Turning on the Stage Lights; Broadway’s Return Gives the Theater Hope

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Castalia Litos, Writer

Broadway’s back! The almost 2-year hiatus left over 97,000 employees jobless, 41 theaters dark, and an estimated loss of 35 million dollars per week. The closure of the Great White Way greatly reflected the surrounding city; NYC was crumbling under the weight of the pandemic, whether it be small businesses failing, constant protests, or economically, all while thousands of lives were lost to the virus. The theater community was personally affected, as we saw veteran actor Nick Cordero and playwright Terrance McNally lose their battle with COVID-19. 

Here in September, with infection rates lowered and vaccination rates boosted, Broadway’s lights have been switched on, the soundcheck run, curtains open, and operating at full capacity. Proof of vaccination, or a negative virus test, is required to get into the theater. Although Broadway’s mandates may not appeal to everyone, they appeal to health recommendations and CDC guidelines. 

With so many returning shows, like the revolutionary Hamilton, the electric adaptation of our favorite witches in Wicked, and our favorite blue Genie in Aladdin, there’s a sense of hope and inspiration in the air. The classics make their rebound reentrance as well, with Phantom of the Opera and the merriest murderesses in Chicago. Moulin Rouge as well vetoed disgraced producer Scott Rudin and original cast member Karen Olivo. 9-time Tony winner The Book of Mormon and the magical Harry Potter and the Cursed Child can be seen in November, with Dear Evan Hansen in December opposite its new film adaptation released in September.

This still leaves tons of new productions hoping for a successful opening night during a time of uncertainty, but a taste of normalcy so many have been missing for so long. 

These start-ups hold promise, but need attention to get off the ground while Broadway’s future hangs in balance. Let’s check out a few new additions that catch the eye: the one-man play Lackawanna Blues, the worldwide phenomenon Six opening for the first time in New York, and the highly anticipated show based on a true story, The Lehman Trilogy.

Lackawanna Blues

A solo play, featuring one man taking on the role of over 20 characters, is the originality that encompasses the freedom of artistic expression that creates Lackawanna Blues. Ruben Santiago-Hudson is the genius behind the idea, it’s simply the story of his own life. Growing up during the 1950s, he immerses us into his world; a boarding house where he is raised, the woman who raised him, Ms. Rachel, or Nanny, and the people he watched walk in and out of the doors of his unique upbringing. The play, set to open at the Samuel J Friedman Theater, is not without good music as the score holds originals by Billy Sims Jr, performed by Grammy-nominated blues guitarist Junior Mack. The work captures the sense of a normal life, original characters, and an unconventional approach to performance that leaves it high on the list to visit amidst the onslaught of new productions in the month of October. 

Six

With its opening night the day Broadway closed back in March of 2020, the 6 wives of Henry VIII are ready to hit the stage with their all-female identifying cast and band. The band includes our own HenHud grad Elena Bonomo. As a drummer and musician, Elena has an impressive repertoire, touring with several musicals including the insanely successful Be More Chill  and Waitress. We love to see a member of our own band and “Treblemakers” program go on to do great things and this is a great chance to watch her performance when the show opens. As for the show, the international phenomenon strung to fame in Britain, fittingly, where the modernized remix of the lives of six mysterious Tudor queens made its debut in 2017. With only 6 characters (Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr) each woman gets to share her side of the classic children’s rhyme “Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.” Through artistic expression, fashion, dance, and of course, music, the queens get the long-awaited retelling of their fantastical experiences as a wife of a king. The vivid costumes and electric set design capture the audience, and it’s a must-see for any history buff, or maybe just a girl looking for some musical feminism. 

The Lehman Trilogy

The Lehman Trilogy, an epic retelling of the world’s most famous bankers. Yes, the show delves into an economic crisis, family ruin, and a bankruptcy that shaped the world, it still leaves you gripping those red-cushioned seats in the Nederlander Theater. The story of two brothers immigrating to America to capture the coveted American dream brings trials and tribulations to their family, their business, and their legacy left on the world for decades to come. The musical, detailing the lives of the original brothers, their sons, and their grandchildren all in one cohesive, 2-act night, can be enjoyed by audiences starting October 14th. 

The Show Must Go On

With an abundance of artistry and a slew of show-stopping stagings, it seems Broadway’s set to reopen with high attendance. A musical experience coupled with an itch to get out of the house leaves Broadway in a good position to come back glistening with its usual upbeat energy. Our own theater program is set to start auditions in late October as students and staff highly anticipate the play, the SeussOdyssey, that will hit the brand-new HenHud stage in just a few months. Theater, both Broadway and beyond, is inching its way back into the lights, the music, and the hearts of the millions across the world awaiting its return. We can’t wait.