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The Stars and Stories Hitting Broadway Stages This Year
The closing months of the 2016–17 season brought a glut of extraordinary music and dance to Broadway's stages, and the superabundance has left 2017–18 looking a bit anemic.
Partly it's real estate—there are only so many Broadway theaters; in June, nearly three dozen were occupied. The only musical scheduled to open this summer was Prince of Broadway. A retrospective look at the life and legacy of one of the American musical's most influential luminaries, producer/director Harold Prince, it is co-directed by Prince and Susan Stroman, and features numbers from his iconic shows—they include West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof and Sweeney Todd.
The Band's Visit, PC Ahron R. Foster
The rest of this new season may not provide musicals with that kind of success and staying power, but the hopefuls are listed here in order of appearance. The usual warnings apply—things could change between press time and opening night—names, dates and entire shows can disappear before the first rehearsal. And it's worth noting that the last three Tony Awards for Best Musical went to shows that began off-Broadway.
The Band's Visit
Based on a 2007 movie about a group of Egyptian musicians who take the wrong bus and land in a remote desert backwater instead of the Israeli city where they were supposed to perform, this was an off-Broadway hit last season at the Atlantic Theater Company. It arrives on Broadway with laurels from the New York Drama Critics' Circle, who named it best musical, and again stars Tony Shalhoub as the bandleader. David Yazbek is the composer, Itamar Moses wrote the book, David Cromer directs and Patrick McCollum does the choreography. Starts Oct. 7 at the Ethel Barrymore.
The Band's Visit, PC Ahron R. Foster
The 1988 Tony winner for best play, David Henry Hwang's drama about a French diplomat who falls for a Chinese opera star is not, strictly speaking, a musical. But this revival starring Clive Owen earns a place here by dint of its director, the extraordinary Julie Taymor, who won a Tony for The Lion King; its composer, Elliot Goldenthal, who wrote the score for American Ballet Theatre's Othello; and its choreographer, China-trained, Tulsa-based Ma Cong, who was one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" in 2006. Starts Oct. 7.
The Spongebob Musical, PC Joan Marcus
The eponymous hero and the other underwater creatures of Bikini Bottom swim from Nickelodeon's animated television series to the Broadway stage in this pop-music anthology co-conceived and directed by Tina Landau. Steven Tyler, John Legend, Cyndi Lauper and David Bowie are just a few of the stars contributing to the score and giving choreographer Christopher Gattelli a multitude of styles to play with. Starts Nov. 6 at the Palace.
The Spongebob Musical, PC Joan Marcus
Once on This Island
When a show begins with a song called "We Dance," you know the choreography will be important. For this revival of the 1990 Caribbean-flavored musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the assignment falls to Camille A. Brown, whose Black Girl: Linguistic Play was nominated for a 2016 Bessie Award. Michael Arden, who did the 2015 sign-language revival of Spring Awakening, is the director. Starts Nov. 9 at Circle in the Square.
Escape to Margaritaville
Inspired by Jimmy Buffett's 1977 hit song about a beach bum "wasting away again in Margaritaville," the show relocates the Come From Away team—Tony-winning director Christopher Ashley and Tony-nominated choreographer Kelly Devine—to a different kind of island. This one's a tropical resort, and Buffett's patented flip-flop songs are both old and new. Starts Feb. 16 at the Marquis.
Escape to Margaritaville, PC Matthew Murphy
Christopher Wheeldon created a beautiful evocation of this classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical when he was resident choreographer at New York City Ballet. Now his successor in that job, Justin Peck, is choreographing the whole clambake, in which raffish barker Billy Bigelow falls fatally in love with prim New Englander Julie Jordan. Jigger, the show's villain, is not usually a dance role, but that's sure to change with NYCB principal Amar Ramasar in it. His colleague in the company, Brittany Pollack, will dance the famous dream ballet. Tony-winning Jack O'Brien, who did Hairspray and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is the director. Starts Feb. 27.
My Fair Lady
They could have danced all night when this glorious musical, by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, arrived on Broadway in 1956. It hasn't been back since 1993, and Lincoln Center Theater is correcting that oversight with a new production directed by Bartlett Sher. The choreographer will be Sher's partner on South Pacific and The King and I, Christopher Gattelli. Starts March 15 at the Vivian Beaumont.
Escape to Margaritaville, PC Matthew Murphy
Based on the Oscar-winning Disney animation about princesses Elsa and Anna of Arrendelle, the show includes new songs by the film's composers, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Anderson-Lopez created the a cappella score and the concept for last season's In Transit, and Lopez won Tonys for The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q. They are joined by Tony winners Michael Grandage and Rob Ashford, doing the direction and choreography. Starts in spring.
Never did I think I'd see the day when I'd outgrow dance. Sure, I knew my life would have to evolve. In fact, my dance career had already taken me through seasons of being a performer, a choreographer, a business owner and even a dance professor. Evolution was a given. Evolving past dancing for a living, however, was not.
Transitioning from a dance career involved just as much of a process as building one did. But after I overcame the initial identity crisis, I realized that my dance career had helped me develop strengths that could be put to use in other careers. For instance, my work as a dance professor allowed me to discover my knack for connecting with students and helping them with their careers, skills that ultimately opened the door for a pivot into college career services.
