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Cover Story Creative

Off-Broadway’s Best Shows This Fall

Already seen everything Broadway has to offer? Ahead of this year’s autumn equinox, here’s Broadway’s Best Shows’ picks for what you should catch around New York City this fall. These shows are currently running, and some only have a few performances left, so grab your tickets now!

Little Shop of Horrors

The long-running hit revival of Alan Menken & Howard Ashman’s horror-comedy-musical at the Westside Theatre is still going strong. With the introduction of new stars Corbin Bleu and Constance Wu as Seymour and Audrey, respectively, now is a great time to catch the show, or even return for a repeat viewing!

Photo by Ahron R. Foster.

Infinite Life

Atlantic Theatre Company presents Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Baker’s latest work, Infinite Life. The dramedy, which was extended through October 14, is set at a water-fasting retreat in Northern California where a group of women of a certain age are hoping to cure their bodily pains and disorders.

Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors

If you’re looking for a laugh that will also get you in the Halloween spirit, this monstrous farce now running at New World Stages ought to do the trick. In a fresh and sexy take on the classic vampiric tale, James Daly stars as the fabled foe alongside Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Jordan Boatman, Arnie Burton, and Ellen Harvey. The new play by Steve Rosen (The Other Josh Cohen) and Gordon Greenberg–who also directs–is now making its New York debut after regional productions at Maltz Jupiter Theatre in Florida, Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany, and Segal Centre for Performing Arts in Montreal.

Photo by Emilio Madrid.

Rachel Bloom: Death, Let Me Do My Show

From the creator and star of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, this new musical comedy looks death squarely in the eye. Don’t let her “everybody pretend it’s 2019” top of show message fool you–Bloom brings her signature brand of intelligent, raunchy, thoughtful comedy to tackle pandemic grief and confusion. The strictly limited run ends September 30 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. 

Titanique

Céline Dion (as homaged by a roster of mostly former Elphabas) continues to sail through the story of the Titanic at the Daryl Roth Theatre! In this gay fantasia, which opened at Asylum NYC in June 2022 before moving to its current home, Céline uses her own discography to conjure her memory of the iconic ship, confusing fact with James Cameron’s fictional filmic telling.

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Creative

Celebrating Latinx Artists on Broadway

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs September 15 to October 15, we’re taking a look at the history of Hispanic and Latinx theater artists on Broadway, both onstage and off, including some lesser-known projects beyond beloved hits like In The Heights and On Your Feet!

Kiss of the Spider Woman 

Manuel Puig, a queer Argentinian writer and dissident, grew up obsessed with the glamor of Hollywood leading ladies. He turned these experiences into his 1976 novel El beso de la mujer araña, or The Kiss of the Spider Woman. Terrence McNally collaborated with Kander and Ebb to turn it into a dark, sensual musical set in an Argentine prison, with Latina trailblazer Chita Rivera as the fantastical Spiderwoman. It won 6 Tonys in 1994, and rumors continue to circulate about a possible revival. 

A Chorus Line 

You’re probably familiar with this 1975 mega-hit musical. You might not know how the show, with a cast reflecting the diversity of New York City, has important connections to the Latino community. Puerto Rican New Yorker Nicholas Dante co-wrote the book with James Kirkwood Jr., making him both the first Latino to write a Broadway musical and the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Fellow Nuyorican Priscilla Lopez was Tony-nominated for her role as Diana Morales. While there were many Latino dancers and performers in New York at the time, there were very few roles specifically written for them outside of West Side Story (and, a widespread practice of casting non-Latinos in that show, including in the 1961 movie.) Morales’ identity was prevalent in the storytelling (“hey, they don’t have bobsleds in San Juan”), but it was not her only character trait, and she wasn’t the sole Latinx person onstage. Equally groundbreaking was the character of Paul, a queer Puerto Rican who worked on Broadway and as a drag queen, closely based on Nicholas Dante’s own life. 

The Film adaptation of Short Eyes.

Short Eyes

Premiering at the Vivian Beaumont in 1974, Short Eyes was the first Broadway play by a Latino playwright. An indictment of the racial injustices in New York’s prison system, it was written by Miguel Piñero during his sentence at Sing Sing. Joseph Papp shepherded the production first to the Public Theater and then to Broadway, where it was nominated for the Tony for Best Play. 

