8 Shows Opening on Broadway in October

Mother Nature has her faux fur coat on the foot of her bed and she’s almost ready to step out for New York’s hottest shows. We are here to celebrate the eight shows that will open up on Broadway before October.

October 2
Leopoldstadt (Longacre Theatre)

  • Olivier Award Winning NEW play by Tom Stoppard
  • Features 38 actors
  • Tom Stoppard’s “most personal work of his career”
  • From Director Patrick Marber (Closer, Tom Stoppard’s Travesties)

October 3
Cost of Living (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre)

  • Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize
  • Martyna Marjok is a new playwright with a very promising future (she’s penning The Great Gatsby with Florence Welch)
  • Kara Young stars after exploding onto the Broadway stage after Clyde’s

October 6
1776 (American Airlines Theatre)

  • Reimagined revival with an all woman presenting cast
  • Jeffrey L. Page (Violet, FELA!) and Diane Paulus (Waitress, Pippin, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Jagged Little Pill) co-directs
  • Carolee Carmello is back on Broadway after 6 years

October 9
Death of a Salesman (Hudson Theatre)

  • Marianne Elliott (Company, Angels in America, Warhorse) directs this critically-acclaimed West End Transfer
  • Tony Award Nominee and Multi-Olivier Award Winner Sharon D. Clarke, Wendell Pierce (HBO’s The Wire) and the incomparable André De Shields round out this powerhouse cast
  • The Black actors portraying the Loman family during the 1940s transcends the writing making an even harder hit for Willy, his wife and his boys

October 13
The Piano Lesson (Ethel Barrymore Theatre)

  • Samuel L Jackson and Danielle Brooks return to Broadway in this much-anticipated revival
  • Directed by Latanya Richardson Jackson
  • August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize Winning Masterpiece about how we perceive our past

October 20
Topdog/Underdog (John Golden Theatre)

  • The first ever Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama revival
  • Kenny Leon directs
  • New York Times says it’s “the Greatest Plays of the last 25 years”

October 27
Take Me Out (Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre)

  • The hit revival is back from it’s sold-out run at the Helen Hayes
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson won his first Tony Award for this hilarious and heart-breaking role
  • A scintillating drama about being authentically oneself and the importance of friendship and community

October 27
Walking with Ghosts (Music Box Theatre)

  • Gabriel Byrne (Hereditary, HBO’s In Treatment) returns to Broadway with his one-man staged biography
  • The incredible Lonny Price directs
  • The Times calls it “Spell-binding”


November 3 – Almost Famous (Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre)

November 10 – Kimberly Akimbo (Booth Theatre)

November 13 – Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man & the Pool (Vivian Beaumont Theater)

November 17 – & Juliet (Stephen Sondheim Theatre)

November 20 – KPOP (Circle in the Square Theatre)

November 21 – A Christmas Carol (Nederlander Theatre)


History of Movies to Musicals on Broadway

The 2017-2018 Broadway season reached 13,792,614 in attendance and grossed over $1.6 million. Despite these record setting numbers, discussion and debate broke out amongst fans as all four Tony nominated Best Musicals were stage adaptations of films; The Band’s Visit, SpongeBob SquarePants the Musical, Frozen, and Mean Girls. 

The Broadway cast of Some Like It Hot

A major criticism of Broadway is the trend of stage adaptations of popular movies, which has been featured heavily in recent seasons. With this upcoming season having two announced adaptations, Almost Famous and Some Like It Hot, and even more rumored for the future including The Notebook, The Devil Wears Prada, and a transfer of the West End’s Back to the Future, there is an understandable interest in the creation and development of original stories on Broadway. What many theatergoers are unaware of is that this trend isn’t new to Broadway. In fact, Broadway has a long history of translating movies to the stage including some classic and fan favorite shows. 

Little Shop Of Horrors

While some adaptations are more obvious, such as the Disney Broadway catalog including shows like Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, and The Lion King, many well known theater classics were inspired by movies. Sondheim and Wheeler’s A Little Night Music, which originally opened on Broadway in 1973 and ran for 601 performances, is based on the 1955 Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night. The well-known Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon staple Sweet Charity, written by Neil SImon with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, is based on the 1957 screenplay Nights of Cabiria. Little Shop of Horrors, whose award winning Off-Broadway revival is currently running at the Westside Theatre, is based on the low budget 1960 dark comedy, The Little Shop of Horrors. Andrew Lloyd Webbers’ Sunset Boulevard, which broke advance sale records and sold over 1 million tickets with its original Broadway production, is based on the 1950 film of the same name. Some other classics include Nine, based on Frederico Fellini’s 1963 film 8½, On The 20th Century, based on the 1930s film of the same name, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair, and Promises, Promises, based on the 1960 film The Apartment.  

Heathers The Musical on Roku

Beyond the classics, many fan favorites, such as Heathers which currently has a production on the West End, are based on films. The 2007 Legally Blonde, which has become a go-to for many community theaters and High Schools across the country, is heavily based heavily on the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon as well as the Amanda Brown novel. The beloved Sara Bareilles musical Waitress, which ran on Broadway from 2016 to 2020 and returned in a limited engagement in 2021, is based on the 2007 film written by Adrienne Shelly. Other fan favorite adaptations include the currently running Beetlejuice, based on the Tim Burton horror comedy, 9 to 5, based on the 1980 film, Anastasia, based on the 1997 animated movie, and many more. 

Billy Elliott the Musical

Some screen to stage adaptations have even garnered critical acclaim and gone on to win Tony Awards, such as Once, which won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Musical. Carnival, which won the 1962 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical and an Outer Critics Circle Award, was based on the 1953 film Lili. The 2013 winner Kinky Boots, which ran on Broadway for 2,507 performances and is currently running Off-Broadway at Stage 42, is based on a 2005 British film of the same name. The 2021 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Moulin Rouge!, is based on the 2001 film starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. Other Tony Award winning adaptations include Billy Elliot the Musical, Spamalot, Hairspray, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Producers, and Passion. 

The river flows both ways. While many musicals based on films have gone on to win awards and break records, Hollywood continues to turn out movies based on beloved Broadway shows. In the last 5 years alone, there have been a slew of film adaptations of Musicals including Jonathan Larsons’ Tick, Tick…Boom, directed by Lin Manuel Miranda starring Andrew Garfield, a remake of West Side Story directed by Stephen, In The Heights, 13, The Prom, Dear Evan Hansen, and The Last 5 Years (although this came out in 2014 and has yet to have a Broadway production). Coming to Netflix this December will be a movie adaptation of the acclaimed musical Matilda. The long-running Broadway musical Wicked, which has multiple national tours and international productions, has a film adaptation in the late stages of development starring Ariana Grande, Cynthia Erivo, and Jonathan Bailey. 

While there should be a healthy mix of original stories and adaptations in commercial theater, the relationship between Broadway and the silver screen has an extensive history that shouldn’t be dismissed. If a screen to stage adaptation is done well, it has the potential to connect with audiences, set records, and become a staple in the theater canon. 

Stories from the Stage


It was a wonderful opportunity to explore Lillian Hellman’s classic play with such a dream cast as part of this series of online performances. The themes of liberal America and its imperative to combat fascism in all its manifestations feels all too pertinent to the needs of our present times. When Watch On The Rhine premiered in 1941 it served to bring to the theatre-going public a sense of the turmoil that was brewing in mainland Europe and its potential impact on the global stage. 

I was first exposed to the epic dimensions of the American drama when I made my professional theatrical debut in a revival of Strange Interlude by Eugene O’Neill. Written in the shadow of the Great War, this Pulitzer Prize winning drama features the theatrical convention of characters speaking their innermost thoughts as asides. In deploying this classical device in a contemporary setting, O’Neil shows that despite the privileges of modern education, human beings still struggle to communicate directly and truthfully with one another. However, my lasting impression of this masterpiece is not as profound as I would wish. I was thirteen years old at the time and my hair had been bleached a platinum blonde to evoke the archetypal Golden Child. The abiding memory I have is of the cast, which included Glenda Jackson and my father Brian Cox, gently but firmly urging me to go easy on the gold hairspray that I had applied to my side parting when the dark roots began to show. Luckily, I don’t think my besmirching of the beautifully tailored 1920’s costumes could be glimpsed past the front row. 

Thirty seven years later and one of the benefits of being involved in the remote capture of an online performance of a classic play is that this actor can transform himself without having to make a trip to the hairdresser.

Alan Cox recently played Uncle Vanya at the Hampstead Theatre in London and Claudius in Hamlet for the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. He played David Frost in the national tour of Frost/Nixon, for which he received a Helen Hayes Award nomination. He made his Broadway debut in Translations. He made his motion picture debut as Watson in Young Sherlock Holmes. His film work includes Contagion, The Dictator, Mrs. Dalloway, and An Awfully Big Adventure. Alan’s television credits include The Good Wife, John Adams, and The Odyssey. He can be seen in Spotlight on Play’s Watch on the Rhine streaming this Thursday.

Stories from the Stage


One Big Break

In 1981, I was in my last year of high school in the suburbs of Toronto. I’d done a bunch of musicals in theatre class (Godspell, Pippin, Fantasticks) but never worked professionally. I got a job bussing tables at a brand-new dinner theatre uptown, O’Neill’s. The opening show, starring six young actors in their mid-20’s, was a collection of songs (from other musicals) about making it in show biz. It was called, literally, One Big Break. Five nights a week, for months, I’d clear plates and glasses, then sit at the back, by the spotlight, and watch my new, slightly-older friends perform. After one show, I was washing dishes when I overheard the owners, in a kitchen corner, whispering their concerns about Stephen, one of the actors.

“He could barely sing tonight,” said Sandra O’Neill, the theatre’s namesake. “Well, we don’t have understudies, Sandra,” hissed the other owner, “what would you suggest?”

