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.
Back in November, I posted my top five favorite shows and since then two have closed and the other three have significant cast changes.
Here are the top five shows you should see on Broadway, as of March 8th 2010.
1. Next to Normal at Booth Theatre – Next to Normal continues to be #1 on my list for a number of reasons and even with the cast changes (Kyle Dean Massey is an excellent Gabe. I saw him last July and absolutely loved him!) Next to Normal is a breath of fresh air, especially when comparing it to such shows as Billy Elliot 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!
2. American Idiot at St. James Theatre – My number two pick last November was also at the St. James Theatre, but Finian’s Rainbow has since closed. (I did get to see the closing night performance of Finian’s Rainbow and it was spectacular.) Now, American Idiot doesn’t start previews until March 24th, 2010, but I saw it four times at Berkeley Rep in it’s out-of-town try-out and I can tell you it will blow your mind. It was the musical that actually inspired me to start this website. “Finally, someone has come along and given musical theatre the electro shock therapy it has needed for so long. While Tom Kitt’s newest musical, Next to Normal, deals directly with the affects of electro shock therapy, American Idiot is electro shock therapy for the audience. It screams independence and acceptance in a way that is nothing short of brilliant.” You can read the full review here.
3. In the Heights at Richard Rogers Theatre – This too, has had some major cast changes since I wrote about it last November. Corbin Bleu, of High School Musical fame, has now taken over the lead role. I’ve heard a lot of groaning when it was first announced, but I actually haven’t heard anything bad since. In the Heights won the 2008 Tony for “Best Musical” and has been a hit on Broadway ever since. 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 ’09 and they absolutely fell in love with it, just as I had when I saw it for the first time. 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!
4. Fela! at Eugene O’Neill Theatre – “Fela! is not a standard musical. It’s not even a non-standard musical. Frankly, I don’t think you can even call it a musical, because I feel that somehow diminishes what Fela! is. Yes, Fela! is on Broadway and I’m sure it will be nominated (maybe even win) a Tony Award for Best Musical, but I would call Fela! an experience, not a musical.” And that experience needs to be had by everyone! Read my full review here. The Broadway Critic was even posted on their news section as saying, “Prepare yourself for an experience unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.”
5. A Little Night Music at Walter Kerr Theatre – I actually gave up my ticket to see this to see the closing performance of Finian’s Rainbow. (Read the full story here.) I’ve only heard fabulous things about this production and that Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones are exquisite in their roles. In the New York Times Catherine Zeta-Jones is said to be, “…drop-dead gorgeous in David Farley’s wasp-waisted period dresses, Ms. Zeta-Jones brings a decent voice, a supple dancer’s body and a vulpine self-possession to her first appearance on Broadway.” Just make sure that Ms. Zeta-Jones isn’t on vacation when you book your tickets. (And they are Ms. Lansbury and Zeta-Jones are leaving after the Tony’s in June.)
Honorable Mentions –
- Hair – 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. The entire original cast had their last performance on March 7th, 2010 because they are moving to London to the West End. But, there’s a star-studded cast waiting to fill their shoes and their quite the shoes that need to be filled.
- 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. Plus, it features a new cast now: Dylan Baker, Jeff Daniels, Lucy Liu and Janet McTeer.
- 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. This beautiful production is closing on August 22, 2010.
On the Horizon: (Shows that I’ll be seeing at the end of March.)
- Addams Family at Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
- Come Fly Away at Marquis Theatre
- La Cage aux Folles at Longacre Theatre
- Million Dollar Quartet at Nederlander Theatre
- Promises, Promises at Broadway Theatre
- Sondheim on Sondheim at Studio 54
- A View From the Bridge at Cort Theatre