Category Archives: Broadway

Broadway sign

What Hamilton Has Taught Us

Most people who experience a live theater production leave with a sense that they learned something, either about themselves or possibly the world around them. The characters, music, and dialog can add up to a moment of epiphany or understanding that few of life’s events can equal. 

One such production that has taken the United States by storm and is rich in life lessons, is the unlikely story of an American hero, politician, and statesman, Alexander Hamilton. In August of 2015, the hit show Hamilton premiered on Broadway. It has experienced an amazing run with productions in New York, Chicago, and London, with a traveling company that toured the U.S. 

Not only is the show wildly popular, but it is nearing the top 10 of highest grossing musicals of all time, and investors have seen returns of over 600%. These are not numbers that would be lost on our financially savvy Alexander Hamilton. 

revolutionary war image

Learn From the Past 

The story of Alexander Hamilton is filled with life lessons even though it is set in the late 1700s and early 1800s. One of the biggest lessons of the production is that we can still learn from what happened long ago. Our young country is still grappling with many of the same issues today. 

Take for example, the many instances in the production that makes references to the inequalities among immigrants, women, and people of color. The same theme of disenfranchisement and inequities can be seen in our nation today, as we struggle with how this pandemic is impacting people of color at a higher rate and how our nation has become divided in the protesting of brutality against men and women of color. 

theaterCombine the Old With the New 

Less than a decade ago, if someone had said they were going to write a musical meant for Broadway that would be set during the American Revolutionary War era, but set to contemporary rap and hip-hop-style music, they would have been laughed at. Lin-Manuel Miranda actually was laughed at as he described the production that was yet to be released. 

Yet, just five years after this production hit the stage, no one can imagine that this show would be anything other than spectacular! In fact, adults and children alike are singing the songs of Hamilton word-for-word. 

The lesson here is that by combining the old (historic lessons of the revolution) with the new (musical styles) one can learn deeply about an age that set the tone for our country. Forbes Magazine online stated that, “In Hamilton, a familiar story and an old theatrical genre gets a new perspective with a multi-cultural cast and contemporary music performed at a rapid-fire pace (if Hamilton was sung at the pace of a typical musical, the show would be almost six hours long). On stage, the cast is dressed in period costumes from the neck down, but their hair, their attitudes, and their vocal tone, are very much now.”

No matter what lesson you walked away from Hamilton with, you can probably bet that each theatergoer learned a little about how they feel about our country’s history, immigration, race relations, and the role that women play in all of this. Let us know what you took away from Hamilton in the comments or on our social media page.  

 

sheet music and piano keys

Get Your Theater Fix Through Streaming Services 

Are you missing the joy of going to the theater? The excitement of getting dressed up, heading into the city, and waiting for the curtains to go up has been lost the last few months. With no way to get a theater fix until 2021 theatergoers are looking elsewhere to get their theater fix. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, famous Broadway faces were known to record in tandem on Zoom and other video conferencing software to entertain in the face of the stay-at-home orders. Now that the virus has continued to spread, with no vaccine expected in the near future, theater lovers have shifted to streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Disney+, and Netflix to view their favorite shows. 

Broadway theater

Where Can I Find Theater Streaming? 

Word is spreading fast that Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon are offering some unique theater moments. Some television stations are even trying to prepare for potential live theater as they have done in the past. And what’s not found streaming may eventually be made into a Broadway-musical-turned-television-hit soon. 

While streaming is most certainly not the same as seeing a show in person surrounded by hundreds of other theater lovers, it will have to do for the time being. 

phone music

What’s Streaming Now? 

As of July Amazon is offering several streaming options for thespians to get their much needed theater fix. According to Playbill online, Guys and Dolls, Reefer Madness the Musical, Flower Drum Song, Hello Again, Sweeney Todd, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is currently streaming on Amazon. 

On Netflix there are several adaptations of Broadway shows that have come to life on the screen. Jersey Boys, Westside Story, and Fiddler on the Roof are top among audience choices. While these movie versions are not quite the same as seeing it live, it may be enough to hold over even the most diehard theater buff. 