“I can do it,” I blurted.

They looked over at me, in my apron and my mullet. Sandra smiled, like I was an adorable puppy. “Aww,” she cooed, “thanks, hon. It’s Eric, right? We’ll figure it out, sweetheart.”

The next day, in history class, I got called to the front office. This had never happened in my life. The principal’s secretary handed me the phone. Sandra O’Neill was on the other end.

“Were you… serious?” she asked, with hesitation.

“Absolutely,” I replied, with none. The bravado of eighteen.

I met with the musical director at 4:00 and we ran the numbers. Once. When the actors got there, they looked ashen. Sure, I was their favorite busboy, but…this? We reviewed choreography for about half an hour…then we opened the place for dinner.

And I bussed tables.

At 8:00, the waiters (to the surprise of the patrons) suddenly became the performers. One by one they’d put down their trays and start to sing the opening number. I was the last. The first lines out of my mouth, the first words I ever sang in a professional theatre…

“One good break is really all I need to make the world stand up and cheer…”

It was a pretty good night. I played the role for two more months. I will always have a special place in my heart for Sandra.

And for Stephen McMulkin.

Eric McCormack

Best known as Will Truman on TV’s Will & Grace, Eric McCormack made his Broadway debut in The Music Man. He appeared as a mystery guest star in The Play What I Wrote, starred off-Broadway in Neil LaBute’s Some Girl(s) and returns to the Main Stem opposite James Earl Jones in the 2012 revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man.

Stories from the Stage

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Othello.

This may come as a surprise to some, not so much to others, but Othello is a complex role to accept for the 21st century black actor.  On one hand, he’s an incredibly deep, densely drawn character and one of the few that are built specifically for actors of color in the Elizabethan canon.  On the other hand, he’s been reduced to some pretty nasty stereotyping.  The character has a well documented history of blackface, and the optics of a white woman being strangled by a black man brings to mind the gut-dropping feeling we got in those last moments of Jordan Peele’s Get Out (Daniel Kaaluya hands wrapped around the neck of his captor/honeypot/devil in a white dress, Allison Williams, when suddenly red and blue lights wash the screen).  So in my second year of graduate school, when I was called into my department chairs office to talk about playing Othello in the spring…I wasn’t sure what to do.  I mean sure; in the name of the pedagogical experience, in the name of practice (because inevitably it wouldn’t be my last time playing the character) and well, the thing looks good on the resume, so why not?  But does taking the part make me a sellout?  Or worse…is it a full on soul sell?

Around this time, I was reckoning with myself, my artistry and this liquid prison I was attempting to construct. Growing inside me was this festering shadow of insecurity, imposter syndrome, and the ever present doom of letting everyone down, one I tried to bar up with Whiskey, Tequila and Rum.  Little did I know, this shadow loved a drink, and despite my attempts to drown it, grew gills.  I’ll spare you the rest of the bloody details but I can tell you with confidence that some people do indeed crack their skulls open on rock bottom.  Others, however, bounce off stones of despair (it’s my band name, you cannot have it) and are given a chance to change direction.

I started writing letters to Othello in between classes, outpatient treatment, rehearsal and AA meetings on cold Sunday mornings (so much coffee and the squeaking of grey slush on the bottoms of winter boots).  It’s not a ritual I had experienced before, but one of my Sunday Morning Crew was like “I write letters to myself and found xyz”. I thought that was a corny thing for a person to do, so I wrote letters to the characters I was cast as (a practice I still carry with me and yes, it is a far cornier endeavor). 

We all “know” the play, and in that “knowledge” Othello is this larger than life character who looms over the canon/performer.  If the past were to be prologue, he “should” be this gravitational force, the embodiment of strength and “manly-ness”. He’s jealous and angry or something along those lines. So rather than fall in lockstep with the mythic barnacles of the play, I re-read it with the fresh young eyes of a curious child at Disneyworld for the first time. 

The first Act is the portrait of a man in love, a man with purpose, a man who has a grasp on what he wants the world to look like and how he can nudge the paradigm a bit closer to the shores of that promise.  In my letters, I asked Othello to teach me what love was; specifically, to teach me what it was to be in love with oneself and one’s purpose (he later taught me that once you do that, falling in love is relatively easy).  I asked him to remind me of what it means to see beyond what “is” into the realm of what “can be”.  I asked him to demand my radical honesty.  For a time it felt as though the letter went unheeded.  Instead of waiting, I worked my ass off. I scanned and rescanned text, I battled tooth and nail for text to be re-entered into the cut, I linked arms with my castmates/peers to honor the work put in to tell the story as written.  I fought for the story in the hopes that it would fight for me.  And then, out of that big, looming shadow shrank there emerged a man.  He looked a bit like me; a little stockier, a whole lot wiser and a generous smile.  And we walked side by side through the play and he revealed things to me.  Little secrets other people overlook. 

Jealousy seems to be a trait oft associated with The Moor of Venice.  I ask…where though?  He’s one of the highest ranking generals in the nation, he’s got the hand of one of the most sought after bachelorettes in the nation, he talks business, pleasure and war with the Duke.  Iago mentions jealousy, sure…but when does Othello? On the page, he wants to be the change he wants to see in the world.  He chooses to partner with the only other human who sees him as such:  who sees the sensitivity and the vulnerability in Othello, rather than upholding the expectations of manhood set upon him.  With this realization, I felt a little hydrophobic daemon, resistant to my attempts to drown him, squeal away in a puff of brimstone and smoke.  I dug deeper: when it is made known to him the possibility of deceit on the part of Desdemona, there is no time for jealousy when your heart is shattered.  When you’ve been duped, hoodwinked, bamboozled, how can you blame anyone else but yourself?  You can only perform the confusing task of picking up the shards of your heart and fighting through the wincing pain of putting it back together…even though you know it will not refract light the same way. Huh.  That’s not jealousy.  That’s good old fashioned world weary heartbreak and disappointment.  In understanding a bit about him, I understood a bit more about myself. He wasn’t a monolith looming over me, he was right there, next to me, ensuring I honored every step in his shoes. 

It’s a cliché to say that Theatre saved my life…so I won’t (it did though, *insert eyeroll*).  I know that the characters aren’t actually leaping off the page to rescue me (I’m fully aware it’s my imagination+therapy+the work doing some heavy lifting).  As much as I say that the characters are teaching me things, I know that ultimately it’s me, a room full of people, blood, sweat, tears, imagination, and ink on paper.  Nor am I here to suggest that Theatre is a replacement to therapy, psychiatry, and/or AA/NA meetings (it isn’t, shout out to my therapist).  But it can be a supplement (like B12). The gift and wisdom of the playwright is their ability to teach us lessons about what it means to be human.  Sometimes those lessons are about success.  They are often about failure;  but always, there are lessons to be excavated, digested and shared.  There are empathetic bridges to be built; within ourselves, to each other, and to the world into which we wake.  And while that sounds like a gushy Barney sing along, the work is hard. It requires dedication, it requires an open mind and an open heart. Building empathetic bridges to truly see each other can be painful.  Much like a journey to sobriety, it can feel pretty ugly (ha, I did one of those Shakespeare things).  Much like nudging social norms and our existential paradigm towards a just and verdant society, you take it one day, one hour, one minute at a time. 

It’s worth it.

Brandon Burton is a 2020 graduate of The Yale School of Drama Master of Fine Arts program. He can be seen in Spotlight on Play’s reading of The Baltimore Waltz streaming April 29th

Stories from the Stage


When I first came to New York, with all those aspirations, I, through a fluke of a chance conversation between an actor I know and her agent, learned that Jerry Robbins, who was about to direct, off-Broadway, Arthur Kopit’s brilliant play Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Momma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling so Sad, was having a terrible time casting the part of the young son in the play.  I worked hard on the audition and waltzed in and knocked him out with the audition.  So he asked me to come to a callback audition a few days later.  At which I totally bombed.  I’d never heard of a callback.  It was a fiasco.  Jerry called me the next day and asked me to come see him.  He said. “what happened?!”  He wasn’t angry, he was just bewildered.  I told him that I had no idea, at that second audition, what I was doing.  So he kept calling me back and calling me back, looking for the fire to return.  Then finally, on, I think, the sixth audition, he had me read opposite the magnificent Barbara Harris.  And we soared.

So my career was launched.  Jerry was the launcher and Barbara was the rocket.

Luck. Pure, wild luck.  This business is beyond capricious.  

Austin Pendleton

Austin Pendleton is an actor and director who made his Broadway debut as the original Motel in Fiddler on the Roof. Other Broadway credits include Hail Scrawdyke!, The Little Foxes, An American Millionaire, Doubles, Grand Hotel, The Diary of Anne Frank and Choir Boy as an actor and Shelter, The Runner Stumbles, John Gabriel Borkman and Spoils of War as a director. He was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for The Little Foxes and most recently appeared on Broadway as Mr. Oldfield in The Minutes.
Long Form

From Younger Than Springtime to Springtime for Hitler: Broadways Infatuation with Spring

By Katie Birenboim

The sun is shining, cherry blossoms are blooming, and many world economies are opening up (slowly but surely).  It seems like spring 2021 has finally arrived, bringing with it the seasonal sense of joy, promise, and new beginnings that has long been lauded by writers and artists throughout history.  While many people may associate springtime with Shakespeare sonnets, Impressionist paintings, or even madrigals, spring has also been the focus of many Broadway composers and lyricists. 