Here's how five dance skills can land you a new job—and help you thrive in it:
When you spend as much time on the road as The Royal Ballet's Steven McRae, getting access to a proper gym can be a hassle. To stay fit, the Australian-born principal turns to calisthenics—the old-school art of developing aerobic ability and strength with little to no equipment.
"It's basically just using your own body weight," McRae explains. "In terms of partnering, I'm not going to dance with a ballerina who is bigger than me, so if I can sustain my own body weight, then in my head I should be fine."
I always knew my ballet career would eventually end. It was implied from the very start that at some point I would be too old and decrepit to take morning ballet class, followed by six hours of intense rehearsals.
What I never imagined was that I would experience a time when I couldn't walk at all.
In rehearsal for Nutcracker in 2013, I slipped while pushing off for a fouetté sauté, instantly rupturing the ACL in my right knee. In that moment my dance life flashed before my eyes.
Last week in a piece I wrote about the drama at English National Ballet, I pointed out that many of the accusations against artistic director Tamara Rojo—screaming at dancers, giving them the silent treatment, taking away roles without explanation—were, unfortunately, pretty standard practice in the ballet world:
If it's a conversation we're going to have, we can't only point the finger at ENB.
The line provoked a pretty strong response. Professional dancers, students and administrators reached out to me, making it clear that it's a conversation they want to have. Several shared their personal stories of experiencing abusive behavior.
Christopher Hampson, artistic director of the Scottish Ballet, wrote his thoughts about the issue on his company's website on Monday:
We all know that companies too often take dancers for granted. When I wrote last week about a few common ways in which dancers are mistreated—routine screaming, humiliation, being pressured to perform injured and be stick-thin—I knew I was only scratching the surface.
So I put out a call to readers asking for your perspective on the most pressing issues that need to be addressed first, and what positive changes we might be able to make to achieve those goals.
The bottom line: Readers agree it's time to hold directors accountable, particularly to make sure that dancers are being paid fairly. But the good news is that change is already happening. Here are some of the most intriguing ideas you shared via comments, email and social media:
With dancer and choreographer credits that cover everything from touring with Beyoncé to music videos and even feature films, Tricia Miranda knows more than a thing or two about what it takes to make it. And aspiring dancers are well aware. We caught up with the commercial dance queen last weekend at the Brooklyn Funk convention, where she taught a ballroom full of dancers classes in hip-hop and dancing for film and video.
How To Land An Agency
"At times with the agencies, they already have someone that looks like you or you're just not ready to work. Look has to do with a lot of it, work ethic and also just the type of person you are. Do you have personality? Do people want to work with you? Because you can be the greatest dancer, but if you're not someone that gives off this energy of wanting to get to know you, then it doesn't matter how dope you are because people want to work with who they want to be around. I learned that by later transitioning into a choreographer because now that I'm hiring people, I want to hire the people that I want to be around for 12 or 14 hours a day.
You also have to understand that class dancers are different from working commercial dancers. A lot of class dancers and what you see in these YouTube videos are people who stand out because they're doing what they want and remixing choreography. They're kind of stars in their own right, which is great for class, but when it comes to a job, you have to do the choreography how it's taught."
Houston's METdance and the Dallas-based Bruce Wood Dance have teamed up to commission a new work from Dallas native (and former Dallas Black Dance Theatre artistic director) Bridget L. Moore. The two contemporary companies will take the stage together in Dallas at Moody Performance Hall on March 16 and at Houston's Hobby Center for the Performing Arts on April 13–15. Visit brucewooddance.org and metdance.org for details on the respective engagements.
Onstage, Clifton Brown is a force of nature. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer joined the celebrated company at 19, in 1999. In 2011, he left to dance with Jessica Lang Dance and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company before returning to Ailey last year. Brown has been trying his hand at choreography on the side, but this week his first larger work—a commission from The Washington Ballet artistic director Julie Kent—premieres on a program of new works by choreographers who still perform.
Brown will take a day or two away from the Ailey company's rigorous tour schedule to see TWB dancers perform his Menagerie, danced to Rossini's Duet for Cello and Double Bass in D Major, at Washington, D.C.'s Harman Center for the Arts. We caught up with him last week in Chicago.
Once Adriana Pierce caught the choreography bug as a teenager, dancemaking came naturally. More difficult was navigating the tricky situations that would arise when choreographing on classmates and friends. "If a rehearsal didn't go well, I'd worry that people didn't respect me or didn't like my work," says Pierce, who went on to participate in the School of American Ballet's Student Choreography Workshop twice, at 17 and 18. "I had a lot to learn: how not to take things personally, how to express what I wanted, when to push and when to back off."
Choreographing on your peers can feel intimidating. How can you be a leader in your own rehearsals when you're dancing at the same level the rest of the time? How can you critique your cast without hurting feelings? Avoiding pitfalls takes commitment and care, but the payoff is worth it.
Ever since we heard that Michaela DePrince's memoir, Taking Flight, was going to be a movie, we've been on the edge of our seats waiting for more info. Almost three years later, it's been worth the wait—we just learned that the Queen of Pop herself will be directing DePrince's biopic.
"Michaela's journey resonated with me deeply as both an artist and an activist who understands adversity," Madonna said in a statement. "We have a unique opportunity to shed light on Sierra Leone and let Michaela be the voice for all the orphaned children she grew up beside."