Latin History for Morons

Colombian-American comedian and actor John Leguizamo turned his own frustrations and lack of knowledge of his own history into a one-man Broadway show, which premiered at the Public Theater downtown in 2017 before moving to Broadway. Sparked by his son getting bullied for being Latino, Leguizamo parses through forgotten history and unkind stereotypes to find role models and heroes. The show was also filmed as a Netflix special, and Leguisamo received a Special Tony Award.

Anna in the Tropics 

Cuban-American Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece premiered on Broadway in 2003. The original production starred Jimmy Smits, Priscilla Lopez, and Daphne Ruben-Vega as workers in a cigar factory in Tampa. Smits’ character Juan Julian reads Anna Karenina to the workers as they roll cigars, and the drama of the novel bleeds into their own lives. It was also nominated for Best Play at the Tonys. 

Zoot Suit 

Starring Edward James Olmos, Zoot Suit was the first Latino-written and -directed musical on Broadway. The title refers to the wide-lapelled suits popular among young Chicanos in the 1940s. It had a wildly successful run at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in 1979, where it told the true story of the World War II era L.A. Chicano community, including the famous ‘Zoot Suit’ riots of 1943. While its Broadway run in 1980 was short-lived, Olmos was nominated for his first Tony award for it. 

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Creative

Jewish New Year On & Off Broadway

This weekend we welcome the Jewish New Year and kick off the High Holiday season! In celebration, we are bringing you a list of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows that you can see this year featuring Jewish stories and themes. Here’s to a sweet year of theater-going ahead!

Harmony

This new musical from Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman premiered last season Off-Broadway at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s home theater in the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Now it’s getting its Broadway debut at the Barrymore Theatre this fall, with Broadway favorites Chip Zien and Sierra Boggess reprising their roles, and Julie Benko (of Fanny Brice standby fame) joining the cast! The show follows the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a group of singers, some of them Jewish, as they rose to prominence and toured Europe during the rise of Nazism in the early 1930’s.

Prayer for the French Republic

Also a transfer from a successful Off-Broadway run, Prayer for the French Republic is playwright Joshua Harmon’s (Bad Jews, Significant Other) latest examination of modern Jewish themes. Manhattan Theatre Club presents the play at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre beginning in December 2023, with David Cromer back at the helm. The play covers several generations of a Jewish family in France, moving between two distinct eras of Jewish/French history in an exploration of everlasting antisemitism and questions of Jewish identity and its place in the world.

A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical

The story of the life and career of singer-songwriter Neil Diamond, famously a nice Jewish boy from Flatbush, is retold in this bio-musical using his own catalog of hits. Stereotypical parents, Yiddish slang, and reference to his Eastern European family’s “coming to America” give this Broadway musical a nice Jewish flair. Will Swenson plays the music icon, with Shirine Babb set to join the company in the role of Diamond’s psychiatrist, who helps him recount the story.

I Can Get It For You Wholesale

Classic Stage Company will present a revival of this 1962 musical Off-Broadway this Fall, with Santino Fontana, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Adam Chanler-Berat, Judy Kuhn, Joy Woods, and more in the cast. Set in 1930s New York, in the Jewish-dominated garment industry, nearly every character in the show is Jewish, and the score is inflected with klezmer melodies. Julia Lester plays Miss Marmelstein, the role in which Barbra Streisand made her Broadway debut! 

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Broadway's Best

Broadway’s Best Inexpensive Pre-Theater Meals

As a follow-up to our pre-theater dinner recommendations, here are our recommendations for where to eat dinner before a Broadway show on the cheap. Our criteria: they must have entrees for under $20, a meal there can’t take longer than 30 minutes, and no national chains. (And we promise, we’d never send Broadway’s Best Shows readership to any establishment without an A from the Health Department.) 

Los Tacos No. 1

229 W 43rd; https://www.lostacos1.com/# 

Everyone orders at the counter at this authentic and efficient taco spot, which also offers quesadillas and tostadas, which are open-faced tacos on a crunchy tortilla. They make the masa for the tortillas from scratch every day, and gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan options abound for all preferences. Make sure to ask your server for “con todo,” so you get all the toppings– guacamole is no extra charge. 

Lucky’s Famous Burgers

370 W 52nd St; https://luckysfamousburgers.com/ 

Lucky’s has been a Hell’s Kitchen institution since 2005, arguably even essential infrastructure – they’re open until 4:30 in the morning on Friday and Saturday nights. They offer the menu of a big fast food chain even though 52nd street is their sole location, and you can order combos like the #1, a burger with fries and a drink. 

Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles II

648 9th Ave; http://www.tastyhandpullednoodles2.com/ 

This outpost of the legendary Chinatown noodle shop features the same menu, with its signature options for noodle thickness and shape– it’s in the name, they really do pull the noodles fresh by hand for each order. Unlike the downtown location, the Hell’s Kitchen shop accepts credit cards! 

Lovely’s Old Fashioned 

642 9th Ave; https://www.lovelysoldfashioned.com/ 

Designed to look like a 1950’s burger counter, Lovely’s opened in early 2023. The Charlotte’s Special cheeseburger with special sauce is just $8.50. They’re open until 1 am on weekends, and while they don’t sell milkshakes, they do offer a killer chocolate pistachio Bundt cake. 

Capizzi

547 9th ave; https://capizzinyc.com/ 

There are a million slice counters in Midtown, but Capizzi offers something a bit more elevated– every pie is made from scratch, and is personal-pizza sized. It’s very quick and unpretentious, so you can avoid the line over on 40th street at Joe’s and try something new, like a white artichoke pie, or an egg, pancetta, and provolone pie. 

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Creative

Where’s That Cast Now? Hamilton Edition

When Hamilton opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in the summer of 2015 it set Broadway ablaze, triggering a cultural phenomenon not seen in the theater for quite some time before then (or since). Given the musical’s zeitgeisty success, it also skyrocketed the profiles of its leading players, many of whom have launched top-notch careers in the years since, both on and off the stage. Here’s our recap of what those original cast members have been up to since starring in Hamilton, one of Broadway’s Best Shows.

Photo by Marc J. Franklin

Lin-Manuel Miranda

The Pulitzer and Tony-winning writer-star of Hamilton has been exceptionally busy since departing the Broadway cast of his hit show. Miranda has lent his talents to several film & TV projects, both on and off screen, having written songs for Moana, Mary Poppins Returns, Vivo, Encanto, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, 2023’s The Little Mermaid remake, and more! He made his feature film directorial debut with Tick, Tick… Boom!, the adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s rock monologue musical. He also appeared onscreen in the Mary Poppins sequel, His Dark Materials, as well as in guest appearances on several long-running TV series. The proshot of Hamilton landed on Disney+ in 2020, featuring the full original cast, and his first Broadway musical, In the Heights, was adapted into a film in 2021 (he even made a cameo appearance!). His freestyle group, Freestyle Love Supreme, had a Broadway run at the Booth Theatre, for which he made multiple guest appearances. He made his Broadway writing return in the spring of 2022, contributing additional for the musical New York, New York, alongside iconic composer John Kander, based on the songs of Kander and his longtime collaborator Fred Ebb. 

Leslie Odom, Jr.

Leslie’s star has been on the rise in the years since Hamilton, appearing in several films including Knives Out: Glass Onion, One Night in Miami (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award), and the upcoming reboot of The Exorcist. He has also made television appearances in hit shows Central Park, Abbott Elementary, and more! Six years later, he has made his grand return to Broadway in the titular role of the first ever Broadway revival of Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch by Ossie Davis.

Phillipa Soo

After making her Broadway debut as Eliza in the original Broadway cast, Soo has appeared in four Broadway productions, including the play The Parisian Woman, and musicals Amélie, Into the Woods, and most recently, Camelot. She has also appeared onscreen recently in TV series Dopesick and Shining Girls

Girls5Eva.

Renée Elise Goldsberry

Goldsberry has not yet made a Broadway return since playing Angelica in Hamilton, but appeared on the New York stage in the summer of 2023 leading the Public Theater’s musical adaptation of The Tempest at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. She has also starred in several television series, including Peacock’s Girls5Eva, and Marvel’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.

Wonder.

Daveed Diggs

The actor, rapper, writer, and producer has also been busy since his Hamilton days, appearing in films like Wonder, Ferdinand, The Little Mermaid, Soul, and Blindspotting (which he also wrote alongside collaborator Rafael Casal). He has also had recurring roles in Apple TV+’s Central Park, Netflix’s The Get Down, TNT’s Snowpiercer, and ABC’s Black-Ish, among cameos and guest spots on several series. 

Anthony Ramos

Ramos led the 2021 adaptation of In the Heights as Usnavi, appeared as Lady Gaga’s best friend in A Star is Born, and has since become the face of the blockbuster Transformers franchise, starring in its latest installment, Rise of the Beasts. Also a burgeoning recording artist, Ramos has released two albums, and a slew of singles in the years since his Broadway run. 

Photo by Emilio Madrid.