The most obvious example of springtime making its way into the Broadway canon is the song “Younger Than Springtime” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific.  Sung right after Lieutenant Cable and Liat first meet (and make love), “Younger Than Springtime” has all the classic markers of a spring love song.  Cable compares Liat to spring – favorably – saying she is “younger than springtime,” “gayer than laughter,” “sweeter than music,” and “warmer than the winds of June.”  But the song also has a great “turn” – certainly one of the reasons it’s still so well-known today.  While Cable begins the song by saying that Liat is like springtime, halfway through, he implies that she is also transformative: “when your youth/and joy invade my arms/and fill my heart as now they do/then younger than springtime/am I.”  Through Liat’s love, Cable argues that he becomes someone who is “gayer than laughter,” “softer than starlight,” and “younger than springtime,” too.

Another well-known use of spring in the lyrics, title, and imagery of a Broadway song can be found in “It Might As Well Be Spring” from State Fair, another Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration.  The song plays with some of the springtime tropes and patterns used in “Younger Than Springtime.”  The singer, Margy, makes clear that she hasn’t seen any of the typical, physical signs of oncoming spring.  In fact, it’s decidedly not spring: “I haven’t seen a crocus or a rosebud/or a robin on the wing,” Margy sings, “But…it might as well be spring.”  This is a prime example of Oscar Hammerstein’s genius use of conditional thinking.  In the same way Hammerstein implies in Carousel that Julie Jordan is madly in love with Billy Bigelow using the conditional “IF I loved you,” and that Laurie and Curly in Oklahoma! are similarly destined to mate with the conditional “people will SAY we’re in love,” Hammerstein is able to write a spring love song that’s not actually sung during springtime. 

The song grows even more rich and complex in its associations with the season.  While the characteristics of springtime that Cable lists in “Younger Than Springtime” are all positive, for Margy “it might as well be spring” not only because she’s “starry-eyed,” “giddy,” and “gay,” but also because she feels “restless,” “jumpy,” and “vaguely discontented.”  In “It Might As Well Be Spring” you get both sides of the coin: the good and the bad, the positive and the negative, perhaps best summed up by the lyric: “But I feel so gay/in a melancholy way/that it might as well be spring.”  Here, spring is being used as a metaphor for the “nameless” discontent Margy feels with her life at the moment – a vague restlessness which sets up most of the action of the play: while Margy is dating Harry, who wants to marry her, she “keep[s] wishing [she] were somewhere else,/Walking down a strange new street./Hearing words that [she’s]…never heard/ From a man [she’s] yet to meet.”  These lyrics foreshadow her meeting, and falling in love with, Pat at the (titular) state fair.  It’s also hard not to read these lyrics without picking up something of a sexual edge.  When Margy starts the song, she sings of “want[ing] a lot of…things/[she’s] never had before.”  Given the traditional associations of birth, new beginnings, love, and even sexuality, with springtime, “It Might As Well Be Spring” could easily speak to Margy’s desires as a newly minted young woman. 

 Many Broadway songs focus on this deeper side of spring’s transitions.  In Rodgers and Hart’s I Married an Angel, for example, Willy sings “Spring Is Here” when things with his angel-wife (yes, you read that correctly) have gone sour.  “Spring is here/why doesn’t my heart go dancing?/spring is here/why isn’t the waltz entrancing?…Maybe it’s because nobody needs me…Maybe it’s because nobody loves me,” he sings.  It’s another clever inversion of the springtime myth: spring may be here, with its gentle “breezes,” and “lads and girls…drinking May wine,” but because Willy has fallen out of love, he can no longer enjoy it.  It’s a springtime love song that depends on negative space rather than positive space: without “love,” “desire,” or “ambition,” there can be no spring.

“Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolf’s 1955 tune which was then incorporated into the 1959 musical The Nervous Set, similarly focuses on the “have-nots” of spring rather than the “haves.”  A send-up of the first lines of T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” (“April is the cruelest month…”), “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” implies that spring can actually be the worst time of the year – if you’re single, that is.  “Spring this year has got me feeling like a horse that never left the post;/I lie in my room staring up at the ceiling/Spring can really hang you up the most!” the lyrics read.  The song reverses traditional springtime psychology and implies that the singer was happy and in love in the winter, and now, during the joyful spring season of rebirth, is experiencing loneliness. “Love seemed sure around the New Year,” she sings, “Now it’s April, love is just a ghost;/ Spring arrived on time, only what became of you, dear?”  It should be noted that this song, as well as “It Might As Well Be Spring,” became jazz standards, covered by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra.  The season’s failure to deliver on its promise is clearly a recurring theme on Broadway and beyond.

But no discussion of spring on Broadway would be complete without “Springtime for Hitler” from Mel Brooks’ The Producers.  The major song in the musical’s show-within-a-show, a favorable retelling of WWII from the perspective of a disgruntled Nazi, “Springtime for Hitler” shows Brooks’ thoughtful understanding – and appreciation – of spring’s metaphorical function in Golden Age musicals.  As the tap-dancing, sausage-wearing Nazis sing lines like “And now it’s springtime for Hitler and Germany/Deutschland is happy and gay,” Brooks is sending up the positive traits associated with springtime in musicals like South Pacific and State Fair.  And to the Nazis represented in the show, “springtime for Hitler” is indeed positive: it encapsulates their military campaign to take over the world.  Brooks makes clear, however, that this seasonal rebirth is actually extremely dark.  Peppered in with the image of a “happy and gay” Germany are lyrics about “U-boats…sailing once more.”  In the song, springtime equals gaiety, but it also happens to equal “bombs falling from the skies again.”  Combined with the schmaltzy musical style, movie-musical tap-dancing, over-the-top costumes, and of course the late, great Gary Beach’s acting, springtime in “Springtime for Hitler,” repeated over 20 times in the eight-minute song, becomes an absurd (and incredibly funny) dramatic irony.

Brooks’ hilarious treatment of springtime is similar to the season’s representation in a lesser known E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy song, “Springtime Cometh” from the 1951 flop Flahooley.  Like “Springtime for Hitler,” “Springtime Cometh” relies on and leans into the audience’s positive associations with spring and its traditional representation in Golden Age musicals.  Sandy/Penny and her genie (truly – don’t ask) sing about “lilacs growing on the clothesline,” “roses growing in the ashcan,” “hummingbird[s],” “merry maidens,” and repeat the word “springtime” six times in the short song.  Harburg went one step further and even wrote the lyrics in a sort of faux Olde English: “Springtime cometh,” the characters sing. “Hummingbird hummeth,/little brook rusheth,/merry maiden blusheth…springtime cometh for love of thee.”  Harburg pushes this construction even further for comedic effect with “Sugarplum plummeth,/Heart, it humpty-dummeth,/And to summeth up,/The Springtime cometh for the love of thee.”  The faux Olde English language reaches its zenith with Harburg’s tongue-and-cheek reference’s to spring’s inherent sexuality: “Lad and lass/In tall green grass/Gaily skippeth,/Nylon rippeth,/Zipper zippeth…which is to say/Spring cometh.”  Harburg’s ironic send-up of springtime is sexual, funny, self-aware, and, most importantly, irreverent.

Broadway clearly has a long-time fascination – and infatuation – with all things spring.  From the huge number of songs with “spring” in their title (and chorus) – to ones that rely on springtime imagery like the lilac trees in My Fair Lady’s “On the Street Where You Live” –  lyricists have used the season to convey and inspire romance, joy, lust, restlessness, loneliness, humor, and personal transformation in equal parts.  So in this close-to-post-pandemic moment: crank up the Broadway show tunes, smell the flowers, and look forward to a new (and hopefully, better) day. As they say: “springtime cometh!” 

Katie Birenboim is a NYC-based actor, director, and writer. She’s performed and directed at Classic Stage Company, Berkshire Theatre Group, Barrington Stage, City Center Encores!, The Davenport Theatre, and Ancram Opera House, to name a few.  She is a proud graduate of Princeton University, member of Actors’ Equity, and hosts a weekly interview show on YouTube with theatre’s best and brightest entitled “Call Time with Katie Birenboim.”

Stories from the Stage


A Memory Lapse

In 1997 I did a one man play about a drunken Irish theatre critic at the Bush theater in London. St Nicholas! Written by Conor McPherson, which I subsequently performed the following year at Primary Stages in New York on 45th street, and for which I was honored with ‘The Lucille Lortel Award’!

But the previous year the play was premiered at the Bush Theatre in London. The Bush was a small intimate theatre with the audience on three sides. This particular night was a sellout performance. The audience were packed to the rafters.

Now St Nicholas is an extremely intricate complicated and fantastical text. With a sinewy comic thread! It demands an incredible level of Concentrated attention from the player. That evening started well.

But…About 6 minutes into the evening I noticed that sitting on front row…in…the middle…to my right was my ex girlfriend. Who I had recently broken up with. I was a little thrown by this …and wondered why on earth she had chosen that particular, really, quite prominent, seat. 

I recovered from this slight ‘hiccup’ and continued, feeling proud of myself that I was not thrown by this ‘obstacle’. So I proceeded with renewed confidence.

After a few minutes, I’d just gotten back in stride when I turned to address my audience stage left and there sitting…in the middle of the left front row was…my ex ex girlfriend. The girl friend previous…to the girl friend…now sitting stage right. In fact these two young ladies were actually sitting…facing…each other. I didn’t panic… but, my anxiety…was, shall we say…mounting.

What on earth was going on? And of course various scenarios began to play out in my mind!

Had they come together?

And as some bizarre joke decided to sit opposite each other? 

Or??….were they there by pure coincidence?

My brain became occupied with, what seemed endless permutations on these shifting scenarios. The text of the play, the main purpose of my attention, was drifting in my consciousness. And..ten minutes into the evening….the inevitable happened. I went up! Dried stone dead.

I struggled like a drowning man seeking a life raft. But after..a beat..which seemed a lifetime. I stopped turned to the audience, and said “Ladies and Gentlemen I’m afraid for reasons I can’t entirely explain, I need to start the evening over again! Apologies!” And so indeed I did…and it was truly scary!

