Our Top 20 Netflix Picks for Broadway Fans
Check out our guide to 20 theatrical highlights on the popular streaming service...
As many of us Broadway aficionados are battening down the hatches and diving head first into the not-so-wonderful world of self-isolation, the number of Netflix viewers is defying gravity right about now. In an attempt to combat the corona-blues, we thought we'd guide you through the extensive catalogue on offer to stream at home with our 'Top 20 Netflix Picks for Broadway Fans' to watch during this Broadway shutdown.
Please note: For all our readers outside of the United States, the titles in our list are currently on offer to Netflix viewers in the US (as of Jan. 8, 2021) and may not be available in other territories around the globe due to licensing laws.
A theatrical mix of movie and television musicals, fascinating documentaries and productions recorded live on Broadway itself, here are our top 20 recommendations (in alphabetical order) for you:
Christopher Demos-Brown's crushing drama American Son played the Booth Theatre on Broadway from October 2018 through January 2019, starring multiple Golden Globe & Emmy Award nominee Kerry Washington as a distraught mother who reports her teenage son missing at a Florida police station. Her co-stars, Broadway favorites Steven Pasquale, Jeremy Jordan and Eugene Lee, have all reprised their respective roles for the Netflix presentation which utilises the identical scenic design by Derek McLane with additional cinematic extras. If you didn't get to see this topical thriller, directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon, that explores issues of race, class and police brutality in the United States, then what are you waiting for? And if you did, then why not relive the intensity on the small screen?
Barbra: The Music... The Mem'ries... The Magic!
There is only one Barbra Streisand, folks. Recorded in Miami in December 2016, Barbra: The Music... The Mem'ries... The Magic! was released on Netflix in November 2017 and at 74 years old, she proved she's certainly still got it. The concert spectacle includes many Broadway standards, including such cherished show tunes as "Being Alive" from Company, "Losing My Mind" from Follies, "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" from The Sound of Music, and "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl, among others.
Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened...
The legendary Stephen Sondheim is as famous for his Broadway smashes as he is infamous for his commercial flops and, in 1981, his musical Merrily We Roll Along undoubtedly belonged to the latter. The tuner closed after 44 previews and only 16 regular performances, but has gone on to become a cult favorite. Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened... is a documentary that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the original Broadway production, directed by Lonny Price, who originated the role of Charley Kringas. It also features interviews with Sondheim, original director Hal Prince, and original company members such as Jason Alexander and Tonya Pinkins, who made their Broadway debuts with the ill-fated musical.
The Cher Show may only have lasted a little over nine and a half months at Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre, despite a Tony Award-winning performance by Stephanie J. Block, but the goddess herself is immortalized in the 2010 movie musical Burlesque. The fan favorite also stars multiple Grammy Award winner Christina Aguilera as Ali Rose, who leaves small town America to pursue a music career in Los Angeles and falls on hard times until she stumbles across a burlesque club. After being taken in by owner Tess, she eventually finds her own way to step into the limelight...
This 2010 film follows a group of 12 teenagers from a diverse range of backgrounds with one common dream: a career as a professional ballet dancer. After enrolling at the American Ballet Academy in New York City, they discover that making it in the world of dance brings its own trials and tribulations with it. Look out for appearances by such Broadway veterans as Donna Murphy, Peter Gallagher, Priscilla Lopez, and even a young Zoe Saldana.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, we love you. The Broadway stage adaptation enjoyed only a short run in 2005 at the Hilton (now the Lyric Theatre) but the original 1968 film, based on the Ian Fleming novel, is immortal. Starring the living legend Dick van Dyke as Caractacus Potts and Sally Ann Howes as Truly Scrumptious (and featuring perhaps cinema's creepiest of villains in The Child Catcher), relive the family-friendly magic of this iconic musical and its flying automobile, which boasts standards such as "You Two," "Toot Sweets," and, of course, the titular number.
