Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What to See on Broadway in 2016

Here are my recommendations for people coming to New York to see a Broadway show. Below are my most up-to-date choices as of June 2016.  They are all musicals. I have not included the perpetually sold-out shows, but there are many excellent productions to see besides Hamilton. 

So, what are my top suggestions? I have broken them down into five categories:

Tikes – ages 6-9
Tweens – ages 10-13
Teen – ages 14-17
Young Adults – 18+ years

Here are the guidelines/questions that need to be considered:
·      When I make a recommendation it is usually with the understanding that an individual or family has not been to the Broadway stage very often.
·      I am looking at shows I think the occasional theater-goer would enjoy.
·      I lean towards the newer shows, but this is not a knock against some of the old-timers such as Chicago, Jersey Boys, and Phantom of the Opera.
·      This is all an inexact science with numerous variables to consider. For example, a Tween girl will probably love Wicked, but a boy…?
·      Is one seeking a musical comedy or a more serious production?
·      What might appeal to two or three age groups at the same time?
·      What about a mature eleven year old girl? What do we do about her?

I have not included such shows as The Book of Mormon, The Lion King, Aladdin, Wicked or Hamilton as any of the primary choices since these shows are almost always sold out and you would have to pay a king’s ransom to acquire decent seats with short notice.  I have included some of these shows at the end of each category under the heading – “IF AVAILABLE/LONG-RANGE PLANNING.” If one of these productions is available, disregard my rankings and scoop up the tickets pronto! If you are planning a Broadway trip down the road, it will be easier to procure tickets to these hard-to-get shows.  Just expect to pay full price.

Speaking of procuring tickets, there are a number of ways to purchase discount tickets for many shows.  The first place to review is the Broadway Rush, Lottery and Standing Room Only Policies on the Playbill.com website.  Believe it or not there are lottery tickets to most shows-at huge savings--even to The Book of Mormon and Hamilton.  A number of shows now have a digital lottery, which begins the day before the performance and is much easy to enter then the traditional lottery system.

Another great place is Broadwaybox.com for Broadway Shows Discount Codes.  You simply choose a show, print out the page with the specific code and can go directly to the box office to purchase tickets (you can also call, but will have to pay the service charge which could be over $10.00 per ticket).  No waiting in line at the TKTS Booth.  However, the lines at the newly refurbished TKTS Booth snake to the front very quickly.  You always seem to meet interesting people in the queue, which makes it go even faster.  

Foul language is very subjective.  When the musical Billy Elliot was on Broadway I had a parent email me concerned about the language. Yes, there were numerous swear words by the young actors, but nothing unheard of in middle and high schools across the country. And Billy Elliot was such a great show—the music, the dancing—I would not overlook the production because some of the young kids were cursing. The Book of Mormon is in a “language” category all by itself. If you or your children enjoy the television show “South Park” and are not bothered by the language, then The Book of Mormon is just up your alley.

Within the listings there is considerable overlap. For example, The Lion King could enthrall everyone, from TIKES to ADULTS. The age ranges of each category can be flexible at either end of the spectrum so a TWEEN may in fact be quite comfortable in a YOUNG ADULT show. You may scratch your head about why I left a certain production off a category. For example, Chicago is not listed even though it has been playing for years and continues to do well at the box office. But Chicago is getting a bit old in the tooth and there are more worthy shows to plop down your money for. Finally, just because a musical is not on my lists does not mean it is undeserving of your patronage. Remember, these are my opinions. Shows that I have previously reviewed are linked to that show title. So, without further ado…drum roll please…

TIKES (6-9 years old) - I think the best age for a child’s first show is 7 or 8, but 6 year olds could attend a musical.  It is important for parents to know their child.  Will they be quiet?  Not kicking the seat in front of them?  Be able to sit and watch?  If not, wait a year or two before subjecting yourself and other patrons to your child’s fussiness.

