Take Broadway Home! – Tony and Drama Desk Nominated Musicals; and from Off Broadway and the West End, Too
By: Ellis Nassour
How many of these shows have you seen? There are tickets available for most. However, if seeing is not in the picture, hearing certainly is. The featured original cast albums of the season’s new shows allow you to enjoy the experience of shows you’ve seen or whet your appetite for those you hope to see.
Last season, there was the landmark and Pulitzer-winning Hamilton. People were saying, “How could the 2016-2017 season top that?” There may not be another Hamilton, but there’s plenty of excitement and diversity in a season of distinguished musicals.
It’s been a season of musical superstars: Glenn Close, Bette Midler, Patti LuPone, Christine Ebersole. On the new original cast cds, you won’t hear the thunderous applause for Close, Midler, LuPone, Ebersole, but you’ll hear why there is so much thunderous applause. At Sunset Boulevard and Hello, Dolly!, mid-show standing ovations and numerous curtain calls for Close and Midler are the norm. You’ll hear why.
The Broadway League, the national trade association for Broadway, has released end-of-2016 – 2017 season statistics. It was the highest grossing one ever. Attendance reached 13,270,343 with a gross just short of $1.5-billion. This tally is only legit box office prices, which include premium sales.
“The variety of Broadway musicals and plays continues to attract enthusiastic audiences,” says Charlotte St. Martin, League president. “It’s been a season filled with creativity, innovation, exciting debuts, and thrilling comebacks. There’s nothing like live theater and no better way to see it than on Broadway.”
Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations have been announced – with the DD Awards on June 4 from Town Hall; and the Tonys, returning to Radio City Music Hall, for a June 11 telecast. There’ll snippets from all the current musicals on the Tony telecast.
There were 20 musicals, which includes six revivals; 20 plays, 10 original, nine revivals; and special productions.
Of course, you want to see the blockbuster hits, but until you can grab tickets these bargain-priced original cast albums are a perfect way to at least enjoy aspects of the in-person experience:
Amelie (Rhino Warner Classics; 26 tracks) by Daniel Messé and Nathan Tysen; closed; available June 9:
Tony nominee, the luminous Phillipa Soo (Hamilton) returned to Broadway in this charming, bittersweet musical with book by Pulitzer Prize and Tony nominee Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza), based on the beloved Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated French film.
Highlights: “Times Are Hard for Dreamers,” “Tour de France,” “Writing on the Wall,” “Stay,” “Where Do We Go from Here?”
Anastasia (Broadway Records; 25 tracks) by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens; available June 9:
DD nominated, Best Musical. Christy Altomare (a Sophie in Mamma Mia) is amnesiac orphan Anya, hoping to find family, who’s spotted by bungling conmen (Derek Klena, delightful DD nominee John Bolton (A Christmas Story; Dames at Sea) wish to take advantage of her likeness to Russia’s Grand Duchess Anastasia, thought to be the only survivor of the execution of Czar Nicholas and family. She’s so authentic that even the skeptics, including the Dowager Empress, radiant Tony/DD nominated Mary Beth Piel (Tony nominee, King and I). Based on Disney’s 1997 animated film [includes Oscar nominated “Journey to the Past” and five other film tunes].
Highlights: Original songs “In My Dreams,” “My Petersburg,” “Everything to Win,” “Journey to the Past.”
Bandstand (Broadway/Yellow Sound Records; 18 tracks) by Richard Oberacker and Rob Taylor; available June 23:
Returning WWII vet, a singer/songwriter, Corey Cott (Gigi; joined Newsies as Jack Kelly), forms a band with vets to seek the golden prize: Hollywood fame. But haunted by memories of his downed pal, he meets his young widow, Tony nominee Laura Osnes, who reluctantly joins the band. There’s instant attraction until a shattering secret is revealed. Pulsating Big Band-orchestrations by Tony, DD nominated Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen. Tony winner Beth Leavel (Drowsy Chaperone) co-stars.
Highlights: “Just Like It Was Before,” “Love Will Come and Find Me Again,” “Everything Happens,” “This Is Life,” “Welcome Home.”
A Bronx Tale (Ghostlight Records; 19 tracks) by Alan Menken and Glen Slater:
Move over Manhattan Heights, make way for the stoops of rough and tumble 60s Bronx, where crime does pay, in this adaptation of Chazz Palminteri’s 2007 streetwise one-man play (also a 1993 film) about a boys influences. It’s Dad v. Crime Boss, Richard H. Blake and DD nominee Nick Cordero (Waitress, Bullets over Broadway scene-stealer) with traces of Newsies, Wise Guys, and Jersey Boys doo wop.
Highlights: “Belmont Avenue,” “These Streets,” “I Like It,” “Out of Your Head.”
