Monday, March 4, 2024

277 Broadway Shows So Far - Oh, The Memories!

I decided to make a list of every Broadway show I've ever seen.

And the list kept growing and growing and growing. So far I've got 277.

Mind you, I've seen some of these shows two or three times.
I've put an asterisk (*) next to some of my very favorites. I've put a pound (#) next to some of the shows I've seen more than once. And the tilde (~) represents shows that flopped.
How many hours in the theater does this amount to? Probably more than 700! Going over these shows brought back so many memories of time spent cocooned in Broadway theaters. 
Of course, some shows I barely remember while others stand out so vividly in my mind I feel like that are part of me. And all the moments that come to mind. For example, one weekend we saw three musicals, each 20 years apart: Barnam from the 1980s, Camelot from the 1960s and Oklahoma! from the 1940s -- all one word titles, too. What a weekend that was!
The real standouts include the magnificent Hal Prince production of Show Boat; Sondheim's original Sweeney Todd, Sunday In The Park With George and Pacific Overtures; Tommy Tune's Will Rogers Follies and Nine; Jerry Herman's Hello Dolly!, Mame and La Cage; Lloyd Webber's Phantom and Sunset Boulevard, and so many, many stars: Carol Channing, Lena Horne, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, Ethel Merman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Mandy Patinkin, Raul Julia, Nathan Lane, Gregory Hines, Jerry Orbach, Robert Preston, Matthew Broderick and on and on! 
This is still an incomplete list, but here it is up to this point:

110 In The Shade
42nd Street*
A Bronx Tale
A Chorus Line
A Day In Hollywood/A Night In The Ukraine
A Funny Thing . . . #
A Gentlemen’s Guide To . . .
Ain't Too Proud
A Joyful Noise
A Little Night Music
All American~
Always, Patsy Cline
A Matter of Gravity
A Party With . . .
A View From the Bridge#
After Midnight*
After the Fall
Ain’t Misbehavin’*
An American in Paris*
Annie Get Your Gun#
Any Wednesday
Anything Goes
Beauty and the Beast
Big Fish~
Big River
Blithe Spirit*#
Bonnie & Clyde~
Bubbling Brown Sugar
Bullets Over Broadway
Butterflies Are Free
Bye, Bye Birdie#
Catch Me If You Can
Chapter Two
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
City of Angels
Clothes for a Summer Hotel~
Crazy for You
Damn Yankees
Defending The Caveman
Design For Living#
Elaine Stritch At Liberty*
End Of Te Rainbow
Fiddler on the Roof
Finding Neverland
Finian’s Rainbow*
Five Guys Named Moe
Forty Carats
Funny Girl
Girl From The North Country
Golden Boy
Golden Rainbow~
Grand Hotel#
Grey Gardens
Groundhog Day
Guys and Dolls#
Happy Birthday, Gemini~
Hay Fever
Hello, Dolly!*# 
Henry Sweet henry
Here's Love~
Here We Are
High Fidelity~
High Society
Honeymoon in Vegas~
How To Succeed In Business . . .#
I Do, I Do
I Love My Wife
I Married An Angel
I Remember Mama~
Into The Woods
It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman
It Shoulda Been You~
It’s Only a Play
I’m Not Rappaport
Jackie Mason on Broadway
Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well
Jekyll & Hyde
Jelly's Last Jam
Jersey Boys#
Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Kinky Boots
Kiss Me, Kate#
Kiss of the Spider Woman
La Cage aux Folles 
Last of the Red Hot Lovers
Legally Blonde
Lena Horne – The Lady and Her Music#
Lend Me A Tenor
Les Miserables
Light Up The Sky
Little Me*#
Little Shop of Horrors#
Love Never Dies~
M. Butterfly
Mack & Mabel
Man of La Mancha
Mandy Patinkin in Concert
Mary Poppins
Mass Appeal
Me and My Girl*#
Million Dollar Quartet
Miss Moffat~
Mr. Saturday Night
Moon Over Buffalo
Mornings At Seven
Moulin Rouge
Mr. Saturday Night
Mrs. Doubtfire
My Fair Lady#
My One and Only*
Nice Work If You Can Get It*
No, No, Nanette*
Noises Off
Oh Coward!
Oh! What A Lovely War
Once On This Island
On Your Toes
On the Town
On the Twentieth Century
Over Here!
Pacific Overtures*#
Paint Your Wagon
Pal Joey
Paradise Alley~
Penn & Teller
Peter Pan*
Play It Again, Sam
Present Laughter
Pretty Woman
Prince of Broadway
Private Lives#
Promises, Promises
Pump Boys and Dinettes
Putting It Together
Purlie Victorious
Same Time, Next Year
Saturday Night Fever
She Loves Me
Show Boat*#
Shuffle Along*
Side Show
Side by Side by Sondheim*
Singin’ In The Rain#
Sly Fox
Smokey Joe’s Cafe
Social Security~
Some Like It Hot
Something Rotten!
Sophisticated Ladies*
South Pacific*
SpongeBob Square Pants
Starlight Express
Steel Pier~
Sugar Babies*#
Sunday in the Park with George*
Sunset Boulevard*
Sweeney Todd*
Teddy & Alice~
The Addams Family
The Band Wagon
The Band's Visit
The Belle of Amherst
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
The Boy From Oz
The Bridges of Madison County~
The Drowsy Chaperone*
The Flying Karamazov Brothers
The Front Page
The Full Monty
The Glass Menagerie
The Goodbye Girl
The Happy Time
The Illusionists
The King and I*#
The Life~
The Light in the Piazza
The Magic Show
The Most Happy Fella
The Music Man*#
The New Yorkers
The Phantom of the Opera
The Play That Goes Wrong
The Producers
The Red Shoes~
The Ritz
Road Show
The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life . . .
The Sound of Music
The Wedding Singer~
The Will Rogers Follies*
The Wiz
They’re Playing Our Song
This Was Burlesque*
Thoroughly Modern Millie*
Tommy Tune Tonite!
Vanya and Sonia And Masha and Spike*
Victor Victoria*
Vieux Carré~
War Paint
We Take The Town~
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?*#
Wonderful Town
 You Can’t Take It With You
Young Frankenstein