There use to be many Broadway shows for this age group, but the recommendations, in priority order, are now down to:

1.     Finding Neverland - The tale of how J.M. Barrie came to write Peter Pan.  Closing August 21st.  A solid show for the younger set.
2.     School of Rock - Pure fun that is faithful to the Jack Black movie.  Tuneful score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater.  A subversive treat for kids.
3.     Matilda - Darker then the movie, but the musical captures the essence of the Roald Dahl book.  Younger theater-goers will be able to identify with Matilda and the other kids.  Closing January 1, 2017.
4.     Cats –Coming back to Broadway in July.  The dancing, songs, and costumes are perfect for kids that might have trouble following a plot since there isn’t much of one.


TWEENS (10-13 years old). This is always a difficult category since, as parents know, a lot of changes are percolating inside of tweens. Are they a young or mature tween?  The recommendations, in priority order:

1.     School of Rock – see under TIKES
2.     Fiddler on the Roof - The old warhorse is back in a beautiful production.  A must for anyone that has never seen the musical.
3.     Matilda – see under TIKES
4.     Finding Neverland – see under TIKES
5.     Cats – see under TIKES

IF AVAILABLE/LONG-RANGE PLANNING – Wicked, Aladdin, and The Lion King.

TEENS (14-17 years old).  The recommendations, in priority order:

1.     School of Rock – see under TIKES
2.     Fiddler on the Roof – see under TWEENS
3.     Bright Star –No stars, but a wonderful score by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin & Edie Brickell), great star turn by Carmen Cusack, and a heartwarming story.  Besides Hamilton my favorite new musical of the year. - CLOSING JUNE 26TH
4.     Something Rotten - Silly, but fun, fun, fun.  Tuneful score for this Shakespearean farce.  Did I say a lot of fun?
5.     The Color Purple - The best revival of 2016 with an incredible performance by Cynthia Erivo.  One of the top three shows not to miss when in NYC.
6.     Les Miserables - One of the classic, big English musicals that invaded our shores in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  An outstanding score and heartfelt story based on the Victor Hugo tome.

IF AVAILABLE/LONG-RANGE PLANNING (in order) – The Book of Mormon, Wicked, and The Lion King.

YOUNG ADULTS (18+ years old).  The recommendations, in priority order:

1.     Something Rotten – see under TEENS
2.     Bright Star – see under TEENS - CLOSING JUNE 26TH
3.     The Color Purple – see under TEENS
4.     An American in Paris - The dancing is incredible, great Gershwin score, Tony Award winning set design, a bigger then life story.  One of the best musicals I have seen in years.
5.     Kinky Boots - 2013 Best Musical.  A fun, rollicking good time with a great score by Cyndi Lauper.  A drag queen forms an alliance with a young man to save his shoe business.  It really is a family-oriented show.
6.     Fun Home - A 2015 multi-Tony Award winning show including Best Musical.  Adult themes, but so well done.
7.   Waitress - One of the better new musicals to open this season.  Based on the Indie movie about three waitresses at a diner.  Contemporary score by Sarah Bareilles. Star turn by Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller (for Beautiful).

IF AVAILABLE/LONG-RANGE PLANNING (in order) – The Book of Mormon, Wicked, or The Lion King.

ADULTS.  The recommendations, in priority order:

1.     An American in Paris – See under YOUNG ADULTS
2.     Bright Star – see under TEENS - CLOSING JUNE 26TH
3.     The Color Purple – see under TEENS
4.     Beautiful-A must for Carole King fans and fans of 60’s music.  A jukebox musical with a solid book.
5.     She Loves Me - A sumptuous musical comedy revival with a classic score, superb acting, and a gorgeous set.
6.     Fun Home – see under YOUNG ADULTS
7.   Waitress -see under YOUNG ADULTS
8.     Shuffle Along - So many stars—Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter and tap routines choreographed by Savion Glover—in this story of the first musical produced and acted by African-Americans.
9.      Something Rotten – see under TEENS

IF AVAILABLE/LONG-RANGE PLANNING (in order) – The Book of Mormon or Wicked.

Still unsure? Email me at Broadway99@comcast.net with your specific situation and I can see what I can recommend.


Nick in Spain said...

It's great you offer this advice...should be shared far and wide...

StudentAffairs.com said...

Nick--thanks for the comment. I hope it helps you. I want people to know there is more to Broadway musicals then "Hamilton."