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Masterworks Broadway; 19 tracks) by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman; available June 2:
Chocolate-covered whimsy, readapted from the hit West End musical, based on Roald Dahl’s novel and featuring songs by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley from the 2005 film. Christian Borle, with John Rubenstein, and Emily Padgett (Side Show revival).
Highlights: “What Could Possibly Go Wrong,” “If Your Father Were Here,” “The View from Here.”
Come from Away (Musical Company; 25 tracks, including bonus) by David Hein and Irene Sankoff:
Tony/DD nominated for Best Musical. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, 38 planes enroute to the U.S. with 6,579 passengers were forced to land at Gander, Newfoundland’s former military base for a week due to air space closure. In a variety of motifs [folk reels to lush ballads], we meet unprepared locals who must rise to the occasion. Winning cast of townspeople and passengers includes Tony/DD nominee Jenn Colella, as American Airlines’ first female pilot, Chad Kimball (Memphis), Joel Hatch, Rodney Hicks, and Q Smith.
Highlights: “Welcome to the Rock,” “Lead Us Out of the Night,” “Me and the Sky,” “Stop the World.”
Dear Evan Hansen (Atlantic; 14 tracks) by Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, and Steven Levenson:
Tony and DD nominated for Best Musical. Broadway’s always attempting to attract younger audiences and those with good jobs or rich parents are flocking – along with adult theatergoers — to experience the devastating emotions explored in this musical about being emotionally repressed, being left out. Tony and DD nominee Ben Platt (an Elder Cunningham in Book of Mormon; Pitch Perfect films) gives a breathtakingly wrenching performance as the all but friendless student, already hiding a dark secret, who uses a tragedy to become closer to a suicide victim’s sister (Laura Dreyfuss) and her family – and pays an anguishing price. Tony nominated Rachel Bay Jones (his mother) and Mike Faist are among the co-stars. Sadly, you
won’t hear Will Roland and Kristolyn Lloyd’s scene-stealing bits. The deep empathy of the ballads will captivate and haunt.
Highlights: “For Forever,” “If I Could Tell Her,” “Disappear,” “You Will Be Found,” “So Big/So Small,” “Words Fail.”
Falsettos (Ghostlight; two discs, 36 tracks; with 60-page color booklet with lyrics and photos) by William Finn and James Lapine; closed:
Tony and DD nominated for Best Revival. A neurotic gay man, his wife, lover, son, their psychiatrist, and lesbian friends explore changing relationships in the make-up of modern families. Tony nominated Christian Borle (Tony, DD winner, Something Rotten), Stephanie J. Block (also DD nominated), Andrew Rannells (Tony, DD nominated, Book of Mormon), and Brandon Uranowitz (also DD nominated; Tony nominee, An American in Paris).
Highlights: “Love is Blind,” “This Had Better Come to a Stop,” “Making a Home,” “What More Can I Say,” “Unlikely Lovers.”
Groundhog Day (Masterworks Broadway; 19 tracks) by Tim Minchin:
Tony, DD nominated, Best Musical. Tony, DD nominee and Olivier winning Andy Karl (Rocky, Mystery of Edwin Drood revival) in a Groundhog Day Catch-22, based on the 1993 film, as arrogant TV weather caster who finds himself in a time warp – repeating the same day over and over. Barret Doss co-stars. Featured cast includes John Sanders, Rebecca Faulkenberry, Andrew Call.
Highlights: “There Will Be Sun,” “One Day,” “Hope,” “Everything About You,” “Night Will Come.”
Hello, Dolly! (Masterworks Broadway; 16 tracks; 42-page booklet with lyrics and color shot of Midler) by Jerry Herman: Tony, DD nominated, Best Musical, Revival. Colorful revival starring the divine Bette Midler gives razzle dazzle new definition. In showstopping moment after another – singing, doing fancy footwork, or eating, Midler proves to be the penultimate entertainer. Midler is accompanied to Yonkers, the 14th Street Parade, and Harmonia Gardens by Tony nominees David Hyde Pierce, and Gavin Creel and Kate Baldwin (both also DD-nominated) – Taylor Trensch and Beanie Feldstein. At 53 minutes it can’t give the scope of being there. The disc has an 80 minute capacity, but cuts have been made. Listed with 16 tracks, but #2, “Call on Dolly”is only 39 seconds. “The Waiter’s Gallop,” at 2:51, and the Finale, at 1:43, are shorter than onstage. You won’t feel shortchanged on the Overture, “Dancing”(6:53); or title song (6:41).
Highlights: “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” “Ribbons Down My Back,” “Before the Parade Passes By,” “A Penny in My Pocket” (cut from the original production), “It Only Takes a Moment.”
