Thrillist's Best (and the Rest): What You Actually Need to Know About Natural Wine
Broadway operates in waves. The first comes in the fall when a host of new shows open just before the influx of Christmastime tourists. The second arrives in the spring, as plays and musicals clamor for Tony Awards consideration. That being said: There's truly never a bad time to see some great theater.
But what to see? Good thing you're here. We've compiled a list of our favorite productions that debuted within the past three years. Expect updates and changes as more shows come and go.
Opened: April 25, 2019 Cast: Alex Brightman, Sophia Anne Caruso, Kerry Butler, Leslie Kritzer Director: Alex Timbers (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Oh, Hello!) Why it's great: In the battle of the movie adaptation musicals that hit Broadway in 2019, Beetlejuice has gotten the short end of the critical stick. While the New York Times, for instance, lavished praise on Tootsie, it dinged Beetlejuice -- hard. But the ghost with the most offers a devilishly good, if over-the-top and disorganized, time. The creative team behind this spectacle doesn't try to recreate the Tim Burton film note for note, and that's a blessing. For instance, it knows that no one can match the zaniness of Catherine O'Hara, so turns overbearing step-mom Delia into a well-intentioned self-help guru. It doesn't quite succeed in giving the character of Beetlejuice the emotional core it wants to, but Alex Brightman's interpretation is a hoot. Hear the number "Say My Name" from Beetlejuice
Opened: March 12, 2017 Cast: Becky Gulsvig, Joel Hatch, Kenita R. Miller Director: Christopher Ashley (Memphis, Xanadu) Why it's great: A "musical about 9/11" doesn't sound like a particularly joyous way to spend an evening, but Come From Away avoids turgidity by honing in on its characters. The show stages the true story of a group of travelers rerouted on the tragic day and eventually taken in by residents of the small Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland. The entire production feels charmingly intimate and DIY for Broadway, boasting a hardworking cast constantly on the move, always switching between accents and characters. The songs aren't all that memorable, but they are galvanizing toe-tappers that elicit both smiles and tears. Hear the number "Me and the Sky"
Opened: December 4, 2016 Cast: Jordan Fisher, Gabrielle Carrubba, Jessica Phillips Director: Michael Greif (War Paint, If/Then) Why it's great: Every so often a musical comes along that captures the hearts of the high school drama club crowd. Rent played that role in the 1990s. The aughts brought Spring Awakening. Now, it's Dear Evan Hansen. In turn, you may feel, as I did, that you're not the right demographic for it, perhaps unwilling to overlook the ethical missteps in its tale of self-acceptance. Still, the show from La La Land lyricists Justin Paul and Benj Pasek has plenty of fans. The story of an anxiety-ridden teen who finds his voice after a series of misunderstandings stemming from a bully's suicide won the top prize at last year's Tonys. Even if you're a naysayer like I was, you can still appreciate what Dear Evan Hansen has to offer, specifically some stirring ballads. Hear the number "Waving Through a Window"
Girl from the North Country
Opened: March 5, 2020 Cast: Mare Winningham, Marc Kudisch, Jay O. Sanders Director: Conor McPherson (The Seafarer) Why it's great: Jukebox musicals are typically seen as crowd pleasing affairs, but that is not Girl from the North Country. Sure, it uses the music of Bob Dylan, but it's not encouraging any singalongs. Instead, the Irish playwright Conor McPherson, who also directs, uses the folk rock legend's music to punctuate a tale of sorrow at a boarding house in Depression-era Minnesota. The songs are deep cuts for the most part, though Mare Winningham does deliver a stirring rendition of "Like a Rolling Stone." It's a chilly affair with a bleakness can be overwhelming at times. Listen to "Slow Train/License to Kill"
Opened: April 17, 2019 Cast: Reeve Carney, Eva Noblezada, Amber Gray, André de Shields, Patrick Page Director: Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) Hadestown tells an ancient story in an old-timey vernacular and is still one of the freshest things you'll see on Broadway. Stemming from a concept album singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell put out back in 2010, it uses Americana folk and jazz traditions to reinvent the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, young lovers who get mixed up with the fickle gods of the underworld, Hades and Persephone. Mitchell weaves nods to current struggles like climate change into the narrative -- and Hades' threatening song "Why We Build The Wall" has only grown more eerily relevant since she composed it -- but director Rachel Chavkin's stunning imbues it with earthy magic that will take your breath away. Watch the number "Wait For Me"
Opened: August 6, 2015 Cast: Jimmie 'JJ' Jeter, Daniel Breaker, Mandy Gonzalez, Krystal Joy Brown Director: Thomas Kail (Lombardi, In the Heights) Why it's great: Given that Lin-Manuel's unstoppable, rap-infused dramatization of the founding father's life is arguably the 21st century's one true theatrical masterpiece, you probably figured we'd include it here. Hamilton is a musical that's made audiences reconsider the medium, and while it's still difficult to get tickets, these days you don't even have to be in New York to see it: There are productions in Chicago and London as well as a national tour currently underway. Hear the number "Alexander Hamilton"
