Broadway Shows You Must See In Your Lifetime
Broadway has become one of the most recognizable, inclusive and vibrant theatrical communities in the world. This is owing to the geographically and emotionally well-knit individuals within these few New York blocks, and their collective creative might. Everyone and anyone is welcome here, including foreigners such as Andrew Lloyd Webber or Cameron Mackintosh, to homegrown royalty such as Lin-Manuel Miranda and Audra Macdonald.
Over the decades, these individuals and many more like them have given iconic shows to this theater district that have become beloved by this art form’s enthusiasts. Indeed, these stories have stood the test of time and neck-to-neck competition which usually drives out productions within a matter of months. These plays and musicals are the Holy Grail of Broadway. It is contested that you haven’t seen and appreciated true theater if you haven’t seen these productions at least once.
Here is a list of the Broadway shows you must see in your lifetime.
1.Hamilton: An American Musical
Before Hamilton first appeared on Broadway in 2016, musical theater was perceived and performed in a completely different way. With the advent of this work however, the definition and limits (or lack of) of musicals have altered altogether. In fact, its influence and positive impact is not only limited to the art form of theater; story-telling, characterization and social commentary through fiction have gained impeccable innovation through this one piece.
These monumental contributions are owed to the show’s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and his revolutionary team of director Tommy Kail, composer Alex Lacamoire and choreographer Andy Blankenbueher.
Together, this team shot through the barricades of type-casting, racial and gendered roles, and recreation of history. They re-imagined the founding fathers of America and people around them, predominantly white as per history, played by racially diverse actors. This sent a powerful message, as it was the retelling of “America then (1800s) through America now.” And it worked, because these actors and their characters provided insightful commentary on the underrepresentation of diverse individuals in government. As Angelica Schuyler puts it in the play; “And when I meet Thomas Jefferson / Imma convince him to include women in the sequel”.
It is also particularly heartening to see that the real hero (or shall we say heroine) of a story about Alexander Hamilton is his wife Eliza (Schuyler) Hamilton. Through this, a harmony is created between the two sexes: the great women of the past are given a voice and made a part of the narrative of this great nation, as they rightly have been all along.
Hamilton has rightly received a fanfare of compliments from the likes of Beyonce, Justin Trudeau, Weird Al Yankovic and Barack Obama. It has informed the future of story-telling and musical theater, and therefore, is a must-see.
2.The Lion King
This inspired theatrical piece was first performed in 1997, three years after the hit Disney film on which it is based was released. The Lion King has lived up to the enthusiastic fan base that has developed around the original film, by the incredible spectacle it puts forth. Composed and written by the greats of western music, Hans Zimmer and Elton John, its score has received a Tony and Drama Desk. The musical is directed by Julie Taymor, who is responsible for the visual appeal of this play. The production team had a difficult time trying to recreate the expansive setting of the movie in the limited confines of a theater. There was also the question of how the animals would be portrayed, and their characters be developed without animation.
After grappling with this for a while, Taymor decided that even though the production would use string puppets, they would be life-sized and controlled by humans. These humans will not be hidden and instead become a part of the ‘puppet’. She began referring to them as humanimals and it worked; the emotions and movement that the actors brought to the stage could not have been achieved through mere puppetry.
This play is a fascinating sight from the get-go since it opens on the same note as the original film: the birth of Simba. For this, the iconic stampede is recreated by using not just the stage, but the audience wings as well. The galleries house different sized birds while giraffes and zebras rush onto the stage in order to witness the birth of the Prince. The play is an awe-inspiring visual treat, and as a result has reigned over Broadway since the past twenty years. It is still up and running at the Minskoff Theatre so grab your chance and go watch this show now!
3.The Phantom of the Opera
The longest-running musical on Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera is a triumph of musical theater, penned by the one and only Andrew Lloyd Webber. The musical opened on Broadway in 1988 after a successful debuting run on London’s West End. It immediately bagged an Olivier and a Tony on this first run and has not left Broadway since. The inspired play has had over two hundred actors play the lead role of the Phantom. Its performance requires the theater to be revamped, since it involves the ‘falling’ of a chandelier during the finale. It comes crashing down to just ten feet above the first few rows and has become a memorable and cherished moment in theater history.
The score of this play combines opera and musical theater, making both genres accessible to a wider audience. Webber’s production is going strong at present as well, with an extended run at the Majestic Theatre through 2018.
4.Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz
Wicked has been pronounced “Broadway’s Biggest Blockbuster” of recent years by the New York Times. The play, first premiered at the Greshwin Theatre in October 2003, has been viewed by over 50 million people since. It has ticked the billion dollar mark on the Broadway Box Office since its opening night.
The musical depicts the story of the witches Elphaba and Glinda from the land of Oz and depicts the prequel to the original “Wizard of Oz”, before Dorothy arrives. It is cunning and rife with social commentary on perceptions about gender and sisterhood. Wicked is extending through 2018 at its original Broadway home, the Greshwin Theatre. You may avail your chance to watch this blockbuster hit during this run.
While newer plays are introduced on Broadway, these greats cannot be dusted away that easily. They will always be a part of the theatrical canon, and rightly so. Each of these plays has given audiences a lot more than entertainment: they have made them laugh, cry and have stirred a passionate devotion that cannot be swayed any time soon.