It’s no secret that I love theatre. It’s been an important part of my life since I saw my first professional production at age three (Annie at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia), and my love for and interest in the art form has only grown in the years since then. One of my favorite things about growing up in New Jersey and going to Rutgers is that it’s way too easy to get to New York City and see Broadway shows, and it’s been my goal this year to see as many shows as possible. I was lucky enough to be able to see seventeen shows since last May (8 Broadway, 4 Off-Broadway, 4 National Tours, and 1 Regional), so I’m happy to say that I succeeded.
Thirty-six new productions opened on Broadway this season: The Boys in the Band (Opened May 31), Straight White Men (July 23), Head Over Heels (July 26), Gettin’ the Band Back Together (August 13), Pretty Woman (August 16), Bernhardt/Hamlet (September 25), The Nap (September 27), The Lifespan of a Fact (October 18), The Ferryman (October 21), The Waverly Gallery (October 25), Torch Song (November 1), American Son (November 4), King Kong (November 8), Mike Birbiglia’s The New One (November 11), The Prom (November 15), The Illusionists – Magic of the Holidays (November 23), The Cher Show (December 3), Network (December 6), Ruben and Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show (December 11), To Kill a Mockingbird (December 13), Choir Boy (January 8), True West (January 24), Be More Chill (March 10), Kiss Me, Kate (March 14), Ain’t Too Proud (March 21), What the Constitution Means to Me (March 31), King Lear (April 4), Oklahoma! (April 7), Burn This (April 16), Hadestown (April 17), Hillary and Clinton (April 18), Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus (April 21), All My Sons (April 22), Tootsie (April 23), Ink (April 24), and Beetlejuice (April 25). Of these 36, I have seen four so far, and I absolutely loved them.
Head Over Heels | December 19, 2018 | Hudson Theatre
Synopsis: A mash-up of posh and punk, Head Over Heels is an unpredictable, Elizabethan romp about a royal family that must prevent an oracle’s prophecy of doom. In order to save their beloved kingdom, the family embarks on an extravagant journey wrought with mistaken identities, jealous lovers, scandal, and self-discovery, where everything (and everyone) is not quite what it seems. (Playbill.com)
I am a huge sucker for a good jukebox musical (a musical that features hit songs of a popular music group or genre), and I’m also a huge sucker for 80s music, so when I found out that this season would include a jukebox musical featuring songs by the Go-Gos, I knew I had to see it. I love how much representation this musical has. The main character, Pamela, is a plus-sized princess who is considered to be the most beautiful woman in the land; she ends up falling in love with her handmaid instead of any of the suitors she meets. In addition, Head Over Heels features the first ever principal character to be played by a trans actress. Peppermint, the runner up of the ninth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, plays a non-binary oracle named Pythio. I loved the way this show combined the older language of the 16th-century poem it is based on with modern ideas, and I could not stop smiling and laughing the entire time. Unfortunately, Head Over Heels closed after less than five months on Broadway, but I am so glad I had the opportunity to see it.
Be More Chill | February 17, 2019 | Lyceum Theatre
Synopsis: What if popularity came in a pill? Would you take it, no questions asked? In Be More Chill, achieving that elusive “perfect life” is now possible thanks to some mysterious new technology – but it comes at a cost that’s not as easy to swallow. (Playbill.com)
Be More Chill is my second favorite musical of all time, and I got to see it during its sold-out Off-Broadway run over the summer and during its first week of previews on Broadway. This show had a very unconventional journey to Broadway: it premiered right here in New Jersey at Two River Theatre in Red Bank in 2015 and was well-loved by its audience, but because of a negative review in the New York Times, it didn’t continue on beyond that initial production. To the surprise of the cast and creative team, the cast recording suddenly became extremely popular in 2017 thanks to social media and recommendation algorithms, and it was this buzz on social media that led to the Off-Broadway production in the summer of 2018 and the current Broadway production. I love this show because despite the fact that its premise is based in science fiction, everyone can relate to the experiences of the characters. It’s a reminder that no one is alone in the insecurities and fears they feel, whether they’re in high school or well into adulthood. The show is hilarious and so full of joy with a fantastic musical score written by my favorite musical theatre composer. Fun fact: Be More Chill is the first Broadway musical to use a theremin in the orchestra!
