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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.
When Rachel Hamrick was in the corps of Universal Ballet in Seoul, her determination to strengthen her flexibility turned into a side hobby that would eventually land her a new career. "I was in La Bayadere for the first time, and I was the first girl out for that arabesque sequence in The Kingdom of the Shades," she says. "I had the flexibility, but I was wobbly because I wasn't stretching in the right way. That's when I first started playing around with the idea of the Flexistretcher. It was tied together then, so it was definitely more makeshift," she says with a laugh, "But I trained with it to help me get the correct alignment so that I would have the strength to sustain the whole act."
Now, Hamrick is running her own business, complete with an ever-growing product line and her FLX training method—all because of her initial need to make it through 38 arabesques.
For the new Broadway season, Ellenore Scott has scored two associate choreographer gigs: For Head Over Heels, which starts previews June 23, Scott is working with choreographer Spencer Liff on an original musical mashing up The Go-Go's punk-rock hits with a narrative based on Sir Philip Sidney's 1590 book, Arcadia. Four days after that show opens, she'll head into rehearsals for this fall's King Kong, collaborating with director/choreographer Drew McOnie and a 20-foot gorilla.
Scott gave us the inside scoop about Head Over Heels, the craziness of her freelance hustle and the most surprising element of working on Broadway.
Dance in movies is a trend as old as time. Movies like The Red Shoes and Singin' in the Rain paved the way for Black Swan and La La Land; dancing stars like Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers led the way for Channing Tatum and Julianne Hough.
Lucky for us, some of Hollywood's most incredible dance scenes have been compiled into this amazing montage, featuring close to 300 films in only seven minutes. So grab the popcorn, cozy on up, and watch the moves that made the movies.
Broadway musicals have been on my mind for more than half a century. I discovered them in grade school, not in a theater but electronically. On the radio, every weeknight an otherwise boring local station would play a cast album in its entirety; on television, periodically Ed Sullivan's Sunday night variety show would feature an excerpt from the latest hit—numbers from Bye Bye Birdie, West Side Story, Camelot, Flower Drum Song.
But theater lives in the here and now, and I was in middle school when I attended my first Broadway musical, Gypsy—based, of all things, on the early life of the famed burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee. I didn't know who Jerome Robbins was, but I recognized genius when I saw it—kids morphing into adults as a dance number progresses, hilarious stripping routines, a pas de deux giving concrete shape to the romantic yearnings of an ugly duckling. It proved the birth of a lifelong habit, indulged for the last 18 years in the pages of this magazine. But all long runs eventually end, and it's time to say good-bye to the "On Broadway" column. It's not the last of our Broadway coverage—there's too much great work being created and performed, and you can count on hearing from me in print and online.
If you want to know how scary the AIDS epidemic was in the 1980s, come see Ishmael Houston-Jones' piece THEM from 1986. This piece reveals the subterranean fears that crept into gay relationships at the time. Houston-Jones is one of downtown's great improvisers, and his six dancers also improvise in response to his suggestions. With Chris Cochrane's edgy guitar riffs and Dennis Cooper's ominous text, there's an unpredictable, near-creepy but epic quality to THEM.
What is the right flooring system for us?
So many choices, companies, claims, endorsements, and recommendations to consider. The more you look, the more confusing it gets. Here is what you need to do. Here is what you need to know to get the flooring system suited to your needs.
This time last year, Catherine Conley was already living a ballet dancer's dream. After an exchange between her home ballet school in Chicago and the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana, she'd been invited to train in Cuba full-time. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and one that was nearly unheard of for an American dancer. Now, though, Conley has even more exciting news: She's a full-fledged member of the National Ballet of Cuba's corps de ballet.
"In the school there were other foreigners, but in the company I'm the only foreigner—not just the only American, but the only non-Cuban," Conley says. But she doesn't feel like an outsider, or like a dancer embarking on a historic journey. "Nobody makes me feel different. They treat me as one of them," she says. Conley has become fluent in Spanish, and Cuba has come to feel like home. "The other day I was watching a movie that was dubbed in Spanish, and I understand absolutely everything now," she says.
Chantel Aguirre may call sunny Los Angeles home, but the Shaping Sound company member and NUVO faculty member spends more time in the air, on a tour bus or in a convention ballroom than she does in the City of Angels.
Aguirre, who is married to fellow Shaping Sound member Michael Keefe, generally only spends one week per month at home. "When I'm not working, I'm exploring," Aguirre says. "Michael and I are total travel junkies."
Akram Khan and Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine) is not a pairing we ever would have dreamt up. But now that the music video for "Big God" has dropped, with choreography attributed to Khan and Welch, it seems that we just weren't dreaming big enough.
In the video, Welch leads a group of women standing in an eerily reflective pool of water. They seem untouchable, until they begin shedding their colorful veils, movements morphing to become animalistic and aggressive as the song progresses.
Savannah Lowery is about as well acquainted with the inner workings of a hospital as she is with the intricate footwork of Dewdrop.
As a child, the former New York City Ballet soloist would roam the hospital where her parents worked, pushing buttons and probably getting into too much trouble, she says. While other girls her age were clad in tutus playing ballerina, she was playing doctor.
"It just felt like home. I think it made me not scared of medicine, not scared of a hospital," she says. "I thought it was fascinating what they did."
It can be hard to focus when Alice Sheppard dances.
Her recent sold-out run of DESCENT at New York Live Arts, for instance, offered a constellation of stimulation. Onstage was a large architectural ramp with an assortment of peaks and planes. There was an intricate lighting and projection design. There was a musical score that unfolded like an epic poem. There was a live score too: the sounds of Sheppard and fellow dancer Laurel Lawson's bodies interacting with the surfaces beneath them.
And there were wheelchairs. But if you think the wheelchairs are the center of this work, you're missing something vital about what Sheppard creates.
A Jellicle Ball is coming to the big screen, with the unlikeliest of dancemakers on tap to choreograph.
We'll give you some hints: His choreography can aptly be described as "animalistic," though Jellicle cats have never come to mind specifically when watching his hyper-physical work. He's worked on movies before—even one about Beasts. And though contemporary ballet is his genre of choice, his choreography is certainly theatrical enough to lend itself to a musical.