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The Wiz

by Ben Togut

A vibrant cast of characters infuse the Yellow Brick Road with renewed flair in The Wiz, now running at the Marquis Theater. With dynamic performances and an updated book by Amber Ruffin, The Wiz captures the humor and heart of the original musical while finding new resonance with modern audiences.

On stage, Melody A. Betts is a force to be reckoned with. She is equally captivating as Aunt Em and Evilene, stealing the show with her powerhouse vocals and larger-than-life presence. Nichelle Lewis brings an affecting pathos to the role of Dorothy. While her Dorothy is often timid, her rendition of “Home” is a marvel, her agile soprano soaring into space.

Another one of the show’s highlights is its choreography by JaQuel Knight. Knight’s versatility as a choreographer is on full display at the start of Act II  as the people of Oz dance together in a number featuring twerking, African dance, hip hop, and more. Complemented by emerald disco outfits by Sharen Davis, this number is a joy to watch, thoughtfully bridging the old with the new.

With compelling performances and a company that embodies the musical’s infectious spirit, The Wiz makes a triumphant return to Broadway.

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Creative

Where’s That Cast Now? The Wiz Edition

The Wiz is back on Broadway in 2024! The new production stars Wayne Brady as The Wiz alongside Nichelle Lewis, making her Broadway debut in the star-making role of Dorothy. The production started a national tour in 2023 and has now landed at its new home, the on Broadway!

The musical has been a cultural staple since its original Broadway debut in 1975. Winning seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the adaptation brings a unique blend of R&B, soul, and funk to the classic tale of Oz. With a 1984 revival and several tours since its premiere, The Wiz has seen a number of famous faces donning the silver slippers and journeying down the yellow brick road. Here’s a look at some of the stars who have brought magic to this musical over the years.

Stephanie Mills

Stephanie Mills burst onto the Broadway scene as Dorothy, charming audiences with her powerful voice and heartfelt performance. Mills’ rendition of “Home” became an instant classic, embodying the soul of the musical. Her connection with Dorothy was so iconic that she reprised her role in several revivals, forever linking her name with The Wiz.

André De Shields

André De Shields took on the mysterious and charismatic role of the Wiz in the original Broadway production. His dynamic presence and masterful performance as the all-powerful wizard left a lasting impression, paving the way for a distinguished career in theatre, including his Tony-winning turn in Hadestown, which he followed up most recently with the role of Ben Loman in Death of a Salesman

Hinton Battle

As the Scarecrow, Hinton Battle brought an infectious energy and incredible dance skills that helped make The Wiz a true spectacle. He continued to influence Broadway with roles in other musicals like Sophisticated Ladies, The Tap Dance Kid, and Miss Saigon, winning a Tony Award for each of them. 

Of course, the 1978 film adaptation starred some of the most iconic Black talent of the time, including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, and Lena Horne. They need no blurbs about their many accomplishments of course.

With each revival and production, The Wiz continues to enchant new generations of theatergoers, proving that this reimagined classic remains timeless. As we look forward to future revivals, these memorable performances remind us why The Wiz is indeed a fabulous way to experience the magic of Oz.

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Creative

The Broadway Career of Jeremy Jordan

Jeremy Jordan’s trajectory on Broadway is punctuated by his versatile talents, including his compelling voice, charismatic stage presence, and the ability to imbue depth into a variety of roles. His performances often intersect with other luminary figures in theater, creating memorable experiences on stage. 

His latest is the titular role in the new Great Gatsby musical, now running at the Broadway Theatre! Starring opposite Eva Noblezada, Jordan is once again in full leading man territory, belt and charm intact. So let’s embark on this lyrical journey through Jeremy Jordan’s illustrious Broadway career until now, embellished with the finest details of his most notable productions.

“Bonnie & Clyde” (2011)

After replacement and understudy roles in West Side Story and Rock of Ages, respectively, Jordan originated his first Broadway role, Clyde Barrow, in the musical adaptation of Bonnie & Clyde, the tale of the infamous American criminal couple, known for their bank robberies during the Great Depression. Jordan appeared oppostie Laura Osnes as Bonnie Parker, sining music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics by Don Black.