Currently represented on and off-Broadway by Disney's Aladdin and Little Shop of Horrors, Tony Award-winning composer Alan Menken is represented on Netflix by the musical comedy television series Galavant. Along with Broadway lyricist Glenn Slater (with whom he also collaborated on A Bronx Tale), Menken wrote the score for this fun-loving, medieval fairytale about a dashing knight named Galavant and his quest to thwart the evil King Richard, following the kidnapping of Madalena; the love of his life. Two seasons of Galavant aired on ABC in 2015 and 2016 and all 18 episodes of the musical madness can now be streamed on Netflix, so, if you're a fan of such Broadway shows as Monty Python's Spamalot or Something Rotten!, this one's for you.
You Can't Stop the Beat, and you can't stop loving the 2007 movie adaptation of Hairspray, based on the 2003 Tony Award-winning Best Musical. The Broadway tuner, itself an adaptation of the original 1988 (non-musical) film, began its life at the Neil Simon Theatre in the summer of 2002 and featured an iconic turn by Harvey Fierstein as Edna Turnblad. The baton was handed to John Trivolta for the movie musical about an overweight, caucasian girl who wants to dance on "The Corny Collins Show" and unite blacks and whites in front of a national television audience from a racially-segregated Baltimore in 1962. The stellar cast also features Hollywood heavweights the likes of Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken and Queen Latifah, just to name a few, and the Marc Shaiman/Scott Wittman score includes such Broadway favorites as "Good Morning Baltimore," "Welcome to the 60's," and "I Know Where I've Been."
Oh, What a Night for a jukebox musical. Based on the Broadway tuner that took home the Tony Award for 'Best Musical' in 2006 and now calls Off-Broadway's New World Stages its home, Clint Eastwood's film adaptation of Jersey Boys was released in June 2014. Charting the rise of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons through mafia associations, the group's self-implosion and an ultimate induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the movie features all of those beloved songs from "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like a Man" to "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." It also features Broadway alum Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio.
John Leguizamo's Latin History for Morons
John Leguizamo's Latin History for Morons played Studio 54 on Broadway from October 2017 through February 2018, following a world premiere run at the Public Theater. But if you missed this hysterically educational solo show, fear not. Netflix has preserved it for the ages. Leguizamo, who has starred in such Hollywood smashes as "Moulin Rouge!" and "Romeo + Juliet," had long since built a stellar career on the stage thanks to his one-man shows (Mambo Mouth, Spic-O-Rama, Freak, Sexaholix... A Love Story, and Ghetto Klown). In this latest production, he uses his own signature style of humor to educate his son (and his audiences) on the Latin History that seems conspicuous by its absence in High School text books. He was the recipient of a Special Tony Award in 2018 for his efforts and this Netflix presentation shows you why.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Based on Pulitzer Prize August Wilson's play, Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman star in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. The 1920s play in his century cycle, the jazz age drama sees Ma Rainey (played by Davis) attempt to take control of her music, met with strong resistance from her white management. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom was last seen at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in 2003, starring Whoopi Goldberg in the title role. But, if you're missing live music, you'll want to stream this on Netflix.
Mary Poppins Returns
Over the pond, the West End revival of Mary Poppins recently earned a 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' total of no less than six Olivier Award nominations, proving that everyone's favorite British nanny isn't going out of fashion anytime soon. On Netflx, you can still catch Disney's official movie sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, with Emily Blunt taking over the reins from the immortal Julie Andrews in the titular role. With an all-new, Oscar-nominated score by Hairspray's Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, including "The Place Where Lost Things Go" and "Trip a Little Light Fantastic," and a starring role as lamplighter Jack for Broadway's favorite son, Lin-Manuel Miranda, this one is bound to warm the cockles of your heart in these bleak times.
Oh, Hello on Broadway
Oh, hello, Broadway fans. Nick Kroll and John Mulaney reprising their roles as Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, respectively, on the New York stage. Oh, Hello on Broadway played the Lyceum Theatre from September 2016 through January 2017 and these two senior citizens from the Upper West Side of Manhattan brought the roof down every night. Join the Comedy Central favorites as they give Broadway a roasting and, for this Netflix presentation, look out for guest appearances by Steve Martin, Matthew Broderick, and even Michael J. Fox.
