This was a year of historic moments for Broadway. So many people made their marks — from Ariana DeBose winning an Academy Award to Angelica Ross headlining a leading role in a Broadway show. Two theatres were renamed, Broadway’s longest-running musical announced its closure, and a new museum dedicated to Broadway opened its doors. Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable and important milestones in 2022.
Big Opening Nights Return
In February, The Music Man marched into the Winter Garden Theatre with gusto and literally a full-fledged marching band. The musical’s opening night marked the true return of normalcy on Broadway after the long pandemic shutdown, with a block-long red carpet. Among the countless big names in attendance were Blake Lively and husband Ryan Reynolds, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and New York Governor Kathy Hochul. It also celebrated the show’s return after canceling 10 preview performances while most people in the cast recovered from COVID-19 — including its stars, Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster.
Ariana DeBose Wins an Oscar
In March, Ariana DeBose made history as the first Afro-Latina and openly queer woman of color to win an acting Academy Award, for her portrayal of Anita in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. The actress follows in the footsteps of EGOT winner Rita Moreno, who won in 1962 for the same role. “To anyone who questions your identity — ever, ever, ever — or find yourself living in gray spaces, I promise you this: There is a place for us,” DeBose said while accepting her award, with a nod to one of the most famous lyrics in West Side Story. DeBose is also the first actress to win an Oscar in a Steven Spielberg film. She thanked Moreno, who played Valentina in the film and served as executive producer. “I’m so grateful. Your Anita paved the way for tons of Anitas like me, and I love you so much,” she said.
Milestone Moments for Transgender Representation on Broadway
Transgender artists L Morgan Lee (A Strange Loop) and Angelica Ross (Chicago) made history on Broadway. Lee made her Broadway debut last season, performing as Thought 1 in A Strange Loop and receiving a Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical. Of the many firsts, Lee is the first openly transgender performer to be nominated for a Tony Award. Angelica Ross also made history as the first openly transgender woman to headline a show on Broadway, starring as Roxie in Chicago.
History-Making AAPI Representation
Zachary Noah Piser became the first Asian American actor to step into the title role in Dear Evan Hansen full-time. “Being the first Asian American actor to tell Evan’s story means everything to me, and I hope this milestone allows any and all AAPI folks to feel seen, heard, and valued,” Piser said in a statement. In June, the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC) received a special Tony Award honor. Its mission is to expand the perception of Asian American performers in order to increase their access to and representation on New York City’s stages. And in November, the original new musical KPOP, written by Korean American creatives and also starring Piser, made history as the first Broadway musical celebrating Korean culture with Korean, Korean-American, and API representation on and off-stage, including Helen Park, the first female Asian composer on Broadway.
The Show as Pure as Gold
A new production of Into the Woods premiered at New York City Center. It was clear within one week of performances that the cow, Milky White, was the breakout star of this Stephen Sondheim adaptation. The musical was so well received, it quickly transferred to Broadway with an all-star cast including Sara Bareilles, Brian D’Arcy James, and Patina Miller. What at first was supposed to be an eight-week limited run has since received two extensions and has had a revolving door of A-list Broadway talent, making the show a must-not-miss when each new actor joins the cast.
Stephen Sondheim Honored at the Tony Awards
In June at the 75th Tony Awards, Lin-Manuel Miranda introduced a tribute to Stephen Sondheim, who passed away in November 2021. Bernadette Peters, who originated The Witch in Into the Woods, performed a touching “Children Will Listen” from the musical in his memory.
She’s the Greatest Star
Lea Michele made a triumphant return to Broadway in Funny Girl in September, taking on the iconic role of Fanny Brice. The 36-year-old actress has been getting glowing praise for her performance, with Los Angeles Times critic Charles McNulty writing, “Michele’s performance in Funny Girl is one of the top five musical theater performances I’ve seen in my lifetime.” Countless celebrities, including Nicole Kidman, Hillary Clinton, and Emma Roberts, have been in the audience to witness her star power and glorious vocals. Michele was last seen on Broadway in 2006’s Spring Awakening.
The James Earl Jones Theatre Unveiled
The Cort Theatre was renamed the James Earl Jones Theatre in September in honor of the celebrated actor who made his Broadway debut at the Cort in Sunrise at Campobello in 1958. The dedication ceremony followed a $47 million restoration and expansion of the building. The James Earl Jones Theatre has 1,092 seats and is one of the Shubert Organization‘s 17 Broadway theatres.
