As it is most Januarys, Broadway is up to its eyeballs in New York theatre bloodletting. Still, this year the adieus are coming so thick and fast it’s hard to believe the Great White Way will ever reach capacity again. Already The Illusionists have performed their last vanishing act; Matilda has kicked the odious Trunchbull to the curb for the final time; Something Rotten! is checking out its Shakespearean hijinks in the rearview mirror; and Danny Burstein’s Tevye in Fiddler On the Roof has packed up family and neighbors and left Anatevka a la Broadway behind once and for all. To quote Judy Kuhn as Golde, “Eh... it’s just a place.”
Photo: Joan Marcus
And while Broadway is indeed “a place” it is also the most prominent, celebrated nucleus of theatre on the planet. Not just a very big deal—the very big deal. So when I cast my eyes on this month’s upcoming carnage: January 8, The Color Purple, The Encounter, Falsettos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses; Janaury 15, Holiday Inn, The Humans, Jersey Boys; January 22, Oh, Hello—unlucky 13—I’m apprehensive, but not in despair.
All the same, it doesn’t help that January, with all that post-holiday tourist ka-ching exiting the Big Apple, is seen by many Broadway producers as the designated “suck-it-up and wait-it-out” month.
But while we’re sucking it up and waiting it out, we should also take stock of January’s bright spots. For instance, excellent tickets are now available for hot Broadway shows (sadly, not Hamilton, but that’s why Lin-Manuel invented Hamilton’s $10 lottery). Meanwhile, you can now belly up to the bar of elusive Broadway options like Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, Beautiful, The Book of Mormon, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, and, of course, The Lion King. Plus, you can’t go wrong with the ongoing blast of such dynamite Broadway musicals as Kinky Boots, A Bronx Tale, On Your Feet!, Cirque du Soleil PARAMOUR, Chicago, Aladdin, and Waitress.
Things get even better with the first official Broadway opening of the year, set for January 8th: The Present, which marks the reuniting of a couple of high profile Aussies—Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh (the oh-so-hateful Duke of Monroth in Baz Lurhmann’s Moulin Rouge) in their Broadway debuts. Adapted by Blanchett’s husband Andrew Upton from Anton Chekhov’s Platonov, this drama, steeped in all kinds of passion and regret, is set at a Russian birthday party for Anna Petrovna (Blanchett) where Platonov (Roxburgh) pipes up with snarky aplomb. ‘Nuff said.
Another reason to get your January Broadway groove on (sorry, 1970...it just spilled out) is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical trifecta: The Phantom of the Opera (with James Barbour in the title role), the revival of Cats (leaping and belting felines for a new generation), and the smokin’ kid-savant-a-thon, School of Rock—The Musical boasting an irrepressible Eric Petersen in the role of slacker-rocker Dewey Finn (a character originated by Tony-nominee Alex Brightman).
I bring this up for two reasons: 1) All three shows broke house records during the last week of 2016 (School of Rock grossing $2,022,136.11 for the week ending December 31, 2016; Phantom scooting in with $1,942,351.00, and Cats knocking it out of the Neil Simon Theatre ballpark with an impressive $1,723,568.70 box office take), and 2) Lloyd Webber is on the cusp of breaking his own “shows running on Broadway” record as the Great White Way revs up for Glenn Close’s sultry sweep into the Palace Theatre for a limited run of Sunset Boulevard. Reprising her Tony-winning embodiment of faded movie diva Norma Desmond beginning February 2nd, Close is joined in the La La Land epic by a 40 piece orchestra—the biggest ever on a Broadway stage! Running through May 28, Sunset Boulevard officially opens on February 9th.