Best Musical Predictions 2023

It’s coming! After months of witnessing some incredible performances on Broadway in the 2022-23 season, Tony Awards season awaits once again. The 2023 Tony nominations will be announced on May 2 before a June 11 ceremony from the United Palace in Washington Heights. 

The biggest prizes are, as always, Best Play and Best Musical, and this week we’ve predicted the likely nominees and winners for the Best Musical category — even though some of these haven’t opened yet. Let’s get started!

Best Musical Contenders

& Juliet: This West End transfer — still running at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre — also happens to be one of the most cleverly constructed jukebox musicals ever. Set during the first performance of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Anne Hathaway (not that one), suggests his heroine not kill herself at the end of the play, and start a new life without Romeo. Juliet’s story comes to life through nearly 30 songs written and produced by Swedish sensation Max Martin, and all woven into the plot by “Schitt’s Creek” creator David West Read. This shot of pure gold is one of the most fun musicals on Broadway right now (especially for Shakespeare fanatics, pro-feminists, and 1990s/2000s music lovers), and the strong notices it received on opening night might be enough for it to roar to a Tony nod.

Kimberly Akimbo: The touching musical at the Booth Theatre won Broadway’s heart this season as it transferred from Atlantic Theatre Company. The plot follows 16-year-old Kimberly Levaco, a rare disease that makes her look like a 72-year-old lady, who is determined to find happiness anywhere and anyhow — which isn’t easy when her mother is a hypochondriac, her father is an alcoholic, and her ex-convict of an aunt is up to no good. This refreshing new musical checks all the boxes as to what Tony voters have been pulling for the last number of years. 

New York, New York: Start spreading the news. Partially inspired by the 1977 Martin Scorsese film (starring Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli), the new musical from John Kander and Lin-Manuel Miranda — also featuring several Kander & Ebb trunk songs — traces the lives of a diverse array of New Yorkers as they chase their dreams and try to find their “major chord” in life: music, money, and love. Now in previews at the St. James Theatre, the musical doesn’t open until April 26, but considering the successful creatives behind this project, it’s not impossible to think it will receive some Tony buzz.  

Shucked: This completely original “farm to fable” follows a small town isolated from the rest of the world by fields of corn. Corn is valuable to the town’s way of life, and when it begins to die, an underestimated young girl travels to the big city searching for help. One of the major surprises of the 2022-23 Broadway season, Shucked has turned Broadway on its ear with its countrified score (by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally), a book full of dad jokes and delicious one-liners (by Tootsie Tony winner Robert Horn), and a cast that includes some of the best comedic actors in New York. Don’t sleep on it!

Some Like It Hot: A larger-scale comedy, Some Like It Hot is the story of two jazz musicians who witness a mob hit in Chicago, disguise themselves, and flee cross-country with an all-girl band. Some Like It Hot expands on the 1959 Billy Wilder movie by diversifying its principal cast and making a more modern statement on gender identity. For high-budget entertainment, it’s tough to beat a Jazz Age-pastiche score (by the nimble Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman), fast-paced staging by the always-reliable Casey Nicholaw, a life-size train car coming onto the Shubert Theatre stage, and a five-minute tap-dancing chase sequence. Nobody’s perfect, but it sounds like this adaptation comes close. 

Potential Surprises

Almost Famous: Adapted from a movie of the same name, Almost Famous opened in the fall with book and lyrics by Cameron Crow and original music by Tom Kitt. Directed by Jeremy Herrin, Almost Famous had performances at the Jacobs Theatre until its closing on January 8th.  While it is unlikely this new musical will be nominated, there is a chance it could sneak into some categories. 

A Beautiful Noise: The story of the legendary Neil Diamond comes to life this new musical filled with his hits. Directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer, choreographed by Olivier Award winner Steven Hoggett, and written by four-time Academy Award nominee Anthony McCarten, A Beautiful noise has been open at the Broadhurst Theatre since December 4. It’s leading man, Will Swenson, should get a nomination even if the show is overlooked. 


Farewell to Phantom

As the final curtain falls on Sunday, April 15th, 2023, Broadway bids adieu to one of its most iconic and enduring shows, “Phantom of the Opera.” After a remarkable run of more than three decades, this beloved musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber is closing its doors, leaving behind a legacy that has captivated audiences around the world. Let’s take a look back at some of the biggest milestones, notable cast members, and the enduring magic of “Phantom of the Opera.”