* personal fave
# seen more than once
~ flop

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Broadway Lights To Dim Saturday Night

The Broadway community honors the memory of Chita Rivera, the two-time Tony Award®-winning actress, and recipient of the 2018 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement, whose career spanned seven decades on Broadway. Ms. Rivera passed away on January 30, 2024, at the age of 91. On February 17, 2024, the Committee of Theatre Owners will dim the lights of Broadway theatres in New York for one minute at exactly 7:45pm, in her honor. 

“Chita Rivera was Broadway royalty, and we will miss her with all our hearts. For nearly seven decades she enthralled generations of audiences with her spellbinding performances and iconic roles. The triple threat actor, singer, and dancer leaves behind an incredible legacy of work for which she was honored with a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League.

Ms. Rivera’s Broadway career began in 1950 performing in Guys and Dolls and by 1957 she was starring as the original “Anita” in West Side Story. Revered for the remarkable roles she created on the stage, she would star as “Rose” in Bye Bye Birdie, “Velma Kelly” in Chicago, and “Aurora” in Kiss of the Spiderwoman. 

She was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning two for The Rink (1984 Best Actress in a Musical) and Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993 Best Actress in a Musical), and was the recipient of the 2018 Special Award for Lifetime Achievement.

On Broadway Ms. Rivera’s credits included: The Visit (2015); The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012 Revival); Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life (2005); Nine (2003 Revival); Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993); Jerry's Girls (1985); The Rink (1984); Merlin (1983); Bring Back Birdie (1981); Chicago (1975); Bajour (1964); Bye Bye Birdie (1960); West Side Story (1957); Shinbone Alley (1957); Mr. Wonderful (1956); Seventh Heaven (1955); Can-Can (1953); and Guys and Dolls (1950).

On Tour Ms. Rivera’s credits included: Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life (2006); Chicago (1997); Kiss of the Spider Woman (1994); Can-Can (1988); Chicago (1977); Zorba (1969); Sweet Charity (1967); and Call Me Madam (1952).

Ms. Rivera’s Broadway biography can be found on the Internet Broadway Database. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

2024 Tony Awards To Air On June 16

CBS presents “The 77th Annual Tony Awards,” which will broadcast live from The David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City on Sunday, June 16, 2024.

The Tony Awards eligibility cut-off date for the 2023-2024 season is Thursday, April 25, 2024 for all Broadway productions which meet all eligibility requirements. Nominations for the 2024 Tony Awards will be announced on Tuesday, April 30, 2024.

The 77th celebration will recognize all of the award categories and honor the incredible artistry of the 2023-2024 season. The Tony Awards is presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

The Antoinette Perry “Tony” Awards, which was founded by the American Theatre Wing in 1947, are bestowed annually on theatre professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway. The Tony is one of the most coveted awards in the entertainment industry and the annual telecast – the night America watches Broadway – is considered one of the most prestigious programs on television. The Tony Awards have aired on CBS since 1978.

