The Top 10 Greatest Musical Revivals of the Past 25 Years
- OnStage Columnist
It's always great to see a show get a second run on Broadway. Whether it's a celebrated return or a second chance, it's always nice to revisit some of these works. This coming year we'll be seeing plenty of them from.
But sometimes, a revival goes beyond and not only reminds us why we love that piece to begin with, but also elevates the original material. With that thought in mind, here are the 10 Greatest Broadway Musical Revivals of the Past 25 years.
10. Pippin - 2013
For all that Pippin is, you have to admit that it does come off more than a bit dated. However it's become a fan favorite and often performed show. Understanding this, director Diane Paulus completely redesigned the show with circus act concept which tied in not only traditional circus arts but also the newer Cirque du Soleil style as well.
The result? Nothing short of fantastic. The concept brought a new energy to the entire piece and the tweaked score made much of the music sound less dated than it had before and enhanced what we loved about it to begin with. Add to that a wonderful cast, Patina Miller in the role of the Leading Player was everything you hoped she would be. Matthew James Thomas as Pippin was brought a freshness to the role and we loved Andrea Martin in her Tony winning Role of Berthe and the "should have been nominated", Rachel Bay Jones as Catherine.
With all these pieces in place, it was more than deserving of its Tony win for Best Revival.
9. You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown - 1999
We're always skeptical when someone decides to do a "new and improved" version of a stage musical. In this case, however, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown passed with flying colors. The cast featured what would now be considered a murderers row of talent with Anthony Rapp in the title role, BD Wong as Linus but most notably and then, relatively unknown, Roger Bart as Snoopy, and Kristin Chenowith as Sally, both of which would win Tonys for their roles. Chenowith especially stole the whole thing with her performance of "My New Philosophy", one of two new songs written for this production and has since gone on to become a musical theatre standard.
Andrew Lippa's new arrangements of the score are near perfect, making a good thing even better. How this didn't win the Tony, we'll never know.
8. Company - 2006
No director today captures the minute nuances of characters better than John Doyle and his 2006 production of Company is the best proof of that. With his distinct style of having actors play the instruments, Doyle revealed layers of these iconic characters to a whole new level.
Starting with Raul Esparza's magnificent performance as Bobby, cementing himself as the best to ever play the role on Broadway.
With Esparza and his fellow cast, including Kristin Huffman, Matt Castle and Barbara Walsh, the songs sounded raw, deeper, organic, showing a new side to the iconic Sondheim score. No surprise when it won the Tony that year.
7. Guys & Dolls - 1992
What is not to love about a Jerry Zaks production? His shows are colorful, lively and celebrate the best musical theatre has to offer. In 1992, he and the late great Christopher Chadman took the classic Guys & Dolls and gave it a glorious new production.
It's had an incredible cast, Nathan Lane, Faith Prince(arguably the best Adalaide of all time), Peter Gallagher and Josie de Guzman. Not to mention Walter Bobbie, Victoria Clark, Ernie Sabella and a young JK Simmons. This production would go onto win four Tony Awards including Best Revival, which was the category before it was divided into musical and play.
Interesting trivia note, Lane and Sabella auditioned for their roles in The Lion King movie while in this show.
6. Gypsy - 2008
Mama Rose is the most iconic female role in musical theatre history. Playing it on Broadway has become a rite of passage. In 2006, Patti LuPone not only stepped into the role but she owned it and became arguably the greatest to play the role.
There is no one quite like Patti LuPone, so much charm and grace, yet underneath, there is a bubbling rage yearning to be set free. This role gave her plenty of room to do that in what turned out to be an incredible performance.
5. Sunday in the Park with George - 2008
The beauty of the original production of Sunday in the Park with George was all within the music and performances. With the Broadway revival, director Sam Buntrock wanted to bring out the beauty visually as well. Blending together brilliant usage of projections and film, this new production breathed new life into an already masterful work.
Critics loved it Ben Brantley wrote, "Perspectives and colors alter with George’s moods and the seasons. (When autumn arrives, a pointillist shower of color falls from the sky.) The look of the show feels like thought made visible, just as Mr. Sondheim’s ravishing score, performed with gleaming delicacy by a five-member ensemble, seems made of painterly flecks of light and color".
The video on the right is the National Tour of the Broadway revival production.
4. Anything Goes - 2011
The 2011 production of Anything Goes wasn't your typical revival, it was a tribute and celebration to Cole Porter. Our writer Michael L. Quintos, said of the production,
"Completely winsome and endearingly charming, Marshall's re-visit aboard the tune-happy S.S. American, is an entertaining voyage through farcical entanglements and über-complicated shenanigans. Like an amped-up screwball comedy, ANYTHING GOES criss-crosses lots of silly, out-there vignettes sandwiched in between popular Porter classics such as "You're The Top," "I Get A Kick Out of You," "Blow, Gabriel, Blow," "All Through The Night," "You'd Be So Easy To Love," "It's De-Lovely," "Friendship," and, natch, the title song. The results are adorable, downright funny, shamelessly romantic, and even jaw-dropping (Marshall's genius choreography---particularly the terrific act one closer---are eye-popping stars of the show).
ANYTHING GOES is, hands-down, one of the most jubilantly entertaining revivals I've seen in recent years. It's pure smile-inducing, gimmick-free musical comedy fun."
3. Carousel - 1994
Still considered the standard for all Rodgers & Hammerstein revivals, this production featured gorgeous design and brilliant performances. Do yourself a favor and buy the cast recording. Shirley Verrett sings an unusually touching and tender "You'll never walk alone," and Audra McDonald (her first Tony) and Eddie Korbich have a magical chemistry and wonderful vocal abilities, making this my favorite rendition of "When the Children are Asleep."
But what I love most about this recording is that it is so energetic and heartfelt both in the singing and in the orchestra, that one can't help but feel the sheer humanity of the characters, their joy, pain, and heart. Few R&H revivals have come close to what this production succeeded in, although we've heard amazing things about the recent production in Chicago.
2. Cabaret - 1998
Re-imagining an already iconic piece isn't always a wise choice, but Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall brilliantly put a new and darker spin on Cabaret in 1998 creating one of the finest revivals of all time.
While Alan Cumming's take on the Emcee was much different than Joel Grey's, it was equally remarkable and has become equally iconic as well.
And while the late Natasha Richardson, vocally, couldn't hold a candle to those who came before her, she dug deeper into Sally Bowles and turned in a beautiful performance.
1. Chicago - 1996
Seriously, are you surprised? It's not every day a Broadway revival production goes on to become the 4th longest running show in history. But the revival of Chicago is more than just a financial success, it's a brilliant reinvention that's more identifiable than the original production.
Many critics praised it to being far superior to the original production. Brantley said," 'Make love to the audience' was another Fosse dictum. That's exactly what Ms. Reinking and her ensemble do. 'Chicago' can still seem glibly cynical and artificially cold, especially in its weaker second act. But these performers know just how to take off the chill."
Chicago: The Musical won six Tony Awards, more than any other revival in Broadway history until South Pacific won seven Tonys in 2008.