No trip to The Big Apple is complete without a visit to the theatres of Broadway – but if you’re a newcomer to world of music theatre, choosing which show to see can be a real gamble.
Rather than picking a title at random, make your selection from our shortlist of the best shows on Broadway and you won’t be left wanting on your next business trip to New York.
If you only have time for one Broadway show, make it If/Then at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
Broadway legend Idina Menzel – the voice of Elsa in ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen, Elphaba in Wicked and Maureen in Rent – stars as Elizabeth Vaughan, a recently-divorced urban planner who moves to New York City for a fresh start.
There she meets Kate (LaChanze) and Lucas (Anthony Rapp: another familiar face from Rent), always finds herself indecisive, asking “What if?” and dwelling on what might have been.
The show follows her as ‘Liz’ – the path she’d have taken as friends with Kate – and ‘Beth’, should she instead choose to befriend Lucas.
Not convinced? Watch Menzel’s showstopper ‘Always Starting Over’:
2. The Book of Mormon
Winning nine Tony Awards in its premiere year including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score, The Book of Mormon is a satirical masterpiece from Trey Parker and Matt Stone – the creators of South Park – and songwriter Robert Lopez.
Two young missionaries are sent to Uganda to share the Book of Mormon, which only one of them has read, with local villagers stricken with poverty, AIDS and famine.
Trouble ensues when the pair encounter the local warlord who, shall we say, has very different beliefs.
Here’s the opening group number, ‘Hello’, as performed at the 2012 Tony Awards:
Another multi-award winner, Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked is a different take on The Wizard of Oz: following Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, born green and shunned by society,
She’s introduced to the very pink Glinda, the Good Witch of the South at Shiz University, joining her on a quest to help the Wonderful Wizard of Oz – who turns out to be not as ‘wonderful’ as they’d first imagined.
Elphaba speaks out while Glinda is too afraid to do so, and we’ll leave the rest there short of spoiling the ending.
Watch Idina Menzel – the original Elphaba – perform ‘Defying Gravity’ in concert form as part of her Barefoot at the Symphony tour:
(Menzel has since moved on from Wicked and now appears on stage in If/Then).
4. The Lion King
Running in New York since 1997, playing over 7,000 performances in The Big Apple alone and seen by a collective audience of over 75 million people worldwide, there’s no denying The Lion King’s place in our top five.
Simba, a young lion prince, is disowned and booted from his pride by his cruel uncle Scar, who claims that the cub killed his own father (King Mufasa) – leaving Scar free to take Mufasa’s place at the throne.
After spending years in exile with new friends Timon and Pumbaa – a meerkat and a warthog – it’s time for Simba to return and fight for his former pride.
‘Shadowland’, performed by character Nala before disappearing into the unknown, shows the power of the full Broadway ensemble:
There’s an old saying in show business: “never work with children or animals”, yet this show is full of the former and the school’s principal Miss Trunchbull arguably acts like the latter, both of which combine to make a serious exception to the informal rule.
Based on the classic novel by Roald Dahl, Matilda follows the story of a bright girl born to otherwise-dim parents, who believe that physical looks and illegal trickery have more appeal than a proper education, and that their daughter should follow in their footsteps.
Matilda’s genius is first realised by her teacher Miss Honey, and as we quickly discover, that genius is superhuman.
Astoundingly, the children all sing in tune and perform perfectly-executed choreography that would even present a challenge to adult Broadway actors, as seen here at the 2013 Tony Awards:
Which shows have you seen and enjoyed on Broadway, and would you see them again or expand your reach by trying something different next time? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
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