The 2023 Tony Awards nominations are in, and this year’s shows reflect a growing interest in nostalgia, with many productions harking back to classic Broadway eras and themes. Some of the most notable examples include New York, New York, a musical set in the 1940s with all the makings of a classic Broadway show, and Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot, which stayed true to its original production and presented a big, beautiful revival. Other shows like & Juliet, Kimberly Akimbo, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street also incorporate nostalgic elements, using the music and vibes of the ’90s, classic Broadway comedy, and Golden Age musicals as inspiration.
One reason for this trend towards nostalgia is the growing interest in it among younger audiences. According to a study by JWT Intelligence, Gen Z is increasingly interested in nostalgia, with 82% of them saying that they enjoy retro design and 77% saying that they enjoy old-fashioned experiences. This trend is reflected in the success of shows like Some Like It Hot, which is based on the classic film and harkens back to the Golden Age of musical comedies.
But it’s not just about looking back – this year’s Tony nominees also highlight the importance of diversity and inclusion in theater. Many of the shows are written by diverse playwrights, including James Ijames, Lolita Chakrabarti, Jordan E Cooper, and Martyna Majok. And book writers like Amber Ruffin and Sharon Washington bring unique perspectives to their works, adding to the richness and depth of the stories being told.
Some of the most diverse shows this year include Ain’t No Mo’, a play that explores the Black American experience, and Prima Facie, a powerful drama about sexual assault and the legal system. A Doll’s House, which reimagines Ibsen’s classic play with a contemporary twist, and Cost of Living, a poignant exploration of disability and relationships, are also among the nominees.
Overall, this year’s Tony Awards nominations reflect a fascinating mix of nostalgia and diversity, showcasing the rich history of Broadway while also pushing boundaries and bringing new voices to the forefront. It will be exciting to see which shows come out on top and what they have to say about the state of theater in 2023.
Broadway to musical movies have been popular for decades, and many of them have left an indelible mark on both Broadway and Hollywood And, there are far too many to count here. From Cabaret to The Music Man, let’s take a closer look at some of the best Broadway to movie musical adaptations of all time.
Set in Berlin during the rise of Nazi Germany, Cabaret is a classic Broadway musical that was adapted into a movie in 1972. The film starred Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey and won eight Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Actress for Minnelli. The film is known for its dark and gritty portrayal of pre-war Berlin and for its iconic musical numbers.
Based on the classic Charles Dickens novel, Oliver Twist, Oliver! is a beloved Broadway musical that was adapted into a movie in 1968. The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and starred Mark Lester and Ron Moody. With memorable songs like “Consider Yourself” and “Food, Glorious Food,” Oliver! is a timeless classic that is still enjoyed by audiences today.
3. The King & I
Based on the true story of Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher who became the governess to the children of the King of Siam, The King & I is a beloved Broadway musical that was adapted into a movie in 1956. The film starred Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner and won five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Brynner. With its memorable songs and stunning visuals, The King & I remains a classic of the musical genre.
Set in the 1950s, Grease is a Broadway musical that was adapted into a movie in 1978. The film starred John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John and became a cultural phenomenon, inspiring countless imitations and becoming one of the highest-grossing movie musicals of all time. With its catchy songs and memorable characters, Grease is a timeless classic that continues to be loved by audiences of all ages.
Set in the Jazz Age of the 1920s, Chicago is a Broadway musical that was adapted into a movie in 2002. The film starred Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere and won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Known for its iconic songs and its dark and cynical portrayal of the criminal justice system, Chicago is a must-see for fans of both Broadway and Hollywood.
6. West Side Story
A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is a beloved Broadway musical that was adapted into a movie in 1961 and again in 2021. The film starred Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer and won ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture. in 2021, it was nominated for 7 Academy Awards® including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress (Ariana DeBose for the win!).With its stunning choreography and unforgettable songs, West Side Story is a true classic of the musical genre.
