Another year, another smash season on Broadway. Times Square is so jammed with theater-goers and tourists every evening that it is quicker to walk a long block over to Eight Avenue rather than try to navigate through the crowds on Broadway to reach most theaters. Business on the Great White Way is booming, with the season just ended in May being the biggest year ever.
I spent last week last week at the Broadway League’s Spring Road Conference, being wined and dined by the producers of new shows contending for a Tony award. Where do I start? There are so many good shows this season.
Two outstanding revivals are on everyone’s “must see” list. A new Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Bartlett Sher (South Pacific and King & I) is gorgeous with many outstanding performances including Tony nominee Danny Burstein (Tevye). A new production of the Color Purple, directed by Scot John Doyle (Sweeney Todd), has been hailed as “A Miracle on Broadway, a Glory to Behold” by the NY Times.
With music and lyrics by the Fiddler team of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, She Loves Me is a gem and a classic. The stars, Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi, give brilliant performances and David Rockwell’s set just might win a Tony.
American Psycho has not had many favorable reviews. But if one can get past all the blood and violence, the show delivers a stylish, flashy piece of theater with great music by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening).
School of Rock is entertaining and amusing. The audiences are packed with teenage wannabes rocking out to music played by teenage actors, who are very talented musicians. And, for his latest effort, Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber received many positive reviews, something that hasn’t happened with his last few shows.
Bright Star is a warm-hearted bluegrass musical written by comedian Steve Martin and singer/writer Edie Brickell with a double-wedding happy ending. Lead actress Carmen Cusak should win the Tony for her superb performance.
Based on the 2007 film, Waitress is another feel-good, happy-ending musical. It even sends the appetizing smells of fresh-baked pies into the audience to ensure everyone walks out with a smile on their face. The music and lyrics are by pop singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. Reviewers call the show “fresh and delicious”, “mouth-watering” and “love at first bite”.
Shuffle Along is a star-studded revival/re-imagination of the 1921 all-black musical, the first of its kind to succeed on Broadway. With an infectious jazz score and exuberant dancing, headliners Audra MacDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell and choreographer-mega-tap-dancer Savion Glover, the show arrived on Broadway with high expectations. And it meets most of them, delivering “a dazzling production that celebrates art, dreams, and equality.”
And, of course, there is the ticket-buyers’ favorite, Hamilton, which has the biggest advance sales of any Broadway show. Producer Jeffrey Seller (Rent, In the Heights) invited the conference attendees into the Richard Rogers Theatre Monday afternoon for a face-to-face with Lin Manuel Miranda and all the other nominees. It has a record 16 nominations. If that wasn’t enough to secure every Tony vote, the show threw the biggest and flashiest party of the conference, in the trendy meat-packing district at Barry Diller’s IAC headquarters building.
Phew. It is exhausting work (and great fun), attending the Spring Road Conference, but someone has to do it.
Which shows from this season will come to the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City? My best guess is School of Rock, Hamilton and Bright Star. Two other possibilities are Waitress and Shuffle Along.
Don’t forget to watch the Tony Awards Show on Sunday, June 12.