Remembering Angela Lansbury
Angela Lansbury, who was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Tony Awards, passed away at 96 years old. Lansbury made her Broadway debut in 1957 in Hotel Paradiso. She went on to star in 13 more shows, including Anyone Can Whistle, Mame, Dear World, Sweeney Todd, and Gypsy.
The Lena Horne Theatre Shines on 47th Street
Lena Horne became the first Black woman to have a Broadway theatre named after her. When discussions began on which Black theater icon to honor, the Nederlander Organization chose Lena Horne “because she is such an important part of the fabric of Broadway and of the fabric of Nederlander,” Christina Selby, Nederlander’s Vice President of Production and Touring, told Broadway Direct in November. Horne was a Tony and Grammy Award-winning artist and activist who made history with her long-running one-woman show Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, which ran over a year at the Nederlander Theatre on Broadway. On November 1, 2022, the Lena Horne Theatre was officially unveiled, with performances from theater icons LaChanze and Vanessa Williams, and a speech from Audra McDonald on Horne’s impact on the Broadway community. Currently home to SIX, the theatre’s marquee now shines the legend’s name.
Long-Running Musicals Close
Big musical hits Come From Away and Dear Evan Hansen ended their successful Broadway runs. Come From Away took its final bow at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre after 1,670 performances and 25 previews, becoming the 49th longest-running production on Broadway. It was also filmed for Apple TV+, where it is currently still streaming. Dear Evan Hansen waved goodbye nearly six years after it opened at the Music Box Theatre. It played 1,678 performances and 21 previews, making it the 47th longest-running Broadway show in history.
A Museum All About Broadway Opens
A new showstopper, The Museum of Broadway, is the latest addition to the Theatre District. Inside, there are several rooms full of archival costume displays, from Annie to Rent; historic memorabilia; and a timeline of Broadway’s progression through the last 100 years. And there are so many spots to feel like you’re actually on the set of a Broadway show, with ample opportunities for selfies and photos. You’ll also get the scoop on how a Broadway show gets made from a behind-the-scenes standpoint. There’s also a special, limited exhibit of cartoonist Al Hirschfeld’s iconic images of theater from 1928 to 2002. Hirschfeld drew more posters for Broadway shows than any other artist.
Think of Me When We Say Goodbye
The Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running show in Broadway history, announced, in September, it is closing in 2023. Due to an increased demand for tickets, The Phantom of the Opera will now close April 16, 2023, eight weeks after the originally announced date. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s blockbuster phenomenon, directed by the late Harold Prince, is one of the world’s all-time most successful entertainment properties. On Broadway alone, the musical has played an unheard-of more than 13,000 performances to 19 million people at the Majestic Theatre.
Can You Feel The Love for The Lion King?
The Lion Kingcelebrated a triumphant 25 years on Broadway! While two other Broadway shows had previously reached this milestone, The Lion King marked several historic firsts. It’s been in the Top 5 grossing Broadway shows for nearly 1,300 consecutive weeks. Every week, 115,000 people enjoy the show in nine productions on three continents. There have also been 27 productions over the life of the show, seen by a staggering 112 million people. That is more than the combined populations of Canada, Greece, Sweden, Holland, Denmark, and Australia. The Broadway production opened on November 13, 1997, and has played through four NYC mayoral administrations, five presidential administrations, and 11 Olympics.
The Wicked-ly Talented Director Jon M. Chu Makes Some Big Announcements
It was announced that the long-anticipated Wicked movie would be turned into two feature films instead of one. In a statement, director Jon M. Chu said, “As we prepared this production over the last year, it became increasingly clear that it would be impossible to wrestle the story of Wicked into a single film without doing some real damage to it. As we tried to cut songs or trim characters, those decisions began to feel like fatal compromises to the source material that has entertained us all for so many years. So we decided to give ourselves a bigger canvas and make not just one Wicked movie but TWO!” More casting announcements have been made throughout the year in addition to Cynthia Erivo (Elphaba) and Ariana Grande (Glinda). Tony Award nominee Ethan Slater is Boq, Jonathan Bailey is Fiyero, Michelle Yeoh is Madame Morrible, and Jeff Goldblum is The Wizard.
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