
1. Next to Normal at Booth Theatre – Next to Normal is a breath of fresh air, especially when comparing it to such shows as Jersey Boys or even Disney’s Mary Poppins (which I happen to love). Tom Kitt’s beautifully crafted rock opera deals directly with heartache in a way that’s never been presented in musical theatre. Alice Ripley’s Tony Award winning performance alone is reason to buy tickets to this show. Ripley is stunning – you walk away thinking you’ve witnessed something extremely special. With the difficult level of the score, intensity of the acting and fiery energy that the actors bring to the show every night, I thought that it might actually get “tired” as the run went on. When I saw it for a 4th time in October, the show has only become tighter, more emotional and somehow even more exciting. It’s my all-time favorite show I’ve seen on Broadway. Don’t miss it! Buy tickets here.
2. Finian’s Rainbow at St. James Theatre – The reviews have poured in and they have been nothing less than stellar. Variety.com reports “From the moment music director Rob Berman raises his lighter-than-air baton on the show’s soaring overture, blissful surrender is the only option.” It’s true; the score is stunning. It’s traditional musical theatre at it’s finest, yet somehow feels updated and fresh. With songs like “Old Devil Moon” and “Look to the Rainbow” you can’t help but fall in love with stars, Cheyenne Jackson and Kate Baldwin. I can not wait until the CD recording comes out (though no report has been made on whether a cast album is in the making). Christopher Fitzgerald stays true to the old theatre homage, “There are no small parts.” He’s a terrific leprechaun – perfect comedic timing and a fantastic voice. Watch this story about Terry White’s road back to Broadway. It will definitely pull on your heart strings. Finian’s Rainbow’s first-ever revived production is a classic that you must not miss. Ticket info here.
3. In the Heights at Richard Rogers Theatre – Since it won the 2008 Tony for “Best Musical”, In the Heights has been a hit on Broadway. Luckily, if you aren’t traveling to Broadway anytime soon, you can catch the In the Heights tour coming to San Francisco in the Spring. You can follow them on twitter at #Heights_Tour. I took 35 choir students to this production on Broadway in March and they absolutely fell in love with it, just as I had when I saw it for the first time. You know it’s good, when I get a text from my wife at intermission saying, “This is the BEST thing I’ve ever seen on Broadway.” (And she’s the real critic! This was also before she had seen Next to Normal.) The infusion of Latin/Rap/Pop music into musical theatre isn’t groundbreaking or new, but Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics are. The end of Act I, when they sing “Blackout” — fireworks literally and figuratively go off on stage. It’s electrifying! Info here.
4. Hair at Al Hirschfield Theatre – Hair has been rocking audiences since the 1960’s. The new Broadway revival was my first introduction to Hair. Yes, I’ve heard the music. Yes, I knew there was the nudity! (gasp!) Yes, I had read about it in all of my musical theatre books. Hair changed musical theatre and finally I found out why! I purchased the cheapest seats I could, which ended being on the last row of the mezzanine, yet I still felt like I was on the front row. Why? Because, the performers literally come into the audience and perform in the aisle ways, even up to the last row. The musical is all about community and you feel like you are a part of the Hair tribe for a few hours. And everyone needs a chance to let the sun shine in. If you get a chance, run up to the stage at the end of the show! When else will you get a chance to dance with Broadway stars on a Broadway stage. Unfortunately I was too hesitant and I missed my chance. What’s there not to love? Info here.
5. Ragtime at Neil Simon Theatre – Playbill.com describes it perfectly, “This much-loved musical explores themes ranging from immigration to racism and social unrest in the early 20th century. The recent (and acclaimed) Kennedy Center revival arrives on Broadway.” Though I haven’t seen this production, I’ve heard numerous wonderful things from people who’ve seen it. I had the opportunity to hear Christiane Noll sing at the Broadway Teachers Workshop this summer and I knew then I just had to see this. It’s definitely on my list of shows to see when I’m in New York City next. It’s only been eleven years since Ragtime opened on Broadway! Their slogan is “The Story is Ours. The Place is America. The Time is Ragtime.” Watch for Broadway newcomer, Stephanie Umoh – she’s a recent BoCo graduate. If you’ve seen it, please let us know what you think. Info, here.
- The Toxic Avenger Musical – Technically this is Off-Broadway, but if you loved shows like “Little Shop of Horrors” or “Bat Boy, the musical” then you will LOVE this show. It’s a toxic treat!
- Rock of Ages – From “Don’t Stop Believing” to “Every Rose Has it’s Thorn” — the 1980’s Rock classics are all in there. Go right now to see Kerri Butler (of Xanadu, Bat Boy, and Little Shop of Horrors fame) play Sherrie.
- God of Carnage – If you are in the mood to see a play, then try to purchase scalped tickets to this one. It’s 90 minutes of pure brilliance — a voyeuristic look into two couple’s relationships.
- South Pacific – With a ridiculously big orchestra, let Rodger & Hammerstein’s music sweep right over you. Even at three hours long, you won’t want it to stop. It’s a perfect revival of a golden-age classic. (And, the darling Kelli O’Hara is back playing Nellie Forbush!)