New Broadway Musicals: The Rush Is OnSeptember 30, 2016 - by Griffin Miller, Theatre Editor
The opening round of the new fall-winter production schedule is up, running and zigzagging all over the Big Apple, scorching a wildly diverse path across Broadway stages. For theatregoers, this means that no matter where your heart or preferences lie it’s pretty much a slam-dunk you’ll find your perfect match (no online dating required). Read on for the latest on the new musicals coming to Broadway now.
Ben Platt astounds as Dear Evan Hansen moves up from Off-Broadway. Image: Matthew Murphy.
It’s worth noting that, in contrast to the usual checklist of fall previews that veer almost exclusively to drama (with a comedy or two thrown in for good measure), the latest kids to saddle up at the rodeo are musicals. And not just one or two—it’s a full-blown gaggle that includes A Bronx Tale (culled from Chazz Palminteri’s semi-autobiographical solo show; codirected by Robert De Niro, who costarred with Palminteri in the 1993 film version, and four-time Tony winner Jerry Zaks), starring Tony nominee Nick Cordero; Dear Evan Hansen, an Off-Broadway sell-out that zipped onto Broadway in the flick of an eyelash; Falsettos, a musical farce starring Tony winner Christian Borle alongside Tony nominees Andrew Rannells and Stephanie J. Block; Holiday Inn, an adaptation of the film featuring an Irving Berlin score; In Transit, the very New York, very a cappella original musical; and Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, a musical adaptation of War and Peace (and another show to blow the lid off of Off-Broadway) starring multi-platinum singer, songwriter, actor, you name it Josh Groban and Denée Benton of Lifetime’s UnREAL.
And this heavy-hitting roster doesn’t even take into account the two superstar concerts that will visit Broadway for extremely meteoric runs: Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons On Broadway!, a show that arrives as a must-see and departs in a blaze of memories; and Kristin Chenoweth: My Love Letter to Broadway, which follows Frankie and his Four into the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Chenoweth will be sharing 12 shows with her fans, beginning 11/2 and closing 11/13 (unlike Valli, who signed on for seven performances—10/21 through 10/29). As for Chenoweth’s show, I think it’s safe to expect her to share her most memorable Broadway moments (i.e. any song she’s performed on the Great White Way), as well one or two signature Chenowethian surprises.
GETTING FRESH ON BROADWAY
Meanwhile, a number of long-running Broadway musicals are introducing some new and noteworthy players. The Color Purple, for example, recently welcomed Tony and Grammy winner Jennifer Holliday as sexy honky-tonk siren Shug Avery.
Alex Brightman welcomes Jenn Gambatese to School of Rock. Image: Matthew Murphy.
The latest addition to fiercely popular School of Rock is Broadway fave Jenn Gambatese, known to fans for star turns in All Shook Up and Tarzan. She took over the role of tightly wound principal Rosalie Mullins from Sierra Boggess, who jumped one Andrew Lloyd Webber ship to star in another: the Paris production of The Phantom of the Opera.
On the blockbuster Hamilton front, Mandy Gonzalez, who appeared alongside Lin-Manuel Miranda in his first Tony-winning show, In the Heights, picked up the Angelica Schuyler 18th-century gauntlet in September after Tony winner Elise Goldsberry departed to wrap up filming HBO’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and to start work on Netflix’s new Altered Carbon.
On the Chicago front, aka the superstar Broadway revival that celebrates its 20th birthday this November, the show just welcomed a new Roxie Hart: Veronica Dunne, known to young audiences as Marissa on the Disney Channel’s K.C. Undercover.
When Thomas Wolfe first wrote the words “You can’t go home again,” he clearly had no idea how seductive the Broadway stage can be. Jake Epstein—who originated the role of Gerry Goffin, Carole King’s first husband and writing partner in Beautiful —returns to the part and his Stephen Sondheim Theatre “home,” reuniting with another original cast member: Tony-nominee Liz Larsen, who plays the mother of Carole (Chilina Kennedy).
The original cast of Beautiful. Image: Joan Marcus.
Finally, as of November 1st, fans of Todrick Hall—including his 672,000 Instagram followers—will celebrate the international YouTube sensation’s latest Broadway venture, playing the show stopping “diva” Lola in the Harvey Fierstein-Cyndi Lauper musical Kinky Boots. Hall, who began amassing fans as he made his way to the semifinals in the ninth season of American Idol, replaces Alan Mingo, Jr., who has been with the show since March. And since Hall will soon be a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, may I offer the Kinky Boots suggestion that, while these boots are made for walking, they’ll also do nicely for some scene-stealing vogueing.