“Newsies” (2012)

Jeremy Jordan is almost synonymous with the name Jack Kelly, after the star led the ensemble of New York City Newsboys on strike in Disney’s Newsies. Jordan’s Jack Kelly is a charismatic leader fighting for justice, longing for a better life someday in Santa Fe.

“American Son” (2018)

As Officer Paul Larkin, Jordan gave his first performance in a Broadway play for Christopher Demos-Brown’s American Son. In this gripping drama that delves into the complexities of a racially charged police encounter, Jordan starred opposite Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale, with the play later being adapted for a Netflix film

“Waitress” (2018)

One of several Dr. Pomatters during the Broadway run of Waitress, Jordan offered both comedic relief and romantic interest to the heartwarming tale of a pie-making waitress, seeking a fresh start. He played this role opposite Shoshana Bean as Jenna, together singing the music of Sara Bareilles.

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Capsule Reviews

An Enemy of the People

By Ben Togut

After a doctor makes a discovery that threatens the livelihood of his small town, all hell breaks loose in An Enemy of the People, now playing at Circle in the Square Theater. Returning to Broadway in a new adaptation from Amy Herzog and directed by Sam Gold, Ibsen’s drama shines as a result of its ensemble, who powerfully evoke a community struggling with a terrible truth.

Jeremy Strong delivers an impassioned performance as Thomas Stockmann, a doctor steadfast in his pursuit of justice. Strong brings such commitment and pathos to the role that audiences can’t help but root for Dr. Stockmann in his battle for the truth, even when his methods are suspect. Michael Imperioli is wonderfully despicable as Peter Stockmann, the town mayor who condemns his own brother for exposing a secret that might cause the town’s ruin. The complexity with which Imperioli navigates his character’s loyalties as both Dr. Stockmann’s sibling and the town’s mayor makes his performance a pleasure to watch.

Another strength of the production is its faithfulness to the setting of Ibsen’s drama. The lighting design by Isabella Byrd and production design by dots effortlessly transport audiences to 19th century Scandinavia through rustic, candle-lit chandeliers and the blue and white Norwegian patterning in Dr. Stockmann’s home. The Norwegian folk music sung throughout the production gives the play a homey authenticity that invites audiences into Ibsen’s world.

With performances that illuminate the complex social dynamics at the heart of Ibsen’s melodrama, An Enemy of the People is as provocative and timely as ever.

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Creative

Jesus Christ on Broadway

In celebration of Easter, let’s take a look at some of the representations of Jesus Christ on the Main Stem!

Godspell 

Godspell had a circuitous journey to becoming one of the most beloved Broadway musicals of all time. It premiered off-Broadway in 1971, a movie version was released in 1973, and the production was performed as far and wide as Tehran, Iran, before finally coming to Broadway in 1976. It also has an uncanny ability to create stars – its original Toronto production featured Victor Garber, Andrea Martin, Eugene Levy, Gilda Radner, and Martin Short before they all became legends. The 2011 revival was the launchpad for Emmy winner Uzo Aduba, was Tony winner Joaquina Kalukango’s Broadway debut, and featured Lindsay Mendez before her Tony win and before her Elphaba days. 

Jesus Christ Superstar 

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s first Broadway show might also be his strangest. A psychedelic rock musical about the final days of Jesus’ life, it took Broadway and the West End by storm in 1971. (a surprising bit of apocrypha in the show’s original program credits – gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk worked as the director’s assistant before moving back to San Francisco and running for office.) The show has been revived on Broadway three times, most recently in 2012 with Paul Alexander Nolan in the title role. Along with the 1973 Norman Jewison film, it was also adapted to television in 2018 with an all-star Broadway cast including Sara Bareilles, John Legend, and Brandon Victor Dixon.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee 

Jesus makes a quick cameo in this 2005 Tony-winning musical, inspiring constant overachiever Marcy Park to screw up a word and free herself from the pressures of the Bee. After getting eliminated in the Bee, the actor playing Chip Tolentino quickly swaps into a Biblical robe – in the original Broadway cast that was Here Lies Loves’ Jose Llana. 

