The less good news: It won't be showing up until the 2018-19 Broadway season rolls around.
The early announcement's a smart move for the Orpheum though, as the early buzz is already louder than a plague of cicadas. It also helps to spruce up a Lawrence Welk season — packed with crowd pleasing hits, a little long in the tooth. (Not judging — I'm a Welkahoic). There's a lot of goodness coming to town, just not a lot we haven't seen before in some shape, form, or media. Still — subscribers get the first crack at Hamilton tickets. So whatcha gonna do?
Like I said: Smart.
The King and I: Rodgers & Hammerstein's colonial classic has always been a barefoot race between racism and sexism, and only the designers — able to work themselves into gilded orientalist frenzy — win. But let's not write it off just yet. The current tour originates from Lincoln Center, and is acutely aware of all the reasons why it's inadvisable to perform the show as it's been done in the past. Sure, it was always successful, but even the less woke among us can understand why, everything else aside, consent issues, and colorful splashes of human trafficking might require reconsideration. This revival shifts the show's emphasis away from spectacle — with some fine cherry-picked indulgences. It's not a revision though. Respectful, but knowing treatment of the vintage material allows the more cringeworthy moments to function as critique. Darker threads are tugged, and woven into the romance.
If you don't think this problematic musical extravaganza from the 1950's can be salvaged (and I still harbor some doubts), this is the production to measure that opinion against.
An American in Paris: Ah, young love. Jerry Mulligan's an American GI with an artistic bent. Lise Dassin's a French ballerina with secrets. Set against the background of post WWII Paris, and showcasing some extraordinary dance numbers, and few of the Gershwin brothers' most loved songs, An American in Paris is built to please. It is, of course, inspired by Vincente Minnelli's 1951 film starring Gene Kelly.
The Phantom of the Opera: More Paris shenanigans. "Music of the Night." Blah, blah, blah. Spoiler alert: The chandelier falls.
(Oops— Wrong video. My bad.) (Muahahahahahahahahahahaha). Finding Neverland: As a lifelong James M. Barrie fan who thinks Peter and the Starcatcher is one of the best things to come around in ages, I'm starting to think we've maybe hit peak Pan. Finding Neverland — a Peter Pan origin story — was both a play about death and a film about death before it became a spectacle-laden Broadway musical — also about death.
The Color Purple: Memphis can't seem to get enough Purple. This show— faithfully adapted from Alice Walker's novel — has come to the Orpheum a few times. Playhouse on the Square staged a knockout production. Even Sister Myotis got into Miss Celie's pants (so to speak) at a particularly memorable installment of Ostrander Awards. Among the shows we've seen here more than once, this challenging musical is probably the most underrepresented.
Wicked: Another return trip. This spectacle-laden alternative history of Oz plays out less like a faithful adaptation of Gregory Maguire's popular novel than as a prequel to MGM's iconic film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. It tells the story of green-skinned Elphaba, who, in spite of her good intentions and an obsessive need to tell the truth, came to be known as the Wicked Witch of the West. Glinda, Oz's "good" witch, arrives on the scene in a bubble, and Elphaba soars 20-feet into the air while performing "Defying Gravity," the show's signature number. Somehow — perhaps by magic — none of the technological stunts overshadow Wicked's political satire or its heartfelt story of sisterhood tested and triumphant.
Something Rotten: And now for something completely different. Something Rotten is a rare thing indeed — a Broadway musical that was never anything else before it was a Broadway musical. Sure, it rides Shakespeare's coat tails a bit, but not in the usual sense. Here The Bard of Avon is treated like a self-satisfied pop star who's so successful his would be competitors the Bottom Brothers (get it?) are forced to invent the musical just to stay in the running.
Then, after all that (clouds part, perfect rays of light shine through, Angels sing "We the People") —-Hamilton!
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