“Will I get over the point where concentration abandoned me.”

And…”Will I indeed get through the entire evening….”

The moment where I had lost my way, was looming like one of those huge fences at the English Grand national horse race. Would I get over the fence? The moment arrived… and I lept the fence.. and..proceeded obsessively to the finish. After it was over, I left the stage exhausted!

I sat in my dressing room. There was a knock on my door. It was my ex-girlfriend. “Brian that was wonderful, what an incredible evening.” I was about to answer when there was another knock at the door. Enter my ex-ex-girlfriend “Brian that was wonderful, what an amaz….Oh hello, blank!

I was about to answer when there was another knock at the door. Enter my ex-ex-girlfriend “Brian that was wonderful, what an amaz….Oh hello, blank! Were you in?”

Ex-girl friend, “Yes, were you, wasn’t it wonderful 

Ex-ex-girlfriend “Amazing!”

I sat there in a state of stupefaction! Me “But weren’t you?… didn’t you? ..Um..ah…see..?”

Both, “What?

Me,  “Oh…Nothing…”

Ex girlfriend “ I was absolutely caught from the moment you came on!

Ex-ex-girlfriend “Oh, Me too! Me too”.

Both “But..why did you stop?”

Me, “Ah!…That!…Momentary lapse of concentration!”

Brian Cox

Brian Cox is an Olivier Award, Emmy Award and Golden Globe winner known for playing Logan Roy on HBO‘s Succession. He has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he gained recognition for his portrayal of King Lear. Additional credits include: Super Troopers, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, X2, Braveheart, Rushmore, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Troy.

Stories from the Stage


My First (and Last) Artistic Directorship: 1986-8

I was in a sauna with my husband and 3 year old son on the Dingel peninsula when I received a phone call from Joe Papp asking me to start a multicultural Shakespeare company for him to play for the New York City school system.

Why me? He had seen a multicultural-multilingual production of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA that I had directed at the Womens’ Interart Theater on 52nd Street. I put together a company: 5 Blacks, 6 Hispanics, 3 Japanese, 2 Whites and 1 Turk.

We played in the Anspacher theater at 425 Lafayette Street for one year and then moved to the Belasco Theater on West 44th Street as SHAKESPEARE ON BROADWAY. It was Joe Papp’s dream.

We played daytimes during the school week for high school and junior high school students. On Friday and Saturdays they could bring their families from great grandparents to babes-in-arms. It was all free.


First an hour of relaxation and physical work led by a member of the company who was a dancer.

Then an hour of vocal work led by another member of the company. Then, five hours of free form work to find out who these actors were.

The reason for these five months?

Commercial actors of whatever culture or race learned to “act white” back in the 80s. I wanted to know who these people really were, their customs, their talk, their heritage, themselves. That stuff is the bedrock of compelling theater and fine acting.

One day Rene Moreno, an Hispanic, was showing us something of his heritage when Vince Williams, a big black guy from a family of musicians in New Orleans, sitting near me watching in the audience, piped up with “My heritage is some guys standing on a beach waiting to be brought here to be slaves”. Necessary talk this. Five months of it.

What do high school students like? Sports teams, oh, yes!

We put sweats on the actors and we had a sports team. (Ruth Morley of ANNIE HALL fame did the costumes). THE NEW YORK SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL PLAYERS


The actors came out to introduce themselves “Hello. I’m . . .”

But-hold it! Is that theater? What is your moniker, what is your “John Hancock”?

What is yourself? Show me your essence!

Not easy. Maybe impossible. Try.

One actor was really good at juggling. One could do backflips. One had been trained at New York City Ballet. Got it? Too big a challenge? Yes. Try!

By now the kids were into it.

Bess Myerson, a former Miss America, now part of the city government saw just this much of the performance and gave us a big donation.


Natsuko was Rosalind. Celia was Regina Taylor—with a live boa constrictor around her neck. 25 pounds. Had his own dressing room.

“I can’t rehearse all day with this thing around my neck.” Of course not—but it had been her idea.

One matinee, lights came up and a big girl in the front row shot to the back of the house – faster than any animal I had ever seen run.

The snake was still on Regina’s shoulders.


We played the Anspacher, the Mobile Unit in the parks all summer, and then added the Scottish play when we became SHAKESPEARE ON BROADWAY. Ching Valez played Lady M.

Oh, but she could.

After the students had seen the productions, the actors, as themselves, visited the schools and “played Shakespeare” with them.

At the end of our second season, I went, as a wife, to Gracie Mansion for dinner with the Mayor. My husband worked in the city government.

Bobby Wagner, head of the school board, was there. He told a story.

“I was in a school elevator and asked a teacher how her year had been. She said ‘Estelle Parsons’ Shakespeare program was the only good thing that happened all year.”

Estelle Parsons received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde, and was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Rachel, Rachel. She is well known for playing Beverly Harris, on the sitcom “Roseanne”, and its spinoff “The Conners”. She has been nominated five times for the Tony Award (four times for Lead Actress of a Play and once for Featured Actress) for her work in The Seven Descents of Myrtle, And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, Miss Margarida’s Way, Morning’s at Seven, and The Velocity of Autumn. 


All The World’s Her Stage (…and Backstage)

Beverly Jenkins is not afraid of a cut show. That’s a performance where there are more actors calling out than there are understudies or swings to replace them, and it requires a last-minute reconfiguration of everything from blocking to costuming to the placement of props.

For many people, this would be terrifying, but for Jenkins, who’s been a Broadway stage manager since the early 90s, it’s an opportunity.

“It’s a challenge I actually enjoy,” she says. “I know it’s a crazy thing to enjoy. It’s not something you wish for, but if you need to make it happen and you have the right people, you can make it happen.”

Case in point: At one performance of Broadway’s A Bronx Tale The Musical, she only had one Black actress available, even though there was a scene that required two. “I had to decide,” she recalls. “‘Do I have one Black female on stage, or do I have a Black female and a Black male in that other track?’ I’d planned for that, because you have to plan for that, even if it never happens. So I made the decision to have a Black male on stage, because otherwise it would have thrown some things off [to just have one person]. I spoke to some people; we made a few changes, and it worked. No problem.”

That solution indicates what a distinct style of stage management Jenkins has developed over her career, which includes landmark productions like Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk; the original Miss Saigon; and her current gig as the production stage manager for Hadestown.

The cast and crew of Hadestown

Crucially, she sees a cut show as a chance to connect. “It’s a community event,” she says. “You check with wardrobe, and they’ll make adjustments. The music department and the dance captains are involved. I always reach out to the director or the AD to make sure my choices are okay. And I take the personal trip to tell people what’s happening. I get a couple of extra steps in on my FitBit, and I’m good. I want to make sure I’m personally letting people know what’s going on before they step on stage.”

Those steps — up and down stairs, into the green room, into the wings — set Jenkins apart “Beverly runs a building, and she doesn’t have to open her computer to do it,” says Michael Rico Cohen, a fellow stage manager who has worked alongside her on A Bronx Tale The Musical, Amazing Grace, and Fully Committed.

“She is the person-to-person contact. She’s the problem solver. She’s the empathy master.”

Or to borrow a phrase Jenkins uses to describe herself, she’s a mom of many. “I’m fine with the tech,” she says. “It’s all good. I’m very calm, and I can call a cue just as well as the next person, but I believe my speciality is about being hands-on with the people. I put a lot of thought and care into everyone — not just the actors, but everyone — coming into that theatre.”

On every show, then, a big part of her job is figuring out exactly what this particular group of people needs. For instance, on Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk, the 1996 dance musical that uses tap to trace Black history in the United States, Jenkins worked with performers who were more familiar with the dance world than with Broadway. “Sorry Equity, but I had to bend the rules for this group of young men,” she says. “I had to assess the rules and see what they needed. Like, ‘I know this is half hour, and if you’re not here at half hour, then I need you to call me and tell me how far away you are. And as Iong as I know you’re coming, you get a five-minute grace period.’ And that’s something I still do, the five-minute grace period.”

On Noise/Funk, she also turned her office into an occasional daycare center, so that parents in the company could bring their children with them when there were no other options. She recalls, “I had Barney tapes. I had a playpen. I was like, ‘You’re not going to be forced to miss work because you’re doing the right thing with your child.’ I have to get my show up, no matter what. I have to figure out how to get the best show on stage today. And on that show, watching kids was part of it.”

For Amazing Grace, the 2015 Broadway musical that explores how the British slave trade inspired the titular hymn, Jenkins knew her job required extra compassion. She says, “Amazing Grace was important to me because of what was happening on stage. How hard is it that the first time you see Black people on stage, they are stuffed in a crate, and then they get pulled out, thrown on the ground, and shot in the back? So when the actors come off stage, how can they not carry that off stage? How do we make sure that these people are not carrying the feelings of trauma off stage with them?

“We had company morale-building events. We had t-shirt day. We made sure the dressing rooms were mixed, and that we weren’t keeping the Puritans over here and the Africans over here. It was good to see everyone put thought into how to make this a harmonious backstage area and still tell that particular story.”

It no doubt helped that Jenkins herself was spearheading the backstage culture. “She is wildly good at creating fellowship and community,” says Rachel Chavkin, the director of Hadestown.

“She exudes exuberance, but also doesn’t beat around the bush when she’s got a problem to work through. And she’s not precious, because she’s focused on problem-solving at every turn.”

Jenkins asserts that small touches help a company avoid bigger problems, particularly when they’re together for a lengthy run. That’s one reasons she runs a “turkey hand” contest for Thanksgiving, getting everyone in the building to trace their hand on construction paper and then turn it into a decorated turkey drawing. “And believe me, there are prizes, honey,” she says.

