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Creative

“My Most Challenging Work” with Set Designer Beowulf Boritt

Beowulf Boritt is one of the busiest set designers on Broadway. Since making his debut with 2005’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Boritt has designed the set of over 30 Broadway productions, earning two Tony Awards (from six nominations), and two Drama Desk Awards (from eight nominations) in the best scenic design category. His latest Broadway set was for Harmony, and next up is the upcoming revival of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.

His 2023 Tony Award and Drama Desk Award wins were both for his design of the new musical New York, New York. These must have been particularly rewarding accolades, considering that show is the one Boritt named when we asked him about his toughest project to date. Here is Beowulf Boritt on his most challenging work to date:

An early sketch for ‘Wine & Peaches’ in New York, New York, courtesy of Beowulf Boritt.

This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Broadway’s Best Shows: What has been your most challenging work to date?

Beowulf Boritt: New York, New York (by John Kander, Fred Ebb, David Thompson, Sharon Washington, and Lin-Manuel Miranda at the St. James Theatre, Directed and Choreographed by Susan Stroman, 2023) was by far the largest, most complicated set I’ve designed. 

BBS: What was so difficult about this project? 

BB: The show required many, many locations in quick succession and it all had to squeeze into a Broadway theatre without a very big backstage. The rapid pace of the scene changes was hard because there were several 15-20 minute sequences in the show that were basically constant scene changes keeping the crew working at a fevered pace. For the first 10 days of tech, I think the crew and stage management just thought it was impossible, but they kept at it valiantly, and eventually, we got it all working efficiently, safely, and beautifully.

BBS: How did you address and/or resolve the challenges?

BB: We planned very carefully, making sure everything was exactly the size we had laid out in our technical drawings so it could all fit together like a giant three-dimensional Tetris game. We had to balance all these technical needs with the look of the design so it would all feel beautiful and effortless.

BBS: Are you proud of the result?

BB: I won a Tony Award for it, so that’s a nice cherry on top!

BBS: Is there anything you would do differently with the benefit of hindsight?

BB: The show was enormous. Perhaps too enormous to survive in the current Broadway climate. It was what the artistic and producing team wanted, I think, but I suppose in retrospect had we done a much simpler production it might have had a longer life.

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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

What are Broadway’s longest-running shows?

New shows come to town all the time. But there are those long-standing favorites that feel like they just belong in New York City. In our list, we’ll be including the longest-running Broadway shows of a single production – past and present. And you know what they say: only the best Broadway shows have runs like these.

Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart

With an unbelievable 13,981 performances, The Phantom of the Opera easily tops the list. For 36 years it took residence in the Majestic Theater where it ran from January 26 1988 to April 16 2023.

When it first opened, it won seven Tony Awards and seven Drama Desk Awards. It was the first Broadway musical in history to surpass 10,000 performances and has had over 3,500 more performances than the second longest-running Broadway show in history – that’s over eight years of performances! With a record like that, it really is one of the best Broadway shows.

Photo courtesy of Boneau/Bryan-Brown.

Chicago (1996 revival) by John Kander and Fred Ebb

Chicago’s original 1975 production ran for a respectable 936 performances. But it was its second coming, the 1996 revival, that made it a show everyone knows and loves.

Following a showcase in the City Center Encores! series, Barry and Fran Weissler brought an expanded, revised, and jazzed-up production of the Encores! concert to the Richard Rodgers Theater (the same theater the original production was staged). After rave reviews and six Tony Awards, it was an undeniable hit and had to be moved to the larger Shubert Theater in 1997. It stayed there for seven years until it was moved for a second time to the Ambassadors Theater in 2014 where it still runs today.

So far, it’s had over 10,400 performances and is the longest-running revival in Broadway history.

Photo by Joan Marcus.

The Lion King by Elton John and Tim Rice

The groundbreaking stage adaptation of Disney’s animated film of the same name left both children and adults filled with wonder. Featuring giant puppets and unforgettable songs by Elton John and Tim Rice, The Lion King had audiences stampeding to the theater to watch the incredible show.

It originally opened at the New Amsterdam Theater in 1997 before moving to the Minskoff Theater in 2006. Its current performance count stands at over 10,000 which has resulted in over $1 billion in gross sales making it the highest-grossing Broadway production of all time.

Photo by Mark Senior.

Wicked by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman

Leaving other shows green with envy is Wicked – the original musical based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel of the same name. Focusing on the origin story of the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, the colorful, whimsical, and crowd-pleasing show reframed our preconceptions of the previously hateful character and gave us another perspective.

The original production opened in 2003 at the Gershwin Theater and starred Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel – making both household names. So far, it’s had over 7,500 performances and with a film adaptation starring Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo coming up, we don’t see it going anywhere for a long time.

Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Based on the 1939 poetry collection by T.S. Eliot, Cats is a sung-through musical about a tribe of cats who are trying to decide which among them will be ascended to the Heaviside Layer before coming back to a new life. The surreal show opened in 1982 and was unlike anything seen on Broadway before. It won seven Tony Awards and a Grammy making it a must-see show.

It opened at the Winter Garden Theater on October 7 1982 where it ran until its close on September 10 2000. It was the first Broadway show to reach over 7,000 performances reaching 7,485 performances when it closed.

It looks as though Cats will happily perch at number five on the list for a while as the next show on the list that’s currently open is The Book of Mormon which sits with 4,400 performances which, again, would take approximately eight years to overtake Cats.