Okieriete Onaodowan

“Oak” has been on Broadway twice since Hamilton, with a brief run as Pierre in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, and more recently, a supporting role in the 2023 revival of A Doll’s House alongside Jessica Chastain under his belt. Onscreen, he is a lead of the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off series Station 19, and appears in the fourth season of Amazon Prime’s action series Jack Ryan

Photo by Jose Corella.

Jasmine Cephas-Jones

Cephas-Jones has mostly turned her attention to film and television, appearing with her Hamilton co-star Daveed Diggs in his film Blindspotting, and in the television series based on the film. She also appeared in Marriage Story, Mrs. Fletcher, and #Freerayshawn, for which she won an Emmy in 2020. As a recording artist, she released her EP Blue Bird in 2020. She will next be seen in Ava DuVernay’s upcoming film Origin, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival to rave reviews in September 2023. A wide release date has not been set. 

Spring Awakening Reunion Concert. Photo by Sarah Shatz.

Jonathan Groff

Groff returns to Broadway in fall 2023 in the revival of Merrily We Roll Along, opposite Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez. Immediately post-Hamilton, he starred in David Fincher’s Netflix series Mindhunter for two seasons. He returned to voice Kristoff in 2019’s Frozen 2, and played one of the villains in 2021’s The Matrix: Resurrections. On the stage, he was the original Seymour in the still-running 2019 revival of Little Shop of Horrors off-Broadway. 

Photo by Kevin Mazur.

Ariana DeBose

DeBose appeared in the ensemble of Hamilton as “The Bullet,” the dance soloist during the duel scenes. She graduated to Broadway principal status in 2018’s Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, but her huge break came when Steven Spielberg cast her as Anita in his West Side Story redux. She became the second Latina ever to win an acting Oscar in 2022 for that role, and hosted the Tony Awards in 2022 and 2023. She also voices the main character in Disney’s animated 2023 film Wish, and will appear in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film in 2024. 

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Creative

Which Broadway shows have won the most Tony Awards?

Broadway’s clearest indicator of notoriety is the Tony Awards. The annual ceremony has been celebrating excellence in New York theater since 1947 and has made actors, creators, and shows themselves become household names.

In our list, we’ll be listing which Broadway shows have won the most Tony Awards for a single production, though we’re giving shout-outs to Cabaret, Death of a Salesman, and La Cage Aux Folles as each has collected an impressive number of awards over their multiple productions throughout the years. So if awards mean the best Broadway shows to you, then see below.

Photo by Paul Kolnik

The Producers by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan

It may come as a surprise but the record for most Tony wins by a single production was set over 20 years ago.

Back in 2001, Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan brought their hilarious 1967 film, The Producers, to the stage. The meta-musical about a pair of money-hungry Broadway producers who want to purposefully put on the worst show possible to fraudulently make money wowed audiences and critics. Nathan Lane starred alongside Matthew Broderick (both of whom would go on to star in the 2005 film adaptation) with Nathan Lane winning the coveted Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award.

Nathan Lane’s award is just one win of a whopping 12 as The Producers won in every single category it was nominated in, losing out only when multiple actors were nominated for the same award.

Photo by Joan Marcus

Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda

You’d be forgiven if you believed Hamilton was top of the list when it comes to wins as it holds the record for most Tony Award nominations for a single production. Back in 2016, Hamilton was nominated for a staggering 16 awards in 13 categories. It was believed that it would equal or surpass The Producers as the Broadway show with the most Tony wins, but alas, it came home with 11. Wins include Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Costume Design in a Musical, and Best Choreography.

Though Lin-Manuel Miranda lost the Best Actor in a Musical award to cast-mate Leslie Odom Jr., he still won two awards – one for Best Original Score and one for Best Book of a Musical.

Photo by David Schneimann

Billy Elliot by Elton John and Lee Hall

After the surprise run-away success of the independent film and considering its subject matter, it was no surprise when a stage adaptation of Billy Elliot hit the West End in 2006. Two years later, Billy Elliot the Musical came to Broadway sealing its status as “a global theatrical phenomenon” (Los Angeles Times).

In 2009, Billy Elliot the Musical was nominated for 15 awards (the same number of nominations as The Producers received) and won 11. The most notable award was that of Best Actor in a Musical as the three young actors – David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish – who shared the role of Billy shared a single nomination and win.

Photo by Joan Marcus

South Pacific by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Joshua Logan

If you were going to use cumulative Tony Award wins as a metric, South Pacific would be at the absolute top of the list.

