Written by: Tyler Martins
The curtain of the first preview of the fourth show of the new Broadway season is set to rise this Sunday. The new season is full of exciting musicals and plays. Last season, there were only two musical revivals on Broadway. This season, there are at least half a dozen, ranging from ANNIE to EVITA, in addition to a few original musicals, such as LYRISTRATA JONES, who is making the move from a 99-seat gymnasium to the Walter Kerr Theater this fall.
Here are the 5 musicals that my my Broadway Musical Shortlist of Must-Sees.
Frank Wildhorn is at it again. Last season, his WONDERLAND opened on Broadway to terrible reviews, was shut out at the Tony Awards and closed within weeks of opening. This isn’t the first time Wildhorn has faced failure, either. Many of Wildhorn’s shows, such as JEKYLL & HYDE, CIVIL WAR and DRACULA (but to name a few) have failed to recoup or give Wildhorn a good name. One does have to admire him, though – he never gives up. (Wildhorn has had other successes, of course, including an international hit written for Whitney Houston.)
This time, Frank Wildhorn has musicalized the popular story of bandits Bonnie and Clyde. The musical takes place in Depression era Texas and starts off with a 23 year old Bonnie singing of unfulfilled dreams and a world away from diners and waiting tables. Enter Clyde, who has broken out of jail and the two fall in love. The musical chronicles their romance, their life of crime, and their untimely death at the hands of the sheriff.
The musical has had two out-of-town productions in La Jolla, California and Sarasota, Florida, receiving raves for both the leading actors (Laura Osnes as Bonnie in both tryouts, Stark Stands and Jeremy Jordan as Clyde, respectively) and the score, winning regional awards for Outstanding New Musical, Outstanding Lead Actor and Actress and Outstanding Direction.
BONNIE AND CLYDE will star Laura Osnes (ANYTHING GOES, GREASE) and Jeremy Jordan (ROCK OF AGES, WEST SIDE STORY) and play the Schoenfeld Theater, beginning November. Although I am not a fan of these sort of Western dramas, I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Bonnie and Clyde. Based on the 5 tracks available on the official website, I venture to say that Wildhorn has perhaps his greatest score yet. With lyrics by Don Black, a book by Hunter Foster, and direction by Jeff Calhoun, will Wildhorn finally have his hit musical and big Broadway breakout?
Harry Connick, Jr. is coming back to Broadway, this time, starring as Dr. Mark Bruckner in the re-imagined and revised Lerner and Lane musical ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER set to begin performances November 12th at the St. James Theater. The new re-imagined book has altered Daisy to Davey, a quirky, gay floral assistant. Bruckner puts Davey under hypnosis, and discovers the patient’s past life as Melinda, a jazz singer, and falls in love with her.
The original production starred John Collum as Dr. Mark Bruckner and Barbara Harris as Daisy/Melinda, but was not received very well, thanks to the clunky and confusing book (reportedly written while on LSD.) The score, however, was lauded as “melodic and rich” with soaring numbers like “Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here!,” “She Wasn’t You” and “Come Back To Me.”
David Turner and Jessie Mueller join Harry Connick, Jr. as Davey and Melinda, respectively. It will be interesting to see if and how the new book addresses the issues of the original production. I am also curious to see Harry Connick, Jr. tackle the role of Dr. Bruckner as well as see him live. More important, I am excited to hear the luscious score backed by a decent sized orchestra.
We’ll see how well David Turner can fill Barbara Harris’ shoes.
Audra McDonald is a goddess. I would see her sing the phonebook, every night, if that were an option. I was extremely excited when news broke that Audra was leaving as series regular on the hit TV medical drama Private Practice. In my mind, that meant she would be back on stage in no time. Lo, and behold, Broadway will welcome Audra McDonald back where she belongs.
Broadway has not seen a production of the Gerswhin’s PORGY AND BESS since its last revival at the Uris Theater (and subsequent transfer to the Mark Hellinger Theater) in 1976. PORGY AND BESS tells the story of crippled Porgy, and his love for Bess, set on fictional Catfish Row, South Carolina. The piece (performed usually in an Opera House as a sung-through opera) is being re-imagined by Diane Paulus, Artistic Director of the American Repertory Theater, in Cambridge. Pultizer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (TOPDOG/UNDERDOG, BOOK OF GRACE) is “working to retain all the best-loved elements of the original while crafting a piece that speaks to contemporary audiences.”
As if this wasn’t exciting enough, Audra McDonald will play the famed Bess, opposite Norm Lewis as Porgy. To hear Audra and Norm croon such standards such as “My Man Is Gone Now” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” will be quite the experience, according to backers who partook in an industry reading in New York City. PORGY AND BESS will have an out-of-town tryout at the ART, and will play the Richard Rodgers Theater, with performances beginning December. David Alan Grier will join Norm Lewis and Audra McDonald as Sportin’ Row.
Will this be the role that gives Audra McDonald her fifth Tony Award?
Upon news that Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin were bringing their concert act AN EVENING WITH PATTI LUPONE AND MANDY PATINKIN to Broadway, I was both exhilarated and crushed. My love for Patti LuPone knows no bound. You would think I would be thrilled to have Patti LuPone back on Broadway. Normally, I would be bouncing off the walls. One problem: I am not Mandy Patinkin’s biggest fan. (Gasp, a Sondheimanic who doesn’t like Mandy – shocking.) I have never seen Mandy Patinkin live (to be fair, I have actively stayed as far away as possible from him) but now that Patti LuPone will be joining him on stage every night, starting November 16th at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, for a limited engagement of 63 performances, I cannot avoid him any longer.
The concert act is directed by Mandy Patinkin himself, with musical staging by Ann Reinking, with the fantastic Paul Ford on piano. LuPone and Patinkin explore the changes of a romantic relationship, through musical theater songs selected carefully. Many of the songs come from the Rodgers & Hammerstein and Sondheim songbooks, such as Mandy singing of lost love in “This Nearly was Mine” and Patti singing of life’s domesticities in “In Buddy’s Eyes.”
I have a serious case of Theatrical Cognitive Dissonance. Will I be at the Barrymore almost every night? Yes. Will I love it? Yes. Will I this concert change my mind about Mandy Patinkin? That remains to be seen.
And the musical I am MOST excited to see it…
Surprised? I didn’t think so. I have been losing my mind (pardon the pun) for this production of FOLLIES before it was even destined for Broadway, when it played at the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. With a cast composed of Jan Maxwell, Bernadette Peters, Danny Burstein, Ron Raines, Terri White, Elaine Paige and more, how can one not be excited?
The story of FOLLIES focuses on two unhappy, married couples amidst a reunion of showgirls: Ben and Phyllis Stone; and Buddy and Sally Plummer. While the middle-aged couples confront some unpleasant truths about their past and present and come face to face with the future, showgirls from the Weisman Follies perform their signature act, sometimes accompanied by the ghost of their former selves.
It will be curious to see the changes made from the Kennedy Center production, including the pacing of Act 1. Rumor has it that improvements have been made, such as the restoration of more parts of the original book (score!) as well as the re-choreographing of Phyllis’ Folly number, “The Story of Lucy and Jessie.”
The first preview is this Sunday, August 7th, at the Marquis Theater. Regardless of whether or not the show has been improved, one thing is for sure: hearing the rich, breath-taking and beautiful Sondheim score played by a 28 piece orchestra with the original Tunick orchestrations will be worth the price of admission alone.
Which musicals are YOU most excited for?