We would be remiss if we did not mention the live streaming of Hamilton on Disney+ or that HBO Max is offering viewings of Chicago, Cabaret, Hairspray, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Little Shop of Horrors. Stay tuned to our blog to find what shows are coming out next and when we can expect Broadway and Off-Broadway to get back into the swing of things. 

When theaters reopen there will be much to rejoice about, but until then let’s enjoy some of the offerings from our small screen partners at Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, and HBO. 

 

popcorn in red and white striped container

The Inside Scoop on the Drama Desk Awards

Just because we have been reporting that the lights on Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters have gone dark doesn’t mean that the theater industry has dimmed its lights altogether. On June 13, 2020 the entertainment industry telecast the 65th Drama Desk Awards, which celebrates the best of Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off Broadway.

The awards, which were postponed due to COVID-19, were televised in a different format thanks to producers at NY1. Drama Desk Awards executive producer and Broadway Brands CEO, Matt Britten commented that, “Though these are challenging times, we knew we wanted to find some way to honor this year’s Drama Desk Award nominees and recipients, as well as to bring some small sense of normalcy and hope to New York’s theater community,” He went on to say, “I want to thank NY1, as well as the team at Joey Parnes Productions, for stepping up to make this happen for the New York theatre community and theatre fans everywhere. Good things happen when you work with good people.”

musical on stage

As usual, there was a large list of nominees for awards including: Outstanding Play, Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Revival of a Play, Outstanding Revival of a Musical, Outstanding Actors/Actresses in a Play/Musical, Outstanding Director, Choreography, Music, Lyrics, Book of a Musical, Orchestrations, Scenic Design, Costume Design, Lighting, Projections, Solo Performance, and Wig and Hair Design.

In addition to these awards, the Drama Desk honored lifetime achievements and special awards during the telecast including awards for ensemble, individual awards, and for those who have contributed their life’s work in the industry.

The awards were hosted by Frank DiLella and the pre-recorded show aired June 13 during a special presentation of NY1’s “On Stage.” It was live streamed on NY1.com and DramaDeskAwards.com. As a result of the truncated theater season, only shows that opened prior to the shutdown were eligible.

Times Square NY

The televised awards ceremony was meant to be a boost to the theater industry and shine some much needed light on the plight of those whose careers came to an abrupt end when Broadway shut down in March of this year.

For a complete list of the nominees and winners of the Drama Desk Awards check this link as published in Variety Magazine online. To follow the latest on Broadway and Off-Broadway events and a hopeful reopening by the end of the year follow our blog or our Facebook page.

Times Square NYC

Hurdles for Broadway to Bounce Back 

Have you ever heard the old adage, “The show must go on?” In the theater world this means that regardless of what happens, the performance will forge ahead. 

Often this phrase refers to continuing the show even if issues persist that could ruin a production such as: an actor forgetting their lines, lost props, lighting difficulties, audio issues, acts of nature, or any number of problems that can pop up in the middle of a performance. In most instances this phrase is a sign of the grit, determination, and positive attitude embraced by the theater community. Unfortunately, even the strength of the theater can not compete against a global pandemic. 

Chicago Musical

The Current State of Broadway 

Due to COVID-19, the 41 houses of Broadway in New York City shuttered their doors and the house lights have gone dark. Nearly two dozen New York City shows have been halted. Across the nation, similar news can be reported in major theaters and community productions. 

Not much stops theater productions from forging ahead, except for maybe a fast spreading virus that thrives in closed environments. As of mid-March most theaters across the country shut down live performances. Initially, Broadway theaters had hoped to open by April 12, 2020 only to push that date back due to the fact that New York City was the epicenter of the virus at the time. The new date was then June 7 of this year. That date has come and gone wth no opening occurring. The latest date being floated is currently September 6, 2020. 