During its first Broadway production in 1950, the Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece firmly cemented its place in Broadway history as one of the greatest musicals of all time. Not only did it win over audiences and critics, it also won every single Tony Award it was nominated for and a Pulitzer. In fact, it’s still the only production in history to win all four of the acting awards in the same year.

Since its premiere, there have been productions of South Pacific all over the world including multiple Broadway revivals each garnering praise and accolades in their own right. Its 2008 Broadway revival won seven further Tony Awards bringing the show’s cumulative total to an unbelievable 17.

Photo by Friedman-Abeles

Fiddler On The Roof by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Joseph Stein

Almost 60 years ago, Fiddler on the Roof took Broadway by storm. When it first opened in 1964, the now-classic musical wowed audiences and became the first Broadway musical to run for more than 3,000 shows. In fact, the original production won nine Tony Awards in 1965 and then received a special Tony Award in 1972 for the longest-running Musical in Broadway History bringing the total to 10.

Since its initial run, Fiddler on the Roof has had five revivals but has only received one further Tony Award.

Other shows that have been awarded 10 Tony Awards for a single production include David Yazbek’s The Band’s Visit and John Logan’s Moulin Rouge! The Musical.

Categories
Creative

What are the best shows currently on Broadway?

Whether it’s long-standing shows or a limited-run production, Broadway offers the best theater New York – and the world – has to offer. With over 40 theaters and a never-ending list of shows coming and going, it’s often hard to choose what to see. So, we’re going to give you our best Broadway shows for 2023.

Hadestown by Anaïs Mitchell

Greek myth is all the rage at the moment and Hadestown has added fuel to that hellfire. The musical based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice had a long road to Broadway but now it’s here, we don’t know what we would have done without it.

After workshops that started back in 2006, Hadestown finally landed a run on Broadway in 2019. It was an instant hit and garnered 14 Tony Award nominations of which it won eight.

The modern retelling of the ancient myth shows a young woman who chooses to sell her soul to Hades in a bid to ease her suffering. However, she is soon forced to work in his factory and her lover, a wannabe musician, attempts to save her from her miserable fate all set to an incredible soundtrack.

Currently playing at Walter Kerr Theater.

Kimberly Akimbo by David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori

This year’s Best Musical winner at the Tony Awards, Kimberly Akimbo, is a touching and joyful show centring Kimberly Levaco – a 16-year-old high schooler who suffers from an incredibly rare condition that makes her age rapidly – played by 63-year-old Victoria Clark.

The show, based on David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2001 play of the same name, is a clever and darkly absurd comedy about a teenager dying of old age. It’s set to a playful and uplifting score from Caroline, Or Change’s Jeanine Tesori and it’ll leave you with a newfound verve for life.

Currently playing at Booth Theater.

Moulin Rouge! The Musical by John Logan

This red-hot stage adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s film of the same name enchanted audiences when it opened in June 2019. Even COVID-19 couldn’t slow down its momentum. After nine months of packed audiences and rave reviews, Moulin Rouge! The Musical was forced to close due to multiple cast members contracting the virus. They hoped to reopen a few weeks later but a few weeks turned into over a year when the whole of Broadway went dark. When doors reopened, audiences flocked to the windmill for the extravagant show and they weren’t disappointed.

Winning 10 Tony Awards – including Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (for Aaron Tveit) and Best Choreography – this tragic, brash, raunchy love story is filled with glitter and heart.

Currently playing at Al Hirschfeld Theater.

The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone

You won’t know whether to laugh, cringe, or sing along with this dark satire that’s been winning over audiences since 2011. The Book of Mormon follows two young Mormon missionaries who are sent to Uganda to recruit local people to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Once there, they’re made to face the realities of the world and the inconceivable hardships people have to undertake resulting in their faith being rocked.

From the creators of South Park, this tongue-in-cheek, outrageous, incredibly dark comedy musical makes social commentary no one thought possible (or appropriate) to make. But with nine Tony Awards under its belt and a run that looks infinite, it’s definitely a crowd-pleaser.

Currently playing at Eugene O’Neill Theater.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler

If A-listers are the name of your game, you’ll lose your head if you miss this killer revival.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is arguably one of the greatest Broadway musicals of all time. Written by the late-great Stephen Sondheim, it features his signature and irreplaceable sound along with a true crime story you won’t be able to resist.

The current revival has won praise from all, with much of that admiration going to the show’s stars Josh Groban, Annaleigh Ashford, Jordan Fisher, and Gaten Matarazzo.