The Tony Awards are produced in collaboration with Tony Award Productions, a joint venture of The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, and White Cherry Entertainment. Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss are executive producers for White Cherry Entertainment. Weiss will serve as director.

Follow @TheTonyAwards on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook.

About the Tony Awards

The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. At The Broadway League, Lauren Reid is Chair and Charlotte St. Martin is President. At the American Theatre Wing, Emilio Sosa is Chair and Heather A. Hitchens is President & CEO.

Sponsors for The Tony Awards include: Carnegie Mellon University - the first-ever, exclusive higher education partner; City National Bank - the official bank of The Tony Awards; Playbill; Rainbow Room - the official partner of the Tony Nominee Luncheon; Sofitel New York - the official hotel of The Tony Awards; United Airlines - the official airline of The Tony Awards for over 20 years; Zacapa Rum - the official partner of the Tony Awards; Baccarat - the official partner of the Tony Awards; and Ketel One Vodka - the official partner of the Tony Awards.

About the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Designed by the renowned architect Philip Johnson especially for George Balanchine and New York City Ballet, the David H. Koch Theater, originally named the New York State Theater, opened in 1964, and was the second major venue to open at Lincoln Center. Home of New York City Ballet and host to performances by artists from across the globe, the David H. Koch Theater is considered one of the world’s greatest performing arts venues.

Video: Remembering The Incomparable CHITA!

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Eight Decade Career: Broadway Legend Gone!

How to begin to describe the incredible star we have just lost? Yes, she was a Broadway legend -- one of the brightest and most enduring stars of the Great White Way. But she also was a standout in the movies and on TV.

Chita Rivera was a ten-time Tony Award nominee and a three-time Tony Award recipient, including one for Lifetime Achievement. She won Tonys for The Kiss of the Spider Woman and The Rink. She originated the iconic role of Velma in Chicago.

She was a genuine trailblazer -- the first Latina and the first Latino American to receive a Kennedy Center Honor, she also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her autobiography, Chita: A Memoir, was just published last year. Chita Rivera has died at 91, ending a career that spanned every decade from the 1950s into the 2020s.

In 1957, a then-25-year-old dancer named Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero landed her big break originating the role of Anita in West Side Story on Broadway. She then went on to recreate the role for the movies and then starred again in a supporting role in Steven Spielberg's most recent remake of West Side Story.

Her list of Broadway triumphs is nothing less than illustrious: Call Me Madam, Guys and Dolls, Can-Can, Mr. Wonderful, West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie (where she created the role of Rosie opposite Dick Van Dyke), Jerry's Girls, Chicago, The Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Rink, The Visit, Nine, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, among others.

She frequently appeared on numerous television variety shows, dramas and TV sitcoms and she remained active even as a nonagenarian.

Chita Rivera was simply an astonishing force of nature. She was born to perform and give joy to millions and she delighted in it with every breath she took. More than an indefatigable pro, she was a generous performer who shared the spotlight with others and mentored additional generations that followed her.

If you ever saw her perform live (and we have) you know that she had an inner glow that captured and enraptured every member of the audience!

Adiós, Chita. You will never be replaced!

Sunday, January 7, 2024

On Broadway: Five We've Liked Recently


Time to Catch Up with some Broadway shows. Here are five that we've enjoyed recently:

Purlie VictoriousThis is unquestionably one of the funniest shows on Broadway right now and Leslie Odom, Jr's performance is an absolute tour de force

And while the show may be billed as a comedy (subtitled "a non confederate romp through the cotton patch") it's also poignant, instructive, heartfelt and insightful. Directed by Kenny Leon, it's a revival of a 1961 Ossie Davis play about Purlie Victorious Judson, a Black self-made traveling preacher. Purlie decides to return to his segregated Georgia hometown with a mission to buy and rehab its derelict church, Big Bethel. And that's where all the action begins because this is a tall order as the church, like the town, is in the grip of racist tyrant Ol' Cap'n Cotchipee.

This is a fast-paced show superbly directed with first-rate actors whose timing alone will leave you breathless. You'll have to listen closely (until your ears become attuned to it) as Purlie is performed mostly in Black southern dialect and runs 100 minutes with no intermission. But it's all worth it as you'll be enjoying a true diamond in the rough and a rare gem of the American theater. Look for this one to cop a lot of awards at Tony time including best revival of a play.

Here We AreThis is about as different from the four others we're spotlighting as you can possibly imagine. In fact, it's not like any show on Broadway right now and, technically it's not on Broadway proper as it's being performed at The Shed at Hudson Yards. This is Stephen Sondheim's final musical inspired by the films of the noted French director Luis Bunuel.