The Book of Mormon 

The show’s prologue features a quick primer on Mormon theology, and Christ himself appears briefly. But Jesus shows back up in the act-2 showstopper “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”, to scare Elder Price into doing the right thing. The dance number also includes cameos from Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Jonnie Cochran (it’s a bit of doozy.) 

And a special mention for Corpus Christi –

The late Terrence McNally, known for Broadway classics like Master Class and Ragtime, faced a great deal of backlash when he premiered his play Corpus Christi off-Broadway in 1998 at Manhattan Theatre Club. Similar to Jesus Christ Superstar, McNally mapped the story of the Gospels and the Crucifiction onto a modern day setting. To explore themes of homophobia and bigotry in Christianity, McNally imagines Jesus, Judas, and other disciples as gay men. A scene in which Jesus/”Joshua” and Judas kiss prompted protestors to picket the show’s opening night. (Norman Lear, Tony Kushner, and David Henry Hwang organized a counter-protest in support of McNally and MTC.) The original off-Broadway cast featured such future stars as Michael C. Hall, Anson Mount, Christopher Fitzgerald, and Jeremy Shamos. Productions of the play continue to face backlash, as recently as 2023. 

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Capsule Reviews

The Who’s Tommy

By Lulu Diamond

The 2024 revival of The Who’s Tommy, directed by Des McAnuff, is a triumphant return to the Broadway stage.

Pete Townshend’s multifaceted talent shines through with his stellar book, music, and lyrics still intact. David Korins’ set design creates a visually captivating world, complemented by Sarafina Bush’s imaginative costume design. Amanda Zieve’s lighting design electrifies the stage, while Gareth Owen’s sound design amplifies the iconic music of The Who throughout the booming Nederlander Theatre. Lorin Latarro’s fresh choreography adds a dynamic twist to this classic tale. 

Ali Louis Bourzgui’s Broadway debut as Tommy Walker is nothing short of sensational, marking him as a rising star in the theatrical world. 

This production delivers a thrilling experience, blending nostalgia with innovation, making it a must-see for both fans and newcomers alike.

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Capsule Reviews

Doubt

By Ben Togut

At a Bronx Catholic school, questions of moral authority loom large in Doubt, now playing at the Todd Haimes Theatre. Back on Broadway, the revival’s star-studded cast leans into the wit and melodrama at the heart of John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2004 play, and finds new points of resonance under the direction of Scott Ellis. 

Amy Ryan lends a steely conviction to the role of Sister Aloysius, taking over in short order for Tyne Daly, who was forced to withdraw from the production for medical reasons before the start of previews. Ryan embodies Doubt’s wry sense of humor as she drolly volleys with Zoe Kazan as Sister James, who serves as the perfect foil to Sister Aloysius’s cold as ice, no-nonsense persona. Throughout the play, whether she is chastising Sister James for being too innocent or taking Father Flynn, a stoic Liev Schrieber, to task for his perceived wrongdoings, Ryan is a joy to watch.

Though her time on stage is brief, Quincy Tyler Bernstine steals the show as Mrs. Muller, delivering a performance that is at once quiet and forceful. Bernstein expertly balances Mrs. Muller’s maternal tenderness with her indignance with Sister Aloysius’ actions, challenging the nun with a feistiness that makes her performance an undeniable highlight.

David Rockwell’s scenic design is another one of the show’s assets. While Doubt’s set design is minimal, its starkness complements the mood of the plot. As the set transforms from a church, to Sister Aloysius’ office, to a barren courtyard, audiences are firmly rooted in the play’s setting and somber atmosphere.

With nuanced performances that breathe new life into a modern classic, Doubt makes for a thought-provoking night at the theater. 

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Capsule Reviews

Appropriate

By Ben Togut

This Capsule Review was originally published on December 18, 2023, when Appropriate opened at the Hayes Theater.

On March 25, 2024, the production begins a return Broadway engagement at the Belasco Theatre through June 23, 2024. Ella Beatty replaces Elle Fanning in the role of River.

