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Broadway's Best

Broadway’s Best Love Songs

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here are some of our very favorite love songs from the musical theater canon. Enjoy!

‘Some Enchanted Evening’ from South Pacific

This Rodgers & Hammerstein classic embodies the essence of love at first sight. Its lush melody and romantic lyrics perfectly capture the magic of falling in love. ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ earns its spot for its enduring popularity and its ability to evoke the wonder of romance.

‘Tonight’ from West Side Story

In this poignant duet, Tony and Maria express their love despite the tensions surrounding them. Leonard Bernstein’s sweeping score and Stephen Sondheim’s heartfelt lyrics make this a Broadway classic. The song was originally written as a solo for Tony, but Sondheim and Bernstein later decided to turn it into a duet to heighten the emotional impact of the scene. ‘Tonight’ is noted for its emotional intensity and its status as a quintessential Broadway love ballad.

‘You Matter to Me’ from Waitress

In Sara Bareilles’s musical adaptation of Waitress, Jenna finds solace from her abusive marriage with love interest Dr. Pomatter. With the tender lyrics of ‘You Matter to Me,’ the two affirm their love for each other and relish in finding a partner to requite their affection. It’s a beautiful moment of vulnerability and calm amid a tumultuous journey for our protagonist.

‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ from My Fair Lady

Eliza Doolittle’s joyous declaration of love and newfound freedom is captured beautifully in this Lerner and Loewe masterpiece. It is theatrical lore that Julie Andrews, who originated the role of Eliza on Broadway, recorded the song in one take, despite having a cold at the time. The recording went on to become a bestseller and a treasured classic.

‘As Long As You’re Mine’ from Wicked

This haunting duet between Elphaba and Fiyero in the smash hit Wicked represents the intensity and passion of forbidden love. Stephen Schwartz’s evocative lyrics and soaring melody make it unforgettable for its contemporary appeal and its portrayal of love amidst adversity. Idina Menzel and Norbert Leo Butz, as Broadway’s original Elphaba and Fiyero, respectively, enter the canon of musical theatre love songs with this number.

‘Changing My Major’ from Fun Home

In Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s adaptation of the Alison Bechdel memoir graphic novel, Alison’s sexual awakening is depicted with this euphoric tune. She bashfully declares her fascination with Joan, as Tesori’s anthemic melody and Kron’s authentic lyrics beautifully convey the rush of emotions, and the freedom of her self-discovery. It’s both a song about love of another, and also about self-love and finding courage in your own identity. Alison’s vulnerability and newfound understanding of both herself and her feelings for Joan make it a powerful and relatable number.

‘Seasons of Love’ from Rent

This iconic anthem celebrates love in all its forms, urging us to measure our lives in the love that surrounds us. Jonathan Larson’s poignant lyrics and memorable melody have made it an enduring favorite for all theatre kids. Larson is said to have written ‘Seasons of Love’ in just one night, capturing the essence of the show’s themes in a burst of creativity. The act two opener is listed for its universal message and its significance in the modern Broadway repertoire.

‘So in Love’ from Kiss Me, Kate

Cole Porter’s sultry jazz waltz is a declaration of passion and desire. Its sophisticated lyrics and lush melody make it a standout in the Great American Songbook. ‘So in Love’ was famously covered by jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald, whose rendition became a jazz standard in its own right. This song is remembered for its timeless elegance and its portrayal of love’s intoxicating allure.

‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him’ from Jesus Christ Superstar

Mary Magdalene’s soul-searching ballad in the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice rock opera is a poignant exploration of love and devotion. Its questioning melody and introspective lyrics resonate deeply across generations since the musical’s 1971 debut. Yvonne Elliman, who originated the role of Mary Magdalene on Broadway, was initially reluctant to sing the song due to its religious themes, but was convinced when Webber performed it for her in his flat. She ultimately delivered a captivating performance that became a highlight of the show, with its emotional depth and its unique perspective on love.

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Creative

Broadway’s Married Couples

We all know that theater is a labor of love. But some of Broadway’s brightest stars have taken that to heart more than others, looking within our own theater community for romantic partnerships. In preparation for Valentine’s Day, here’s Broadway’s Best Shows’ list of our favorite Broadway duos.

Audra McDonald & Will Swenson

Photo by Marc J. Franklin

Audra McDonald is the Tony-winningest performer in history. And if she represents Broadway royalty, then her husband of over 10 years, Will Swenson, undoubtedly stands as a king in his own right. While McDonald graced the stage most recently in Ohio State Murders, Swenson commanded the stage just across Times Square, leading the cast of A Beautiful Noise as Neil Diamond. The couple starred opposite each other in a 2015 Williamstown Theatre Festival production of A Moon for the Misbegotten by Eugene O’Neill.