Opening Night is a 2016 musical comedy that centers on Nick, a failed Broadway singer turned production manager, who must wrangle together his eccentric cast and crew of misfits in order to save Opening Night in this backstage farce, set in real time. From volatile producers to accident-prone leading ladies and everything in between, Nick learns the old adage the hard way that the show must go on. Also, look out for Broadway favorite Taye Diggs in a show-stealing turn as prima donna back-up dancer Malcolm.
Shrek The Musical
DreamWorks Animation is currently represented across the pond with the West End premiere of The Prince of Egypt, but in November 2008, they burst onto the Broadway scene with Shrek The Musical. Recorded during its run at the Broadway Theatre, you can still stream the family favorite on Netflix and see a host of Broadway stars telling the tale of the lovable (but grumpy) ogre out to reclaim his swamp from the dastardly (and miniature) Lord Farquaad, who, in turn, sends him on a quest to rescue a beautiful princess... with a hidden secret. The musical stars three-time Tony Award nominee Brian d'Arcy James as the titular character, alongside two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona, Daniel Breaker as Donkey, and two-time Tony Award nominee Christopher Sieber in a show-stealing performance as the diminutive Lord Farquaad.
Unless you've been sleeping under a rock for the past couple of years, you probably heard about Bruce Springsteen's record-breaking Broadway debut engagement at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Fans of 'The Boss' are used to experiencing their idol in the world's biggest stadiums, so, this extremely intimate residency on the Great White Way offered a truly unique opportunity to get to know Springsteen through stripped-back, acoustic renditions of his greatest hits and captivating stories from his life. Springsteen on Broadway ran from October 2017 through December 2018 and it was the hottest ticket in town, but when it was all said and done and that final curtain fell, Netflix began to immediately stream the production, proving that the show was "Born to Run".
Springsteen on Broadway returns to the Great White Way, with performances from June 26 at St James Theatre. Find out more about Springsteen on Broadway tickets here.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
No Place Like London... and no place like Netflix, if you wanna check out Tim Burton's take on the classic 1979 Tony Award-winning 'Best Musical' by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is among the most celebrated of Sondheim's works and this 2007 film adaptation took the musical's gore factor to the next level. With an all-star cast led by Johnny Depp in the title role, alongside Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin, Timothy Spall as Beadle Bamford, and Sacha Baron Cohen as Adolfo Pirelli, this chilling tale of a wronged barber, vengefully slitting the throats of Londoners who end up in the meat pies of his associate and admirer, Mrs. Lovett, is bound to send a chill up your spine.
Although the Broadway premiere of Tarzan only lasted 15 months at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, the stage musical still went on to enjoy a commercially successful, decade-long run in Europe. The 1999 animated classic about the boy raised by apes in the jungles of Africa, who falls in love with Jane, an explorer's daughter, can still be streamed on Netflix, despite the launch of the Disney+ streaming service last November. The cast boats the voice talents of Broadway favorites such as Tony Goldwyn as the titular character, Rosie O'Donnell as Terk and three-time Tony Award winner Glenn Close as Kala, and the underrated score, penned and performed by Phil Collins, includes such fan favorites as "Two Worlds," "Strangers Like Me," and, of course, the Oscar-winning "You'll Be In My Heart."
When The Boys in the Band returned to Broadway in 2018, critics lapped up the star-studded play. So, when it was confirmed the entire cast would reprise their roles in a film adaptation, audiences were very excited. Don't miss Jim Parsons, Andrew Rannells and Zachary Quinto in The Boys in the Band, directed by Ryan Murphy. Set during a birthday party in New York City, a group of gay men discover changing relationships, living in a world not ready to fully accept them.
From Broadway to the bright lights of Netflix. Jo Ellen Pellman makes her professional film debut as Emma, an Indiana high schooler who is met with hostility when she wants to invite her girlfriend to the prom. Four Broadway stars come to the rescue, using Emma's charity case to improve their own careers. But, as Emma "gives it some zazz", everyone realises they could give a little more love. There's a stellar cast to boot too, including Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman and Andrew Rannells. This high-kicking, energetic musical is sure to leave a smile on your face.
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