Broadway Spring 2017 - Editor's Top Picks
As we steamroll towards The 71st Annual Tony Awards, which will be held at the iconic Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017, and now that every new Broadway production of the spring has officially opened, we thought we would just take a moment to celebrate our Top 3 picks. For the purpose of this feature, we have chosen to recommend productions that still have ticket availability for our readers. So, a special mention, of course, goes to the biggest and most anticipated opening of the spring - the Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly!, starring the tour-de-force that is Bette Midler. I could easily sit here and right a bunch of superlatives about this perfectly crafted star vehicle and cry: "Buy tickets now!" - only to frustrate you with a distinct lack of availability. If you can get your hands on a ticket, then by all means (and by any means necessary), splash out for this theatrical event of the year. Otherwise, here are a few of our personal favourites, chosen with great difficulty from a jam-packed roster of one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory...
3) COME FROM AWAY
If I had to name a dark horse or an underdog of the spring, there are a couple of shows that spring to mind. In terms of musicals, the top contender in this respect would be the Broadway premiere of Irene Sankoff & David Hein's Come From Away. Set in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, during the events and aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, the musical celebrates the power of the human spirit, as 38 planes are re-directed and forced to land at the town's airport... instantly doubling its population. Stranded for a few days in Gander, we witness the extraordinairy bonds formed by the local "plain" people and the multi-national "plane" people. "Celebrate" might be a strange word to use in the context of 9/11, but the element that has remained with me since watching the show is indeed its celebratory tone. Yes, there are certainly moments of heartbreak, but the musical focuses primarily on the positive aspects of human connection and community, aided by Sankoff and Hein's beautifully upbeat, folk music-infused score. Directed with imaginative vigour by Christopher Ashley, it is the perfect example of how theatre excells as a medium that both demands and encourages its audience to suspend disbelief and use its own imagination. The simplistic use of set, lighting and choreography is ingeniously incorporated to create scenes inside an airplane or a school gymnasium or a local bar in the blink of an eye. And the ensemble of actors, portraying multiple roles of people from all walks of life, works tirelessly to allow us to glimpse through the looking glass into the lives of ordinary people affected by these extraordinary events. "Welcome to the Rock" they sing out... Welcome to musical heaven, we say!
Click HERE for tickets to Come From Away at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, currently booking through to December 30, 2017.
2) A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2
Another surprise hit of the spring comes to us from the ingenious and controversial hand of sky-rocketing, young playwright Lucas Hnath in A Doll's House, Part 2. This play - the last official opening of the spring - has seemingly come out of nowhere, garnered five star reviews left, right and centre, and boasts an acting master class by four extremely talented individuals. We knew from the title that the play was going to be some sort of sequel to Henrik Ibsen's 1879 classic "A Doll's House," whose iconic ending sees the protagonist Nora slamming the door of her home, as she leaves husband and children behind. What we did not expect perhaps, is how racously funny this new play would be, overflowing with colourful, modern language. David Zinn's costume design is period, contrasting with Miriam Beuther's minimalist and generically timeless set design, and this cleverly symbolises what Hnath writes in terms of the more things change, the more they remain the same. The play starts with a knock at the door - and we theatre enthusiasts know all too well who'll be standing on the other side of the door - and Nora returns has returned. We discover it has been 15 years since her controversial departure and we are about to discover what has brought her back... Laurie Metcalf - primarily know for her long-running TV role on "Roseanne" belongs to the elite of stage actors, in my opinion, and her portrayal of Nora as a "modern" woman is mesmerizing and topped off with sprinklings of delightful physical comedy. Jayne Houdyshell, perfectly cast as the ageing nanny Anne Marie, delivers a beautifully nuanced performance as both a trapped loyalist and feistily proud and independent-minded woman. Chris Cooper's calming stage presence as Torvald works as an unexpected treat as the gloves come off and he goes toe-to-toe with Nora and Condola Rashad's graceful, wise-before-her-years portrayal of Emmy just goes to show the maturity of this talented, young actress. At 90 minutes with no intermission, "A Doll's House, Part 2" is a whirlwind of intrigue and mental warfare not to be missed. I personally cannot wait to see what Mr. Hnath comes up with next.
Click HERE for tickets to A Doll's House, Part 2 at the Golden Theatre until July 23, 2017.
1) SUNSET BOULEVARD
Our final pick of the spring sees a legendary Tony Award-winning performance return to the Great White Way after more than twenty years. Glenn Close made her West End debut last year, reprising her iconic role of Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black & Christopher Hampton's dark and sumptuous masterpiece Sunset Boulevard. Thanks heavens that the greatest stars of all aligned and a Broadway transfer of this English National Opera production was sercured. The immense, onstage orchestra - the biggest on Broadway - is a gift from above for all musical theatre fans who wish to enjoy one of the most enduring scores of the genre, played live and in all its richness and glory. Although this orchestra takes up much of the stage, director Lonny Price still finds room for fully choreographed numbers, wisely chosen set pieces, intertwining staircases and even a full-size vintage car. And the cinematic, black and white projections, of course, set the mood of Hollywood in 1949 - a fantasy world with too many cruel realities to speak of. The London principals - Michael Xavier as Joe Gillis, Siobhan Dillon as Betty Schaefer and Fred Johanson as Max von Mayerling - have joined Ms. Close for the Broadway transfer and the onstage chemistry now runs like clockwork. Experiencing Ms. Close reliving her glories from the 1994 Broadway premiere, glowing during her standing ovation after her rendition of "As If We Never Said Goodbye," is a striking juxtaposition to Norma's failed return to Paramount's silver screen. It is a beautiful irony that, for this musical theatre aficionado, was a true privilege to behold.
Click HERE for tickets to Sunset Boulevard at the Palace Theatre until June 25, 2017.
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