7. The Sound of Music
Based on the true story of the von Trapp family, The Sound of Music is a beloved Broadway musical that was adapted into a movie in 1965. The film starred Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer and won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. With its iconic songs and breathtaking scenery, The Sound of Music is a timeless classic that continues to be loved by audiences of all ages.
8. The Music Man
Set in the early 1900s, The Music Man is a classic Broadway musical that was adapted into a movie in 1962. The film starred Robert Preston and Shirley Jones and was a critical and commercial success, earning six Academy Award nominations. With its memorable songs and charming characters, The Music Man is a must-see for fans of both Broadway and Hollywood.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I had been a member of Actor’s Equity for over a decade before making my Broadway debut. The opportunity finally arose in 1995 with a revival of Philip Barry’s Holiday, directed by David Warren at the Circle in the Square. Laura Linney played Linda Seton opposite my Johnny Case. Also in the cast were Reg Rogers as Ned Seton and Kim Raver as Julia Seton. From the first day of rehearsal, I was in a state of euphoria. I had done a number of plays Off-Broadway, as well as in regional theater. But Broadway really did feel different.
Unlike most kids who grow up in Los Angeles, my parents took me to the theater a lot and I can recite every show I ever saw — don’t worry, I won’t. My first was Fiddler on the Roof with Zero Mostel. I was 4 years old and spent most of the play under my seat convinced that the ghost of Golde’s grandmother Tzeitel would reappear to pluck me out of the audience. Despite my terror, I was hooked.
David Warren’s production of Holiday was excellent and, from what I was told, received rave notices. I learned early on in my career to avoid reading reviews like the plague — which is exactly how I view them. Reviews are totally debilitating to an actor. Read a bad one and you can quote it word for word until the day you die. Read a good one and your performance is forever cursed with a voice in your brain saying, “Oh, this is the bit they liked.” I find it much healthier to glean a general “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” from the degree of elation or awkwardness on everyone’s faces the day after Opening Night.
During the run of Holiday, I will admit to a bit of a hitch in my “critical discipline.” One night, a couple of old friends who were not in the business came to see the show. As we walked to grab a late bite at B. Smith, one of them said, “How do you handle bad reviews?” “I don’t read them.” “Yeah, but what about the really bad ones?” Gulp. She didn’t stop there. “Like the one in New York Magazine?” Apparently, the raves were not unanimous. Another life lesson: they never are. John Simon, the legendary chief critic for New YorkMagazine, was universally loathed in the theater community for his viciously clever eviscerations of actors, invidiously centering on references to their physical attributes — or lack thereof. My first stop after supper was the late night newsstand on 8th Avenue to rip through the current issue of New York. I had to laugh out loud when I saw that Laura Linney was a “goddess” (which she is) but that “Tony Goldwyn with his raw, somehow unfinished face, was sadly miscast in the role of Johnny Case.” I have no idea what a “raw, somehow unfinished face” actually is. But that’s what I looked like to Mr. Simon. Like I said, you remember ever word of the bad ones.
John Simon’s snark notwithstanding, the run of Holiday was pure joy. Laura, of course, was magic and so was Kim in her New York debut. Reg Rogers gave a hilarious and heartbreaking performance as their alcoholic brother, Ned.
One night about three months into the run, Reg and I were doing one of our favorite scenes. The entire second act of the play is set in the attic gymnasium of the Seton mansion. My character, Johnny, never leaves the stage while the others enter and exit in rapid-fire succession. We had played the scene a hundred times but, as can happen to the best of us, my mind inexplicably went blank. In theater parlance, I “went up.” Badly. Pace is everything in a Philip Barry play, so my brain freeze gave me the sensation of being shoved off a cliff. Fortunately, what seemed like five minutes probably lasted less than five seconds. Reg saw the panic in my face and looked at me like, “Don’t worry, I got you.” The calm confidence in his eyes somehow coaxed the words to start firing out of my mouth again, as Mr. Barry had written them.
