- June 2020
Damn Yankees is a musical comedy with a book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop and music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. The story is a modern retelling of the Faust legend set during the 1950s in Washington, D.C., during a time when the New York Yankees dominated Major League Baseball. The musical is based on Wallop's novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant.
Damn Yankees ran for 1,019 performances in its original 1955 Broadway production. Adler and Ross's success with The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees seemed to point to a bright future for them, but Ross suddenly died of chronic bronchiectasis, at the age of twenty-nine, a few months after Damn Yankees opened.
- June 2020
The Duchess of Malfi is a macabre, tragic play written by the English dramatist John Webster in 1612–13. It was first performed privately at the Blackfriars Theatre, then before a more general audience at The Globe, in 1613-14. Published in 1623, the play is loosely based on events that occurred between about 1508 and 1513, recounted in William Painter's The Palace of Pleasure. The Duchess was Giovanna d'Aragona, whose father, Arrigo d'Aragona, Marquis of Gerace, was an illegitimate son of Ferdinand I of Naples. Her husbands were Alfonso Piccolomini, Duke of Amalfi, and Antonio Bologna.
The play begins as a love story, with a Duchess who marries beneath her class, and ends as a nightmarish tragedy as her two brothers exact their revenge, destroying themselves in the process.
Jacobean drama continued the trend of stage violence and horror set by Elizabethan tragedy, under the influence of Seneca, and there is a great deal of all that in the later scenes of the play. The complexity of some of its characters, particularly Bosola and the Duchess, plus Webster's poetic language, ensure the play is often considered among the greatest tragedies of English renaissance drama.
- May 2020
The Bacchae is an ancient Greek tragedy by the Athenian playwright Euripides, during his final years in Macedonia, at the court of Archelaus I of Macedon. It premièred posthumously at the Theatre of Dionysus in 405 BC as part of a tetralogy that also included Iphigeneia at Aulis and Alcmaeon in Corinth, and which Euripides' son or nephew probably directed. It won first prize in the City Dionysia festival competition.
The tragedy is based on the mythological story of King Pentheus of Thebes and his mother Agauë, and their punishment by the god Dionysus for refusing to worship him.
- January 2020
Man of La Mancha is a musical with a book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh. It is adapted from Wasserman's non-musical 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote, which was in turn inspired by Miguel de Cervantes's seventeenth century masterpiece Don Quixote. It tells the story of the "mad" knight, Don Quixote, as a play within a play, performed by Cervantes and his fellow prisoners as he awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition.
The original 1965 Broadway production ran for 2,328 performances and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The musical has been revived four times on Broadway, becoming one of the most enduring works of musical theatre.
The principal song, "The Impossible Dream", became a standard. The musical has played in many other countries around the world, with productions in German, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Icelandic, Gujarati, Uzbek, Hungarian, Serbian, Slovenian, Swahili, Finnish, Ukrainian and nine distinctly different dialects of the Spanish language.
Man of La Mancha was first performed at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut in 1965, and had its New York premiere on the thrust stage of the ANTA Washington Square Theatre in 1965.
- November 2019
Show Boat is a 1927 musical in two acts, with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Based on Edna Ferber's bestselling novel of the same name, the musical follows the lives of the performers, stagehands, and dock workers on the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River show boat, over forty years, from 1887 to 1927. Its themes include racial prejudice and tragic, enduring love. The musical contributed such classic songs as "Ol' Man River", "Make Believe", and "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man".
The arrival of Show Boat on Broadway was a watershed moment in the history of American musicals. Compared to the trivial and unrealistic operettas, light musical comedies, and "Follies"-type musical revues that defined Broadway in the 1890s and early 20th century, Show Boat "was a radical departure in musical storytelling, marrying spectacle with seriousness". According to The Complete Book of Light Opera:
"Here we come to a completely new genre – the musical play as distinguished from musical comedy. Now... the play was the thing, and everything else was subservient to that play. Now... came complete integration of song, humor and production numbers into a single and inextricable artistic entity."
- November 2019
Spring Awakening is a rock musical with music by Duncan Sheik and a book and lyrics by Steven Sater. It is based on the controversial German play Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind which was banned in Germany for some time due to its frank portrayal of abortion, homosexuality, rape, child abuse and suicide. Set in late-19th century Germany, the musical tells the story of teenagers discovering the inner and outer tumult of sexuality. In the musical, alternative rock is employed as part of the folk-infused rock score.
Following its conception in the late 1990s and various workshops, concerts, rewrites and its Off-Broadway debut, the original Broadway production of Spring Awakening opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on December 10, 2006. Its cast included Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele and John Gallagher, Jr. whilst its creative team embodied director Michael Mayer and choreographer Bill T. Jones. The original Broadway production won 8 Tony Awards, including Tonys for Best Musical, Direction, Book, Score and Featured Actor. The production also garnered 4 Drama Desk Awards whilst its original cast album received a Grammy Award.
The success of the Broadway production has spawned several other productions worldwide, including various US productions, a short West End production that won 4 Laurence Olivier Awards including Best Musical, and a series of international productions.
- March 2019
South Pacific is a musical composed by Richard Rodgers, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan. The work premiered in 1949 on Broadway and was an immediate success, running for 1,925 performances. The story is based on James A. Michener's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 book Tales of the South Pacific, combining elements of several of the stories in that book. Rodgers and Hammerstein believed that they could write a work based on Michener's stories that would be financially successful and, at the same time, send a strong progressive message on racism.
The plot centers on an American nurse stationed at a U.S. Naval base on a South Pacific island during World War II who falls in love with an expatriate French plantation owner but struggles to accept his mixed-race children. A secondary romance, between a U.S. lieutenant and a young Tonkinese woman, explores his fears of the social consequences should he marry his Asian sweetheart. The issue of racial prejudice is candidly explored throughout the musical, most controversially in the lieutenant's song, "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught". Supporting characters, including a comic petty officer and the Tonkinese girl's mother, help to tie the stories together. Due to his lack of knowledge of the military, Hammerstein had difficulty in writing that part of the text; the director of the original production, Logan, assisted him and received credit as co-writer of the book, but Logan always felt that he was underpaid for his contribution.