Phillipa Soo & Steven Pasquale

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Another pair of performers, Philippa Soo and Steven Pasquale recently mirrored their real-life relationship, playing lovers at the Kennedy Center in their 2022 production of Guys & Dolls. Individually, Soo has appeared in Hamilton, Amélie, and Camelot, while Pasquale’s credits include The Bridges of Madison County and American Son. The couple were married in 2017, following her star-making run in Hamilton and ahead of his engagement in Lincoln Center Theater’s Junk

Andy Karl & Orfeh

Photo by Amy Arbus

Likely the first Broadway couple that comes to mind for many, Andy Karl & Orfeh have been married since 2001, mere months after meeting when Karl joined the cast of Saturday Night Fever. The stalwarts have appeared together on the Broadway stage twice more since then, in 2007’s Legally Blond: The Musical and 2018’s Pretty Woman: The Musical

Christopher Fitzgerald & Jessica Stone

Photo: City Center

It might be a surprise to learn that the Tony-nominated director of Kimberly Akimbo and the upcoming Water for Elephants is married to the legendary character actor, of Wicked, Waitress, and now Spamalot fame. In true showbiz fashion, Fitzgerald and Stone met in 1999, performing opposite each other in the 1999 Encores! Concert of Babes in Arms at City Center, and married in 2001. As Stone transitioned from a performer to a director, they continued to work together – most notably, Stone directed the legendary 2009 production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Williamstown Theatre Festival, starring Fitzgerald as Pseudolus alongside an all-male cast.

Photo: Williamstown Theatre Festival

Lisa Peterson & Rachel Hauck

Photo by Jennifer Broski

A power couple off- and on Broadway, Rachel Hauck is the Tony-winning set designer of Hadestown, and Lisa Peterson is the two-time OBIE-winning director of new plays premiered around the country. They met while working at the Mark Taper Forum in 1996. Audiences might best know their project An Iliad, which Peterson wrote with performer Denis O’Hare, and which toured the country after its 2012 premiere. They most recently collaborated on the 2023 play Good Night, Oscar, which also marked Peterson’s Broadway debut. 

Charlotte d’Amboise & Terrence Mann

Photo by Joan Marcus

Triple threat Charlotte d’Amboise has been married to fellow performer Terrence Mann since 1996, after meeting over a decade prior when they were both in Cats on Broadway. D’Amboise has had a long career on the Broadway stage, including two Tony-nominated performances, but is maybe best known for her perennial stints as Roxie Hart in Chicago, to which she has returned more than 25 times for brief runs in the starring role. Mann, a three-time Tony nominee, has appeared in 14 Broadway productions since 1981. The couple most recently appeared together in the 2013 revival of Pippin, and have also co-founded Triple Arts, a training program for aspiring musical theater performers, which they operate and teach together.

Maryann Plunkett & Jay O. Sanders

Photo by Joseph Marzullo

Two veterans of the New York stage, Maryann Plunkett and Jay O. Sanders have been married since 1991. Each with decades-long careers on and off Broadway, the pair has appeared onstage together in Richard Nelson’s Apple Family and The Gabriels play cycles, as husband & wife in the former three plays and then as brother- & sister-in-law in the latter. Recently, their work on Broadway overlapped as Sanders finished up the final weeks of his run in Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch at Music Box Theatre, while Plunkett worked directly across 45th Street in tech rehearsals for The Notebook at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

Leslie Odom, Jr. & Nicolette Robinson

Photo by Marcus Middleton

Tony Award winner Leslie Odom, Jr. married Nicolette Robinson back in 2012, years before he would go on to become a household name as the original Aaron Burr in Hamilton, and she would make her own Broadway debut in Waitress. The couple are frequent creative collaborators, releasing music together, co-writing a children’s book, and most recently, teaming up as producers for the 2023 Broadway revival of Purlie Victorious, in which Odom also starred in the title role. 

Allan & Beth Williams

Broadway.com | Photo 30 of 43 | Great Balls of Fire! Million Dollar Quartet  Burns Up Broadway on Opening Night

Behind-the-scenes duo Allan Williams & Beth Williams have each been a part of over 65 Broadway productions in their careers to date. Allan is a veteran General Manager and Producer, recently serving as GM on Purlie Victorious, Good Night Oscar, and Diana the Musical and as Executive Producer on American Utopia, The Band’s Visit, and American Psycho. Beth is a Producer, who also served as CEO of Broadway Across America between 2008 and 2013. She has 12 Tony Awards to date, and her next show is the new musical Water for Elephants.

Categories
Long Form

When Push Comes to Shove: Spotlighting the Work of Fight Director Thomas Schall

by Ben Togut

In our new series, Unsung Roles of the Theater, Broadway’s Best Shows takes a peek behind the curtain to showcase the work of underappreciated Broadway professionals and their contributions to the theatrical ecosystem. 