Cohen confirms, “There’s nobody that loves a turkey hand competition more than Beverly Jenkins. But it’s more than just turkey hands or door decorating contests or the Father’s Day barbecue. She’s a master of the casual-but-meaningful interaction. It creates a camaraderie and an immediate trust. It’s these little things that really make the building a happy place over a period of years. All of those things are just as important — and sometimes more — than announcing what we’re doing in understudy rehearsal on Friday.”

Mark Blankenship is the founder and editor of The Flashpaper and the host of The Showtune Countdown on iHeartRadio Broadway.


Nathan Lane to Play Every Role on Broadway

In a shocking and unprecedented move, the Broadway community has announced that Nathan Lane will be taking on every iconic role on Broadway, all at the same time. The decision comes after months of speculation about who would take on the most coveted roles on the Great Bright Way, and it seems that Lane was the only actor brave enough to take on the challenge.

Starting next month, Lane will be performing as every character in every show currently running on Broadway. From Hamilton to Wicked, from Phantom of the Opera to The Lion King, Lane will be the only actor on stage, playing every part simultaneously, including his current hit, Pictures From Home. The feat is one that has never been attempted before, and experts predict that Lane will be breaking all kinds of records for his sheer stamina and talent.

Nathan Lane in Pictures From Home

When asked about the decision to take on every role on Broadway, Lane was characteristically modest. “Well, I’ve always been a bit of an overachiever,” he said with a grin. “I figured, why not take on the biggest challenge of my career and play every part at once?”

The news has sent shockwaves through the Broadway community, with fans and critics alike speculating about how Lane will pull off such a feat. Some have suggested that he will need to have multiple body doubles, while others have speculated that he will be wearing elaborate prosthetics to make himself look like each character.

Nathan Lane in November

In any case, Lane has assured fans that he is up for the challenge. “I’ve been training for months, and I feel like I’m ready to take on this incredible challenge,” he said. “I can’t wait to show the world what I’m capable of.”

The announcement has led to a frenzy of ticket sales, with many fans eager to see Lane’s incredible performance. There are already rumors that the show will be extended indefinitely, with Lane performing every night for the foreseeable future.

Of course, there have been a few skeptics, who have suggested that the whole thing is an elaborate April Fool’s Day prank. But Lane has assured fans that it is indeed true, and that he is ready to take on this incredible challenge.

So, mark your calendars for April 1st, and get ready to witness the most incredible feat in Broadway history. Nathan Lane will be stepping into every iconic role on Broadway, and he’s ready to take on the challenge with grace, humor, and a whole lot of talent. After that, you can catch him 8 times a week in Pictures From Home until April 30th.

Cover Story Creative

Larry Sultan and Pictures From Home

Now in its final weeks on Broadway, Pictures From Home is a tribute to Larry Sultan’s work and his unique perspective on family and photography. The play, written by Sharr White and directed by Bartlett Sher, is an adaptation of Sultan’s book of the same name. It explores the relationship between Sultan and his parents through a series of vignettes that recreate his photographs on stage.

Larry Sultan was an American photographer whose work focused on everyday life, particularly the lives of his own family members. He was born in 1946 in Brooklyn, New York, but spent most of his life in California. Sultan studied photography at San Francisco Art Institute and went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

Sultan’s work has been described as “a sustained meditation on the relationship between family and photography.” His photographs often depicted his parents, with whom he had a complex and sometimes fraught relationship. He also explored themes of suburban life, domesticity, and the construction of identity.

Sultan’s most famous project, “Pictures from Home,” began in the 1980s and continued for over a decade. The project was based on his relationship with his parents and his childhood home in the San Fernando Valley. Sultan photographed his parents and their home, as well as the surrounding landscape and architecture, in a way that was both intimate and detached.

The play has been praised for its ability to capture the emotional depth of Sultan’s work and for its authenticity in bringing his unique perspective to life on stage. The play’s star, Danny Burstein, has been particularly praised for his portrayal of Sultan, capturing the photographer’s complex relationship with his parents and the emotions that underpinned his work.

Nathan Lane’s portrayal in Pictures from Home has been widely praised for its emotional depth and authenticity. Lane plays the role of Larry Sultan’s father, and he captures the complex relationship between father and son in a way that is both moving and nuanced. Lane brings a sense of gravitas to the role, infusing it with humor and vulnerability, and creating a character that is both flawed and sympathetic. Critics have hailed Lane’s performance as one of the highlights of the play, and audiences have been moved by his portrayal of a father struggling to connect with his son.

One of the things that makes Sultan’s work so powerful is its ability to capture the complexity of family relationships. In “Pictures From Home,” Sultan’s photographs are recreated on stage, giving audiences a chance to see his unique perspective in action.

Pictures From Home plays until April 30th at Studio 54 Theater in New York.


Kimber Elayne Sprawl on Making Wicked History

Kimber Elayne Sprawl has made history with her portrayal of Nessarose in the hit musical Wicked. Sprawl is the first Black actor to play the role. In a recent interview with Jim Glaub, Sprawl opened up about her experience breaking barriers and her journey to becoming a Broadway performer.

Congratulations on your return to Broadway after your incredible run with Girl From The North Country. How does it feel to be back on the Rialto?

I feel so grateful! Broadway is hard and it’s a blessing to be working. I don’t take that for granted. This is my fourth Broadway show and I couldn’t be happier.

And making history as the first Black Nessarose. What does it feel to be stepping into an iconic role in an long-running musical.

I think the most rewarding part of making history as the first Black Nessarose is that I get to inspire other little Black girls to dream beyond the imagination of others. I never saw myself in Wicked because there were very few people who looked like me on stage. Brittany Johnson and Jordan Barrow changed my prospective as the first Black Glinda and Boq. I hope to do the same for other artists and for the creatives behind the table. 

Photo by Caitlin McNaney 

How different is it going from a brand new musical to a long running hit like Wicked? And from Bob Dylan to Stephen Schwartz!

They’re vastly different and uniquely special. Girl from the North Country and Wicked live in contrasting worlds musically, stylistically, dramaturgically and that’s great for me to stretch myself as an artist. In GFTNC, I created a role and that’ll always have a special place in my heart. In Wicked, I get to carry on a legacy and become a special part of its history. 

There’s major fandom around this musical, have you had any experiences with the fans yet?

Omg yes! This girl made a whole TikTok post about how excited she was that I was joining the cast. The girl had box braids just like the ones I have in the show and she was so deeply affected by that. She was crying and then I was crying. She felt seen by seeing me. Representation matters. There has been a flood of positivity and love around me assuming this role; it’s beautiful. 

What is it about Wicked that keeps people coming back again after 18 years on Broadway?

I mean, Wicked has everything! The last time I saw the show was in 2014 when my friend, Ryan Vasquez, made his Broadway debut. I was as memorized now as I was then. The music is iconic, the costumes are iconic, the book is great, and the set in spectacular. What’s even more impressive is that everyone who is still involved with the show is so invested and does their job with such skill and pride. 

You have been an advocate for change and created movements using art centered around equity and inclusion, how do you hope this turn as Nessarose will help further this mission?

I don’t know! I’m sure something will reveal itself and I’ll be ready to jump in. Sometimes you have to lead by minding your own business. At the moment, I’m enjoying just being Nessa. 

Cover Story Creative

Irish Theatre Part II

By Jordan Levinson

The annual celebration of St. Patricks Day marks the anniversary of the death day of the most prominent patron saint and national apostle of Ireland; he is notably credited with bringing Christianity to its people. It is an international holiday today, but the Irish have observed St. Patrick’s Day as a religious observance since around the 9th or 10th century — over 1,000 years by now. Through parades, parties, and food aplenty, people around the world love celebrating their Irish heritage on this day. It notably takes place in the middle of Lent, the period commemorating the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert fasting, so there are strict dietary rules and restrictions to follow. However, since St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday in 2023, the rules are a bit laxer — observers are more than welcome to eat meat on March 17 only (Shepherd’s Pie and corned beef and cabbage are traditional dishes for the holiday).

It has long been known that the Irish have a way with words and use them to tell the most wonderful stories, so seeing as St. Patrick’s Day is an international appreciation and celebration of Irish culture, this article will shine a light on some successful Irish playwrights who have seen their work take shape on Broadway’s stages:

Early in the 20th century, Dublin-born John Millington Synge — a key figure in the Irish Literary Revival (which saw a renewed interest in aspects of Celtic writing) — wrote many plays about Irish rural life before his 1909 death. His most notable play is The Playboy of the Western World, which has been seen eight times on Broadway in a 60-year span (1911-1971). It is centered on Christy Mahon, a young man who runs away from his farm and pretends that he has committed patricide. When it first premiered in Ireland in 1907, it was the subject of public controversy amongst republicans, as they claimed the play’s message and themes were an insult to the nation. The Playboy Riots broke out on its opening night before press opinion eventually turned against the rioters. Other Synge plays that came to Broadway include his first play, The Shadow of the Glen, Riders to the Sea, and The Well of the Saints; all of these had multiple runs throughout the 20th century.

From left, Orlagh Cassidy, Rachel Pickup, Aedin Moloney and Annabel Hägg in "Dancing at Lughnasa," directed by Charlotte Moore at the Irish Repertory Theater.

Orlagh Cassidy, Rachel Pickup, Aedin Moloney and Annabel Hägg in “Dancing at Lughnasa,” at the Irish Repertory Theater in 2011 (Carol Rosegg)

Brian Friel, known to some as “the Irish Chekhov”, is considered one of the greatest English-language dramatists, and his work was compared favorably to some of his fellow contemporaries. Friel’s plays were all written in the second half of the 20th century. 14 of them take place in a fictional town he liked to call Ballyweg (Irish for “small town”), one being Dancing at Lughnasa, which won him the 1992 Tony for best play. A memory play, it follows narrator Michael Evans, who recalls a summer he spent with his mother and her four sisters in a cottage when he was seven. Dancing at Lughnasa was adapted into a 1998 movie, directed by Irishman Pat O’Connor, and starring Meryl Streep as one of the sisters. Other works include Faith Healer (last seen on Broadway in 2006 with Ralph Fiennes and Cherry Jones), Translations (which got a 2007 Roundabout Theatre Company revival), and the two-sided relocation comedy Philadelphia, Here I Come!

