In the midst of the Holiday stretch of the 2010/2011 Broadway season there are no break out hits and with January just around the corner, this looks like your last chance to catch some of the best shows on the Great White Way, while they are still running. More than a dozen terrific Broadway shows will be closing before the end of the next month, many long running hits, as well some of this season’s finest are still available, but not for long.
The heartbreaking news is the two best musicals of the new season, The Scottsboro Boys and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, both transfers from Off-Broadway recently posted closing notices despite strong reviews.
The great musical theater team of Kander & Ebb, who gave us Chicago and Cabaret, created the outstanding musical, The Scottsboro Boys, helmed by the renowned choreographer Susan Stroman, who put a sterling cast through their paces. The story, a re-telling of a famous 1930 Alabama court case in which nine black youths were wrongly imprisoned for years on false charges of gang rape, is told as a minstrel show. The musical is an unflinching look at a real life tale with a rich score and strong lyrics, but The Scottsboro Boys closed on Sunday unable to attract a sizeable enough audience in the tourist driven holiday market.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which began life at The Public Theater last season before moving to Broadway, is a savvy sexy look at our seventh President, Andrew Jackson. The musical draws brilliant parallels to our contemporary politicians, while making many points about just how irrational the American public can be. Benjamin Walker plays the violent Andrew Jackson like a red hot rock star with charisma to spare. Composer/lyricist Michael Friedman has given us the smartest new score on Broadway this season. This would be a wickedly delightful way to spend the New Year, but January 2, 2011 is the closing date. Act fast, if this appeals to you.
On the upside it was announced today that the revival of Alfred Uhry’s 1987 play Driving Miss Daisy, a marvelous showcase for theater legends Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones, has been extended through April 9, 2011. The tale about an old Southern Jewish woman and her African-American chauffer covers the progression of their friendship over 25 years. Daisy was originally set to close on January 29, but the box office appeal of the two stars has given this one extra running power.
Leftovers from last season, which close on January 2 that are worth look, if you haven’t have the chance to catch them, include Fela, Bill T. Jones’ Tony award winning dance party musical that looks at Fela Kuti, a political protester and African dissident, who was world famous for his uniquely original Afrobeat, an amalgamation of the funky jazz style drum beat music he created. This is one hell of a musical sensation with a charismatic Sahr Ngaujah commanding the stage in the title role and Soul queen Patti LaBelle playing his mother until the final performance.
Also closing on that same date is Arthur Laurents’ revival of the classic 1957 musical West Side Story and the revival of the dated Burt Bacharach/Neil Simon 1968 musical comedy Promises, Promises (based on the 1960 film “The Apartment”) with an excellent Sean Hayes and a miscast Kristin Chenoweth. West Side Story, however, is not as memorable as the film version of the original musical, but the glorious score by Leonard Bernstein and the balletic choreography by Jerome Robbins make this one worth the money.
January 2 will also be the final performance for the really silly The Pee-wee Herman Show based on the late 1980’s television show for children and starring Paul Reuben the creator of the manchild, who refuses to grow up. This is a spirited colorful staging with all your favorite characters from the original reprising their roles for Broadway, but audience reaction may be the highlight of the evening.
If you haven’t seen the 2008 Tony award winning musical In the Heights, a pulsating Latin musical infused with the beats of hip hop, jazz, pop, and salsa, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s refreshingly old fashioned love letter to a Washington Heights neighborhood with large cast of players is an infectious celebration that closes on January 9.
Also closing on that same day are Daniel Sullivan’s intelligent staging of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino, which played Central Park this past Summer before moving to Broadway. However if you haven’t already purchased tickets, or have some connections, this may be an impossible show to get into. Pacino’s star power has The Merchant playing to capacity audiences nightly.
On the same day Trevor Nunn’s staging of the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s classic A Little Night Music now starring the delicious Bernadette Peters as Desiree, who is actually better than last year’s Tony Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones in the same role, and the caustic Elaine Stritch, who is replacing the great Angela Lansbury.
Last but certainly not least is Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt’s Next to Normal, the shocking Pulitzer Prize winning musical about mental illness, which closes on January 16 having run for well over a year after moving to Broadway from downtown where the musical originated.
Check with me next year on all the upcoming shows. The big talk at the moment is all the technical difficulties plaguing Julie Taymor’s Spider-Man. The first preview performance was an utter disaster with patrons demanding their money back.
Wishing you a terrific Holiday season and a Happy New Year.
By: Patrick Christiano
Originally Published on December 17, 2010 on Hamptons.com