Crisis averted. Or so I thought. Unfortunately, the body has some unpredictable reactions to stress; one of them is commonly known as a “flop sweat.” Not a pleasant experience for an actor decked out in white tie and tails. About thirty seconds after getting the train back on the rails, a surge of heat flooded my face and my fancy suit was instantly drenched in sweat. As each new actor entered the stage, I watched their faces go from puzzled to concerned to horrified. When the lights came down at the end of the act, I descended through a trap door in the stage to the basement below, where the entire company was gathered, along with two paramedics ready to wheel me into an ambulance. Everyone thought I’d had a heart attack. The EMT’s made me lie down on a stretcher and it was no small task to convince them that the only thing I needed was a change of clothes.
The moment that changed my life: I was working with Kathy Borowitz (Wonderful actress and married to John Tuturro) in a patisserie on 72nd and Columbus- I think there’s a sock shop there now. I had just graduated from Northwestern and was trying a summer out in New York. She had just graduated from Yale Drama School. She was so lovely and funny. She would practice her French accent on our customers. She was also rehearsing Cloud 9 down at the public. ( She was amazing).
I had only known of one person who had gone to Yale Drama School… Meryl Streep. To me, the idea of going there was a star that was so out of my reach. Meeting Kathy made me realize that a regular actress like myself could reach for that star. She encouraged me and helped me believe in myself. I auditioned…and I got in! It was the first step to believing in myself and seeing myself succeed and that moment changed my life forever!
‘American Pie’ premiered in 1999, catapulting me and my castmates into the cultural zeitgeist and changing the course of my professional and personal life forever.
Doing press around the release of the film, I was often asked what it was like to be an “overnight sensation.” While it was impossible to ignore the simple fact that yes, everything literally changed overnight, I found myself resenting the question and its implication that I had come out of nowhere to achieve this success.
Because in truth, I had been acting professionally and working fairly consistently since I got my first agent in 1983. And while nothing I did in that decade and a half had the reach or impact that ‘American Pie’ would eventually have, there were still a few projects that at the time I considered to be “big breaks.”
One of them was my first play, a production of Herb Gardner’s Conversations With My Father. I was with the production from the very first reading in 1990 at HB Studio in the West Village, to the two-month tryout at the Seattle Repertory Theater (the first time I ever “went on location”), to the Broadway run in 1992. From the age of twelve to fourteen, I acted almost nightly opposite Judd Hirsch (in a role for which he won the Tony) and Tony Shalhoub and a brilliant ensemble, learning everything I could from them, watching and listening to the show when I wasn’t required to be on stage. It was here that I gained the confidence to play to the audience, and the ability to know when not to. I learned that no two performances were alike, and that when I enter stage left and accidentally trip on a step and improvise a line to my father about him needing to fix it, Judd Hirsch will clap back with a “yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it” and then carry on with the scene as written.
I learned how to be present and connected to another actor. I learned how to help lift an actor when they were struggling, and how to receive the help when I needed it. I learned how to show up on time, always. I learned how to be a part of a work family, and to have fun offstage. But perhaps most importantly, I learned that all good jobs come to an end.
It taught me to be grateful for the opportunities that I would get. To enjoy the moment, and to not get ahead of myself. This would serve me especially well years later when ‘American Pie’ would become a global success. I have an inherent understanding that not every job I do will be as successful, and that even the successful ones will eventually fade into memory. There are just no guarantees. But that’s ok. Because the way I see it, the next “big” break is always right around the corner.
Jason Biggs is an American actor and comedian known for his work in the American Pie comedy film series, and Orange Is the New Black. He also starred in Boys and Girls, Loser, Saving Silverman, Anything Else, Jersey Girl, Eight Below, Over Her Dead Body, and My Best Friend’s Girl.
Part documentary, part stage performance, “PIAF… Her Story… Her Songs” is a “powerful, emotional and mesmerizing” (San Francisco Chronicle) look at French chanteuse Edith Piaf as she tells her story through a theatrical presentation by singer Raquel Bitton. Bitton literally becomes Piaf while singing, but steps back and tells her story – in English – between the mostly French songs. Archival photos of Piaf illustrate her life of lucky breaks and tragedy. Some of the evening’s best moments are of Bitton and Piaf’s friends, lovers, composers happily discussing Piaf over food and wine at a Paris bistro. The event features 16 songs performed with a full orchestra, including “La Vie En Rose,” “No Regrets” and “Hymn to Love.”