A group of people dancing on a stage

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Brian Bedford, Dana Ivey, David Furr, and Santino Fontana in Roundabout Theater Company’s 2011 The Importance of Being Earnest (Sara Krulwich)

In the late 19th century, a young man named Oscar Fingal O’Fflahertie Wills Wilde rose to fame as an avid spokesperson for aestheticism, making him one of the most striking personalities of his day. One of his most notable dramatic pieces — and the final comedy he wrote — is The Importance of Being Earnest, a farce where the protagonists adapt fictitious personas just so they can escape burdensome social obligations. The play’s premiere was successful, and it has been revived many times ever since. The original Broadway production opened in 1895 at the Empire Theatre and was produced by Charles Frohman; it most recently received a Roundabout remount in 2011, starring Tootsie Tony winner Santino Fontana. Oscar Wilde is also known for the Biblical legend dramatization Salome, the upper-class comedy Lady Windermere’s Fan, and the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

One of the key figures in the mid-20th century Theatre of the Absurd era, Samuel Beckett made himself known with his minimalist plays that focused on tragicomic life experiences, coupled with lots of nonsense. His Waiting for Godot tracks two men who have a variety of conversations under a leafless tree as they wait for the titular Godot, who never arrives. After first opening in France in 1953, it came to Broadway three years later and quickly became one of Beckett’s best-known works, with Bert Lahr — the Cowardly Lion in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” — receiving praise for his turn as Estragon. Another popular Beckett play is the post-apocalyptic Endgame, a revival of which is currently playing through April 9 at New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre, starring Bill Irwin and John Douglas Thompson. 

Playwright and political activist George Bernard Shaw became the leading writer of his generation, as he wrote more than 60 dramatic works from the 1880s until his 1950 death. Much of Shaw’s work highlights his uncanny ability to contrast reality with conventional wisdom. The most known Shavian play is Pygmalion, about an English phonetics professor who changes the speech of a Cockney flower girl and passes her off as a duchess. The reality here, for instance, is that the lower class is just as smart as the upper class. Pygmalion received the musical treatment in the lush, “loverly” My Fair Lady, and the play has also been adapted into countless films and TV shows. Other Shaw plays include Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Saint Joan, and Man and Superman

A group of people dancing on a stage

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David Patrick Kelly, David Abeles, Erikka Walsh, Andy Taylor, Paul Whitty, Carlos Valdes, J. Michael Zygo in Once on Broadway (Joan Marcus)

Another native Dubliner, Enda Walsh has written musicals, straight plays, radio plays, art installations, and even an opera in his theatrical career so far. Walsh himself has stated that his works are all about “some kind of love and need for calm and peace.” He is best known for writing the Tony-winning book for the stage adaptation of the indie film Once, which also won the 2012 Tony for best musical and ran for three years on Broadway. Walsh collaborated with David Bowie on the 2015 musical Lazarus, which played New York Theatre Workshop right before Bowie died. He also adapted the unabashedly Irish coming-of-age story Sing Street for the stage; after a successful run at NYTW, it was set to open on Broadway in April 2020, which never happened due to the pandemic shutdown. After a second tryout at Boston’s Huntington Stage in the summer of 2022, however, there could be a bright future in sight for the title. 

Todd Almond, center, and the ensemble of “Girl From the North Country.”

Todd Almond, center, and the ensemble of “Girl From the North Country.” (Sara Krulwich)

Like Walsh, Conor McPherson has also instilled himself as one of the great contemporary Irish playwrights. His 2006 play The Seafarer, about an alcoholic who lives with his aging brother during the holiday season and tries to stay sober, marked McPherson’s National Theatre debut; a Broadway production opened in late 2007 and garnered a best play Tony nomination. McPherson wrote the book for the Bob Dylan jukebox musical Girl from the North Country, which garnered raves in the West End and became the final Broadway production to officially open before the COVID shutdown; a national tour will begin in fall 2023. The Duluth, Minnesota-set piece was filmed on Broadway for a future proshot release; a more traditional film adaptation is also in the works and is set to star Olivia Colman, Woody Harrelson, and Chloe Bailey. 

Finally, Martin McDonagh has made his mark in dark comedy, both for the screen and the stage. His first six plays are separated into two trilogies, and they all take place around where he spent his holidays as a child. McDonagh fictionalized the perils of totalitarianism in The Pillowman, his first non-Irish play. The United States was the location of A Behanding in Spokane, about a mysterious man searching for his left hand for over 25 years. The Pillowman and A Behanding in Spokane both received Broadway runs, with lead actor Christopher Walken winning a Tony for the latter in 2010. Also making it to the Main Stem were The Lieutenant of Inishmore, in 2006, and the Tony-nominated best play Hangmen, which opened in 2022 after over a two-year delay. 


Looking back at Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening is a Tony Award-winning musical that premiered on Broadway in 2006, based on the 1891 German play of the same name by Frank Wedekind. With music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater, Spring Awakening explores the journey of a group of teenagers as they navigate the challenges of adolescence in a repressive society.

Set in 19th-century Germany, the musical tells the story of Melchior, Wendla, and Moritz, three teenagers who grapple with their burgeoning sexuality, identity, and desires in a society that refuses to acknowledge these issues. The musical’s themes include sexual awakening, rebellion against authority, the consequences of silence, and the power of friendship.

One of the most striking aspects of Spring Awakening is its use of rock music to tell its story. The score, composed by Duncan Sheik, features guitar-driven rock songs that convey the characters’ inner turmoil and angst. The music is both energetic and haunting, drawing the audience into the emotional journey of the characters. The lyrics, written by Steven Sater, are poetic and poignant, capturing the struggles of adolescence in a way that is both timeless and timely.

In addition to its music, Spring Awakening is notable for its bold and daring staging. The show features minimalistic sets and costumes, with the actors often performing on a bare stage. This simplicity allows the focus to be on the characters and their stories, and the show’s choreography is used to great effect in conveying the characters’ emotions and inner lives. The use of microphones and amplifiers also helps to create a sense of intimacy between the performers and the audience.

One of the most powerful themes in Spring Awakening is the idea of silence and its consequences. The characters in the show are all struggling with something, whether it be sexual desires, family issues, or social pressures, but they are unable to speak openly about these issues. The consequences of this silence are devastating, leading to misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and even tragedy. The show emphasizes the importance of open and honest communication, and the dangers of repressing one’s emotions and desires.

Another key theme in Spring Awakening is the power of friendship. The characters in the show form strong bonds with each other, supporting each other through difficult times and helping each other find their way in the world. This sense of camaraderie is particularly important in a society that is so repressive, where the characters feel isolated and alone in their struggles. The show emphasizes the importance of finding a community of like-minded individuals who can provide support and understanding.

Spring Awakening is a powerful and thought-provoking musical that continues to resonate with audiences today. Its exploration of themes like sexual awakening, rebellion, and the consequences of silence is as relevant now as it was when the show premiered in 2006. The show’s use of rock music and minimalist staging creates an immersive experience that draws the audience into the characters’ emotional journey. And its message of the power of friendship and the dangers of repressing one’s emotions is a timely reminder of the importance of open and honest communication. Spring Awakening is a must-see musical for anyone interested in exploring the complexities of adolescence and the human experience.


Irish Theatre on Broadway

By Jordan Levinson

Irish theatre has a long and storied history on Broadway, dating back to the early 20th century. From the works of great Irish playwrights like George Bernard Shaw and Sean O’Casey to contemporary productions like “The Ferryman,” Irish theatre has made a significant impact on the Broadway stage.

George Bernard Shaw at Shaw’s Corner, his home for 44 years (photo: Granger Historical Picture Archive / Alamy Stock Photo)

One of the earliest examples of Irish theatre on Broadway was George Bernard Shaw’s “John Bull’s Other Island,” which premiered in 1904. The play tells the story of an Englishman who travels to Ireland to build a hydroelectric power plant, but finds himself at odds with the locals and their way of life. The play was a success and helped establish Shaw as one of the leading playwrights of his time.

From left, Adam Petherbridge, Clare O’Malley, John Keating and Ed Malone in “The Plough and the Stars.”

Another notable Irish playwright who made an impact on Broadway was Sean O’Casey. His plays, including “Juno and the Paycock” and “The Plough and the Stars,” dealt with the struggles of working-class Irish families during the early 20th century. These plays were praised for their realistic depictions of life in Ireland and helped introduce American audiences to the political and social issues of the time.

The Weir 1999 Broadway Production Photo

A new generation of Irish playwrights emerged, including Brian Friel and Conor McPherson. Friel’s “Dancing at Lughnasa” (1991) tells the story of five unmarried sisters living in rural Ireland in 1936, while McPherson’s “The Weir” (1999) is a ghost story set in a remote Irish pub. Both plays were critical and commercial successes on Broadway, and helped establish Ireland as a major force in contemporary theatre.

In recent years, Irish theatre has continued to make an impact on Broadway. In 2012, “Once,” a musical based on the 2006 film of the same name, premiered on Broadway and went on to win eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The show, which tells the story of a Dublin street musician and a Czech immigrant who fall in love, was praised for its heartfelt music and authentic portrayal of life in Dublin.

Another recent Irish production that made waves on Broadway was “The Ferryman,” a play by Jez Butterworth that premiered in 2018. Set in rural Northern Ireland during the Troubles, the play tells the story of a family caught up in the conflict. “The Ferryman” was praised for its powerful performances and gripping storytelling, and won four Tony Awards, including Best Play.