“Phantom of the Opera” has truly been a monumental production over its illustrious run on Broadway. With an astonishing 13,981 performances, the show has employed over 6,500 people, including 400 actors who have brought its iconic characters to life. The production has boasted the largest pit orchestra on Broadway, featuring a full-time ensemble of 27 musicians, adding to its grandeur and spectacle. With nearly 20 million people having seen the show, it has grossed a staggering $1.3 billion, solidifying its status as one of the most successful musicals in Broadway history. These impressive statistics are a testament to the show’s enduring popularity and the lasting impact it has had on the world of theater.

John Riddle as Raoul (left), Ben Crawford as The Phantom and Emilie Kouatchou as Christine at Broadway’s 34th anniversary performance of The Phantom of the Opera. 
Avery Brunkus

The show has become the longest-running musical in Broadway history, surpassing even the legendary “Cats,” another Webber masterpiece. Its success has earned it countless awards, including seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Cast Recording.

One of the reasons for “Phantom of the Opera’s” enduring popularity is its remarkable cast of characters, brought to life by a multitude of talented performers over the years. From the enigmatic and masked Phantom himself to the innocent and courageous Christine, to the dashing Raoul, the love triangle at the heart of the story has captivated audiences for generations. Notable actors who have graced the stage in these iconic roles include Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman, Hugh Panaro, Sierra Boggess, Ramin Karimloo, and many more, each bringing their unique interpretations to these beloved characters.

“Phantom of the Opera” has also been known for its groundbreaking theatrical elements that have set new standards in stagecraft. The show’s opulent costumes, elaborate set designs, and mesmerizing special effects have wowed audiences and set a benchmark for Broadway productions. The grand chandelier that descends from the ceiling during the show’s iconic “Masquerade” scene, the secret lair of the Phantom hidden beneath the opera house, and the hauntingly beautiful music that accompanies these scenes have become iconic symbols of the show’s enduring legacy.

Beyond its artistic achievements, “Phantom of the Opera” has also made a significant impact on Broadway and popular culture. The show has generated billions of dollars in ticket sales, making it one of the most successful musicals of all time. It has been translated into multiple languages and has been performed in over 150 cities worldwide, making it a global phenomenon. The show’s memorable songs, including “The Music of the Night,” “All I Ask of You,” and “Think of Me,” have become classics and are beloved by fans of musical theater everywhere.

But it’s not just the show itself that has made an impact; it’s also the devoted fan base that has grown around it. Known as “Phans,” these passionate fans have formed online communities, attended countless performances, and have even donned costumes to pay homage to their favorite characters. Their unwavering support and love for the show have contributed to its longevity and helped create a vibrant and enduring fan culture.

Emilie Kouatchou and Ben Crawford star as Christine and the Phantom in “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway.
Matthew Murphy

As “Phantom of the Opera” took its final bow on Broadway, fans and theater enthusiasts alike reflect on the show’s remarkable journey and its lasting impact. From its humble beginnings as a novel by Gaston Leroux to its transformation into a global phenomenon, “Phantom of the Opera” has captured the hearts of millions and has left an indelible mark on the world of theatre.


Happy Birthday, Joel Grey

Joel Grey, the legendary American actor, singer, and dancer, is celebrating his birthday today, and it’s a perfect time to appreciate his incredible accomplishments and contributions to the entertainment industry. With his unique talent, magnetic stage presence, and infectious energy, Joel Grey has become one of the most iconic performers of his generation, earning numerous awards and accolades for his remarkable work.

Born on April 11, 1932, in Cleveland, Ohio, Grey was destined to become a star from a young age. He grew up in a showbiz family, with his father being a comedian and a musician. Grey started his career as a child actor, appearing in various TV shows and stage productions, including “Borscht Capades” and “On Borrowed Time.” However, it wasn’t until the 1960s when Grey rose to prominence, thanks to his breakthrough role as the Master of Ceremonies in the hit Broadway musical “Cabaret.”

Kander & Ebb’s “Cabaret” was a groundbreaking production that captured the dark and decadent atmosphere of 1930s Berlin, with Grey’s iconic performance as the MC stealing the show. His chilling rendition of the show-stopping number “Wilkommen” became an instant classic and won him a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Grey’s portrayal of the MC was a perfect blend of seductiveness, cynicism, and vulnerability, showcasing his incredible range as a performer.

After “Cabaret,” Grey continued to conquer the stage and screen with his unique talent and charisma. He starred in numerous Broadway productions, including “Chicago,” “Wicked,” and “Anything Goes,” earning critical acclaim and adoration from audiences worldwide. He also appeared in several movies and TV shows, including “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “Brooklyn Bridge,” showcasing his versatility as an actor.

