- March 2021
West Side Story is an American musical with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and conception and choreography by Jerome Robbins. It was inspired by William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.
The story is set in the East 40s and West 50s of the Upper West Side neighborhood in New York City in the mid-1950s, an ethnic, blue-collar neighborhood. The musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The members of the Sharks from Puerto Rico are taunted by the Jets, a Polish-American working-class group. The young protagonist, Tony, one of the Jets, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems marked a turning point in American musical theatre. Bernstein's score for the musical includes "Something's Coming", "Maria", "America", "Somewhere", "Tonight", "Jet Song", "I Feel Pretty", "A Boy Like That", "One Hand, One Heart", "Gee, Officer Krupke", and "Cool".
- March 2021
The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play by Oscar Wilde. First performed on 14 February 1895 at St. James's Theatre in London, it is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personæ in order to escape burdensome social obligations. Working within the social conventions of late Victorian London, the play's major themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage, and the resulting satire of Victorian ways. Contemporary reviews all praised the play's humour, though some were cautious about its explicit lack of social messages, while others foresaw the modern consensus that it was the culmination of Wilde's artistic career so far. Its high farce and witty dialogue have helped make The Importance of Being Earnest Wilde's most enduringly popular play.
The successful opening night marked the climax of Wilde's career but also heralded his downfall. The Marquess of Queensberry, father of Lord Alfred Douglas, an intimate friend of Wilde, planned to present Wilde a bouquet of rotten vegetables and disrupt the show. Wilde was tipped off and Queensberry was refused admission. Soon afterwards, however, their feud came to a climax in court, where Wilde's homosexual double life was revealed to the Victorian public and he was eventually sentenced to imprisonment. Wilde's notoriety caused the play, despite its success, to be closed after just 86 performances. After his release, he published the play from exile in Paris, but he wrote no further comic or dramatic work.
- February 2021
Mary Poppins is a musical with music and lyrics by the Academy Award-winning Sherman Brothers and a book by Julian Fellowes. The musical is based on the similarly titled series of children's books by P. L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film, and is a fusion of various elements from the two. Some elements from the books that had been omitted from the film were restored, such as the walking statue and the ladders rising to the stars. Others were removed, such as the scene in which Uncle Albert gets caught on the ceiling, laughing.
Produced by Walt Disney Theatrical and directed by Richard Eyre with co-direction from Matthew Bourne who also acted as co-choreographer with Stephen Mear, the original West End production opened in December 2004 and received two Olivier Awards, one for Best Actress in a Musical and the other for Best Theatre Choreography. A Broadway production with a near-identical creative team opened in November 2006, with only minor changes from the West End version. It received seven Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, winning for Best Scenic Design.
- September 2020
Titus Andronicus is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, and possibly George Peele, believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy, and is often seen as his attempt to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries, which were extremely popular with audiences throughout the sixteenth century.
The play is set during the latter days of the Roman Empire and tells the fictional story of Titus, a general in the Roman army, who is engaged in a cycle of revenge with Tamora, Queen of the Goths. It is Shakespeare's bloodiest and most violent work and traditionally was one of his least respected plays. Although it was extremely popular in its day, it fell out of favour during the Victorian era, primarily because of what was considered to be a distasteful use of graphic violence, but from around the middle of the twentieth century its reputation began to improve.
- March 2020
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a 1962 play by Edward Albee. It examines the breakdown of the marriage of a middle-aged couple, Martha and George. After a university faculty party, they receive an unwitting younger couple, Nick and Honey, as guests late one evening and draw them into their bitter and frustrated relationship. The play is in three acts, normally taking a little less than three hours to perform, with two 10-minute intermissions. The title is a pun on the song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" from Walt Disney's The Three Little Pigs, substituting the name of the celebrated feminist English author Virginia Woolf. Martha and George repeatedly sing this version of the song throughout the play.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won both the 1963 Tony Award for Best Play and the 1962–'63 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play. It is frequently revived on the modern stage. The film adaptation was released in 1966, written by Ernest Lehman, directed by Mike Nichols, and starring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, George Segal and Sandy Dennis.
- February 2020
The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, commonly referred to simply as Doctor Faustus, is a play by Christopher Marlowe, based on the Faust story, in which a man sells his soul to the devil for power and knowledge. Doctor Faustus was first published in 1604, eleven years after Marlowe's death and at least twelve years after the first performance of the play.
"No Elizabethan play outside the Shakespeare canon has raised more controversy than Doctor Faustus. There is no agreement concerning the nature of the text and the date of composition... and the centrality of the Faust legend in the history of the Western world precludes any definitive agreement on the interpretation of the play..."
