When the subject turns to audiences, January is traditionally a quiet month for Broadway. A back to school, hit the gym, pay off holiday extravagance…basically recuperate from partying month, as versus a rush to the theatre month. But thanks to a scorecard of white-hot shows laced with a jolt of celebrity voltage, Broadway is positioned to become a mega theatre mecca for January, 2018.
Just try to land last-minute tickets to 2017 carryovers Dear Evan Hansen, Springsteen on Broadway, Come From Away, or The Band’s Visit…or ongoing hits like Hamilton (seriously?), The Lion King, Aladdin, Wicked, The Book of Mormon…go ahead, give them a shot. There are always show lotteries (see individual websites), of course, but no guarantees there.
And then there’s the one-two punch of Hello, Dolly! with the the mid-month departure of superstar Bette Midler and the arrival of superstar Bernadette Peters on January 20th (first preview for a February 22nd opening). Try to get your hands on tickets for either one of these iconic divas in January. I dare you. (FYI: Midler’s costar David Hyde Pierce will also be leaving, replaced by stage and screen veteran Victor Garber.)
Another show boasting high-profile January cast changes is Kinky Boots, where on January 8th Jake Shears, lead singer of the glam pop group Scissor Sisters, took over the role of Charlie Price; J. Harrison Ghee replaces Porter as Lola.
Notes Shears, “I have been dreaming of doing Broadway, and my wish got answered tenfold. I couldn’t be more excited, it’s going to be a delicious challenge!”
P.S. Beginning her Broadway run on February 2nd in the role of Charlie’s love interest, Lauren, is Grammy-winner Kirstin Maldonado of the hit acapella group Pentatonix. Looks like the multi-platinum recording artists will be sharing a dramatic detour from concert stage to Broadway debut.
CATCH ‘EM WHILE YOU CAN
Meanwhile, on the good-bye front, Junk starring Steven Pasquale (The Bridges of Madison County and TV’s Rescue Me) vacates the Lincoln Center Theater’s Vivian Beaumont on January 7th to make room for rehearsals for My Fair Lady starring Lauren Ambrose and Downton Abbey’s Harry Hadden-Paton (previewing March 15th).
Come January 14th, Broadway lost two musicals: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, starring Tony winners Christian Borle and John Rubenstein, and the extended limited run of the Miss Saigon revival. National tours are in both shows’ immediate futures.
POP THE CHAMPAGNE CORK
Photo by Matthew Murphy
The happiest news on Broadway is the 30th anniversary celebration of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera taking place on Wednesday evening, January 24th, at its home base, the Majestic Theatre. This mega-milestone marks the first time ever that a Broadway show has turned the big three-O. The anniversary performance that night stars noted Swedish stage star and recording artist Peter Jöback as the Phantom opposite current Christine, Ali Ewoldt. (FYI: Jöback officially joined the New York cast on January 15th for a limited run through March 31st.)
Phantom’s official New York anniversary date is January 26th, at which time it will have played 12,500 performances and netted over $1.1 billion. It has been Broadway’s longest-running show for more than a decade.
Be transported by Alex Newell, Hailey Kilgore, and the cast of Once on This Island. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Incidentally, Broadway’s first African-American Phantom—Norm Lewis—is joining the cast of the musical Once on This Island; one of the 2017-2018 season’s most exciting must-see new shows. Lewis took on the role of Papa Ge beginning January 8th, the same day American Idol finalist Tamyra Gray begins performances as Agwe. Seriously, despite the winter outside, you’ll feel the sun in this tropical jewel from the team behind Ragtime and Anastasia.