By Jim Glaub
Shakespeare’s plays have been a staple of Broadway for decades, with countless productions staged on the Great Bright Way. In recent years, several notable Shakespearean plays have been produced on Broadway, including King Lear, Macbeth, and Othello. However, two recent productions have garnered significant attention is Fat Ham and & Juliet.
Written by James Ijames, “Fat Ham” features a Black cast and is inspired by “Hamlet.” The play explores themes of grief, revenge, and redemption in a modern-day context, highlighting the experiences of Black southern Americans. Despite its unique take on the classic story, “Fat Ham” has been well-received by audiences and critics alike. It even won the Pulitzer Prize!
Another notable Broadway production that is based on a Shakespeare play is & Juliet, which is a contemporary retelling of Romeo and Juliet. The play premiered in London in 2019 before transferring to Broadway in 2021. & Juliet imagines what might have happened if Juliet had not taken her own life at the end of the original story, and instead embarked on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Featuring a pop soundtrack that includes songs by Max Martin, the play has been praised for its energetic and irreverent take on the classic story.
While Shakespeare’s plays have been performed for centuries, the recent trend of updating these classic stories for modern audiences is a welcome development. By exploring themes of race, identity, and contemporary culture, plays like Fat Ham and & Juliet are able to connect with audiences in new and powerful ways. Shakespeare’s influence on Broadway continues to endure and inspire.