Grey’s contributions to the entertainment industry have not gone unnoticed. In addition to his Tony Award, he has received an Academy Award for his performance in the movie version of “Cabaret” and an Emmy Award for his guest appearance in the medical drama “ER.” He has also been inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame, cementing his status as a true legend of the stage and screen.

But Grey’s accomplishments don’t stop at acting and singing. He is also an accomplished photographer, with his works being exhibited in galleries and museums around the world. His photography captures the beauty and complexity of everyday life, showcasing his unique perspective and artistic sensibility.

As Joel Grey celebrates his birthday, it’s clear that his contributions to the entertainment industry are as relevant and inspiring as ever. His legacy as a performer, photographer, and artist is a testament to his passion, dedication, and talent. From “Cabaret” to “Wicked,” from Broadway to Hollywood, Joel Grey has left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment, and we can’t wait to see what he’ll accomplish next. Happy birthday, Joel Grey!


Shakespeare Retold

By Jim Glaub

Shakespeare’s plays have been a staple of Broadway for decades, with countless productions staged on the Great Bright Way. In recent years, several notable Shakespearean plays have been produced on Broadway, including King Lear, Macbeth, and Othello. However, two recent productions have garnered significant attention is Fat Ham and & Juliet.

Written by James Ijames, “Fat Ham” features a Black cast and is inspired by “Hamlet.” The play explores themes of grief, revenge, and redemption in a modern-day context, highlighting the experiences of Black southern Americans. Despite its unique take on the classic story, “Fat Ham” has been well-received by audiences and critics alike. It even won the Pulitzer Prize!

Another notable Broadway production that is based on a Shakespeare play is & Juliet, which is a contemporary retelling of Romeo and Juliet. The play premiered in London in 2019 before transferring to Broadway in 2021. & Juliet imagines what might have happened if Juliet had not taken her own life at the end of the original story, and instead embarked on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Featuring a pop soundtrack that includes songs by Max Martin, the play has been praised for its energetic and irreverent take on the classic story.

While Shakespeare’s plays have been performed for centuries, the recent trend of updating these classic stories for modern audiences is a welcome development. By exploring themes of race, identity, and contemporary culture, plays like Fat Ham and & Juliet are able to connect with audiences in new and powerful ways. Shakespeare’s influence on Broadway continues to endure and inspire.


Jewish Observances in Plays and Musicals

By Jordan Levinson

Tonight marks the start of the weeklong Jewish observance of Passover, which kicks off with the Seder. Here are some plays and musicals, past and present, that highlight Jewish rituals and observances:

Leopoldstadt_Broadway_Production Photos_2022_HR
Leopoldstadt (pc: Joan Marcus)

Moving Broadway audiences this season is Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt, a deeply personal play about an extended family living in the Austrian Jewish quarter over the span of about fifty years. At one point early in the show, a Passover Seder is shown, but throughout the play the family must also deal with great loss: multiple people are killed in World War I; the family business must stay afloat throughout the Great Depression and the rise of the Bolsheviks; the Nazis reduce the number of survivors to just three in the final, post-World War II scene. Stoppard was inspired by the death of his own extended family while writing Leopoldstadt and he is receiving Tony buzz for his passionate drama. The show’s limited engagement has extended twice at the Longacre Theatre due to popular demand, and it is now set to run through July 2.

From a musical perspective, perhaps nothing sums this up in a more succinct manner than Fiddler on the Roof, the Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick masterwork that grapples with the preservation and breaking of “Tradition.” Set in an early 20th-century shtetl in Imperial Russia, a conservative milkman contends with his marriage, as he reluctantly lets go of three of his daughters due to more modern marriages of their own. Combined with rising anti-Semitism in the area and the Czar about to evict the Jews from their village, the life that the milkman has known for a long time hangs in the balance. A different traditional observance is shown at one point, as the entire family gathers and prays for the Lord’s protection as they light the candles during “Sabbath Prayer.” Fiddler premiered in New York in 1964, won the Tony for best musical, and became the first musical in Broadway history to surpass 3,000 performances — the longest-running musical ever at the time. It was adapted into a wildly successful 1971 film, which won the Oscar for best picture, and it has been revived five times on Broadway as of this writing — and that’s not counting an Off-Broadway remount sung and spoken entirely in Yiddish, first staged in 2018 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Fiddler on the Roof punctuated the Golden Age of Broadway musicals with an exclamation point, and its impact can still be felt today. 