- January 2020
Urinetown: The Musical is a satirical comedy musical, with music by Mark Hollmann, lyrics by Hollmann and Greg Kotis, and book by Kotis. It satirizes the legal system, capitalism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, and municipal politics. The show also parodies musicals such as The Cradle Will Rock and Les Misérables, and the Broadway musical itself as a form. In reverse pantomime style, the unconventional plotline shatters audience expectations of a somewhat pleasant ending. The character of Bobby Strong was included on New York Theatre Monthly's list of "The 100 Greatest Roles in Musical Theatre".
- January 2020
Notre-Dame de Paris is a sung-through French-Canadian musical which debuted on 16 September 1998 in Paris. It is based upon the novel Notre-Dame de Paris by the French novelist Victor Hugo. The music was composed by Riccardo Cocciante and the lyrics are by Luc Plamondon.
Since its debut, it has been played in Canada, France, Belgium, Russia, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Japan, China, South Korea, Haiti and Taiwan. A shorter version in English was performed in 2000 in Las Vegas, Nevada and a full-length London production, also in English, ran for seventeen months. Popular songs from the show, such as Belle and Le temps des cathédrales have also been translated into Belarusian, Catalan, Czech, German, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Dutch and English.
Notre-Dame de Paris, according to the Guinness Book of Records, had the most successful first year of any musical ever. The score has been recorded at least seven times to date: the original French concept album, which featured Israeli singer Achinoam Nini as Esmeralda was followed by a live, complete recording of the original Paris cast. A complete recording of the score in Italian was made, along with a single disc of highlights in Spanish from the Barcelona production. The original London cast album featured several of the original Paris stars, but only preserved a fraction of the score in English. The orchestral group I Fiamminghi recorded a CD of melodies from the score. A complete set of instrumental backing tracks has also been released.
- December 2019
Pippin is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Roger O. Hirson. Bob Fosse, who directed the original Broadway production, also contributed to the libretto. The musical uses the premise of a mysterious performance troupe, led by a Leading Player, to tell the story of Pippin, a young prince on his search for meaning and significance.
The protagonist, Pippin, and his father, Charlemagne, derive their characters from two real-life individuals of the early Middle Ages, though the plot presents very little historical accuracy regarding either. The show was partially financed by Motown Records. As of July 2011, Pippin is the 31st longest-running Broadway show. Pippin was originally conceived by Stephen Schwartz as Pippin, Pippin, a student musical performed by Carnegie Mellon's Scotch'n'Soda theatre troupe.
According to musical theatre scholar Scott Miller in his 1996 book, From Assassins to West Side Story, "Pippin is a largely under-appreciated musical with a great deal more substance to it than many people realize...Because of its 1970s pop style score and a somewhat emasculated licensed version for amateur productions, which is very different from the original Broadway production, the show now has a reputation for being merely cute and harmlessly naughty; but if done the way director Bob Fosse envisioned it, the show is surreal and disturbing." Ben Vereen won a Tony Award for his portrayal of the Leading Player in the original Broadway production.
- October 2019
Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The play was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The plot is based on Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony from the time of the Sicilian revolt to Cleopatra's suicide during the Final War of the Roman Republic. The major antagonist is Octavius Caesar, one of Antony's fellow triumviri and the future first emperor of Rome. The tragedy is a Roman play characterised by swift, panoramic shifts in geographical locations and in registers, alternating between sensual, imaginative Alexandria and the more pragmatic, austere Rome.
Many consider the role of Cleopatra in this play one of the most complex female roles in Shakespeare's work. She is frequently vain and histrionic, provoking an audience almost to scorn; at the same time, Shakespeare's efforts invest both her and Antony with tragic grandeur. These contradictory features have led to famously divided critical responses.
- November 2018
The Merry Wives of Windsor is a comedy by William Shakespeare, first published in 1602, though believed to have been written prior to 1597. It features the fat knight Sir John Falstaff. Though nominally set in the reign of Henry IV, the play makes no pretence to exist outside contemporary Elizabethan era English middle class life. It has been adapted for the opera on several occasions.
- June 2018
The Merchant of Venice is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic scenes, and is best known for Shylock and the famous "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech. Also notable is Portia's speech about "the quality of mercy".
The title character is the merchant Antonio, not the Jewish moneylender Shylock, who is the play's most prominent and most famous character. This is made explicit by the title page of the first quarto: The most excellent History of the Merchant of Venice. With the extreme cruelty of Shylock the Jew towards the Merchant....