(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

You cannot write a piece about Irish theatre without playwright Martin McDonagh, a renowned Irish playwright and screenwriter who has made significant contributions to Broadway. He is best known for his dark comedies and exploration of human nature through his works. McDonagh made his Broadway debut in 1998 with “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” which was critically acclaimed and won four Tony Awards, including Best Play. He followed this up with “The Lonesome West” and “The Pillowman,” both of which were also well-received by audiences and critics. McDonagh’s works have brought a unique voice to Broadway, with their dark humor and complex characters. His contributions to the world of theater have helped to shape and define the modern stage, and his influence continues to be felt in productions around the world.

Gabriel Byrne’s “Walking With Ghosts”

Irish theatre on Broadway has also provided a platform for Irish actors to showcase their talent. Actors like Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, and Saoirse Ronan have all appeared in Irish productions on Broadway, helping to raise the profile of Irish theatre in the United States.

Irish plays have captivated audiences with their poignant storytelling and authentic depictions of Irish life. As long as there are talented Irish playwrights and actors, Irish theatre will continue to thrive on the Broadway stage.

Capsule Reviews

Capsule Reviews: A Dolls House

                                                                                                                                                  MARRIAGE NORWEIGAN STYLE

By Dori Campbell

Jamie Lloyd may be the most exciting director to come to Broadway since Ivo Van Hove caused a stir with “A View From the Bridge”….Lloyd’s productions of “Betrayal” and “Cyrano De Bergerac” were revelatory and now with “A Doll’s House” he adds another illuminating credit to his impressive resume.   From the moment you walk into the Hudson Theatre you are thrust into theatricality, for seated onstage in a spare setting is the Nora of this production:  Jessica Chastain.  Eventually her cast members will join here, before the lights dim, and the actual play begins, but the signal is clear:  this will be “A Doll’s House” unlike any previous production of the play.   There are no children in this production, no nanny, no maid and the conclusion which involves a decision by Nora to leave her current existence is new and startling, all of this courtesy of  Amy Herzog’s efficient and smart adaptation of the Ibsen classic.  The play has been streamlined into one act that serves the classic Ibsen text handsomely.   The praiseworthy performances in support of the excellent Ms. Chastain include Arian Moayed, Michael Patrick Thornton, Jesmille Darbouze, Tasha Lawrence and Okieriete Onaodowan.    In a year rich with superlative revivals, including “Top/Dog, Under/Dog”, “Death of a Salesman”, “Between Riverside and Crazy” and “Ohio State Murders”,  we must now include  “A Doll’s House”.

Photo by Emilio Madrid

By Noah Price

Academy Award winner Jessica Chastain has returned to the stage in a beautifully raw new production of A Doll’s House at the Hudson Theatre. Amy Herzog’s new adaptation succeeds in a way that makes the classic feel clear and current, while simultaneously reminding us just how ahead of his time Ibsen was. The wonderful ensemble of actors do all the heavy lifting on an empty stage, with monochromatic costumes and no props. Chastain holds your attention from the moment you walk in the theatre, perched like a sculpture (or doll) upon a chair rotating the stage during preshow. Make no mistake, this is her show from top to bottom. She plays most of the dialogue straight, only allowing herself emotional release towards the middle act. (It runs without intermission). She is locked into this journey and I was staring into her eyes looking for clues as to where she would go next. Nora’s famous exit will have you debating your seatmate. Tony nominee Arian Moayed (Succession) finds subtlety and layers to Torvald. And Michael Patrick Thornton is wonderful and lovable as Dr. Rank. 


Politically Correct Broadway?

By Robyn Roberts

What does that look like in the days of so-called “wokeness” and cancel culture when it comes down to some of the most celebrated storytelling for over a century on the stage. Do Broadway theatre plays and musicals of yore like Oklahoma! and Peter Pan stand a chance for survival after a revival?

We’ve grown up with these beloved stories. Our grandparents handed them down to our parents who then shared them with us. In our hearts and minds we’ve flown to Neverland with Wendy and danced with Laurey on her Oklahoma! farm. These stories have been shared across the globe, told through picture books, through TV and film and live on stage, much to our immense pleasure wrapped in that thing that everyone eventually loves and comes to rely on—nostalgia. 

Meanwhile, kids and adults a little different than us have seen the same stories unfold on their TVs and before them on stage only to be left with feelings of pain and disappointment. Political correctness is a delicate dance and topic of serious contention today in the Internet Age of access. Even broaching the subject in a small group setting of peers needs to be delicately handled and sincerely considered prior to even a hint of execution. 

It’s true that you can’t please them all, but if Corporate America has taught us anything in the past decade it’s that money talks and is forever the loudest voice in the room and if the majority of spenders demand a small edit of a dated piece of art then by all means give it to them. Dollars aside, for such an inclusive space as the theatre and Broadway are forever meant to be, then light tweaks and edits must take shape on stage to sustain momentum. The theatre is also the perfect place for reinvention, is it not? We’re artists after all, and it’s our duty to shapeshift into the colorful reflections of the wide audience before us, and to do so responsibly. We aren’t taking these stories away from the masses nor are we aiming to revise history. Rather, we’re simply giving them a fresher, improved story version that’s a little less sloppy than its former self. And who doesn’t love a strong comeback? 

Follow along, as we delve into some of Broadway’s most celebrated plays and musicals to-date, and how they’ve been perfected (or should be) to be a little less problematic and a lot more accurate. 

The company of Roundabout Theatre Company’s 1776. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2022.


The year marks the time when 13 American colonies severed ties from Great Britain to claim their independence. The 1969 Broadway musical based on the book by Peter Stone tells the story in the lead up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The 2022 Broadway revival production includes an excerpt of Abigail Adams’ March 1776 letter to John Adams, known for its “remember the ladies” statement for women’s rights. The show received mixed to negative reviews, with Jesse Green of The New York Times criticizing its casting of female, trans, and binary actors, writing that it “intensifies and complicates the argument.” Green also wrote of the overall production that despite “underlining one’s progressiveness a thousand times, as this 1776 does, [it] will not actually convey it better; rather it turns characters into cutouts and distracts from the ideas it means to promote.”

The 2019 Broadway cast of Oklahoma! © Little Fang Photo


A Rodgers and Hammerstein musical debuted on Broadway in 1943. In the 2019 Broadway adaptation, the production’s most important tonal change involved the character of Jud Fry. Instead of the sinister brooding and threatening (ahem—rapist) Jud of the original production, in the revival he is depicted in a positive, sympathetic light, and his death came, not as an accident, but as an intended act at the hands of Curly, followed by a sham trial to clear Curly of the blame. Ali Stroker as Ado Annie won Best Featured Actress in a Musical Award, making her the first wheelchair bound artist to win a coveted Tony. Critics and audiences are loving the West End Revival currently running.

Jessie Mueller as Julie Jordan and Joshua Henry as Billy Bigelow in the revival of “Carousel.”Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times


Another Rodgers and Hammerstein musical from 1945. By the 2018 Broadway revival, most of the reviewers agreed that while the choreography and performances (especially the singing) were excellent, characterizing the production as sexy and sumptuous, O’Brien’s direction did little to help the show deal with modern sensibilities about men’s treatment of women, instead indulging in nostalgia. A missed opportunity. However, songs such as “There’s nothin’ so bad for a woman” were cut from production. 

Paige Simunovich as Diana, Christopher Fitzgerald as Og and Christopher Borger as Henry in Finian’s Rainbow.

Finian’s Rainbow

A 1947 Broadway musical that has faced several revivals since. Forget the leprechaun of this Irish-American inspired musical, it’s the bigoted U.S. Senator who’s turned Black by witchcraft and is taught that it doesn’t matter what “his outside looks like—being Black—only the inside counts” that’s a bit problematic. 

How to Succeed in Business Tony Performance

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

A 1961 Broadway musical. Critics would say the Broadway play objectifies women in the office/business culture of male dominance. Songs like “ How to Keep His Dinner Warm” and a scantily clad “World Wide Wicket Treasure Girl”, whatever that means, are just some of the reasons. In 2011, Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times opined that the musical “is hampered by a dated book” and that its “episodic structure now seems as belabored as a sitcom plucked from a rusty time capsule”, while “all the romantic brouhaha with moony secretaries is beyond retro.”

Larissa Fasthorse to pen the new book for Peter Pan.

Peter Pan

Misogyny, unhinged Native American portrayals, and gender roles. Broadway’s first Native American playwright, Larissa FastHorse, says: “I’m adapting a musical that already exists that toured for 30 years nonstop. It’s something that works. So we just have to make it so it’s not harmful and try not to screw that up. You know what I mean? We don’t have to make a new thing, we just have to take away the harm of the old thing and make it hopefully even better in some ways.” In a recent interview about her Thanksgiving play, FastHorse also said, “The traditional “Peter Pan” puts Native Americans in that realm of the fantastical, as if we were extinct. But we’re here, alive and creative, not better or worse than anyone else.”

The cherished fable was recently revived for a smaller stage production by another Native American writer and was received positively. “The Neverland,” a modern-day adaptation of “Peter Pan,” premiered at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in (The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) Illinois in April 2022. The theatre department premier reimagined “Peter Pan” centered on Indigenous identity. Playwright Madeline Sayet is the executive director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program and a citizen of the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut. She often reimagines classic stories in her work.

There are many Broadway stories ripe for upgrades, and the aforementioned are merely a few. Miss Saigon has been faulted for its portrayals of Asian characters, while the Minneapolis Musical Theatre’s production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson last summer at the New Century theatre drew protests.