“The fabulous invalid” has been in traction for most of 2020–laid low but, miraculously, not out by the coronavirus. Somehow in these pandemic times, theater has a way of seeping through and finding an audience, no matter where it’s sheltering. Broadway’s Best Shows has been providing one substantial way with the “Spotlight on Plays” series of livestream readings it offers to benefit The Actors Fund.
The series’ first season concluded with a Zoom presentation of Barbecue, a rambunctious social satire which premiered five years ago at The Public Theater. Robert O’Hara, currently Tony-contending for his direction of Jeremy O. Harris’Slave Play, wears two hats for this opus—director and playwright, lording over a cast of ten, the third largest cast in the series.
“We got some great actors and just let them go,” O’Hara declares with some delight. “Jeffrey Richards, the producer, cast most of it, and then I made a few calls to some of the people I knew. Everyone we asked said, ‘Absolutely!’” You couldn’t get some of these people if it were normal times because they’d be working. These are all professionals, and they have genuine comedic skills. You don’t have to worry about them landing the joke. Having these amazing actors read the play was great for me.”
Emmy winners S. Epatha Merkerson and Laurie Metcalf head the cast, along with Carrie Coon, Colman Domingo (who directed the L.A. version of Barbecue), Kristine Nielsen, David Morse, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Annie McNamara, and, from the original Off-Broadway cast, Tamberla Perry and Heather Simms.
“When we all got together on Zoom, I let them ask questions, and we discussed it,” O’Hara recalls. “They’d already read the piece, and they had their thoughts, so we read it a few times to see if there were any questions. These days, actors don’t have to all get together in the same room. And it doesn’t take that much time to do. It’s a charity reading. If it were a production, it would be much more involved.”
Barbecue is a comedy full of surprises and sharp right turns, and critics in 2015 bent over backwards keeping its secrets. “We begged them,” admits the author, “because that’s part of the fun. You keep wondering, ‘What’s going on here?’ It’s always fun with plays when you can hold on to a secret. Very few things are secret anymore.”
The entire original Broadway cast of seven in Joshua Harmon’s Significant Other reunited to do their Zoom reunion. Time Stands Still also reunited its original company of actors.
The cast of characters consists of a lonely, conflicted gay (Gideon Glick), his granny (Barbara Barrie), his girl (space) friends (Lindsay Mendez, Rebecca Naomi Jones and Sas Goldberg), their spouses (Luke Smith)—plus Mr. Right (Smith, doubling) and Mr. Wrong (John Behlmann). The play put in time Off-Broadway at the Laura Pels before bowing on Broadway on Valentine’s Day of 2017 (“Singles Awareness Day,” it insisted).
“I felt especially grateful that we got the original cast back together again because of Barbara Barrie,” beams Trip Cullman, who directed both stage versions and the Zooming. “She was magnificent on stage, but she’s such an accomplished film actress her performance on Zoom is like, honestly, Academy Award-worthy.” He does not exaggerate. Actors Equity Association presented its Richard Seff Award to the 89-year-old actress.
Of late, Cullman has been exploring a different medium than the stage, co-directing with his brother a short film called The Soldier, which they are now in the process of submitting to festivals.
Thinking cinematically was how he approached Zooming Significant Other. “It was sort of a discovery process,” he says. “Because it was recorded and we edited it afterwards, I really felt I could make some adjacent kind of choices in terms of pacing and the way the characters related to each other. The ability to use filmic techniques like cuts was super-helpful in getting across the kind of compulsive forward momentum of the play.
“I’ve done live Zoom things as well as recorded and edited Zoom things, and I’m much more a fan of the latter. One of our actors, for instance, had terrible internet connections. We had to completely re-tape her audio in post-production to fix it because she was unintelligible. If we had been doing it live, that would be how it would go out to people—and no one wants that.”
