Oh, what a beautiful year it was on Broadway! This year was all about making history – from the SpongeBob musical airing on Nickelodeon, to Hadestown taking home the top prize at the 73rd annual Tony Awards, to smashed box office records. Here’s a look at what went down in 2019.
January was a great start to the year on Broadway and here’s why: Andrew Barth Feldman joined the Dear Evan Hansen cast at the Music Box Theatre. The Long Islander, then 16, took over the title role of Evan Hansen from 29-year-old Taylor Trensch, becoming the first actual teen to play the part. “I am very much still a kid, but I just happen to be doing this incredible thing,” he said of the opportunity. Some of his favorite celebrities to come see him were Neil Patrick Harris and Jodi Benson. Jordan Fisher slips into the arm cast and blue striped T-shirt for a 16-week engagement starting January 28. Feldman’s final performance in the Tony-winning hit is January 26.
The Band’s Visit, 2018’s Best Musical winner, picked up another award at the Grammy Awards with best musical theater album. Principal soloists included Etai Benson, Adam Kantor, Katrina Lenk, and Ari’el Stachel, and composers and lyricists included Dean Sharenow and David Yazbek. The Band’s Visit won 10 Tony Awards, including what musical theater defines as the “big six”: Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Direction of a Musical. The show is currently on tour.
A new revival of Oklahoma! began previews at the Circle in the Square Theatre. This reincarnation took the grand musical production and pared it down, touching more closely on the script without losing a word. The show starts with Curly (Damon Daunno) singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” — but upends the audience’s expectation of seeing Curly crooning on a horse and instead has Daunno singing the classic while strumming an acoustic guitar. “Everyone has said this to me: They hear the show differently, they experience the characters differently, and they follow the journeys and the arc of the relationship differently,” explained producer Eva Price. The show, which won the Best Revival of a Musical at the Tony Awards, closes January 19.
William Ivey Long celebrated an extraordinary milestone after designing costumes for his 75th Broadway show: Beetlejuice. The musical opened the same week as Tootsie, Long’s other Broadway show of the season. This wasn’t the first time Long was Tony-nominated for costume design on two shows in the same year — in 2005, he was nominated for the musical La Cage aux Folles and the play A Streetcar Named Desire — but it was the first time he was in the same category against himself. Which celebrity does he most want to dress? “I’m the Statue of Liberty. Bring me everybody,” he quipped.
Fosse/Verdon wrapped up eight episodes on FX. The biographical TV show, based on the book Fosse by Sam Wasson, moved the Broadway community from theatres into living rooms on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. The series centered on the tumultuous work and romantic partnership between legends Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams). Because the show was produced by theater powerhouses including Steve Levenson, Tommy Kail, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, many Broadway actors were part of it. Laura Osnes (Shirley MacLaine), Ethan Slater (Joel Grey), Norbert Leo Butz (Paddy Chayefsky), Brandon Uranowitz (Dustin Hoffman), and Kelli Barrett (Liza Minnelli) were among some of the guest stars. Fosse/Verdon picked a handful of Emmy Awards, including ones for Michelle Williams for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie and Alex Lacamoire for Best Musical Direction.
History was made at the Tony Awards. Ali Stroker became the first person to win in the coveted acting categories who uses a wheelchair, collecting her Best Featured Actress in a Musical prize for her role as Ado Annie in the revival of Oklahoma!. Stephanie J. Block also took home her first Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Cher in The Cher Show. Another big win for women that night included Rachel Chavkin’s direction of Hadestown. “I wish I wasn’t the only woman directing a musical on Broadway on season,” she said in her acceptance speech. Chavkin became the 10th woman in history to win in the category.
The King of Broadway, Hal Prince, died July 31 in Reykjavik, Iceland. He was 91 years old. Marquee lights were dimmed for one minute in remembrance of his contributions to American theater. The legendary producer and director was responsible for countless classics in musical theater history, including West Side Story, Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof, and Phantom of the Opera. Prince received a lifetime achievement award at the Tonys in 2006; it was his 21st Tony and cemented a record that beats anyone else in the industry. An exhibit about Prince’s life and his shows is on display at the New York Public Library. A memorial service was held in celebration of his life on December 16.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg met her alter ego: Ruth Bader Ginsburg of Saturday Night Live. The Supreme Court Justice attended the same performance of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish as Kate McKinnon, who has played her on the satirical late-night TV show since 2012. Ginsburg and McKinnon both went backstage to meet with the cast and pose for pictures.
Judy’s turn! Fifty years after Judy Garland’s tragic death, the singer’s story came to life for the first time on film. Judy!, directed by Rupert Goold, is the movie adaptation of the play End of the Rainbow. It focuses on the last year of Garland’s life. The movie premiered in theatres one day after a new musical about Garland’s early years, Chasing Rainbows, began performances at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey. Garland’s youngest daughter, Lorna Luft, said since she wasn’t involved with the film she doesn’t “really have an opinion on it,” though she did attend opening night of Chasing Rainbows. “[The theatre’s staff] had the class and respect to call me and say, ‘We are going to do this and we wanted to have your blessing,’” Luft said about the musical. “I thought: How nice is that?”
The stage cast of Saturday Night Fever reunited in Duffy Square for an epic 20th anniversary reunion. About 40 members of the original and touring companies performed the “Mega Mix” finale with its original choreography. Andy Karl, Orfeh, Paige Price, and Aileen Quinn were among the performers in attendance. Saturday Night Fever opened at the Minskoff Theatre on October 21, 1999, and ran for 501 performances.
To Kill a Mockingbird still sings! The Aaron Sorkin adaption of Harper Lee’s novel broke another box office record at the Shubert Theatre. Since its opening last December, the play grossed more than $100 million. For the week ending November 3, it grossed $2,245,898. Jeff Daniels (Atticus Finch), Will Pullen (Jem Finch), and Celia Keenan-Bolger (Scout Finch) took their final bows on stage that same week, and Ed Harris, Nick Robinson, and Nina Grollman stepped into their roles, respectively.
It’s the best month ever! SpongeBob: the Musical got the TV treatment on Nickelodeon. Nearly the entire original Broadway cast, including Ethan Slater, Danny Skinner, and Gavin Lee, reunited for a televised version of the Broadway show. “We’re going to reach a whole new audience,” Slater, who plays SpongeBob, told InsideEdition.com. “It feels really special.” The musical, which was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, also featured a cameo performance from the SpongeBob OG: Tom Kenny.
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