Currently playing at Lunt-Fontanne Theater.

Categories
Long Form

“Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch” Will Be A Great Ossie Davis Legacy—Fresh, New and Relevant On Broadway!

By Linda Armstrong

“Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch” has withstood the test of time and stands as evidence of the genius of the late great Ossie Davis, but it is also so much more than that. When I heard that this play was returning to Broadway after 62 years I was absolutely thrilled! It will begin performances on Thursday, September 7, 2023, and officially open on Wednesday, September 27, 2023, at the Music Box Theatre. Talk about a legacy and a play with a timeless message. 

Ossie Davis is regarded as an incredible person who left a great legacy as an actor, playwright, and activist. His play contains a timeless message about Black love, pride, identity and the Black person’s indomitable spirit that allows them to fight for their rights. “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch” shares the story of Purlie Victorious Judson, a Black Preacher fighting segregation and trying to save his church. When Davis first debuted this play at the Cort Theatre—now the James Earl Jones Theatre—on September 28, 1961, the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. Blacks had few opportunities to be on stage, let alone Broadway stages and Black roles on stage were not something that promoted Black pride. With this play Davis offered an incredible solution to so many issues of the time. He used this play to not only tell an African American story that fought against segregation, but to encourage Black people to love themselves—take pride in their physical appearance—and he created this play to give Black actors much needed jobs and establish their names in the industry. 

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee in “Purlie Victorious.” Photo by Friedman-Abeles.

He starred in the play as Purlie Victorious Judson and he created the role of Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins for his wife Ruby Dee. Other prominent actors were Godfrey Cambridge–who received  a nomination for the 1962 Tony Award for best performance by an actor in a featured role in a play for the role of Gitlow Judson, and a young Alan Alda appeared as Charley Cotchipee before becoming known for his role in the long-running television series M*A*S*H. The company also included Sorrell Booke who played Ol’ Cap’n Cotchipee, Helen Martin who played Missy Judson, Beah Richards who played Idella Landy, Ci Herzog as The Sheriff and Roger C. Carmel as The Deputy. The original work was directed by Howard Da Silva. Sadly, the racism that existed when this play first ran continues to be a part of our society’s fabric. Black people are still fighting racist hatred, being treated poorly and having a hard time feeling proud of who they are. And consequently, this play is as relevant today as it was 62 years ago.

When “Purlie Victorious…” debuted in 1961 it played 261 performances and critics happily acknowledged Davis’ writing talent, his acting talent and that of his wife, Ruby Dee. The Daily News wrote, “As a playwright, Davis is well equipped with crackling jokes and jabs…As a comic actor he is very skillful, with a remarkable voice, a most amiable presence…Miss Dee reveals herself as a deft and charming comedienne…”Variety raved, “Purlie Victorious reveals a new playwright of promise, particularly in the race field of broad comedy…Davis and his wife, Ruby Dee, are costarred in this conglomerate mixture of comedy, melodrama, farce, fantasy and tolerance sermon, with a basically serious, if not intense, theme…A novel aspect of the play is its uninhibited use of racial stereotypes (both Negro and white) for comedy. Beneath all the laughs, of course, the author is purposeful, and his points are effectively made.” The New York Times remarked, “Ossie Davis, actor and author, has passed this miracle of uninhibited and jovial speaking out in his new play, Purlie Victorious …While Purlie Victorious keeps you chuckling and guffawing, it unrelentingly forces you to feel how it is to inhabit a dark skin in a hostile or, at best, grudgingly benevolent world.”

Original Broadway production of “Purlie Victorious.” Photo by Friedman-Abeles

While the original production in 1961 launched careers, the 2023 production is being embraced by established, award-winning stage artists. Tony Award winner and Oscar nominee Leslie Odom, Jr. (HamiltonOne Night in Miami) will play the lead role of Purlie Victorious Judson, twice Tony-nominated actress Kara Young (Clyde’sCost of Living) will play Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins;  they will be joined by Billy Eugene Jones (Fat Ham), Vanessa Bell Calloway; Heather Alicia Simms, veteran theater actor Jay O. Sanders,; Noah Robbins, Noah Pyzik and Bill Timoney. The play will be directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the SunFences).

