by Mo Brady
Hey. Have you heard of this musical called Hamilton? As I’m sure you know, it came roaring onto Broadway during the summer of 2015 and won every possible accolade of the season. (Even some accolades that nobody saw coming - remember it’s Kids’ Choice Award nomination for Best Soundtrack?) And it won all of that acclaim for good reason; Hamilton is a friggin’ masterpiece the likes of which we hadn’t seen in the Broadway community since Rent.
But here’s a little known fact about that Broadway season… the rest of the shows in it were *also* pretty dang good.
The 2015-2016 season on Broadway was stacked with 14 musical productions. Interesting musicals like Bright Star and American Psycho. Acclaimed productions like the spellbinding revival of Spring Awakening. Remember when Scott Rudin tried to blame closing Shuffle Along on Audra McDonald’s pregnancy? When the truth was just that Broadway was just really damn competitive that season.
Speaking of Audra, Broadway stages were stacked with incredible performances that season. Yes, we were blessed with the introduction of Cynthia Erivo to the American stage that year, but we also had Danny Burstein as Tevye. Laura Benanti in She Loves Me. Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald tap dancing up a storm - while pregnant - and she wasn’t even nominated!
But what really strikes me about the strength of the 2015-2016 Broadway season is how so many of the musicals stuck around. The Color Purple lasted long enough to give us both Jennifer Holliday and Heather Headley as replacements. On Your Feet! opened in November and ran for almost two years. More than two years later, School of Rock and Waitress are still trucking along on the Great White Way.
Is this the Broadway season that will finally match the abundance we received in 2015? This year, we are slated to see 11 new Mainstem musicals. That’s the same number as opened three seasons ago. Again we’ll see a critically-acclaimed downtown darling coming up to Broadway (Hadestown - it even starts with the same letter as Hamilton).
But the similarities don’t stop there. Already this season, we’ve been blessed with small, wonderfully weird musicals like American Psycho with this summer’s Head Over Heels. There will be another Motown-centric story descending to delight audiences, this one on “The Life and Times of The Temptations.” This spring, we will even see the return to Broadway of Alex Brightman as a wacky leading man in Bettlejuice.
Will this be the best Broadway season since Hamilton? I’m not hedging my bets yet. But it does have to possibility (as Lin-Manuel might say) to “Blow Us All Away.”