2004 on Broadway

Avenue Q cast Campaign for the Tony (wikipedia)

Over on Broadway, 2004 was all about the heated contest for Best Musical in that year’s Tony Awards ceremony. Crowd pleasers Wicked and Avenue Q both fought for the accolade in a ruthless battle, mirroring that of a presidential election. Avenue Q producers produced specific Tony related marketing costing in the region of $300,000, aimed at drawing attention to the show and levelling the playing field with Wicked which at the time seemed to be the favourite. In September Avenue Q set up a mock presidential debate to mirror the first Bush-Kerry debate, using portrait puppets and a specially written song ‘Vote Your Heart’, which was broadcast to 18 television networks. The campaign mirrored that of pre-Oscar marketing, using fans, patriotic colours and gimmicks to highlight the show and make it stand out. Despite the high marketing costs, the show took in $750,000 the day after the Tony Award Ceremony, and $300,000 the next day, proving that the ad campaign and subsequent Tony had been a success.

 

Caroline, or Change logo, 2004 Broadway Season (wikipedia)

Caroline, or Change became another runner in the race after it opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in May after a run at the Public Theater. The musical boasted a book and lyrics by Tony Kushner of Angels in America fame and starred Tonya Pinkins in the title role. The show ran only for a limited time, but was highly acclaimed by the critics, leading to its nomination for Best Musical. Despite not winning, the show transferred to the National Theatre in London the following year, where it would go on to win the 2007 Olivier Award for Best Musical. Rosie O’Donnell seemed committed to prove to the public that the Boy George musical Taboo was worth their time, solely investing in the production which closed after only 100 performances, loosing all of her initial investment. Good Vibrations, a new musical based on the songs of the Beach Boys opened in December and managed to play for 94 performances at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. Directed and choreographed by John Carrafa the jukebox musical featured songs such as ‘California Girls’ and ‘Wouldn’t it be Nice’ wrapped around an uninspired book by Richard Dresser.

Elsewhere on Broadway the key word was revival, with large scale productions of musicals such as Fiddler on the Roof, La Cage aux Folles and Assassins packing out many theatres across town. At the Minskoff Theatre Alfred Molina and later in the run Harvey Fierstein took on the iconic role of Tevye, opposite Rosy O’Donnell as Golde. The production also starred Laura Benanti and a young Lea Michelle as Tevye’s troublesome daughters. The show ran for nearly 800 performances, and didn’t win any of the Awards it was nominated for. Over at he Marquis Theatre La Cage’s first Broadway revival opened with Jerry Zaks as Director and Jerry Mitchell as choreographer. The cast included Gary Beach as Albin, Daniel Davis as Georges and Gavin Creel as Jean-Michel. Despite a luke-warm critical reception, the show won a handful of awards, but failed to captivate audiences, closing in June the next year.

 

Neil Patrick Harris (wikipedia)

The most successful revival of the season was the Roundabout Theater Company’s production of Sondheim’s one act musical Assassins which was directed by Joe Mantello, and starred Neil Patrick Harris and Michael Cerveris. The production was originally scheduled for 2001, but due to the September 11th disasters, was postponed as the content was seen as being too sensitive. Despite playing a limited season at the Studio 54 Theatre, the show was a critical success and went on to win a set of awards.

Michael Fryn’s Democracy opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in November in a production presented by the National Theatre of Great Britain. Starring James Naughton and Richard Thomas the play ran for 173 performances. Tony Award Winner Audra McDonald starred alongside Phylicia Rashad in Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun which was directed by Kenny Leon at the Royale Theatre. Opening in April and running for 96 performances the play was praised by critics and celebrities, generating lines at the box office for daily returns.

 

Dracula the Musical (wikipedia, Melesse)

Composer Frank Wildhorn made another attempt at conquering Broadway with his new musical adaptation of Dracula. The show opened at the Belasco Theatre and starred Tom Hewitt in the title role, alongside Kelli O’Hara as love interest Lucy Westenra. The production featured a number of high tech special effects to bring the story to life, and made the news on numerous occasions due to faulty set pieces. The show’s initial opening was postponed due to a flood in the theatre which ruined some of the set and equipment, with some seeing it as a curse from the ghost of Belasco who haunted the theatre.

The Lincoln Centre presented a new production of Sheridan’s The Rivals alongside  Sondheim’s musical Frogs which ran for 92 performances at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. Starring Nathan Lane as Dionysos the production was directed by Susan Stroman and was based on the comedy by Arisophanes written in 405 b.c. The Roundabout Theatre Company matched this revival with a Sondheim of their own, presenting Pacific Overtures at Studio 54. The production was based on an October 2000 production of the show at the New National Theatre in Tokyo Japan, directed by Amon Miyamoto. The show was artistically successful but only ran for 69 regular performances.

Broadway shows opening in 2004

A Raisin in the Sun – The Royale Theatre, After the Fall – The American Airlines Theatre,  Assassins – Studio 54, Bombay Dreams – Broadway Theatre, Brooklyn – Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, Caroline, or Change – Eugene O’Neill Theatre, Democracy – Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Fiddler on the Roof – Minskoff Theatre, Jumpers – Brooks Atkinson Theatre, King Lear – Vivian Beautmont Theatre, La Cage aux Folles –Marquis Theatre, Pacific Overtures – Studio 54, Passion – Ambassador’s Theatre, The Frogs – Vivian Beaumont.

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