Opened: April 22, 2018 Cast: Jenny Jules, Matt Mueller, Nicholas Podany, Bubba Weiler, James Snyder Director: John Tiffany (Once, The Glass Menagerie) Why it's great: The lore of Harry Potter seems to just keep spreading. While the cinematic evolution of this world has yielded mixed results -- looking at you, Fantastic Beasts franchise -- the stage sequel to the saga of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, set 19 years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, manages to impress. Director John Tiffany has translated the spells and magical whatsits of J.K. Rowling’s universe into wondrous stagecraft. Meanwhile, Harry’s strained relationship with his middle child effectively grounds the story, making sure all the wizardry has some heart behind it. On top of all that, the flying Dementors are successfully spooky as shit. Listen to Imogen Heap's score for the play
Jagged Little Pill
Opened: December 5, 2019 Cast: Elizabeth Stanley, Celia Rose Gooding, Lauren Patten, Derek Klena Director: Diane Paulus (Waitress, Pippin) Why it's great:Jagged Little Pill is A LOT. The Alanis Morissette jukebox musical with a book by Diablo Cody is a suburban set melodrama that tackles everything from rape to opioid addiction. It's also...definitely fun in a messy sort of way. It's like an episode of Euphoria with a '90s, Rent-like edge thanks to Morissette's unimpeachably good songs. If nothing else, go for Lauren Patten quite literally stopping the show every night with her fiery rendition of "You Oughta Know." Hear the number "You Oughta Know"
Opened: April 8, 2018 Cast: Erika Henningsen, Renée Rapp, Grey Henson Director: Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin) Why it's great: The long-rumored Mean Girls musical finally came to fruition, and it’s better than you could have hoped. No, there’s no "Fetch" song, but there are clever tunes from composer Jeff Richmond and lyricist Nell Benjamin, which complement the snappy dialogue from none other than Tina Fey. Fey has updated her urtext about the monstrosity of teens for this day and age with references to iPhones and social media, and, if anything, the show delves even deeper into the psychology of girlhood than the movie does. All that is reason enough to check it out, but you’re also going to want to see the fabulous cast, who will make you forget all about Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams. Hear the number "I'd Rather Be Me"
Opened: March 12, 2020 Cast: Adrianna Hicks, Andrea Macasaet, Brittney Mack, Abby Mueller, Samantha Pauly, Anna Uzele Directors: Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage Why it's great: Six is quite possibly the best time you'll have on Broadway this season. Sure, there are deaths, divorces, and beheadings, but that's just par (if not Parr, as in Catherine) for the course when you're dealing with the six wives of Henry VIII. But this production imagines the ladies as fierce pop stars, a girl group in the guise of the Spice Girls or Fifth Harmony. The members ofSix stage a competition for the audience every night: They'll each get a solo detailing their tragic tale and whichever one had the worst time being married to the English monarch wins. Catherine of Aragon starts things off with a Beyoncé-esque jam about annulment. Anne of Cleves brings down the house with her killer bop about living large after Henry thinks she doesn't match her Hans Holbein portrait (a.k.a. her profile picture). Jane Seymour sings a plaintive ballad. All the performers do some incredible vocal olympics, belting high notes and doing runs as if their lives depended on it. The show's feel-good feminist messaging is not all that challenging, but who cares when you're caught up in the catchy tunes. Watch highlights from the show
Opened: December 13, 2018 Cast: Ed Harris, Nick Robinson, Taylor Trensch, LisaGay Hamilton Director: Bartlett Sher (My Fair Lady, The King and I) Why it's great: Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of Harper Lee's seminal novel had a rough journey to Broadway, but it overcame a lawsuit to become one of the biggest hits of the season. Sure, it was snubbed for Best Play at the Tonys, but you should still make time for it -- that is, if you can snag a ticket. What's most fascinating about Sorkin's take on the material is how he chooses to reframe Atticus Finch's famous arguments. This isn't some kind of Go Set a Watchmen revision of the character, but the play takes a skeptical eye to Finch's axioms about walking around in another person's shoes, while still allowing for all the speechifying you'd expect from a Sorkin-Jeff Daniels collaboration. (Daniels originated the role. Now Ed Harris takes over.) Adult actors savvily play the children, Scout, Jem, and Dill, who narrate the action. Their voices are a highlight, as is the expanded role of Calpurnia.
West Side Story
Opened: February 20, 2020 Cast: Isaac Poweell, Shereen Pimentel, Yesenia Ayala, Dharon E. Jones Director: Ivo van Hove (Network) Why it's great: Belgian director Ivo van Hove has been a regular presence on Broadway since about 2015, and his productions of classic works are almost always divisive. You love him or you hate him, and you'll probably feel one of those emotions when watching his new West Side Story, which is controversial for numerous reasons. Van Hove has taken one of the most revered works of musical theater in history and reinvented it with his own, austere aesthetics. Now the Jets and Sharks don't do Jerome Robbins' buoyant choreography. Instead, they move in a harsher manner, slicing their arms. They perform the entire show in front of a giant screen that sometimes displays closeups of the actors, and sometimes broadcasts previously filmed images. "I Feel Pretty" has been excised -- that would be too happy -- and the show has been condensed to a tight 105 minutes with no intermission. Some of van Hove's technical wizardry is effective. Other times it's just overbearing. But what is certain is that van Hove has found two extraordinary rising stars to play Tony and Maria. Beyond their wonderful voices, Isaac Powell and Shereen Pimentel make the star-crossed lovers' tryst pulsate with sexy, doomed energy. Listen to "Something's Coming"
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