Starring Bobby Cannvale, Steven Pasquale, Tracie Bennett, David Hyde Pierce, Jin Ha, Amber Gray and others, this is truly an ensemble effort directed by Joe Mantello with orchestrations by Sondheim vet Jonathan Tunick and music supervision by Alexander Gemignani, son of the great Sondheim conductor Paul Genignani. Clearly, this whole show is done in homage to The Master himself, the great composer/lyricist whose career spanned eight decades.

Here We Are is an existential musical. In fact, parts of it may as well have been written by the father of existentialism, the French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre because the show touches upon the very meaning of life itself, or lack thereof. But, the show is also about where one should dine on a given afternoon or evening, the pageantry of Catholicism, the wasteful indulgence of the bourgeoisie, capitalist greed, the drug culture, the seemingly ominous times we live in and the irrepressible optimism of youth. 

And since this is a Sondheim show (with a book by David Ives) it's provocative, topical, piercingly funny and often conflicted. Some of it will remind you of Company; some of it will remind you of A Little Night Music and some of it may even remind you of Merrily We Roll Along (now playing on Broadway to packed houses). But, in the end it's all new (if still somewhat unfinished) and worth seeing simply for itself.

Harmony. - If ever a musical was relevant to the here and now it's the new show Harmony, with music by the great Barry Manilow and book and lyrics by Bruce Sussman. (Video above)

And isn't it a shame that this musical reverberates today more than ever, since it's about the antisemitic persecution of the Comedian Harmonists, an ensemble of six young men in 1920s Germany. This is the true story of a group that took the world by storm with their blend of sophisticated close harmonies and uproarious stage antics. It's something that Manilow says he's been wanting to bring to the stage for decades. Standouts in the cast include the amazing Chip Zien who is bound to cop a Tony nomination as the star/narrator of the whole production and two women who become involved with the Hamonists, Julie Benko and Sierra Boggess. 

This is a Big Story to tell set against epic, historic events but the show must also focus on the real, everyday human struggles of these six guys. As you might expect, the tale is harrowing at times but it helps that the book is full of heart (coupled with regret and reflection) as the story is told in remembered flashbacks. Though the show can be boisterous and preachy in parts it is often redeemed by beautiful music and lyrics in songs such as Where You Go and Every Single Day, one of the finest ballads you'll hear on a Broadway stage right now. The singing in this show (both individual and ensemble) will blow you away!

Ain't Too Proud- Here's another show about a singing group -- and one that also encountered discrimination. Ain't Too Proud concerns itself with the life and times of the legendary Temptations, the R&B sensations who helped put Motown on the map. In this show you'll meet not just The Temptations but also The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Tammi Terrell and the mastermind behind the Motown Sound, Berry Gordy. 

As in Harmony, the story is narrated via reminiscences by the singing group's founder, in this case Otis Williams, portrayed by Michael Andreaus in the performance we attended. Again, the voices here are all first rate even in the touring company which is journeying throughout the country. And, oh those synchronized, carefully calibrated movements that accompanied the singing! The Temptations (and many other Motown groups) didn't so much dance as they moved in unison and always impeccably attired. It's explained that this became their calling card so that Black people could take pride in and emulate them while white folk could be reassured by their clean cut appearance and precise performance. In this manner, they shattered racial barriers and gave rise to "crossover" success on the Billboard charts and beyond.

In Ain't Too Proud you'll be treated to more than 30 tunes by The Temptations and other groups and learn the anguished story of a group that struggled but endured. In fact, from 1960 to the present day, more than 25 guys have composed the five members of The Temptations. It's an epic story that's not always easy to squeeze into two plus stage hours but it's guaranteed first-rate entertainment. (Video below)

Shucked. It isn't often these days that a show comes to Broadway with an original story and original music and lyrics -- not the musicalization of a book or a movie or a previously produced play. No, we're talking something completely original. And that's exactly what Shucked is -- a show which was in development for many years and was finally brought to Broadway where it was always meant to be.

We saw a recent performance and absolutely loved it! Featuring a book by Tony Award winner Robert Horn (Tootsie), a score by the Grammy Award-winning songwriting team of Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, and directed by Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien (Hairspray), this corn-fed, corn-bred American musical says it's "sure to satisfy your appetite for great musical theater." And it must be doing something right because it's enjoying a successful run at the Nederlander Theater (through January 21) and will soon be touring throughout the country.

Shucked is about a small town that depends totally on its vibrant corn crop -- until the crop, mysteriously, stops producing the town's lifeblood. What happened and why? And how does Shucked get it mojo back? Well, that's what this corn huskin' tale is all about. 