On the occasion of their father’s death, three siblings return to a dilapidated plantation home where they must battle with dysfunctional relationships and their own demons in Appropriate. Returning to the Broadway stage, Sarah Paulson takes no prisoners. As Toni, Paulson is unrelenting yet vulnerable, delivering a masterclass in emotional volatility, especially as tensions run high in the second act. 

You would be hard-pressed to find a weak link in the cast of Appropriate. Under the direction of Lila Neugebauer, the actors shine both individually and as a whole, tackling Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ tragicomic narrative of a dysfunctional family with both humor and heart. Michael Esper delivers an affecting performance as Franz, estranged and desperate to reconcile with his siblings over the harm he caused them in the past, while Elle Fanning is eccentric yet grounded as his younger girlfriend River.

Another highlight of Appropriate is its sound design by Bray Poor and Will Pickens. Throughout the show, an anxious chorus of cicadas pervades the theater, overwhelming audiences with the feeling that something terrible is about to happen. Just as impressive is scenic design by dots, especially in the play’s last five minutes, when rapid set changes take place as the plantation house falls into disarray and is overrun by vegetation. Together, these elements add to the play’s dramatic tension, creating an environment of dread that leaves audiences on the edge of their seats.

A riveting portrait of family dysfunction and prejudice, Appropriate is not to be missed.

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Creative

Where’s That Cast Now? Cabaret Edition


The iconic Kander & Ebb musical Cabaret makes its triumphant return to Broadway this month at the August Wilson Theatre, with Eddie Redmayne reprising his Olivier Award-winning performance as the Emcee. So now is the perfect time to catch up with the stars who have dazzled us over the years in this groundbreaking show. This being the show’s fourth Broadway outing, several of Broadway’s (and even Hollywood’s) brightest stars have stepped into the Berlinian dance shoes of these characters.

Joel Grey

The Master of Ceremonies who set the bar, Joel Grey’s performance in Cabaret is etched in Broadway history. But that was just the beginning. Grey twirled from the Kit Kat Club to directing the Tony-winning revival of The Normal Heart, and even donned the wizard’s hat back onstage in Wicked. His magic extends beyond the stage with roles in TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and films such as Dancer in the Dark, not to mention the film version of Cabaret itself!

Liza Minnelli

The quintessential Sally Bowles, Liza Minnelli’s performance is Broadway royalty. An EGOT holder, she’s dazzled audiences in The Act and shared her legendary talents in Liza’s at The Palace…, among so many others. Her film career is just as sparkling, with the iconic Cabaret movie and the charming Arthur.

Photo by Joan Marcus.

Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming’s portrayal of the Emcee was nothing short of a sensation, snagging him a Tony for the 1998 revival, before he reprised the role in the 2014 revival. Cumming’s charisma has lit up the stage in productions like Design for Living and Macbeth, while his screen presence has captivated audiences in The Good Wife and charmed families in Spy Kids.

Photo by Joan Marcus.

Michelle Williams

Stepping into the shoes of Sally Bowles in 2014, Michelle Williams brought a fresh vulnerability to the role. Her Broadway journey continued with a Tony-nominated performance in Blackbird. On screen, she’s garnered critical acclaim and Oscar nods for roles in films like Manchester by the Sea and My Week with Marilyn.

Photo by Joan Marcus.

Emma Stone

Emma Stone’s Broadway debut as Sally Bowles was a standing ovation-worthy affair. The recently minted two-time Oscar winner has danced her way between the stage and the silver screen, clinching an Oscar for La La Land and exploring complex characters in Birdman and The Favourite. She has not yet returned to the stage and has since hinted that the intense performance schedule might keep her from doing so anytime soon.

With the spotlight ready to shine on Eddie Redmayne and Gayle Rankin in the latest Cabaret revival, we tip our bowler hats to these past performers who’ve given us unforgettable moments both on Broadway and beyond.

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Creative

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” and “Hangmen” 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,” “The Pillowman” and “Hangmen,” all 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.