Phylicia Rashad, who collected her Tony for the 2004 revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, turned director for the series and addressed David Mamet’s gripping drama, Race.
Basically, the play is a taut court-roomer that takes place far from a courtroom—in the office of three criminal lawyers (Ed O’Neill, David Alan Grier and Alicia Stith). There is a fourth character–their client (Richard Thomas), a wealthy businessman accused of a racially charged sex crime—and the drama, sharp-tongued and smart like most Mamet, lies in the interplay of the three attorneys over a red sequin dress as they prepare their defense.
Direction is new to Rashad’s skill set. She enjoys dabbling in both disciplines, but “Zoom-directing is different from anything I’ve ever done. If I was just doing a reading of a play, I would have had more time. With the Zoom factor, it’s all very quick. Zoom means fast, right? We were not allotted much time with this. Fortunately, we had a very good cast.”
Grier, a current Tony nominee (for A Soldier’s Story), and Thomas have a head-start on the play, hailing from the original Broadway company. O’Neill was already cast when Rashad came aboard, but she personally assigned Stith the role Kerry Washington originated. “Alicia’s a new face, coming out of the NYU graduate program. I’m very pleased with what she brings to the play.
“The significance of these Zoom presentations is that they can be enjoyed specifically for their literary value. You don’t have staging, you don’t have wardrobe. What you have is the text, and you have the actor. That’s all you have. You don’t have a live theater space. The actors are not even in the same room. Ed was over in Hawaii somewhere, David was in Los Angeles, Alicia was in Baltimore, and Richard Thomas was in Canada. Everybody is on their own computer. It’s an interesting way to work, I’ll put it that way.”
Jerry Zaks, who has won four Tonys and been nominated for four more, has a special way of approaching a play if he is directing it for Zoom: “Reluctantly,” he laughs, and there’s a discernible ring of reality in that laugh. “It’s so lacking in what makes rehearsal special, which is the in-person contact. Directing in person—that’s obviously gone for the duration, but there’s no denying that it’s fun to work.
Luckily, he picked the perfect play for these pandemic times: Love Letters, A.R. Gurney’s deceptively simple epistolary two-hander of 1988. It was written to be read to audiences by actors sitting at their respective desks, reviewing the correspondence of a pair of lovers who go through life never connecting. With rotating star-couples, it racked up impressive runs Off-Broadway and on and was last seen on Broadway in 2014 with Mia Farrow and the late Brian Dennehy.
Luckily again, Zaks got an ace pair of award-winners to do the honors—Tony and Emmy-winning Bryan Cranston and twice-Oscared Sally Field. “They worked so hard, and the three of us got along so well. Is it better than not doing something? Yes. It’s better than the alternative, which is nothing at this moment in time. Look, I’m grateful that I had a chance to work with these great actors.”
As with these other Zoom shows, a table read is a quaint thing of the past. “I’m on my iPad. The actors are on their computers, and we’re talking to each other via Zoom. You can only spend so much time working on Zoom. You get tired looking at the screen. The nature of rehearsals is different. You don’t have as many rehearsals. With Love Letters, it was really important that the actors become as familiar with their words as possible. Ordinarily where I might stop and start and stop and start when I’m in rehearsal, I really didn’t want to take a chance on the actors not getting a chance to rehearse the whole piece so I had to be very careful about when I interrupted them.”
Among the plays that will be shown in the spring season of the “Spotlight on Plays” series are Adrienne Kennedy’s The Ohio State Murders, Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play, Sarah Rhul’s Dear Elizabeth and Pearl Cleage’s Angry, Raucous and Shamelessly Gorgeous.
All proceeds for these events will benefit The Actors Fund, to aid during this time of unprecedented need.
Harry Haun has covered theater and film in New York for over 40 years. His writing has appeared in outlets such as Playbill Magazine (“On the Aisle” and “Theatregoer’s Notebook”), New York Daily News (where he wrote a weekly Q&A column (“Ask Mr. Entertainment”), New York Observer, New York Sun, Broadway World and Film Journal International.