In Transit (Hollywood Records; 18 tracks) by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan, and Sara Wordsworth; closed:
Broadway’s first a cappella score, by vets of Frozen and Pitch Perfect, told of New Yorkers facing the challenges of city life as MTA trains pass them by. Cast includes David Abeles, Moya Angela, Justin Garini, Telly Leung, Erin Mackey, and Margo Seibert (Rocky).
Highlights: “Deep Beneath the City,” “Choosing Not to Know,” “Not There Yet.”
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (Reprise; two discs; 27 tracks) by Dave Malloy:
Tony nominated, Best Musical. The complicated story, adapted from a 70-page section of War and Peace, has been turned into a mesmerizing spectacle. Tony nominated Denée Benton (Natasha, betrothed to Andrei) and Lucas Steele (arrogant, wicked Anatole) are ravenous lovers; Josh Groban (Pierre), the brooding misfit son of a royal who returns to Russia and an inheritance and attempts to untangle the romantic triangle. Brittain Ashford is stunning as the lovelorn Sonya. Also headlining is Nicholas Belton (Prince Andrei).
Highlights: “No One Else,” “Dust and Ashes,” “Sonya & Natasha,” “Sonya Alone.”
War Paint (Ghostlight; 21 tracks) by Scott Frankel and Michael Korie; available May 26:
Tony, DD nominated, Best Musical. Pioneering cosmetic entrepreneurs Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein engage in fierce rivalry for dominance from 30s to 60s as they change the face of American women.
Highlights: “If I’d Been a Man,” “Face to Face,” “Pink,” “Forever Beautiful,” “Beauty in the World.”
There’s more: one from Off Broadway and one from London’s West End:
Spamilton (DRG; 25 tracks) by Gerard Alessandrini:
This is a musical parody of guess what landmark musical, and not unexpectedly it’s in love with what it mocks. It spins the difficulty of getting tickets, speculation about the film version, and most of all, the revolution — not the 18th century political one, but the show biz one. Alessandrini, of course, is the creator of the 25 riotously hilarious Forbidden Broadway editions. He has a way with words, but this spoof is more affectionate tribute than one dripping with scathing humor.
Dreamgirls (Sony Music; 28 tracks, two discs) by Tom Eyen and Henry Krieger:
U.K. premiere of iconic 1982 Tony, DD nominated musical of Chicago R&B female trio vying for the big time during the 60s and learning hard lessons about show business and romance. Olivier winning Amber Riley (Glee) as The Dreams’ Effie White, Liisi LaFontaine as Deena, and Asmeret Ghebremichael as Lorrell.
Box office prices at around $189 and more for musicals can be daunting. Since you have to pay rent or monthly fees and also eat, you might consider the numerous promotions for shows in previews, League promotions for Kid’s Night, NYC & Company’s bi-annual Broadway Week [usually two weeks] 2-for 1 ticket offers (www.nycgo.com), and take advantage of the fact that 85% of shows are available for 40-50% off [plus $4.50 service fee] at the TDF booths.
Keep in mind newer shows such School of Rock and the return of Cats, Miss Saigon, and Sunset Boulevard [hurry, closing June 25]. There are hot shows from previous seasons – Aladdin, Beautiful, Book of Mormon, Kinky Boots, On Your Feet, and Waitress are still going strong, but have more available seats. Then, there are the long-running champs: Chicago, Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, and Wicked. Of course, Hamilton is still hot, hot, and hot.
The current shows have cast albums. You can also still get original cast recordings of the original Miss Saigon; Cats; and Sunset Boulevard [Los Angeles, pre-Broadway cast].
Avoid purchasing price-gouging “resale tickets” from those sites engaging in this sort of consumer rip-off.
FYI re: Hello, Dolly!: Tony and DD winner Donna Murphy will play the lead on Tuesday evenings beginning June 13; and these just announced dates: June 27-July 2, July 5-9, July 30 evening performance, September 6-10, October 15 evening performance, October 30, November 1-5, November 24 matinee, and January 7 evening.
All of the current shows have websites with schedules, photos and videos, and links to purchase tickets. And Broadway’s box office treasurers love to have you belly up to their windows. The TDF booths always have surprises posted, and the lines moves quite fast.
The Broadway League is not only the co-presenter of the Tony Awards with the American Theatre Wing but also sponsors, among numerous programs, Kids’ Night on Broadway, Stars in the Alley, and the indispensable Internet Broadway Database (ibdb.com).
For more information on the League, go to www.BroadwayLeague.com, and follow @TheBwayLeague on Twitter and at Facebook.com/BroadwayLeague. iTunes App Store and Google Play offer free Broadway.org and IBDB mobile apps.