Recently, the three children of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Nora Davis Day, Guy Davis, and Hasna Muhammad, talked about what Purlie Victorious meant to their family, and what this play meant back then and means today. Nora recalled that her father worked on this play for 5 years. “He told me what he was doing from beginning to end,” she said, sharing why this work has a special place in her heart. “I remember being a little girl and knowing when it got late at night Dad would be downstairs with a legal pad–that’s how he wrote and he wrote in pencil and he would tape his pinky finger because when he was writing if he wasn’t careful he would get a callus or a blister on his pinky. He used scotch tape which was always interesting. So, when we had the opportunity to bring the play back there was no question that we would respond to Jeffrey [Richards-one of the producers] and others for this opportunity to get Dad’s poetic play back on Broadway.”

Considering the importance of the character of Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins, Guy realized that his father was an innovator for women. “It was something that was ahead of its time in terms of women getting important roles. But, I think that Dad’s motive was more love than politics…It was a chance for the family to work together.”

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee taught their children the value of having Black stories and putting Black actors to work. Hasna shared, “Mom and Dad always talked with us about the significance of having African American writers, producers and directors and people behind the scenes, people owning the studios. And the fact that they were in a play where they were working actors was always something to be celebrated and they were glad for it and we felt happy for them, but they never lost sight that there were so many other Black actors who weren’t working. Some of them weren’t working just because they were Black and because there were no roles for Black folk. I think that the fact that Dad was able to write something that both he and Mom were able to perform in, but not only perform in, but perform on Broadway, this was incredible.”

Speaking on the legacy of this beloved play Hasna reflected, “It’s legacy, an African American playwright has had a play on Broadway and a play that is considered a classic… For the character of Purlie Victorious the legacy speaks about manhood, about finding oneself acceptable and beautiful without needing the white gaze and being able to use wit and the constitution to fight segregation, to use humor to fight segregation. It’s another tool in our toolbox for the liberation of our people. There’s all types of art that bring different perspectives on what resistance looks and feels like and what Dad does is he adds to those tools the value of laughter and humor and our ability to resist.”

The foremost First Lady of her time, or perhaps ever, Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: “If you have not seen ‘Purlie Victorious’ I think it is well for you as an American citizen to see it and to ponder our racial problem, not as a question affecting our lives here in the United States but as a question affecting our standing and our real sincerity among the peoples of the world.”

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee left a great legacy for their children and the world. They raised their children in theater, but also in civil rights and made them a part of any protest they participated in, instilling in them the importance of supporting the Black community. Today they are artists, teachers, photographers and they continue, through their work, the legacy that Davis and Dee started. See a piece of their and our history at the Music Box Theatre.

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Broadway's Best

Broadway’s Best “Broadway Week” Shows

The Mayor’s Office for Tourism and Conventions’ annual Broadway Week promotion is almost upon us, which means that you can now get 2-for-1 tickets to select Broadway shows for performances between September 4-17! (Yes, Broadway Week is actually two weeks long. Lucky us!) 

Unlike TDF’s Half Price Ticket Booth, which only offers same-day discounts, the Broadway Week tickets can be purchased up to a month in advance. Use code BWAYWK23 to access this exciting offer today. Participating shows are also offering premium orchestra seats, usually $250-$400, for just $125 with code BWAYUP23. Check the official website for full details. 

Here are some of the shows we recommend catching while this offer lasts:

HADESTOWN

The 2019 Best Musical Tony Award winner recently welcomed new cast member Solea Pfeiffer in the lead role of Euridyce! Betty Who and Philip Boykin join the company Sept. 5 as lovers Persephone and Hades, respectively. See them alongside Lillias White as Hermes and Reeve Carney as Orpheus.

SOME LIKE IT HOT

This toe-tapping big band musical is from Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman (the composer-lyricist duo behind Hairspray!, Catch Me If You Can, and Smash) and book writers Matthew López and Amber Ruffin. With direction and Tony Award-winning choreography by Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin, The Prom), this one is not to be missed!

KIMBERLY AKIMBO

Last season’s Best Musical stars two-time Tony Award winner Victoria Clark as Kimberly herself, with music by Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home, Caroline, or Change, Shrek: The Musical) and a book & lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire in an adaptation to his 2001 play of the same name.

PURLIE VICTORIOUS: A NON-CONFEDERATE ROMP THROUGH THE COTTON PATCH

Leslie Odom, Jr. (of Hamilton Tony-winning fame) stars as the titular role in this first ever revival of Ossie Davis’ landmark 1961 satire, directed by Kenny Leon. Two-time Tony Award nominee Kara Young co-stars as Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins. Performances begin Sept. 7!