The Prom | April 10, 2019 | Longacre Theatre
Synopsis: We’ve got trouble, folks, right here in Indiana and when Broadway’s brassiest hear a student is unceremoniously sidelined from a small-town Indiana prom—and the press is involved—they are ready to kick-ball-change the world. (Playbill.com)
I’ve wanted to see this show since the Broadway production was announced over the summer, and I’m really glad I ended up going two days before my birthday as an early birthday gift to myself. I’m also really happy that I happened to see it during Rutgers’s Gaypril celebration because this show’s main character is a high school student named Emma who wants nothing more than to go to prom with her girlfriend. When the cast performed the show’s closing number at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, it made history as the parade’s first LGBT+ kiss. This show was directed by a well-known choreographer, so the dancing is absolutely fantastic. I also really love how different the songs in the show are from each other. My favorite part is a song called Unruly Heart, in which Emma shares her story with the world by writing and performing an original song. The song’s message of hope and the beautiful harmonies when the whole cast joins in brought tears to my eyes when I saw the show. The Prom is such a special musical and I’m so excited for as many people as possible to get to see it.
Beetlejuice | April 16, 2019 | Winter Garden Theatre
Synopsis: Lydia Deetz is a strange and unusual teenager who is obsessed with the whole “being dead thing.” Lucky for Lydia, her new house is haunted by a recently deceased couple and a degenerate demon who happens to have a thing for stripes. When Lydia calls on this ghost-with-the-most to scare away her insufferable parents, Beetlejuice comes up with the perfect plan, which involves exorcism, arranged marriages and an adorable girl scout who gets scared out of her wits. (Playbill.com)
I honestly had no idea what to expect when I saw this musical because I didn’t know any of the songs nor did I recognize the names of the show’s writers; the only knowledge I had was based on the one time I watched the movie the musical was based on. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I absolutely loved everything about it! Though the plot of the musical deviates quite a bit from the source material, I think that the musical still preserves the essence of the original movie and its characters. Something that makes live theatre unique is the ability to “break the fourth wall,” which means that the characters acknowledge that they have an audience and they interact with them as such. Beetlejuice breaks the fourth wall within the first few minutes of the show, and continues to do so throughout; Beetlejuice, the title character, is the only one who is aware of the audience, which allows for some very funny interactions between him and the audience, to the confusion of the other characters. I honestly could not stop laughing from the opening number through the end, and I loved every single song so much that I’m so bummed that I have to wait for the cast album’s release to hear them all again. I know it’ll be more than worth the wait, though.
Other Shows I’ve Seen in the Past Year
Dear Evan Hansen – May 13, 2018 | Music Box Theatre, New York City
Aladdin – June 30, 2018 | Kimmel Center, Philadelphia
Mamma Mia! – July 8, 2018 | Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia
Be More Chill – August 19, 2018 | Pershing Square Signature Center, New York City
SpongeBob Squarepants – September 16, 2018 | Palace Theatre, New York City
The Color Purple – October 14, 2018 | Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn
Clueless – December 16, 2018 | Pershing Square Signature Center, New York City
Mean Girls – January 13, 2019 | August Wilson Theatre, New York City
The Lightning Thief – January 27, 2019 | Kimmel Center, Philadelphia
Wicked – March 3, 2019 | Gershwin Theatre, New York City
The Play That Goes Wrong – March 7, 2019 | New World Stages, New York City
Alice By Heart – March 17, 2019 | MCC Theater, New York City
Rent – April 3, 2019 | State Theatre, New Brunswick
The Tony Award nominations will be announced on April 30th, and the awards ceremony will be on June 9th. I’m looking forward to seeing even more of this season’s new shows as well as the new shows that will be opening in the 2019-2020 season.
All photos were taken by me, with the exception of the cover image, which came from Playbill.com.