Editor's Top 5 Broadway Picks of Spring 2019
Which new Broadway production of spring 2019 will hit the top spot?
It's been a dazzling spring on the Great White Way and even though the New York City weather has been unpredictable at best, its theatre scene has continued to shine with no less than 14 new productions officially opening on Broadway. Now, that we find ourselves slap bang in the middle of the 2019 Awards Season, I thought it would be a good time to share with you my Top 5 picks of the spring...
You may notice that my picks are dominated by the new musicals this time around, as the standard has been particulalry high in that genre, but that's not to say that all the new plays on offer this spring have been disappointing. Far from it. But alas, there isn't room for everybody in a Top 5 countdown, of course, so I'd like to just give a couple of honorable mentions to some of the plays that truly impressed me this spring.
The first-ever Broadway revival of Lanford Wilson's Burn This (featuring a scintillating, Tony-nominated performance by Adam Driver) almost squeezed its way into my Top 5, as did the Broadway premiere of Heidi Schreck's What the Constitution Means to Me. I would urge you to catch these two diverse, thought-provoking pieces as soon as you can, as their limited engagements come to an end this summer. But now onto the Top 5 with no further ado...
5 - Ink
The only new play to feature in my Top 5 this spring is the Broadway premiere of James Graham's Ink. Kudos to Manhattan Theatre Club for bringing this 2018 Olivier-nominated "Best Play" from London to Broadway and for enticing Bertie Carvel to reprise his Olivier-winning performance as a young Rupert Murdoch, purchasing a struggling British newspaper called The Sun in the late 1960s and completely revolutionizing the UK's tabloid press industry with the help of his unrelenting editor, Larry Lamb (captivatingly brought to life on stage by Jonny Lee Miller). With a maniacally ingenius set design by Bunny Christie, eye-popping projections by Jon Driscoll and lighting design by Neil Austin, and even a dose of pulsating choreography by Lynne Page, this production is as frantic and theatrical as it is factual and informative. The ink runs dry at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on July 7, 2019.
Ink Tickets are available now.
4 - Tootsie
"Unstoppable" indeed! The Broadway premiere of Tootsie lands on the #4 spot thanks to a career-defining performance from current Tony Award nominee Santino Fontana as high maintenance actor Michael Dorsey and his much more sympathetic alter ego Dorothy Michaels and also thanks to Robert Horn's side-splittingly funny book that has taken the television soap opera setting of the beloved 1982 Dustin Hoffman-led movie and transposed it to the whacky and wonderful world of a Broadway musical. Packed with theatre in-jokes aplenty, this is good, old-fashioned musical comedy in its purest form that also boasts a stellar supporting cast of comic masters, including Tony Award nominees Andy Groteleuschen as Michael's long enduring roommate Jeff Slater and Sarah Stiles as hopeless, aspiring actress Sandy Lester. And in Sandy's immortal words, "What's Gonna Happen" is you're gonna book yourselves a trip to Broadway's Marquis Theatre post haste!
Tootsie Tickets are available now.
3 - Beetlejuice
"Day-O"!!! So good you have to say it three times, haunting my #3 spot is the ghoulish Broadway spectacle that is Beetlejuice... Beetlejuice... Beetlejuice! The Winter Garden Theatre has been transformed into the eerily fabulous Netherworld and what lies within is nothing short of a feast for the senses (dead or alive). Full disclosure: I am a die-hard Tim Burton fan and this musical adaptation does not disappoint, remaining loyal to the iconic Burton aesthetic (and even referencing other Burton classics such as The Nightmare Before Christmas in its scenic design). And yet, Scott Brown and Anthony King's book expands on its original source material greatly, delving deeper into characters' backstories or shifting focus when it comes to their motivations. Alex Brightman's turn as the titular 'ghost with the most' is a relentless juggernaut of a performance, justly deserving his current Tony Award nomination, and for a show that's all about death, I've never left a Broadway theatre feeling so alive!
Beetlejuice Tickets are available now.
Straight in at #2 with a bullet is the latest Broadway bio-musical that's bound to make you feel like you're on "Cloud Nine" for a couple of hours or so! Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations is the warts-and-all story of perhaps the greatest group in R&B history, who've had as many members since their formation in 1960 as they've had hits. And speaking of which, they're all here - from "My Girl" to "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" - performed by one of the most talented, all-singing, all-dancing ensembles I have ever witnessed on a Broadway stage with Derrick Baskin, Ephraim Sykes, Jeremy Pope, Jawan M. Jackson, and James Harkness starring as the classic five line-up of Otis Williams, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin and Paul Williams. It's Dominique Morisseau's book, however, that puts the meat on the bones of this production, lifting it clear above its thin jukebox musical predecessors. The price of fame and success is all too devastating as we experience the personal demons that threatened to tear the group apart and ultimately left Otis Williams as the last man standing. "Get Ready," folks! These Temptations are gonna be around at Broadway's Imperial Theatre for quite some time...
Ain't Too Proud Tickets are available now.
1 - Hadestown
Finally, the "Road to Hell" has led the Broadway premiere of singer-sonwriter Anaïs Mitchell and director Rachel Chavkin's genre-defying folk opera Hadestown all the way to my top spot for the new Broadway openings of spring 2019. Beautifully staged (and co-developed) by Ms. Chavkin, this production (a post-apocalyptic, Blues-infused reincarnation of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice) has originality exuding from every pore. From its onstage New Orleans-style band to its atmospheric lighting to a breathtaking scenic coup de théâtre, Hadestown is the most innovative show on the Great White Way this season and unsurprisingly leads the way with 14 Tony Award nominations, including "Best Musical". Its fan base is growingly rapidly as word of mouth spreads like wildfire outside the Walter Kerr Theatre and its anthem "Wait For Me" is well on its way to becoming a modern classic. "When the Chips are Down," this is simply a theatrical experience not to be missed!
Hadestown Tickets are available now.