HERE LIES LOVE

The immersive disco bio-musical with music by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim tells the life story of former Filipino first lady Imelda Marcos. Here Lies Love is a fascinating parable about fascism, the media, and the effects of 20th century American cultural dominance and empire on so-called “Third World” countries like the Philippines. We recommend using your Broadway Week discount to splurge on a Dance Floor ticket, where you’ll be inches away from the actors and part of the storytelling. Good luck getting the title song out of your head. 

SIX

This UK export retells the story of the six ex-wives of King Henry VIII, with a pop concert twist. The Tony-winning score by Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow features pop-powered showtunes such as ‘Heart of Stone,’ ‘Don’t Lose Ur Head,’ and the iconic ‘Megasix’ encore to wrap it all up.

THE COTTAGE

Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) makes his directorial debut with this brand new England countryside-set comedy by Sandy Rustin. The cast features Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) in his Broadway return since appearing in 2012’s Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, Laura Bell Bundy in her Broadway play debut after leading the 2007 musical Legally Blonde, Lilli Cooper (POTUS, Spring Awakening), Nehal Joshi (Flying Over Sunset, All My Sons), Alex Moffat (Saturday Night Live), and Dana Steingold (Beetlejuice the Musical).

BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE MUSICAL

Time travel back to 1985 (and beyond) for this musical adaptation of the classic film, straight from its hit world premiere in London’s West End! Casey Likes (Almost Famous) is Marty McFly and Roger Bart (The Producers) is Doc Brown, reprising his acclaimed performance on the other side of the pond.

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Broadway's Best

Broadway’s Best Iconic Costumes

Sometimes a musical leaves you with a tune you’re humming for weeks afterwards. But sometimes, you’ll remember a costume look for the rest of your life. Here are our favorite truly iconic costumes that, in some cases, became even bigger than the shows they were in. 

Photo by Joan Marcus

The Glinda bubble dress

Wicked costume designer Susan Hilferty had the unique challenge of creating costumes that reminded audiences of The Wizard of Oz, but that also placed characters in the musical’s much darker story. This enormous flouncy gown for Glinda’s entrance at the top of the show is all overstated femininity, while putting Glinda in blue instead of the pink she wears in The Wizard of Oz signals that we’re in for a very different story – and avoids any copyright violations. You can even buy the Glinda dress for American Girl dolls.

Honorary mention: The Fiyero Pants. Father/son duo Norbert Leo Butz and Aaron Tveit are among the many Fiyeros who have donned the vaguely Edwardian white jodhpurs that Fiyero wears to the Ozdust Ballroom. 

Photo by Joan Marcus

Mark’s Sweater in Rent

The blue sweater with the red horizontal stripe – we immediately associate it with Rent’s Mark Cohen, and Anthony Rapp’s original 1996 performance in the role. (Add the black-and-white striped scarf and a mic taped to your cheek and you’ve got a great Halloween costume.) Costume designer Angela Wendt described the sweater as “not too flamboyant but still interesting enough,” for Mark to wear for the entire show. It might be the most comfortable costume in the show, compared to Roger’s rockstar leather, or Angel’s Mrs. Claus drag look, but also the most memorable.

Photo by Martha Swope

Morales’ long sleeve color block leotard in A Chorus Line, tied with Cassie’s bright red leotard and skirt

A Chorus Line happens in real time over the course of a cattle call audition, and the performers are in one costume over the course of the show. The differences in each auditionee’s choice of dance garb telegraphs so much information about each character. Cassie’s red leotard, with its long sleeves and skirt, is far less utilitarian and more elegant than everything else onstage, immediately commanding attention, and creating unique stage pictures for Donna McKechnie’s virtuosic number “The Music and the Mirror.” Diana Morales, originally played by Priscilla Lopez, wears a jewel-toned sweater over her leotard and tights – equal parts practical and vibrant. 

Photo by Martha Swope

Dolly Levi’s Red Dress

The Hello Dolly revival did not directly draw from the original Broadway production, but there was one visual that the show would simply be incomplete without – the red ensemble Dolly wears to descend the staircase into the Harmonia Gardens restaurant, which she also wears for the titular song. The v-neck bustled ballgown would be memorable enough, but Carol Channing, Pearl Bailey, Bette Midler, Donna Murphy, and Bernadette Peters all also donned a 2-foot-tall red feathered headdress. 

Photo by Matthew Murphy

The Phantom Mask

A plain white mask that covers the right half of the Phantom’s face for most of the show became synonymous with Phantom itself, eventually serving as its key art and Playbill cover. It’s maybe the simplest costume on this list, and arguably the most powerful.