Nationally, Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre drew condemnation for passing along Kipling’s racialist and misogynistic views, while La Jolla Playhouse’s musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Nightingale was skewered for being set in China but featuring a cast whose leading characters were not Asian-American. If off-off Broadway is showing little mercy to such obvious innuendos then Broadway should certainly pay close attention. 

Devoted fans of centuries-old stories and fables and productions will have the ultimate say in what’s successful on stage now, and in the future. In the meantime, it’s far more responsible to continue to address dated or flat-out wrong representation in the arts, rather than leave it be as it sits. It’s simply improvement—not erasure. Besides, the Broadway stage is the perfect setting for a stunning revival. 


Broadway and US Presidents: Part II

By Patrick Jones

Although it is no longer President’s Day, there are so many shows with Presidents that we had to keep the celebration going. Here are 7 more plays and musicals that feature POTUS.  

The cast of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (Photo Credit Joan Marcus)

In 2010, composer Michael Friedman and librettist-director Alex Timbers headbanged their way to Broadway with the hard rocker of a musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, a satirical examination of the seventh President. Imagining Jackson as the rock star of his day, the musical follows his life and career, both in and out of the Oval Office. Highlighted throughout are the rise of populism, his relationship with his wife, and the signing of the Indian Removal Act, just to name a few. There are also some other U.S. Presidents who pop up throughout the show, including George Washington, Martin Van Buren, John Quincy Adams, and James Monroe. 

A one-man show proved to be an effective vehicle for James Whitmore, who played President Harry S. Truman in the biographical play Give ‘em Hell, Harry! The title comes from a remark one of Truman’s supporters made while he was giving a speech as part of his victorious 1948 Presidential campaign. Written by Samuel Gallu, Give ‘em Hell, Harry! premiered at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. in 1975. 

A group of people on a stage

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Steven Pasquale, Bianca Horn, and cast in Assassins (Photo Credit Julieta Cervantes)

Stephen Sondheim got in on the Presidential act with 1990’s Assassins. Utilizing the framing device of a sinister carnival game, the tuner looks at a group of deranged individuals who attempted — successful or not — to kill various U.S. Presidents, a list that includes John Wilkes Booth, Charles Guiteau, and Lee Harvey Oswald. Though very few Presidents are actual characters in Assassins, the musical tells audiences a lot about them, and how they became the target of the various assassins singing and being sung about. It took 14 years for Assassins to finally reach Broadway, opening in a stacked 2003-04 season yet winning five Tonys, including best musical revival. More recently, John Doyle directed an acclaimed Off-Broadway production at Classic Stage Company, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 shutdown and finally ran towards the end of 2021. 

Ralph Bellamy and Richard Thomas in the stage production Sunrise at Campobello.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s long battle with polio was dramatized in the 1958 Dore Schary play Sunrise at Campobello, named after the island that served as FDR’s summer home in New Brunswick, Canada. When it opened on Broadway, Ralph Bellamy played the disease-stricken President, and Broadway newcomer James Earl Jones was featured as Edward, the butler. The winner of four 1958 Tonys, including best play, Sunrise at Campobello was also turned into a successful film adaptation in 1960, also starring Bellamy.

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue served as Leonard Bernstein’s last original Broadway score. The 1976 tuner — written for America’s bicentennial — parades through the early history of the White House and its inhabitants from 1800 to 1900. It also looks at the influence of several First Ladies and includes additional commentary from White House servants. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue ran a grand total of seven performances, but it gave Bernstein one more well-regarded collection of music. 

Sav Souza as Dr. Josiah Bartlett (center-left, pointing a finger) and Brooke Simpson as Roger Sherman (on the right of John Adams in the front) in Roundabout Theatre Company's '1776.'
Roundabout Theatre Company’s ‘1776.’ (Photo Credit Joan Marcus)

While set in a period before the executive office existed, the Sherman Edwards-Peter Stone musical 1776 focuses on future Presidents John Adams and Jefferson, taking audiences inside the making of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 1776 shows Adams as the leading champion of said independence, as he persuades his colleagues to sign the document that he has coaxed Jefferson to draft. 1776 premiered on Broadway in 1969 and won three Tonys, including best musical; it was revived in 1997, before a 2022 production at Roundabout Theatre Company broke new ground for the title by highlighting an all-female, non-binary, and transgender cast. That production is currently on a national tour following its recent January 8 Broadway closing. 

Why Hamilton is making musical history | Musicals | The Guardian
Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton. (Photo Credit Joan Marcus)

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2015 hip-hop, non-stop juggernaut of a magnum opus Hamilton (still running at the Richard Rodgers Theatre) chronicled the life of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and the birth — and “afterbirth” — of our nation. Hamilton served alongside then-General George Washington as his “Right Hand Man” during the Revolutionary War, before Washington appointed him to his Cabinet after becoming the first President. Soon after, Thomas Jefferson arrives overseas after serving as France’s ambassador (“What’d I Miss”), and Hamilton gains two more political enemies in both Jefferson and James Madison, who are ideologically alike. In addition to Hamilton’s Broadway production, various national tours, and countless international mountings, a proshot featuring the original Broadway cast can now be streamed on Disney+ (featuring Tony winner Leslie Odom, Jr., soon to be seen on Broadway in a revival of Purlie Victorious).


Broadway and U.S. Presidents: Part I

By Jordan Levinson

Today is Presidents’ Day, one of eleven permanent federal holidays in the United States. The executive office is no stranger to the Broadway stage. In fact, several are prominent characters in both plays and musicals alike. This article — presented in two parts — will salute just a few of them:

Robert Sherwood had one of the earliest works of Broadway theatre to feature a Presidential character, as his three-act bioplay Abe Lincoln in Illinois opened at the Plymouth Theatre (now the Gerald Schoenfeld) in 1938 and ran for over a year. The work chronicles Honest Abe’s personal life and career, from humbling Illinois businessman to 16th President of the United States.  

Also in the late 1930s, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s I’d Rather Be Right was a Great Depression-era political satire set in New York City. Since this was about the Depression, there was a high chance Franklin Delano Roosevelt would be a part of the show — and indeed he was, lively played by the entertainer George M. Cohan, who sang such songs as “We’re Going to Balance the Budget” and “Off the Record” while solving a couple’s marriage dilemma. I’d Rather Be Right played nearly 300 performances on Broadway. 

The 1987 musical Teddy & Alice played the Minskoff Theatre and featured music adapted from John Philip Sousa’s catalogue, with other new songs by Richard Kapp and lyrics by Hal Hackady. The show is a fictionalized account of the relationship between Teddy Roosevelt and his daughter during his tenure in the White House. Though Teddy is the lead here, his Presidential successor, William Howard Taft, also makes an appearance in the musical. The cast featured several Tony winners and nominees, including Len Cariou, Karen Ziemba, Beth Fowler, Ron Raines, and Nancy Opel. 

John Larroquette, James Earl Jones, Jefferson Mays and Michael McKean
John Larroquette, James Earl Jones, Jefferson Mays, and Michael McKean in the 2012 revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man (Joan Marcus)

Gore Vidal’s 1960 play The Best Man is also fictional, as it follows two candidates — Senator Joe Cantwell and Secretary of State William Russell — with opposing values who compete for the Presidency and vie for the support of the soon-to-be-former President Arthur Hockstader. The Best Man was nominated for six Tony Awards, including best play, and Vidal adapted his play into a 1964 film. The original production starred Melvyn Douglas who had previously starred in The Gangs All Here, a play loosely based on the presidency of Warren G. Harding. The Best Man has also received two Broadway remounts as of this writing (2001 and 2012). The 2012 production starred James Earl Jones as Hockstader, as well as John Larroquette, Eric McCormack, Jefferson Mays, and Angela Lansbury.  

From left, Dylan Baker, Nathan Lane and Laurie Metcalf in "November."
Dylan Baler, Nathan Lane, and Laurie Metcalf in November 

On the more recent front, David Mamet’s November premiered in 2008 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. A comedy about the lengths people go to win, it focuses on a fictional President’s day in the life, beleaguered just days before his second election. Low on money, threatened by imminent nuclear war, and facing atrocious approval ratings, the President decides to pardon some turkeys before they get slaughtered for Thanksgiving dinners, hoping he can win back the public’s affection. The original five-person cast of November was led by Nathan Lane, Dylan Baker, and Laurie Metcalf. You can catch Nathan Lane this season in the new play Pictures From Home, playing at Studio 54. 

<strong>All the Way</strong> Bryan Cranston, left, and Brandon J. Dirden, in this tale of the behind-the-scenes battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Bryan Cranston, left, and Brandon J. Dirden, in All the Way (Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

Winner of the 2014 Tony for best play, Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way takes audiences from November 1963 to November 1964 — after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon B. Johnson becomes President of the United States, determined to end American racial injustice by passing a landmark civil rights bill. The play follows Johnson’s journey to a successful reelection campaign, and its title comes from his 1964 campaign slogan: “All the Way with LBJ.” “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston played Johnson, winning a Tony for his performance. All the Way became a TV film in 2016 starring Cranston, and it even spawned a stage sequel, The Great Society, which continues Johnson’s story into his second term of office as the Vietnam War begins to spiral out of control. In its 2019 Broadway run at Lincoln Center Theatre, Brian Cox led the company as Johnson.

Gavin Creel, Will Swenson, and cast of Hair (Joan Marcus)

Many presidents also receive a passing reference in the groundbreaking peace-love-and-rock-and-roll musical Hair, living proof of the hippie subculture and sexual revolution of the 1960s. The song “Initials” links LBJ with several acronyms, including the IRT, the FBI, the CIA, and LSD. Lincoln, Washington, Calvin Coolidge, and Ulysses S. Grant also make appearances during a wild extended second-act acid trip sequence, in which one of the hippies has a vision that he has skydived from a plane into wartime Vietnam.