This week, we will be highlighting the work of Thomas Schall, a veteran fight director with over 100 Broadway credits to his name, including Waitress, Angels in America, and the 2023 revival of Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch. He has won two Drama Desk Awards: one as an actor for Outstanding Ensemble Performance (Stuff Happens, 2005), and another for Outstanding Fight Choreography (A Soldier’s Play, 2020).

Thomas Schall in rehearsal for the Public Theater’s Othello, 2018.

As a fight director, Schall is intimately concerned with violence as a device of narrative storytelling. When building a scene, Schall considers three main narrative elements: the emotional arc of the characters in the show, the physical story of the violence, and the communication between actors during a fight scene. With these elements in mind, Schall must choreograph fight scenes that serve the narrative of the show at large, ensuring that the violence is readable to the audience and safe for the actors to perform every night. 

Schall’s passion for fight directing emerged while training to be an actor in college. After enjoying stage combat classes in school, Schall followed his passion, working as both an actor and an in-house fight captain for productions at the Folger Shakespeare Theater in Washington D.C. There, he studied with several choreographers who whetted his interest in the art form and trained with the Society of American Fight Directors. Schall soon began choreographing fights of his own while continuing to work as an actor.

Thomas Schall (right) in Roundabout Theatre Company’s Hamlet, 1992, in which he played Marcellus and served as Fight Captain. Photo by Martha Swope

When Schall moved to New York City in the mid-1980s, he feared his work as a fight director would limit his acting opportunities. 

“I was a little bit afraid of being pigeonholed as an actor who was a ‘fight guy,’” Schall said. “And [hearing] ‘there is no role for a fight guy in this show’ and having my resume set aside. So I stopped doing it completely, and was just an actor and did pretty well in New York over the years.”

After putting aside fight work for a few years, Schall put acting on the back burner and began pursuing fight work full-time as gigs became more regular in the late ‘90s.

In the current revival of Purlie Victorious, Schall choreographed a scene where Ol’ Cap’n Cotchipee is about to whip protagonist Purlie, considering each character’s emotional arc throughout the show and the history of their relationship to make the scene work onstage. For Schall, bringing this scene to life onstage was challenging as it required finding the comedy in a moment of real violence.

“It’s the game that the entire play plays,” Schall said. “It’s talking about very serious themes, and very serious pieces of history in the country, but at the same time, it’s also a comedy, it’s a farce, and it’s a romp. And playing those two notes against each other is a very tricky, subtle game.”

Schall worked closely with director Kenny Leon and star/producer Leslie Odom Jr. in order to strike the right balance between seriousness and humor. By examining the overstory, or emotional arc of the scene, the trio found that the crack of Ol’ Cap’n’s bullwhip, a charged piece of imagery for the audience and the cast alike, was the perfect catalyst for the scene’s tonal transformation.

The bullwhip is both a prop and symbol in Purlie Victorious, representing the physical and psychological violence inflicted on African Americans during a time of segregation and oppression. Photo by Marc J. Franklin

“That whip crack became like a button, a sort of a switch for when things went from serious to comedic,” Schall said. “And so we shifted a line so that everything happens, sort of all the threatening things happened up to the whip crack. And then we were free to have fun.”

For Schall, it is these moments of collaboration that he values most. In his work as a fight director, Schall seeks to build a room of trust, asking his collaborators to trust him with their safety and have faith that they won’t feel embarrassed or stupid performing fight sequences onstage. While building trust is often challenging, it is also the most rewarding part of Schall’s job, as it allows him to form close relationships with his collaborators. After decades of working as a Broadway fight director, Schall has had several repeat collaborators, many of whom he calls friends.

“Every show and rehearsal on some level is a celebration of community,” Schall said. “And I love being part of a community of people. There comes a point in your career, hopefully, where you come into one of these rehearsal rooms, and you see people you’ve worked with before and they’re friends, and that, for me, is the most gratifying part.”

Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch runs at the Music Box Theatre through February 4, 2024.

Categories
Broadway's Best

Broadway’s Best 2023 Holiday Gifts for your Theater Loving-Loved One

Broadway’s Best Shows has all the holiday recs you could wish for. There’s something out there for every type of theater kid this holiday season (of love)…

For the Super-Fan

When Broadway shows close, materials such as curtains, flooring, and vinyl posters would normally get thrown out, but small business Scenery Bags works with set designers and technicians to preserve these materials and transform them into fun accessories for fans. They feature bags made from the sets of shows like Ain’t Too Proud, Pasadena Playhouse’s Sunday in the Park With George, and Hello Dolly, among many others. They also sell all sorts of accessories, including this keychain made out of Phantom of the Opera banners, or this coffin-shaped ring made from the stage floor of Beetlejuice’s DC run.