Yeah, Shucked is corny. But it's also clever, surprising, timely and laugh out loud funny. You'll have to listen closely because the one-liners (even in the songs) come at you faster that a road runner. If you saw the scene from Shucked on the recently televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade you know what we're talking about. And Alex Newell totally brings the house down when she sings the defiant, tuneful "Independently Owned." In fact, all of the members of the young, exuberant Shucked cast are wonderful.

And here's the thing we loved most about this show -- Shucked is not overly impressed with itself. It doesn't pretend to be delving into the meaning of life. It doesn't try to be slick or sophisticated. It aims for down home authenticity, and it succeeds. But please don't get the idea that Shucked is dim witted -- far from it! The production values are first rate and this show provides a good dose of social commentary while managing to nonetheless serve it all up with a plenty of heart. 

Be sure to get tickets when it some to a city near you!

Monday, October 16, 2023

An Instructive 'Merrily' Wins The Day!

Near the beginning of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Merrily, We Roll Along (now revived on Broadway) there’s a song sung by the character Mary (expertly portrayed by Lindsay Mendez) in which Mary begs her two best friends (Frank and Charley) to repair their fractured relationship. Mary wants things to go back to the way they were. She wants the three of them to be best friends, chums — ”the way it was.” But at the end of the song Mary admits that the way she wants it to be really "never ever was .” You have to listen closely for this line in the song Like It Was but in it lies one of the keys to the whole show.

Because our recollections of the way things were are nothing more than well-worn dreams – – dreams of the way we wanted things to be; dreams of the way we thought things might turn out; dreams of all the wonderful things we hoped might lie ahead for us. But dreams are only that – – dreams. They’re ephemeral. They do not foretell reality. And this most heartfelt of Stephen Sondheim’s musicals is, at its core, a tuneful but nonetheless instructive homily about letting go of your dreams.

The other key takeaway from the story of Frank, Mary and Charley is this: if you want to reach the top; if you want to be really rich and famous; if you honestly want it all, you’d better be prepared to also let go of many of the people you encountered along the way, including people who’ve helped you and yes, treasured friends and loved ones as well.

At the end of this story, Frank’s life lies in shambles and Mary and Charley are left damaged from their relationship with him. He's toxic.

And this is a musical?

Damned right!

Indeed, this is one brilliant Sondheim musical with a book by George Furth adapted from then original George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart play of the same name. And, fortunately for this show, the action moves backwards from end to beginning so the whole thing unfolds almost as a series of consecutive flashbacks. That’s good news because, strangely enough, movings backwards makes it all palatable and at the end we still have our dreams and some semblance of hope

In 1981 when this musical debuted on Broadway audiences weren’t quite ready for it and frankly, the show itself wasn’t ready for the Big Time. It flopped.

It took all these years, lots of tinkering, workshops and later productions (mostly in the UK) to bring the show to where it is now. Under Maria Friedman’s superb direction and starring Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff and Lindsay Mendez, the show is reborn as a the cautionary tale of a man who gave up everything simply to discover that familiar truth: it’s lonely at the top — very lonely!

The narrative has been strengthened in this”new” Merrily. Consequently, it’s quite talky. But the dialogue is necessary to flesh out the three principals. Jonathan Groff’s Frank is appropriately conflicted before he’s hopelessly seduced. Groff is a perfect leading man here — compelling but illusive at the same time. Daniel Radcliffe’s Charley is a lovable lyricist who fights to hold onto his ideals and his artistic integrity. When he sings Franklin Shepard, Inc. it completely stops the show. It’s positively definitive. And Mary? Well, she’s sorta the preverbal third wheel but also a best selling author who’s harbored a lifelong crush on Frank. This is a classic case of unrequited love — enough to turn anyone (including Mary) into an alcoholic. Groff Radcliffe and Mendez own these roles.

And here’s the secret: they don’t oversell the songs. There’s no need to belt when the material is this good. And these three are nothing less than triumphant. Plus, the supporting cast (including Krystal Joy Brown, Katie Rose Clarke and Reg Rogers) is strong as well. Rogers’ version of Not A Day Goes By is heart wrenching.

Merrily We Roll Along has always been a treasure trove of great Sondheim songs tumbling forward like sparkling gems: Our Time, Opening Doors, Good Thing Going, Now You Know and It’s A Hit in addition to the aforementioned Like It Was, Franklin Shepard Inc and Not a Day Goes By. The score is dazzling in a way that no other show on the Great White Way can match.

If this show doesn’t scoop up a pocketful of Tony Awards (including Best Revival of a Musical) then you can hit the sack and go back to your childish dreams of what might have been.

On a scale of one to ten, this one is a solid 11!