This new Labor Day schedule has even the most optimistic of theatergoers questioning the reality of the date for opening. It’s not that patrons are not anxious to get back to their favorite form of entertainment. In fact, an industry survey conducted by Shugoll Research in early April revealed that 41 percent of NYC theatergoers are eager to return to the theaters when they are reopened. While that number may seem high there are some substantial issues that will potentially delay or stop altogether the reopening process for the “Great White Way.” 

Hamilton sign

Major Hurdles to Opening 

If theaters across the nation hope to open this year, before a vaccine is viable, there are a couple of major issues that will need to be addressed. 

Theaters are historically areas deemed to be close quarters. Chairs are lined up in close proximity in order for as many patrons to see the performance as possible. Orchestras that provide the live music are generally at the front of the theater in an orchestra pit. Actors and stage hands generally are huddled along the cramped wings of the theater until their cue is given to enter the stage. 

These conditions are not ideal for preventing the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, social distancing is a huge problem in most theater venues. 

Owners of some of the largest theaters across America are facing issues of how to keep both actors/stage hands as well as patrons socially distant during a performance. The answer may lie in spacing out the audience, creating larger prep spaces behind the curtain, and decreasing the number of performances weekly to allow for sanitation between shows. All of these solutions are costly and take quite a bit of effort. 

Another major issue that theaters are facing is one of demographics. Nearly 16% of theatergoers are over the age of 65. This is the highest risk category for the transmission and serious illness for the virus. The percentage climbs even higher if we remove tourists from the equation according to a report in MarketWatch online. 

Stay tuned as we anxiously await guidance from federal and state officials as to how our beloved theaters will tackle these issues and how we, as patrons can help. Visit our Facebook page to see more of how you can get involved. 

 

Shortest Running Broadway Shows

Heathen!A musical with book by Robert Helpmann and Eaton Magoon Jr and music and lyrics by Eaton Magoon Jr.  The beliefs and needs of two eras in Hawaii — 1819 and 1972 — are compared, with strong similarities emerging.  It ran for 6 Previews and 1 Performance on May 21, 1972 at the Billy Rose Theatre.

 

 

 

 

Cleavage: A musical with book, music, and lyrics by Buddy Sheffield.  It centers around a variety of couples of different ages pursuing love.  It ran for 6 Previews and 1 Performance at the Playhouse Theatre.  It had a successful run in New Orleans, and the day after the lone Broadway performance, it received favorable reviews from the New York Times.

 

 

 

Ring Around the BathtubA play written by Jane Trahey about an Irish American family’s struggles during the Depression era in Chicago.  It ran for 3 Previews and 1 Performance on April 29, 1972 at the Martin Beck Theatre.  The original cast included Elizabeth Ashley and Carole Kane.

 

 

 

 

Rainbow Jones: A musical with book, music, and lyrics by Jill Williams about a lonely young woman creates an imaginary world of animal friends while waiting for the right human male to appear. It also ran for 3 Previews and 1 Performance on February 13, 1974 at the Music Box Theatre.

 

 

 

 

There are a number of shows that played to 7 Previews and 1 Performance.  One of those being I Won’t Dance which was performed at the Helen Hayes Theatre on May 10, 1981This is a play written by Oliver Hailey about a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair who celebrates the recent mysterious murder of his brother and sister-in-law in a diabolic manner.  I point out this play because this is one of three plays written by Oliver Hailey that were cancelled on opening night.

 

 

To put these into context, there have been 36 Broadway shows cancelled after one performance.  I picked the ones above because they had the fewest previews so therefore the fewest performances overall.  A few of the one and done shows were revivals of successful original productions such as Take Me Along and The Ritz.  And just because a show has a short run doesn’t mean they were not successful.  Take the 1986 show Rags.  It ran for 18 Previews and 4 Performances but was nominated for a Tony for Best Musical.  The Lieutenant ran for 7 Previews and 9 Performances in 1975 and was also nominated for a Tony for Best Musical.  And lastly, in 1953, Carnival in Flanders took home the award for Best Actress in a Musical (Dolores Gray) even though it ran for only 6 Performances.  It still remains the shortest lived Tony honored performance ever.