There have been multiple Broadway shows with scenes taking place at bar mitzvahs, a coming-of-age ritual in which children turn 13, and thus become accountable for their own actions (the traditional service is usually followed by a party). For one, the Harold Rome-Jerome Weidman musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale played Broadway in 1961 and gave New York City’s Depression-era Garment District a song to sing. The story of a young, ambitious businessman who stops at nothing to get to the top (even if it means lying to and betraying his loved ones and embezzling company funds), Wholesale utilized several Jewish folklike motifs in its score, and the second act opened with a touching bar mitzvah sequence in “A Gift Today.” A 1991 American Jewish Theatre revival starred Carolee Carmello and Vicki Lewis, and a new version (with a revised book by Weidman) will open in fall 2023 at Classic Stage Company, led by Tony winner Santino Fontana as the businessman. 

Musical 13 Being Adapted for Netflix | Broadway Direct
13 the musical 

The Jason Robert Brown-Robert Horn-Dan Elish musical 13 uses a bar mitzvah as a primary plot point, as it follows a New Yorker who moves to Indiana and tries to fit in within the social circles of his new school, as he prepares for his big day. Throughout the show, the diverse, young cast begins to understand what growing up means, and the surprises that come with it.  The 2008 Broadway production ran just three months but it notably launched the careers of Ariana Grande, Liz Gillies, and Graham Phillips. On the creative side of things, Christopher Gatelli and Tom Kitt were involved before their respective claims to fame. 13 became a Netflix motion picture in 2021 and is still streaming on the platform. 

Stephen Lynch and the Cast
Wedding Singer on Broadway in 2006 (pc: Joan Marcus)

A more unconventional musical setting for a bar mitzvah occurs during a scene in The Wedding Singer, the 2006 adaptation of the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore film of the same name. After wedding entertainer Robbie Hart gets dumped at the altar, he gets back on his feet playing gigs at bar mitzvahs in the song “Today You Are a Man” (“Your goyim friends have been agog / Since they left the synagogue / Drunk on schnapps and in a fog / And speaking Hebrew best they can”). A love letter to the ‘80s, the score was written by The Prom team of Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, who loaded the show with power chords, shout-it-out-loud choruses, and energetic ensemble harmonies. The Wedding Singer ran eight months at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

In Joshua Harmon’s play Bad Jews, two cousins wage war on a family heirloom after their beloved “Poppy” passes away. The character of Daphna, in particular, is strongwilled and closely in tune with Jewish tradition, and calls her cousins “bad Jews” for only going through the motions at family festivals (for instance, one of them pops a cookie in his mouth during Passover, violating culinary restrictions of the observance). It has never played on Broadway yet, but it played Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre in a fall 2013 Off-Broadway production starring Tracee Chimo, and Michael Zegen of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fame. 

A Scene from <i>The Diary of Anne Frank</i>
The Diary of Anne Frank on Broadway in 1997 (pc: Joan Marcus)

Finally, no article on Jewish pieces of theatre is complete without mentioning The Diary of Anne Frank, based on Frank’s posthumously published book. There are no indications that Frank had a Passover seder while in hiding from the Nazis during World War II, but the play does show her family celebrating the wintertime festival of Hanukkah and exchanging gifts. The Diary of Anne Frank originally opened at the Cort Theatre in 1955, and Natalie Portman led a 1997 revival at the Music Box. 

Capsule Reviews

Capsule Review: Shucked

By Jackson Court

It’s corn! I can’t imagine a more beautiful thing! And Shucked, the new musical from team Robert Horn (Book) and Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally (Music & Lyrics) playing at the Nederlander Theatre, has all the ingredients for a great night at the theater. Directed by Jack O’Brien, Shucked is a comedy that follows Maizy (Caroline Innerbichler) who is on a mission to save her town, Cob County, from impending doom. In search of a cure for the dying corn harvest, Maizy ventures into an unknown world that will change her, and her town forever. The songs are fun but the true standout is Horn’s book which is overflowing with puns, double entendre, word play, and dad jokes. It is clever and fast paced, plowing through the less than dense plot. The cast is full of newcomers and Broadway favorites such as John Behlmann, Grey Henson, and the incomparable Alex Newell, who prompted many to their feet after the show stealing song “Independently Owned”. The silly, and sometimes down right corny humor may not be for everyone, but it should be. Shucked offers something that has been sparse on Broadway as of late… bushels of laughter.