For the Theatre Artist in Your Life

For your friend who works in the theater, and has been through tech rehearsals and production meetings, Scenery Bags sells “I’m Sorry for What I Said During Tech” and “Nothing For The Group” zip bags, great for storing pencils or makeup, or for travel. The materials are recycled from multiple off-Broadway scenery backdrops. 

Your actor or arts worker friend probably spends a lot of time in Midtown, so they’ll also appreciate a gift card for Hell’s Kitchen bakery and coffee spot Amy’s Bread.

For Your Friend who Loves Theater Gossip

Shy: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers, published posthumously by Rodgers with assistance and additional material from New York Times theater critic Jesse Green, is a hilarious and wide-ranging book by the beloved composer of Once Upon A Mattress, who also grew up surrounded by theater royalty, as the daughter of Richard Rodgers. It’s full of juicy stories and cameos from Golden Age legends like Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince, and even what Leonard Bernstein was complaining about at a cocktail party! Now out in paperback. 

For the New Parent, Grandparent, or Aunt/Uncle

Start a child’s love of theater early with these picture books that introduce Broadway to kids:

Broadway Bird, by Tony-winning director Alex Timbers, tells the story of a parakeet who dreams of being a Broadway star. 

A is for Audra and B is for Broadway, both by John Robert Allman, are beautifully illustrated alphabet books that introduce young readers to leading ladies (think “P” is for “Patti LuPone”) and the theater world at large (“C” is for “choreography.”)

For your Monty Python-Loving Dad

“Fetchez la vache!” The new Spamalot revival is selling cow socks, a shrubbery tote bag, and a baseball cap that says “Ni!” 

For Your “Old Friend” Who Knows Their Theater History

Merrily We Roll Along offers this sweatshirt, which harkens back to the iconic costume design of the original, short-lived 1984 production. 

For Your Friend Who Loves New Plays

Let them buy all the plays, theater biographies, and memoirs they want with a gift card to The Drama Book Shop. They can shop the latest scripts from Samuel French, like recent Pulitzer Prize winners Fat Ham and English. Gift cards can be purchased in-store or by calling (212) 944-0595, and can only be used in person. Unfortunately, gift cards cannot be used to purchase items at the cafe, like their monthly rotating Broadway-themed drinks (we recommend the Carolee Carmello Caramel Latte), but the baristas at the Shop will also have excellent book recommendations. 

For Your Friend Who Loves Really New Plays

For just $12 per year, buy your friend a membership to New Play Exchange. A database created by theaters around the country, it offers access to over 50,000 scripts by emerging and established playwrights. This is also a great gift for a playwright friend, who can upload their work to the site so that it can be discovered around the world. 

For the Friend Who’s Seen Everything

For your friend who loves storing all of their Playbills, or tracking every show they see in the Notes app or Mezzanine, let them show off how much they’ve seen with this scratch-off poster featuring 100 contemporary and golden-age musicals.

For the Wicked Superfan

These “Shiz University” sweatpants are cozy and relaxing, but nice enough to wear out and about. Your friend could even wear them to the multiplex next Christmas to see the Wicked movie! Also, if they weren’t able to make it to the 20th anniversary celebration, Playbill is still selling the special programs

For your favorite New Yorker

Now that single-use plastic bags are banned in NYC, reusable tote bags make for an incredibly thoughtful and handy gift.

  • This tote bag from Gutenberg! says, “we’re on the weird side of 7th avenue.” Gutenberg is now playing at the James Earl Jones, one of only five Broadway theaters east of 7th avenue – great for a theater lover who knows the Theatre District like the back of their hand. 
  • Or, for a friend who loves a powerful statement, check out this Purlie Victorious tote bag, with the quote from the play, “make civil rights from civil wrongs.” 

For Your Millennial Sibling/Niece/Nephew/etc

Tap into their late-nineties nostalgia with this faux candy necklace, made by the Kimberly Akimbo merch store. Or, for more childhood-themed fun, this Broadway-themed coloring book for adults features 24 pages of Mamma Mia, Hamilton, Seussical and many more shows to color in.

For Your Friend Who’s the Life of the Party

These Shucked shot glasses are hilarious yet functional. 

For Your Friend Who Has A Detailed Ranking of Elphabas

This shop doesn’t just sell Waitress Playbill earrings. It offers half a dozen different Waitress Playbills as earrings, so you can make sure you get your friend’s favorite Jenna. Choose between Jessie Mueller, Katherine McPhee, Katherine McPhee’s Pridebill, Sara Bareilles’ 2017 or 2021 Playbill covers, Ciara Renee and Joshua Henry, or West End star Allison Luff. 

…and For your Theater Twitter Friend Who Has Opinions About the 2017 Tony Awards

These earrings are also a Spotify scan code that links to “No One Else” from Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.